Preparing students for citizenship is more challenging

Preparing students for citizenship is more challenging

The FINANCIAL -- As students across the U.S. return to classes, district superintendents find themselves preparing to meet a range of challenges in the year ahead. Sixty-one percent of superintendents strongly agree that recruiting and retaining talented teachers will be a challenge for their school district this year. Another 22% agree, totaling more than four in five who see teacher recruitment and retention as an important issue to address.

These results are based on web interviews, conducted June 25-July 18, with 1,892 public school district superintendents in the U.S. as part of Gallup's 2018 Survey of K-12 School District Superintendents.

According to Gallup, several factors are causing the national teacher shortage that is driving the need for exceptional recruitment and retention efforts. Student enrollment continues to increase, and many states are enacting legislation that reduces class size, creating more teaching positions. At the same time, a declining number of new teacher graduates are entering the profession, while other teachers move from one school to another or leave the profession entirely. These factors have combined to make the recruitment and retention of talented teachers an important issue for school district leaders.

This issue is less of a challenge for superintendents in suburban districts (51% strongly agree) than those in city (65%), town (63%) and rural (65%) districts.

Gallup has asked many of the same survey items in the past, including in 2013 and in 2017, and tested 10 issues this year. While teacher and principal recruitment and retention were new options on this year's superintendent poll, the top challenges identified on last year's survey -- improving the academic performance of underprepared students and the effects of poverty on student learning -- top the list of challenges again this year.

Also similar to previous years: More than seven in 10 school superintendents (72%) strongly agree or agree that budget shortfalls will be a challenge this year, and 63% of superintendents strongly agree or agree that rising demands for assessment from the state and federal level will be an issue for their district. The latter is down sharply from 2013 when it was the most prominent challenge (82% strongly agreed or agreed).

The issue that increased in prominence over the past year is preparing students for engaged citizenship. While in 2017, half of district leaders identified this as a challenge, the 2018 results show an increase to nearly three in four.

Preparing for the Future

While each school year offers a new beginning, district leaders are preparing for the inevitable challenges that await them. The biggest of these challenges appears to be adjusting to the teacher shortage by recruiting and retaining talented teachers, followed closely by improving the academic performance of underprepared students and dealing with the effects of poverty on student learning. Finally, while not at the level of the top challenges, the issue of preparing students for engaged citizenship grew most significantly since last year's survey. These and other issues will influence district leaders as they set policies and make decisions in the year ahead.