Survey: Educators Aren’t Prepared to Bring Complex Topics to Schools

Survey: Educators Aren’t Prepared to Bring Complex Topics to Schools

October 10, 2019

Survey: Educators Aren’t Prepared to Bring Complex Topics to Schools


New York, New York – October 10, 2019 – Education Week Research Center (EWRC) along with leading instructional content platform Newsela today released a report on educator preparedness to teach complex topics such as LGBTQ issues, national politics, and race. The report is based on the results of a survey of 1,123 educators nationwide, including 452 teachers of grades 4-12, 483 principals, and 188 district leaders.

The goal of the report is to better understand educator needs around 9 non-traditional topics: social-emotional learning (SEL), school safety, race/ethnicity, national politics, media literacy/fake news, LGBTQ issues, immigration, climate change, and reproductive rights.
The survey found several justifications for discussing complex topics in schools, ranging from improving critical thinking skills to necessity from new state mandates. But nationwide, educators feel unprepared to bring these topics into schools and classrooms. The majority reported instructional materials supporting these topics as sub par - with only 10% of educators giving them an “A.” Fifty-seven percent of educators reported better instructional materials would help in teaching these topics.

“The findings are very intriguing. While it wasn’t necessarily a surprise that educators feel under prepared to teach most of these topics, the silver lining is that they know what they need to succeed: more professional development efforts as well as superior instructional content can provide much-needed support,” said Holly Kurtz, Director of Education Week Research Center.

Among those surveyed, elementary, English Language Arts, and science educators expressed the strongest need for better instructional content, with a majority reporting that shortcomings of their current options prevent them from teaching these topics successfully. Notably, 60% of all those surveyed reported difficulty finding high-quality instructional content around LGBTQ issues.

“With the wave of instructional mandates coming down from states, it’s more important than ever that teachers be equipped with instructional materials that are authentic, engaging, and aligned to standards. It’s deeply affirming that many educators in the survey referenced Newsela by name as a preferred choice for teaching these non-traditional topics. In response to these findings, we’ll soon be releasing The Newsela LGBTQIA+ Studies Collection, which is a step toward helping teachers in an area they report feeling least prepared to teach,” said Newsela co-founder Dan Cogan-Drew.

Overview of major findings:
Most educators say teachers are unprepared to teach about many of these topics. 90% are not well-prepared to teach about LGBTQ issues, 82% not well-prepared for immigration issues, 76% not well-prepared for race issues, and 58% are not well-prepared for social-emotional learning (SEL).

Educators believe there are overarching benefits to teaching these topics. 77% of educators say addressing complex subjects, such as the aforementioned, helps students prepare to participate in our democratic society. An equal percentage say that it jump-starts critical thinking proficiencies and addresses widely-held misconceptions. Instructional content around these topics are falling short. Only 10% of educators would give their instructional materials around these topics an “A.”

Professional development needs to rise to the occasion. Educators felt that PD, whether in workshop or on-demand formats, would help support teaching complex topics, with 60% reporting that workshops in particular would be effective.

About Newsela
Newsela provides instructionalized content at five reading levels that is aligned to standards, all attached to activities and reporting that holds teachers accountable for implementation and students accountable for their work. With over 10,000 texts in our library and 10 new ones daily across 20+ genres, content is always fresh, and with the breadth to cover any content area.

Teachers love the structured choice Newsela provides, and administrators love having the assurance that every content choice teachers make is vetted, aligned to standards, and contributing to learning. Newsela has become an essential solution for schools and districts, with a presence in over 90% of U.S. K-12 schools. Newsela is the content platform for the connected classroom.

About EWRC
The Education Week Research Center produces independent, objective, non-partisan research and analysis. For more information, contact us at
Media Contact Highwire PR for Newsela