Teacher & Principal School Report: Barriers to Equity in Education

 //  Nov 16, 2016

Teacher & Principal School Report: Barriers to Equity in Education

Today Scholastic released the Teacher & Principal School Report: Equity in Education, a survey of more than 4,700 public school Pre-K–12 teachers and principals representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Greg Worrell, President, Scholastic Education, joins edu@scholastic to discuss research findings around barriers to equity in education from the Teacher & Principal School Report.


Working in close partnership with educators—those teachers and principals who are most deeply connected with our children’s learning—has always been one of the most important parts of what we do at Scholastic. In order to bring an understanding of equity in education into clearer focus, we knew we needed to ask educators about their students, their schools and classrooms, and about the resources they need to support kids’ academic success.

In conducting this research we learned that 97% of teachers and principals agree that equity in education must be a national priority. But the majority (87%) of educators, both teachers and principals, also say that their students face barriers to learning that come from outside the school environment. This is true across grade levels and metro status. 

An important factor in our research was to examine whether and how school poverty level affects teachers’ and principals’ views on equity in education, and what we found was striking: while educators in high-poverty schools were more likely to say that some of their students face outside barriers to learning, fully two-thirds of teachers and principals in low-poverty schools said the same. It is clear that barriers to learning are occurring across all levels.

The impact of these barriers is severe. Less than half of teachers (39%) and principals (48%) say that most of their students start the school year academically prepared for grade-level work. Kids are facing serious challenges, including family or personal crisis; poverty, hunger, homelessness; the need for mental or physical health care; and for English language support. And while barriers exist across levels, principals tell us that in high-poverty schools, poverty, hunger, homelessness, the need for healthcare, and the need for English language learning support are more prevalent. Many principals report seeing an increase in students experiencing these situations in the last three years.

We asked teachers and principals what they need to address these barriers to learning, and they told us that largely, the areas of greatest need are outside the school, where educators have a limited sphere of influence. Both teachers (48%) and principals (44%) told us that family involvement in student learning is an area in which adequate resources are not available. 

They also highlighted the importance of access outside of school: to internet and other learning resources, as well as to books at home. In particular, there is a wide gap among kids in high- and low-poverty schools around year-round access to books in the home. And while across poverty levels, teachers and principals agree that it is important for students to have this access—and that schools play a role in expanding it—educators in high-poverty schools (64%) are more likely than those in low-poverty schools (52%) to strongly agree that year-round access to books is important.

This look at the barriers to equity in education is the foundation for our findings in the Teacher & Principal School Report. In coming weeks on edu@scholastic, we will dig deeper into additional areas that impact equity in education, including educators' funding priorities, family and community engagement, professional development and diversity in books.

You can download the full report and infographics at scholastic.com/teacherprincipalreport, and follow on social media at #TeacherPrincipalReport. To read a letter addressing equity in education from Scholastic's CEO Richard Robinson, click here.