A new survey finds that teachers aren’t necessarily prepared to teach complex topics such as LBGTQ issues, national politics, and race.

The survey from Education Week Research Center (EWRC) and instructional content platform Newsela 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.

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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 finds 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 subpar–with only 10 percent 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 underprepared 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,” says 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 percent of all those surveyed report 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.

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

Educators believe there are overarching benefits to teaching these topics. Seventy-seven percent 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 jumpstarts critical thinking proficiencies and addresses widely-held misconceptions. Instructional content around these topics are falling short. Only 10 percent of educators would give their instructional materials around these topics an “A.”

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

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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