NCES Report Highlights Concerns About Academic Performance, Staffing, and Mental Health

In a February 2024 National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) School Pulse Panel survey, school leaders had major concerns about students meeting academic standards; student and teacher/staff mental health; staffing shortages; and testing/assessments.

The data was collected during the last two weeks of February 2024 from 1,689 public K–12 schools across the United States and 99 schools in U.S. outlying areas.

Key findings include:

  • Ninety-two percent of school leaders worry that students are not meeting academic standards;
  • Eighty percent are worried about filling staff positions;
  • Almost half are concerned about student and teacher/staff mental health (43% and 41% respectively), and even 27% of school leaders are also concerned about their own mental health;
  • While 85% of schools said the culture at their school supports students' emotional and social wellbeing, 81% of teachers have received training on it, and 63% of schools incorporate it into the curriculum, a large 72% said time constraints are a barrier to fully implementing it; and
  • While about 60% of school leaders support giving state-mandated math and English tests, and about 75% believe they will provide useful data, roughly 68% feel the tests "will not accurately measure the ability of students with individualized education plans (IEPs)" or those whose first language is not English.

Other concerns were also highlighted in the survey, including responses from parents about bullying and cyberbullying; parents' lack of concern about the school curriculum; and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially on students of color and those in poverty.

"We know that the job of public school leaders has become increasingly complex and there is a constellation of challenges that keep them up at night," said NCES Commissioner Peggy G. Carr. "What they are telling us through this latest School Pulse Panel survey is that the majority of them have some level of concern related to important issues that we asked them about …. It's a Herculean task to manage all these challenges, and we hope that understanding what school leaders are facing will identify essential areas of support."

Visit this NCES page to read the full survey results.

About the Author

Kate Lucariello is a former newspaper editor, EAST Lab high school teacher and college English teacher.