Learning Loss, AI and the Future of Education: Our 24 Most-Read Essays of 2023

From rethinking the American high school to the fiscal cliff, tutoring and special ed, what our most incisive opinion contributors had to say

By Bev Weintraub | December 7, 2023

Some of America’s biggest names in education tackled some of the thorniest issues facing the country’s schools on the op-ed pages of The 74 this year, expressing their concerns about continuing COVID-driven deficits among students and the future of education overall. There were some grim predictions, but also reasons for hope. Here are some of the most read, most incisive and most controversial essays we published in 2023.

David Steiner

America’s Education System Is a Mess, and Students Are Paying the Price

Eamonn Fitzmaurice/The 74

COVID-19, the legacy of race-based redlining, the lack of support for health care, child care and parental leave, and other social and economic policies have taken a terrible toll on student learning. But the fundamental cause of poor outcomes, writes contributor David Steiner of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy, is that policy leaders have eroded the instructional core and designed our education system for failure. As we have sown, so shall we reap. The challenges and rewards of learning are being washed away, and students are desperately the worse for the mess we have made. Read More

Margaret Raymond

The Terrible Truth — Current Solutions to COVID Learning Loss Are Doomed to Fail

Eamonn Fitzmaurice / The 74

Despite well-intended and rapid responses to COVID learning loss, solutions such as tutoring or summer school are doomed to fail, says contributor Margaret (Macke) Raymond of the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University. How do we know? CREDO researchers looked at learning patterns for students at three levels of achievement in 16 states and found that even with five extra years of education, only about 75% will be at grade level by high school graduation. No school can offer that much. It is time to decide whether to make necessary changes or continue to support a system that will almost certainly fail. Read More

Mark Schneider

The Future is STEM — But Without Enough Students, the U.S. Will Be Left Behind

This is a photo of the U.S. Capitol building.

America no longer produces the most science and engineering research publications, patents or natural-science Ph.D.s, and these trends are unlikely to change anytime soon. The problem isn’t a lack of universities to train future scientists or an economy incapable of encouraging innovation. Rather, says contributor Mark Schneider of the Institute of Education Sciences, it originates much earlier in the supply chain, in elementary school. Congress has a chance to help turn this around, by passing the New Essential Education Discoveries (NEED) Act. Read More

John Bailey

The Promise of Personalized Learning Never Delivered. Today’s AI Is Different

Eamonn Fitzmaurice / The 74

Educators often encounter lofty promises of technology revolutionizing learning, only to find reality fails to meet expectations. But based on his experiences with the new generation of artificial intelligence tools, contributor John Bailey believes society may be in the early stages of a transformative moment. This may very well usher in an era of individualized learning, empowering all students to realize their full potential and fostering a more equitable and effective educational experience. Read his four reasons why this generation of AI tools is likely to succeed where other technologies have failed. Read More

Chad Aldeman

Interactive — With More Teachers & Fewer Students, Districts Are Set up for Financial Trouble

To understand the teacher labor market, you have to hold two competing narratives in your head. On one hand, teacher turnover hit new highs, morale is low and schools are facing shortages. At the same time, public schools employ more teachers than before COVID, while serving 1.9 million fewer students. Student-teacher ratios are near all-time lows. Contributor Chad Aldeman and Eamonn Fitzmaurice, The 74’s art and technology director, plotted these changes on an exclusive, interactive map — and explain how they’re putting districts in financial peril. View the Map

Fascinating, right? But these are only the tip of the iceberg. Here’s a roundup of some of the hottest topics our op-ed contributors tackled, and what they had to say:

Future of High School

Fiscal Cliff & School Funding

Artificial Intelligence


Learning Loss

Special Ed and Gifted & Talented

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