Research that Informs Your Decisions This School Year

By Tim Elmore


One of my most common concerns is to miss important information when making decisions. I don’t want to feel I’m in the dark on the data. I want to make informed choices. Below, I have curated recent findings from the Pew Research Center, Gallup, the CDC, and other sources to give you a big-picture vantage point on life and education in 2024.


More people are concerned with the effects of artificial intelligence.

This issue has become obvious to most educators and parents today. Over half say the increased use of artificial intelligence in daily life makes them feel more concerned than excited—up 14 percent from last year, according to an August survey. Overall, 52 percent of Americans say they feel this way, an increase from 38 percent in December 2022. People seem to agree that just because we can do something with tech doesn’t mean we should. Kevin Kelly said it best: “Our smart technology advances so quickly it outpaces our ability to civilize it.” We must build ethics and morals in our students if we hope to manage and master our technology.


My suggestions:

  • Form a “tiger team” to develop ethical guardrails on future lesson plans on campus.
  • Address this issue with faculty/students, perhaps with an outside AI expert presenting. 
  • Put policies in place regarding moral boundaries in all relevant classes.


More kids fear gun violence, which affects their mental health.

We all know today’s students are struggling with mental health issues, particularly anxiety. The number of U.S. children and teens killed by gunfire rose 50 percent in just two years, according to a 2023 analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2019, there were 1,732 gun-deaths among U.S. children and teens under 18. By 2021, that figure had increased to 2,590. This is clearly a thing, and it’s not going away. We do no good in pursuing academic or graduation goals when a major hurdle preventing students’ learning is their mental health. I’m not diminishing the importance of academics, but years from now we must not look back on these days and see that we failed to address the whole student, including their mind, will, and emotions. 


My suggestions: 

  • Form a “tiger team” to address items that could prevent students from feeling safe. 
  • Identify a solid, effective social and emotional learning program for staff and students. 
  • Create an environment that hinders uninvited visitors from entering the campus. 


Boys continue to fall behind in school and life.

While more girls report suffering from depression, the increase among boys is greater, a 161 percent increase since 2010, according to the U.S. National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Their growth in mental health problems remains hidden from man since it is driven by sources beyond social media. New research released by the American Institute for Business Management reports that suicide rates among boys are higher than among girls and is the deepest sign of trouble for males. Girls continue to fare better in the classroom, including college graduation rates. Further, manufacturing jobs in the U.S. have decreased (in which male strength is an asset) and service jobs have increased (where females show some advantage). Further, a higher rate of males have withdrawn from the real world and engaged in a virtual world with video games, which doesn’t help job readiness. 


My suggestions:

  • Host a strategic planning meeting to identify learning contexts that appeal to males.
  • Create more opportunities for boys to engage in attractive school and outside activities.
  • Equip older male students to lead projects that enable them to mentor younger ones. 


Kids need guidance from adults regarding technology and social media.

YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram remain the most popular social media platforms among American teens. A majority say they’ve used these apps and sites, including nearly one in five who say they use YouTube or TikTok “almost constantly.” I believe we were all ambushed as social media surfaced over 15 years ago. Today’s middle school students are not emotionally ready to fend off addiction to technology. (Adults have a hard enough time eluding addictions to smart technology). Cell phones have changed the way we communicate and spend discretionary time. Smartphones were even more of a game changer. I believe most of us got ambushed. Without considering the downside of tech’s negative consequences, parents let portable devices become a “one-eyed babysitter” that frees them up to do their own thing. Parents and teachers must provide guidance and accountability to teens, and especially to younger children. 


My suggestions:

  • Discuss with your students the two-hour rule. Staying under two hours enables them to be less vulnerable to negative effects like anxiety and depression. 
  • Introduce a “phone contract” in your home or classroom. This is a friendly agreement outlining guidelines for smartphone use. Failure to keep them means losing the phone.
  • Implement the matching equation: for every hour on a screen, they have an hour face-to-face with peers or adults, cultivating emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills.  


I know a high school principal who held an assembly for her students and shared changes the school planned to make in light of this data. She and her APs took some of the steps I suggested above. Afterward, a student approached her to say, “Thank you.” The principal smiled and replied, “You’re welcome, but for what?” The teen replied, “I feel like you understand us.” In my humble opinion, that’s one of the best compliments a school leader can receive.


Research that Informs Your Decisions This School Year