Teacher in a classroom
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The rapid development of artificial intelligence has ignited discussions about the potential to replace humans in various industries. In education, AI offers the promise of revolutionizing traditional teaching methods and enhancing the learning experience for students.

At the rate AI is being accelerated into society, it could eventually replace a large group of traditional schoolteachers, and with historically low test schools in many large metropolitan school districts parents may welcome an alternative to the traditional teaching model. 

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AI is already being used in schools to varying degrees. School districts are incorporating AI-powered tools and systems into their teaching. AI-based tutoring systems can provide students with personalized feedback and guidance instantaneously.

These systems can identify areas where students are struggling and offer tailored explanations and practice exercises to help them improve. AI algorithms can automate the grading of assignments, such as multiple-choice quizzes and tests. This automation saves time for teachers and allows for quick feedback to students. 

Khan Academy, a popular online educational platform, already utilizes AI in several aspects of its offerings. Khan Academy has integrated AI-powered features to enhance the learning experience for students and uses AI to provide tailored exercises and questions to students.

The system analyzes the students’ responses and adapts the difficulty level and content to match their individual needs. This allows students to receive practice materials that align with their current skill level, maximizing their learning efficiency. However, it is worth noting that while Khan Academy incorporates AI into its platform, human instructors and educators remain integral to the learning process. 

The integration of AI in education raises concerns about the potential displacement of teachers. Critics argue that AI-driven systems could replace teachers in delivering content, grading assignments, and even providing emotional support. However, proponents argue that AI should be seen as a complementary tool that enhances teaching rather than a replacement for human educators.

While AI can automate certain tasks, the role of teachers in guiding students, facilitating discussions, and fostering a sense of community remains irreplaceable. Yet, as technology advances this could change rapidly, and AI has the potential to replace a large swath of teachers in the not-so-distant future.  

The San Diego Unified School district plans to spend $1.8 billion this school year to educate our children. With that amount of money spent on public education we should demand better results. If AI can offer improvement for a fraction of what taxpayers are currently paying, it may be a viable alternative. AI-powered platforms can also deliver quality education to remote or underserved areas, bridging educational disparities.

The recently released 2022 standardized test scores for San Diego Unified show that 66% of Black students do not meet standards in English language arts, and 81% do not meet standards in math. And 62% of Latino students do not meet standards for English language arts and 76% do not meet standards for math. That’s the opportunity for AI.

One of the main reasons is that AI is so effective is that it can analyze individual student data and provide customized learning experiences, accommodating different learning styles and abilities in a fraction of the time it would take a classroom teacher to do so. AI can also process vast amounts of data, enabling educators to gain valuable insights into student progress, identify trends, and adapt instruction accordingly. 

While AI offers significant potential in education, it also raises concerns and ethical considerations. Elon Musk, among other technology leaders, has expressed concerns about the potential dangers of AI. He warns that if left unchecked, AI could become more intelligent than humans, posing an existential threat to society. Musk advocates for proactive regulation and ethical frameworks to ensure safe and responsible AI development. 

Various technology leaders and researchers have echoed concerns regarding AI’s potential negative consequences, including job displacement, biases in algorithms, and the loss of human connection and empathy in education. While AI holds immense promise for revolutionizing education, the complete replacement of schoolteachers is unlikely. However, it could replace a large number of schoolteachers and the cost savings to taxpayers would be considerable.  

Artificial intelligence possesses several attributes that make it an appealing tool in education, and the ability to automate administrative tasks and deliver tailored instruction has the potential to improve educational efficiency and student outcomes. If our current model of education cannot meet the needs of all students — and prove that via an increase in text scores — then AI will most likely replace a large section of the school workforce in the future.

Mark Powell has a master’s degree in educational administration and is former vice president of the San Diego County Board of Education. He is the president of Parents For Quality Education and has been a teacher, vice principal and dean of students in the San Diego Unified School District.