An annual Gallup survey of school district superintendents reveals an interesting shift, along with some doubts on how best to meet the new challenge. The 74 (education news site) shares the following:

Three-quarters of district superintendents say preparing students to be engaged citizens is a challenge for schools.

This is a huge jump over past years. In fact, the number of superintendents concerned about this rose by 24 points – from 50 percent to 74 percent – in just one year, according to the poll of nearly 2,000 U.S. district leaders.

While the question didn’t dig into why superintendents responded this way, Tim Hodges, director of research at Gallup Education, said the reason might be the nation’s heated political climate combined with the wave of student activism that followed the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in February. In the months after the shooting, thousands of students across the nation walked out of their classrooms to protest gun violence.

“I think superintendents are more acutely aware of students’ desire or potential to organize in ways that maybe we haven’t seen since Vietnam,” Hodges said.

This finding is one of several from Gallup showing that superintendents continue to be most concerned about educating the whole child and less concerned with the outcome of standardized test scores.

“The pendulum continues to swing a bit away from that and more towards an appreciation for the needs of the whole child, not just what’s on the test,” he said. “Issues like hope and engagement, grit and resilience, and knowing students’ strengths – building a positive school culture seems to be really top of mind for school leaders.”

The majority of superintendents (71%) also approve of being able to scale back curriculum and testing to make room for internships and job-shadowing opportunities for high schoolers. Many districts already have these types of opportunities for students, as the poll found that 73 percent of school leaders said their district partners with local businesses to promote career and vocational training.

Student engagement continues to be a problem as children progress through school. In a separate survey, Gallup found that 74 percent of fifth-graders say they are engaged, while only 34 percent of 12th-graders say so. This finding comes from a student survey service that schools can opt into, and while it’s not nationally representative, it does include responses from 3,000 public and private schools in the U.S.

Tom Schuman is the senior vice president of communications & operations for the Indiana Chamber. He is also the editor of the Chamber’s award-winning BizVoice magazine and has been with the organization for 20 years.