Government Regulation (or Lack Thereof) of AI in Pre-K Through 12th Grade Classrooms

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) has already enhanced and has the potential to further expand and improve preK through 12th grade education. However, educators and school leaders are struggling to keep up with the many constantly evolving AI and generative AI (GenAI) tools.

Issues range from a lack of government guidance addressing their use in schools through regulations, whether at the federal or state level. School leaders and educators are already using some AI as instructional tools, and others are beginning to adopt GenAI. However, without clear guidance for primary and secondary schools, it will be challenging to mitigate cheating and plagiarism.

Recently, President Joe Biden signed an executive order on GenAI, detailing how federal agencies can take steps to minimize the real-world problems posed by GenAI. Included in the executive order is a call to action for the US Secretary of Education to develop resources, policies, and guidance regarding GenAI within 365 days of the order. These resources must address the impact GenAI systems will have on vulnerable and underserved communities and be developed in consultation with local education stakeholders.

Other resources provided by the Secretary of Education include the development of an “AI toolkit” for educators, implementing recommendations from the US Department of Education’s (ED) “AI and the Future of Teaching and Learning” report. The report must address “appropriate human review of AI decisions, designing AI systems to enhance trust and safety and align with privacy-related laws and regulations in the educational context, and developing education-specific guardrails.” See here for a more comprehensive review of President Biden’s executive order.

For years now, various forms of AI have already been integrated into classroom settings from pre-K through 12th grade, as well as in our daily lives. For example, instructional resources and assessments that use algorithmic or adaptive learning, automatic translation tools such as Google Translate or the early translation tool Babelfish, and programs like Grammarly that support proper writing are all examples of AI use in education. The early adoption of AI tools demonstrates a desire for these tools to be helpful within the educational framework.

With the lack of guidance from the federal government, many states have deferred to local jurisdictions to decide how to regulate GenAI in their educational systems. States like Oregon and California have already begun to utilize GenAI to develop assessment questions based on content. Educators and school leaders can input a specific question type to generate lesson plans and integrate culturally specific content into these plans. While students may explore data collection by experimenting with AI prompts, GenAI extends what educators and students are already doing in the traditional classroom setting. Students also benefit from the use of GenAI as they can practice writing research questions and use GenAI responses for making revisions. Further, students can examine ways that GenAI is being used in spaces outside of education to make future career choices (i.e., medical practice, automotive, and manufacturing industries).

AI and GenAI are constantly evolving, and their impact on preK through 12th grade education will have many benefits and consequences. There are concerns with using GenAI to cheat and plagiarism is a serious concern in the classroom. Internationally, countries are quickly exploring ways to regulate the use of GenAI and the United States is soon to follow. President Biden’s directives to the ED will be a start to the process in the United States. However, like many efforts to regulate, there is every indication that the regulation of GenAI in primary and secondary education will be undertaken on a state-by-state basis.

At ArentFox Schiff, we are closely monitoring these developments. Please reach out to us if you have any questions or concerns.


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