Top Education Stories of '07
1. Non-reauthorization of NCLB. Passions run high on the controversial law, which critics say has led to a culture of standardized testing, and has not been fully funded. Supporters say it is necessary to hold schools accountable.
House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller blames Bush for being unable to compromise on changes to the law that would grant states and districts more flexibility in meeting the law's requirements. Miller suggests that NCLB may not even be reauthorized in 2008, and may have to wait until Bush leaves office. No tears shed here.
2. Merit pay. Buoyed by the qualified support of Barack Obama and pilot programs in Houston, New York City, and Denver, merit pay has received renewed discussion around the country. Merit pay, or pay for performance, can take many forms, including school wide bonuses (like the recently adopted plan in NYC), or bonuses based on test scores for individual teachers. The fact that these plans have received attention in a presidential campaign means that the idea is growing and becoming part of the national discussion on education reform.
In fact, merit pay has been one of the stumbling blocks in the reauthorization of NCLB. Chairman George Miller became incensed in 2007 when the NEA appeared to reneg on a plan to support merit pay proposal to be included in the draft reauthorization. The NEA is opposed to merit pay.
Meanwhile, merit pay is going on the ballot in Oregon.
3. Bong Hits for Jesus. The Supreme Court ruled that schools had the right to limit speech off of school grounds. It continues a trend of increasing power of schools to intervene in free speech cases. Meanwhile, schools continue to face legal challenges relating to internet and cell phone issues as they relate to students' free speech rights. While the Court has not ruled on these kinds of cases yet, the Bong Hits case seems to indicate that schools have a wide latitude to restrict students' speech.Read Pierre Tristam's take here.
4. U. S. students fall behind in math and science. In the Program for International Student Assessment, American students were below the average for students in industrialized countries. For Gerald Bracey, this news elicits a yawn.
5. Creationist curriculum gains support of presidential candidates. In a supposedly civilized country, we have candidates running for President--including the current frontrunner, Mike Huckabee--who would rather pander to a religious minority than accept the premises of science. Why is this an education story? Because as the push for national standards grows and grows, the question of what will be taught in science classes in the US becomes a subject of national debate. Will we teach scientific inquiry? Or will we teach religious dogma in the disguise of scientific inquiry? Ron Paul and Mike Huckabee opt for the latter. One leads the field in the polls, and the other in fundraising. Scary.The next five after the jump.
6. School violence continues. One case, here in Ohio, the other, forever to be remembered in association with Virginia Tech. Both cases remind us that troubled students need regular attention and support. Click through the links for more of my thoughts on this issue.7. Vouchers rejected at the polls. The vote in Utah has huge significance, especially considering the substantial resources put into it by pro-voucher forces. If vouchers can't get a foothold in conservative Utah, the concept is seriously weakened as a viable issue for conservatives to rally around. I explained why it failed here.
On a related note, here's one of the stupidest statements made about education in 07, from voucher supporter Patrick Byrne:
"I'm ashamed of Utah that this could even be a close vote," said Patrick Byrne, CEO of Overstock.com, who has donated millions of dollars to support vouchers. "This is parents looking at their kids getting a third-rate education and other kids getting basically a death sentence and saying, 'That's OK by me."'8. The Supreme Court overturns desegregation plans in Louisville and Seattle. See what I had to say here.
9. Teacher preparation in Texas. Maybe not the biggest story of the year, but a pretty important one. The model used by the University of Texas to train math and science teachers has the potential to radically transform teacher preparation--for the better.
10. Value-added rolls out in Ohio. More and more states are jumping on the value added bandwagon, and with Ohio in the camp, two of the largest states (Pennsylvania being the other) are now using value added models. Value added analysis could radically alter how school districts are perceived and how data is reported about school progress. Potentially revolutionary, but whether the change is for the better remains to be seen.