In its Sunday print edition of December 30 the New York Times’ “Year in Pictures” featured mostly sad and tragic images from around the world; 49 pictures over 13 pages. And, not surprisingly, the only “education” picture to make the cut was that of mourners in Newtown, Connecticut. “Sandy Hook,” wrote Colum McCann, the National Book Award winner. “So many small coffins. America became a mute accomplice to its own gun laws. The overwhelming consensus was that there was no language to describe it. Twenty-eight dead. Not even silence could be silent enough.”
Up until that moment the top education stories of the year were a mixed lot, with a Chicago teachers strike vying for headlines with Race to the Top waivers and Common Core State Standards. Or so one might imagine. Here is a perfectly unscientific roundup of the year’s top education stories, from various sources:
After entering “Top education stories for 2012” in the search box last Thursday, we received from Google 1,560,000,000 results in just 0.31 seconds. (Don’t you wonder what would happen if it took its time?) Despite its famous formula for finding things, Google returned a decidedly serendipitous list, the top 10 of which are here:
The Brits seem to be focused on post-Olympic school sports and teachers taking sick days. Go figure. But their education Secretary Michael Gove has picked up on UVA cognitive psychologist Daniel Willingham, whom he calls “an intellectual inspiration,” and, according to this Guardian piece, Willingham’s argument that “it is pointless to teach children concepts such as critical thinking and analysis unless they first have a sufficient grasp of the basic facts of a subject, something best achieved by repeated drilling.”
The year just concluded was an interesting one for education, according to this U.S. News report. “Technology paved the way,” says this U.S. News. The top stories, it says, are 1) the rise of the MOOCS, 2) the fight for women’s education worldwide, 3) the disappearance of paper textbooks, 4) cheating scandals, 5) Congress taking out after for-profit colleges, 6) student debt.
It is unclear why Quincy, Illinois’s school issues made Google’s top ten list, but the district’s problems seem emblematic of education challenges nationwide: leadership changes, no more teacher retirement incentives, and “sagging state finances.” (See here for more information about the district’s $52million budget and its 6,539 students (see here) in 15 schools.)
Again, the Brits. It seems that the top BBC education story was about decoding the world’s oldest undeciphered language. Go figure (again). In second place, however, was a story about international comparisons in education, which may have merited some honors in the U.S. as well.
“Whether you call it reform, revolution, transformation or transmutation, the pace of change in the world of Ohio education continues to speed up,” reports State Impact, a collaboration among WCPN, WKSU, WOSU and NPR. It may sound familiar, but these are Ohio’s “top” education stories for 2012, a lesson for all states:
- Third Grade Reading Guarantee. Starting with students entering third grade in 2013-14, schools cannot promote on to fourth grade students who score below a certain level on the state reading test. For the 2012-13 school year, a gentler version of the third grade reading guarantee is in effect. All About the Third Grade Reading Guarantee
- Report Card Revamp. Late in 2012, state lawmakers approved a new school report-card model for Ohio schools. The new report-card system grades schools on an “A-F” scale instead of using ratings like “Excellent” and “Academic Watch.” The new report cards will award schools and districts grades in each one of several areas. Starting in 2014-15, schools will get overall letter-grades too.
- Voucher Expansion. Ohio voucher programs continued to expand in 2012, but voucher supply exceeds demand. Vouchers are publicly funded tuition subsidies for students attending private schools. This year marked the start of a voucher program for special education students as well as the opening up of the Cleveland voucher program to include high school students for the first time. The number of statewide EdChoice vouchers available also roughly doubled this year to 60,000.
- Data-Rigging Investigation. After the Columbus Dispatch reported that Columbus schools retroactively altered student-attendance records, state officials became highly concerned about the accuracy of the student data used to create school report cards and ratings and, in some cases, determine educators’ pay.
- No Child Left Behind Waiver. Ohio got rid of the goal of having all students proficient in reading and math by 2014 as required under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Instead the feds said Ohio could settle on a slightly lower set of expectations in exchange for making certain Obama administration-backed reforms.
- Stan Heffner’s Resignation. Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction Stan Heffner resigned in August in the face of growing public criticism of his ethics violations. Heffner was appointed to his post in August 2011. A national search for a new state schools chief is currently under way.
- The Cleveland Plan. In July Gov. John Kasich signed into law a package of legislative changes that are intended to “transform” the Cleveland school district. The “Cleveland Plan” gives more weight to teacher performance during layoffs, introduces some limits on which new charter schools can open in Cleveland and was a big reason the district was able to pass a gigantic property tax levy in November.
- Teacher Evaluation Changes Continue. By the start of the 2013–14 school year, Ohio public school districts must adopt new ways of evaluating teachers. Charter schools that get federal Race to the Top funds must do the same. Schools across Ohio have begun taking steps to tie teacher evaluations to teacher pay.
- Common Core Implementation. Ohio schools are switching over to new, national standards about what students should learn and be able to do. Much like teacher evaluations, districts across Ohio began working (and a few continued previous work) on planning to teach these new standards.
- School Shootings. In February, three students were fatally shot in the cafeteria of Chardon High School in northeastern Ohio. A student, 18-year old T.J. Lane, is scheduled to face trial for the killings in January. The shootings prompted discussions in Ohio and nationwide about how to prevent future school shootings.
The Valley Courier of Alamosa, CO., rated a top ten spot for education stories because of its top ten stories. See what’s playing in the mile-high state.
This would seem to be a Fast Company site – but who knows! The lead picture is interesting; the captions says “We don’t need to memorize things any more, but we still need teachers to guide our students toward learning the best ways to problem solve. The question is: How do you measure that?” Indeed. Morgan Clendaniel writes that “education is at a crossroads.” His is an interesting take on top education stories for 2012.
This San Diego State University television and radio station has been around since the 1960s. And it reports that “educators around the state are hoping the worst of the funding squeeze has passed. Proposition 30, a state tax increase measure to fund schools, was approved by voters in November. Local school officials predict it will preserve school days and restore classes in San Diego.” But everyone is preparing for budget cuts.
From HBCU (historic black colleges and universities) initiatives to the future of affirmative action in the college admissions process, education news affecting African-Americans has been in the spotlight, including NAACP Going after NYC’s elite schools, affirmative action before the Supreme Court, and Oprah’s academy graduating its first class.
“The purpose of Alltop is to help you answer the question, “What’s happening?” in “all the topics” that interest you. You may wonder how Alltop is different from a search engine. A search engine is good to answer a question like, “How many people live in China?” However, it has a much harder time answering the question, “What’s happening in China?” That’s the kind of question that we answer.” A few of those “most topular [sic] stories” are EdTech conferences and “do you need to take the SAT and ACT?”
Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Ed Week’s most viewed stories for 2012
Politics K-12 Most read stories in 2012
13 stories you won’t see in 2013.
Mike Petrilli’s pick for educator of the year
Be prepared to be surprised. And, see some of the fallout:
States to watch in 2013
Rick Hess’s greatest hits for 2012
Last but not least, this roundup from one of the nation’s leading education policy analysts. It’s a “top 10” list and could even beat Google as the most reliable algorithm for sorting the most important education stories.