Veteran educator Larry Ferlazzo writes annual lists of what he considers the best and worst education news — for which you can find links below — as well as predictions for the year ahead. This piece is something new.

Here, Ferlazzo, who teaches English and social studies at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, looks back on the past 10 years in the world of education and evaluates what happened, for, in his view, good or ill — plus one event he can’t yet categorize. Following this assessment are predictions he is making for the 2020s.

His lists are not in any order of priority.

Ferlazzo is well-known in the education world, having written or edited 12 books on education, and authoring a teacher advice blog for Education Week Teacher and his popular resource-sharing blog.

He encourages readers to leave their own reactions and thoughts in the comments. Ferlazzo is sure he has missed a lot!


Grass-roots teacher organizing became energized

Beginning with the Chicago Teachers Union strike, led by then-union leader Karen Lewis in 2012, to the 2018 West Virginia teacher strike which, in turn, led to strikes across the country, teachers and their unions successfully fought for fair compensation and increased resources for students and their families.

Effective Social Emotional Learning took hold in many of the nation’s schools

Through research and practice, educators have recognized the importance of supporting the social and emotional growth of students, and acknowledging that they are intertwined with academic growth. Concepts and strategies such as a growth mind-set, goal-setting and encouraging intrinsic motivation are being integrated in curriculums throughout the country. Importantly, some unhelpful efforts seem to be losing steam: grading SEL, disconnecting SEL from issues of race and inequity, and turning it into a tool to push students to work harder without additional instructional and financial support seem to be losing steam.

Restorative justice practices began being used more extensively

Interest in restorative practices in schools as an alternative to student suspensions and other punishments (which disproportionately impact students of color) has been increasing. Unfortunately, research on best practices in high schools like the one where I teach is still lacking. However, in my previous list of predictions for 2020, I suggest that absence will change in the coming year.

There was a reduced emphasis on student test scores in teacher evaluations

More states are backing off from using student test scores as part of a teacher evaluation process. That’s good news because of increasing research showing that those scores don’t provide accurate pictures of student academic achievement and, in fact, don’t show student advancement in many other important skills. (They also penalize teachers of “at-risk” students.)

High school ethnic studies courses began expanding across the country

A federal judge in Arizona ruled that the state’s stopping a Mexican American studies program was wrongly driven by “racial animus.” The termination of the course ended up being a perfect example of the community-organizing adage that “your opponents often do the best organizing for you,” as it helped create momentum for ethnic studies courses to expand rapidly throughout the United States.

There was increased recognition of looking at the role of racism in how schools as institutions treat students of color, how teachers treat students of color in classrooms, and the importance of increasing teacher diversity.

The previously mentioned increases in restorative practices and ethnic studies are two ways schools as institutions are becoming more aware of the role of racism in education. Another way — most infamous in New York City — is reflected in public discussion on how to ensure that admission into select high schools becomes more equitable. It’s just the beginning, but recognition of a problem may be a first step.

There has also been a growing recognition of the role of teacher implicit bias in the classroom, and some districts, including the one in New York City, are taking steps to combat it. Much more is needed, but, fortunately, fewer teachers are getting away with saying they “don’t see color.”

Finally, even though the students of color became a majority of the U.S. public school population in mid-decade, the number of teachers of color continues to be very small. Schools of education and school districts are beginning to take steps to address recruitment and retention. Again, there is a long way to go, but it is a start. The proof will be to see how the statistics look during the next few years.

Obamacare became law

Plenty of research, and common sense, shows that outside-of-school factors have a major impact on student academic achievement. The health care gained by parents and their children from Obamacare has had a demonstrable positive effect on student learning.

Fewer and fewer states required high school exit exams

States have begun concluding that high school exit exams are destructive to the education and to the lives of students, and have eliminated them. Now, only 11 states have that requirement. In my own state of California, then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill into law that even allowed 40,000 students who had denied diplomas to receive them retroactively.


School shootings increased throughout the United States

Tragic school shootings at Sandy Hook, Parkland and at Santa Fe High schools, along with others, make The Onion’s headline ” ‘No Way To Prevent This,’ ” Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens" a regular truism. However, how many students have channeled grief and anger into organizing against gun violence should also be considered an addition to “Best News.”

Water was found to be contaminated, and kids suffered the most

Not only are kids in Flint, Mich., suffering from the damage caused by lead in their water, but their local schools are increasingly overwhelmed by their needs and under-resourced to meet them. And it doesn’t look like it’s going to get any better. The problem is not limited to Flint.

Many children were separated from their parents

The terrible Trump administration policy of separating refugee parents from their children on our southern border resulted in widespread revulsion, including from educators. Fortunately, the public outcry forced the end of that terrible policy. However, the children, their parents and their teachers will be dealing with its negative impact for years to come.

The Supreme Court ruled against teachers and their unions

The Supreme Court ruling in the Janus case was a huge blow to teachers unions, educators, students and their families. On the face of it, letting people gain the benefit of union representation without having to pay for it is not fair. But it’s safe to say teachers unions are here to stay (the beginning of the “Best News” section illustrates this point). As the saying goes, “Don’t mourn — organize!”

Local newspapers humiliated teachers by publishing their “ratings”

At least two newspapers, the Los Angeles Times and the Cleveland Plain Dealer, used “value-added measures” — which purport to accurately measure teacher effectiveness but don’t — and published teacher ratings based on them. Fortunately, they stopped that practice but not until the damage was done.

The Gates Foundation wasted tons of money that did not help teachers, students and their families

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation admitted that, after spending $575 million on pushing teacher evaluation efforts, the policies they were pushing didn’t work. Think of how many field trips and classroom libraries that money could have been used for — among many other ways it could have been used to genuinely benefit students.

The Obama administration wasted even more money on school reform than Gates

The Race to the Top initiative spent some $4 billion pushing states to do many reforms not based on research. Depending on who you talk to, it was either a fiasco, a flop or, in the best case, “its effect … on student achievement was not clear.”

Hate crimes increased and the Trump administration made it harder to combat racism in schools

Hate crimes have increased for the past five years in a row. And President Trump hasn’t helped by restating “go back to your country” tropes, promoting xenophobic immigration policies and praising “very fine people” who are racists. This “hate spike” has targeted immigrants and students of various ethnic, religious and racial groups. … Even where harassment was not present in schools, teachers reported fear and uncertainty creating high levels of stress among students and families across the country, Though schools in many areas are taking steps to combat racism (as mentioned in the “Best News” section), it’s still a major problem that the federal Department of Education has made worse by reducing its investigations of civil rights complaints against schools.

The Trump administration put the lives of 700,000 participants in the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals in limbo

Creating stress for hundreds of thousands of young people, including 9,000 teachers, and potentially devastating their lives is inexcusable but, perhaps, “the cruelty is the point.”

Again, please share your comments, criticisms, and additions in the comments section!

Here are Ferlazzo’s predictions for education in the coming decade:

Before revealing his list, Ferlazzo notes the following: “My track record in annual predictions over the past nine years has not been stellar (though I’d put them up against those of so-called “pundits” any day). And even though in my previous career as a community organizer, we operated under the belief that predicting anything more than two years out was a complete waste of time, I thought I’d take a shot at making predictions for the coming decade.”

So here’s his new list, and he asks that you share your own and let him know what you think of him in the comments.

Many more schools will also acknowledge the ample research that finds most factors that impact student academic achievement happen outside of the school day, and begin providing services found in “community schools” and also become more active institutionally in improving their local neighborhoods.

Tech applications such as simultaneous translation devices (think of Star Trek’s “universal translators”), virtual reality and computer programs that assess student writing will all make major advances over the next 10 years. However, none of them will yet reach the point where they will be financially and/or pedagogically feasible to be used commonly in classrooms.

The era of hiring school district superintendents without any classroom experience will finally pass after fiascos overseen by “leaders” hired because of their “command,” “business” or “innovative” experience/“mind-set.”

The financial status of many major urban districts will reach crisis proportions, largely attributable to money siphoned off by growing numbers of charter schools. Most of these districts — primarily ones in states where Democrats are in control of government — will be rescued by state bailouts, but those in Republican-controlled states will be left to disintegrate and be turned into charter-only districts like the one in New Orleans.

Despite continually increasing support for gun control measures, few will be enacted into law, and we will be reading about school shootings during the next 10 years as often as we have during the past decade.

Restorative practices, ethnic studies classes, and efforts to increase and support teacher diversity will all expand dramatically. However, most of that success will be concentrated in areas with large numbers of students of color (who make up the majority of the U.S. public school population). Schools and districts with predominantly white students will, unfortunately, tend to shy away from these efforts.

The number of students participating in school-based full-contact football programs will drop by one-third by the end of the decade as even more game-related physical dangers are discovered by the medical profession.

The vast majority of schools will develop ways to provide home-based Internet access to all their students — regardless of family income. In addition, though most schools will not implement “one-to-one” programs where students use devices most of the day, computers/laptops will be provided for home use to those who can’t afford their own.

There will be growing recognition that, though standards, technology, textbooks and curriculum can all be parts of an effective learning environment, the focus of teacher professional development will need to be on instructional strategies educators can use in the classroom, including whole-class engagement, differentiation and active learning.