When this project started, it was called a blog; now it is known at The Washington Post as a “vertical.” I’ve always looked at it as something more of an online magazine that publishes different forms of storytelling. Here are the most popular posts on The Answer Sheet for the past decade. Following that list are the most popular posts of 2019.
The most-read may surprise you. It surprised me.
Note: There are several ties because the numbers were remarkably close. When there were ties, I did not jump over any numbers in the list, as in listing a tie between two posts for the top spot and then jumping to 3. This gave me the opportunity to include more great pieces.
The most-read posts in the past decade:
1. When a first-grader’s wrong answer was better than the right one — Jan. 3, 2018
These are a few tweets that stand all on their own for entertainment value from a teacher of young children.
2. Six astonishing things Betsy DeVos said — and refused to say — at her confirmation hearing — Jan. 18, 2017
At her contentious confirmation hearing as President Trump’s nominee to be education secretary, DeVos was asked by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) about an important education debate involving how student progress should be measured. The query essentially rendered her speechless as she appeared not to know how to answer. When Franken told her he was upset she didn’t understand, she did not protest.
3. The decline of play in preschoolers — and the rise in sensory issues — Sept. 1, 2015
A pediatric occupational therapist writes: “Like many other American parents, I had an obsession: academic success for my child. Only, I was going about it completely wrong.”
4. Why so many kids can’t sit still in school today — July 8, 2014
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us that in recent years, there has been a jump in the percentage of young people diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, commonly known as ADHD: 7.8 percent in 2003 to 9.5 percent in 2007 to 11 percent in 2011. The reasons are multiple, and include changes in diagnostic criteria, medication treatment and more awareness of the condition.
4. Teacher to parent: About THAT kid (the one who hits, disrupts and influences YOUR kid) — Nov. 14, 2014
An early-childhood education expert writes a powerful open letter directed to parents about THAT kid, the one other kids go home and talk about, the one who is violent, curses and gets angry in class, the one who parents worry will hurt, disrupt and perhaps influence their own children.
5. A sobering look at what Betsy DeVos did to education in Michigan — and what she might do as secretary of education — Dec. 8, 2016
The editorial page editor of the Detroit Free Press writes about a “deeply dysfunctional educational landscape” that was “created by an ideological lobby that has zealously championed free-market education reform for decades, with little regard for the outcome,” with DeVos at the center.
6. How ‘twisted’ early childhood education has become — from a child development expert — Nov. 24, 2015
She writes: “Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that we would have to defend children’s right to play.”
7. Billionaire offered $25 million to high school alma mater. What he wanted in return was too much for the district. — April 12, 2018
Billionaire Stephen A. Schwarzman wanted to give $25 million to his alma mater in Pennsylvania, Abington High School. And the school board was eager to get the money for a renovation and new technology center. But the money wasn’t exactly free, and the community was not amused when it learned the details.
8. Trump’s rather weird meeting with the 2017 Teachers of the Year — April 27, 2017
It’s a time-honored tradition: U.S. presidents, every year, take time to meet Teachers of the Year and single out the national winner. Things went a little differently when Trump welcomed the 2017 winners to the White House.
9. Poet: I can’t answer questions on Texas standardized tests about my own poems — Jan. 7, 2017
The author of source material on two Texas standardized tests says she can’t answer the questions about her own work because they are so poorly conceived.
10. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos stumbles during pointed ‘60 Minutes’ interview — March 12, 2018
DeVos appeared on CBS’s “60 Minutes” and stumbled answering questions that correspondent Lesley Stahl asked during a pointed interview. Stahl repeatedly challenged the education secretary, at one point suggesting DeVos should visit poorly performing public schools to learn about their problems. DeVos responded, “Maybe I should.”
10. What Trump said when he signed nomination papers for Betsy DeVos, his education nominee — Jan. 22, 2017
Trump said a lot of nice things about his Cabinet nominees as he signed their nominating papers. Until he got to DeVos. For the Michigan billionaire he chose for education secretary, he said, while looking around: “Ah, Betsy. Education. Right?”
The most-read posts in 2019:
1. Kindergarten teacher: 'Why our youngest learners are doomed right out of the gate’ — and a road map to fix it — May 8, 2019
She writes: “I once watched a kindergarten teacher pass by my classroom door, struggling to move a large wooden play kitchen toward the exit of our school building in New Jersey. ‘What are you doing?’ I asked my colleague. ‘Moving this out of my room — we have no time for play!’ My heart sank.”
2. A mega-wealthy philanthropist changes his mind about school reform and what kids really need — and Barack Obama has a surprising reaction — June 19, 2019
For years, many of the nation’s wealthiest people have poured money into school “reform” efforts that some predicted would lift generations of the poor out of poverty. Now, one of the mega-wealthy philanthropists says he doesn’t believe it anymore.
3. A record number of colleges drop SAT/ACT admissions requirement amid growing disenchantment with standardized tests — Oct. 18, 2019
For students who fear they can’t get into college with mediocre SAT or ACT scores, the tide is turning at a record number of schools that have decided to accept all or most of their freshmen without requiring test results.
4. PTA president: Why we shut down a public elementary school’s 'father-daughter’ dance — Feb. 13, 2019
These dances are popular — but not everybody likes such celebrations, it turns out.
5. Why this South Carolina teacher quit mid-year: 'The unrealistic demands and all-consuming nature of the profession are not sustainable’ — April 16, 2019
Thousands of South Carolina teachers quit each year because they say they are underpaid — with some taking second and third jobs to pay their bills — and are expected to fill out near-endless paperwork while working hours long past the end of the school day.
6. Um, who are Melinda and Bill Gates trying to kid? — April 16, 2019
What are Melinda and Bill Gates talking about? In recent public statements, one or both have said things about their powerful role in education philanthropy that strains credulity.
7. Florida school district stops valedictorian from giving graduation speech. Then, it apologized. — May 30, 2019
Kriya Naidu is the valedictorian at University High School in Orange County, Fla. — but unlike many other students who graduate at the top of their class, she was not permitted to deliver her speech at commencement. School officials didn’t like parts of it.
8. The liberal arts are under attack. So why do the rich want their children to study them? — May 26, 2019
A new analysis by two economists takes issue with those who argue that liberal arts education is not worth the investment.
8. Why Donald Trump Jr.’s ‘loser teachers’ comment was ‘a chilling moment’ for educators around the world — Feb. 16, 2019
The president’s son drew cheers when he urged young conservatives to “bring it to your schools” (though he didn’t say exactly what “it” was) because “you don’t have to be indoctrinated by these loser teachers that are trying to sell you on socialism from birth.”
9. After refusing archdiocese’s order to fire gay teacher, school is told it will no longer be recognized as Catholic — June 21, 2019
A school that refused to fire a gay teacher as ordered by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis says it was told by church officials it would no longer be recognized as Catholic. But school leaders pledged to keep the institution’s religious identification.
10. A social studies teacher wanted to alert families that he was teaching about impeachment. Here’s the letter he sent. — Nov. 13, 2019
Knowing how controversial the process on Capitol Hill would be, he decided to alert families about what he was doing, and why and how he was teaching the subject to their children.
10. Report: Federal government wasted millions of dollars on charter schools that never opened — Dec. 9, 2019
More than 35 percent of charter schools funded by the federal Charter School Program between 2006 and 2014 never opened or were shut down, costing taxpayers more than half a billion dollars, according to a report from an advocacy group that reviewed records of nearly 5,000 schools.
10. Education Department threatens to suspend employee who provided The Post with budget data — Sept. 11, 2019
The department proposed a five-day suspension for a budget analyst who provided information to The Post about the Trump administration’s 2017 budget proposal before it was released. Her attorney called it retaliation for whistleblowing. The suspension was put on hold while a federal agency investigates.