Larry Ferlazzo, who has taught at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento for the past 19 years, for a decade has written a column making annual education predictions (see his previous lists at the end of this post).
In addition to being a full-time teacher, Ferlazzo has written or edited 12 books on education, writes a weekly teacher advice column for Education Week, and hosts a popular resource-sharing blog.
He has also written best-and-worst roundups of education news, including this one for 2021.
Here’s Ferlazzo’s look into the future:
- There will be a big increase in teacher retirements in the spring/summer, leading to a teacher shortage that will make this school year look like a picnic. Then, in an advance prediction for 2023, the stress created by that staff shortage will result in an equal number of departures the following year. These losses, combined with a similarly alarming drop in numbers of students enrolling in teacher-preparation programs, will result in an awful downward spiral. Districts with skilled leadership will have already developed “grow your own” and “teacher-residency” programs to recruit new students, and programs to support those educators who choose to stay. But, as the pandemic has shown, those kinds of districts are definitely not the majority.
- Mask mandates in many schools will continue through the fall and will, in fact, increase in number. The omicron variant of the novel coronavirus will have successors, and we will all learn the Greek alphabet. The vast majority of school districts, however, will not be choosing to return to distance learning — even with high community transmission rates. Parent pushback would be too great, and many schools have learned the hard way how to reduce transmission risk. Of course, there are also some states that will continue to do little or nothing to reduce those risks.
- State standardized test scores will be down. Many school officials will NOT see that a major cause of these drops will be that the districts are only giving lip service to social-emotional learning, mental health support and genuine accelerated learning. Instead they will put their money and energy behind remediation and double down on adding instructional time and “drill-and-kill.” They will continue to appear dumbfounded that what they are doing is not working, and conclude that they should add more of the same. Welcome to another downward spiral.
- Attacks on teaching about systemic racism will intensify leading up to the November midterm elections as Republicans continue to believe it will be a hot-button issue to galvanize voter turnout. It generally won’t be successful in that Republican aim, but the attacks will hurt students, their families and teachers as educators will self-censor themselves. After the election, polls will find that these attacks on critical race theory — an intellectual movement that examines the way policies and laws perpetuate systemic racism — didn’t expand the Republican base. Conservative strategists will forget about the issue, but damaging laws passed by Republican-dominated state legislatures restricting how teachers deal with race and other issues will remain on the books, and their impact will continue.
- There will be some major consolidations in the educational technology world as more educators conclude that yes, our students need more personalized learning and, no, technology might not be the only, and not even main, vehicle through which to provide it. Smaller class sizes, listening, connecting to student interests and building relationships can lead to better learning. Bye-bye, unicorns.
- President Biden’s Build Back Better Plan — or some version of it — will eventually pass. It’s unclear whether it will universal prekindergarten and a child-tax credit extension. As countless studies have found, outside factors such as child poverty have a much greater impact on student achievement than we teachers do, and the child tax credit has already done an impressive job at reducing child poverty. Quality pre-K programs have also been found to positively influence later academic performance. So these two efforts could end up being the most effective school improvements in many years — if they actually happen.
- Despite recent school shootings, efforts to reduce police presence in schools will continue. A high priority will be made to twin these changes with an increase in other harm reduction and safety strategies, including restorative practices. Major experiments and research on how to implement these strategies, particularly in secondary schools, will take place and their results will be widely disseminated.
- Private foundations like Gates and Chan Zuckerberg will continue coming up with ideas about what schools should do, finding people who will accept their money to do them, and then concluding that it didn’t work. Their staff will continue believing they are the smartest people in the room, and not bother listening to ideas from educators who actually teach in classrooms every day.
- I borrow this last one from educator Bill Ivey every year. He predicts that “each and every school day will bring tens of thousands of reasons to celebrate in schools across the country.” Despite anything the pandemic can throw at us, I think this is still going to be the case.
Ferlazzo predictions from some recent years: