By Larry Ferlazzo
A new year is approaching, and we educators can approach it with mostly hope, along with some trepidation. Here are some predictions for the coming year.
1. The $1.5 billion increase in E-Rate federal monies will result in thousands of more schools connected to high-speed Internet. However, it’s probably not going to help students learn more since schools will need to find money to buy laptops/tablets and provide high-quality professional development to teachers on how to use tech as more than nifty virtual worksheets, and that’s not likely to happen in most places.
2. Bill Gates will continue his period of self-reflection and apply it to his work in schools. After concluding that he and his foundation’s major international health initiative was “naive”, he announces that the foundation will cease its support of Value Added Measurements as a tool for teacher evaluation. Instead, he will call for a reduction in standardized testing and only use measures such as principal and peer observations for formal teacher evaluations rather than student test scores.
3. Despite that fact that no one in California can figure out how Governor Jerry Brown’s revolutionary funding formula for public education actually works, it will still be praised by many (including me) since most schools, especially ones such as the one where I teach in a low-income community, will continue to get more funding than in the past. Other states, inspired by the idea that high-needs schools deserve more support, will begin developing their own similar plans that no one in their area can figure out, either.
4. Speaking of Governor Brown, his appeal of the awful Vergara decision will wind its way through the courts during 2015, 2016 and eventually be successful in 2017, thereby leaving teacher tenure and due process unchanged in California. However, “school reform” organizations and their billionaire backers will spend untold millions and enormous amounts of time throughout the United States in 2015 pursuing similar suits that will ultimately lead to similar losses.
5. Education will not be much of a topic in Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president as she tries to quietly distance herself from the Obama administration’s non-research-backed and often anti-teacher efforts. Not so in the Republican campaign, where Jeb Bush’s support for Common Core will be a lightning rod for his opponents. Of course, since most voters don’t typically rank education as a high-priority, it’s not clear if those positions will have much impact, anyway.
6. The final fleeting hopes for the two “next generation” standardized testing consortium’s (PARCC and Smarter Balanced) will be wrecked on the rocks of money, bureaucracy and lack of imagination as they end up as high-tech versions of the “last generation” tests. They will not be rigorous, but will be harder — in the context of the definition of the word: “fatiguing, troublesome, difficult to deal with, oppressive, harsh.” And the tests will certainly not, as the consortia claim, “measure higher-order thinking skills.”
7. The rise in public activism and awareness about issues of race — among our students, in many of our school communities and in many of the areas where we educators live (which is often not nearby our schools) — will offer a challenge to us teachers and our schools. Will we embrace the questions being raised, and encourage more to be asked, or will we avoid dealing with them in the face of a plate we already consider to be overfilled? I’m betting more of us will choose the former, and that we’ll see many exciting examples of teachers and schools working with students and their families to learn from these challenges and figure out ways to work together and overcome them.
8. I’m betting that much of the energy opposing the Common Core State Standards will burn itself out, despite it being an issue in the Republican presidential campaign. And that even states not participating will replace them with remarkably similar ones. And, even further, that no matter what happens, it won’t affect much of what we teachers do in the classroom.
9. 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.” That sure sounds good to me…
You might want to review Ferlazzo’s previous years’ predictions and evaluate the quality of his foresight: