Ferlazzo says that he doesn’t presume that his list is all-encompassing, and he hopes readers will share their own ideas about what 2016 brought to the world of education. In his list below, he first looks at the best news and then the worst — but does not rank them within these categories.
By Larry Ferlazzo
The Best Education News Of 2016
* California voters approved three major education initiatives on the ballot raising billions of dollars for schools and expanding bilingual education.
* 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. We’re trying our best and hope more studies will come out in the near future.
* Surprise, surprise – not! Research sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education found that teachers working in lower-income communities were comparable to those in higher-income ones, so a difference in teacher quality was not responsible for disparity in student academic achievement. Though I’m not holding my breath, it would be nice if these findings would result in creating social and economic policies that would impact the factors that have been found to impact student achievement, such as economic, health and housing issues, as well as reduce the number of times we teachers are blamed for things that are beyond our control.
* A major effort to decimate teachers unions and, in fact, all public employee unions, was defeated when the U.S. Supreme Court deadlocked in the Friedrichs case. However, the victory may very well be short-lived when President-elect Trump and the Republican Senate fills the vacant U.S. Supreme Court seat.
* This expected setback to teachers unions is somewhat ironic considering the results of new research which finds:
… that, compared to districts with weak unionism, districts with strong unionism dismiss more low-quality teachers and retain more high-quality teachers. The empirical analysis shows that this dynamic of teacher turnover in highly unionized districts raises average teacher quality and improves student achievement.
* In a pleasant surprise, the Supreme Court refused to weaken efforts by colleges and universities to promote student diversity and supported the University of Texas’ affirmative action program.
* Millions of students had great learning experiences in their schools this year.
The Worst Education News Of 2016
* The election of Donald Trump sparked a “hate spike” targeting immigrants and students of various ethnic, religious and racial groups in schools. Even where harassment was not present, teachers reported fear and uncertainty creating high-levels of stress among students and families across the country, though some critics inaccurately accused educators of “fueling student anxieties.”
* Police shootings of African-Americans hit close to schools again this year when “adored school cafeteria manager” Philando Castile was killed by a Minnesota police officer who has been charged with manslaughter. The shooting, as well as others, pushed more educators to grapple with ways to engage with their students on race and racism, and to organize and confront its institutional aspects. Black Lives Matter also initiated plans to challenge education policies.
* Recovery? What recovery? A new report finds that 23 states are spending less per student now than they were in 2008 when the Great Recession hit.
* Millions of students should have gotten a better education than they did this year.
The Most Important Education News Of 2016 That Isn’t Good or Bad
* The federal government is working with states to try to figure out how to implement The Every Student Succeeds Act. It seems like it could be an improvement on No Child Left Behind, but it’s still too early to determine if this is going to be bad or good for teachers, students and their families. There is hope that it will bring positive change to our classrooms. However, as they say, the devil is in the details — and it is unclear what the upcoming Trump administration will do in regards to enforcing it.
You might also be interested in previous editions of this list: