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Education today/Steve Patchin

After a challenging 2011, what is in store for education in 2012?

January 3, 2012
The Daily Mining Gazette

2011 was a challenging year for K-12 education. The quality of education each family expects from schools and how it is funded continues to rise in importance to all American in the most recent polls. This in turn has brought it front and center in the political arena, setting the stage for it to be addressed frequently in the 2012 political campaign.

According to the Census Bureau, 22 percent of American school children live in poverty, challenging schools to create a safe and supportive environment where these students can thrive academically. In 2011, Congress failed to rewrite the "No Child Left Behind" law. The Obama administration then allowed states to request waivers that allowed states to opt out of following NCLB requirements. In return, states were required to implement approved school reforms such as teacher evaluation programs.

2011 also saw the end of federal stimulus funds flowing into K-12 schools. Since 2008, more than 294,000 jobs in the education sector have been lost. In Keller, Texas, schools now require families to pay for their child's transportation to school. Nationally, 120 school districts (most of which are rural) have gone to four-day weeks to save on costs. A recent survey of California schools found half of the schools cut or reduced art, drama and music programs.

What lies ahead for 2012? Larry Ferlazzo, an English teacher in California constructed some predictions for 2012. "Corporate School Reform" is the "hot" reform strategy being applied to schools which includes: expansion of charter schools, merit pay for teachers, teacher evaluations using student test scores and elimination of teacher seniority rights. The 2012 prediction is these reforms will continue to be implemented by new charter schools and local/state boards of education.

Prediction number two: The movement to publish individual teacher performance ratings in newspapers will disappear. The scrutiny that the New York Times faced for publishing these evaluations will discourage other papers from this action. Number three, there will be a surge in implementing the concept of "Social Emotional Learning." SEL is the program that teaches character traits like self control and perseverance. This provides each student tools to address the challenges they will be facing in and out of the classroom.

Prediction number four, there will be a "fall surprise" for the election. NCLB waivers will be granted by the Obama Administration with no 'poison pill' reforms needed for approval. This will energize educators to throw their political might behind the Obama re-election campaign. Number five, there will be a renewed emphasis on Peer Assistance and Review as an evaluation and professional development process. PAR has proven to be effective and efficient, allowing teachers to be treated like the professionals they are. Mr. Ferlazzo also predicts that the recent push for schools to use new technologies as a transformative tool in the classroom will take a back seat to for-profit on-line learning programs.

All indications are pointing toward the idea that K-12 and higher education have hit rock bottom in the area of funding in 2011. The general public is ready to pay to increase the quality of our schools and support our educational leaders. The return they will be expecting for this investment will be increased engagement and academic success of their students. How to measure this success will hopefully be decided in 2012.

Editor's note: Steve Patchin is the director of the Center for Pre-College Outreach at Michigan Technological University.



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