The best and worst education news in 2016 — so far
Larry Ferlazzo is a veteran teacher of English and social studies at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, California. Every year he writes a list of the best/worst education news of the year — but this, so much has been happening that he decided to take a look halfway through the year, and here’s what he’s come up with. Ferlazzo has written numerous books on education, writes a teacher advice blog for Education Week Teacher and has his own popular resource-sharing blog.
By Larry Ferlazzo
I usually do a recap of the year’s education news every December, but thought it would be useful to experiment with doing a mid-year review. As usual, I don’t presume to say it’s all-encompassing, so I hope you’ll take time to share your own choices. I’ll list the ones I think are the best first, followed by the worst. It’s too hard to rank them within those categories, so I’m not listing them in any order.
The Best Education News Of 2016 – So Far
* 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.
* New research on teachers unions proved to be a disappointment to many school reformers:
The data confirms 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.
* The Gates Foundation offered a weak but, nonetheless, welcome mea culpa for some of their strategic missteps. The Los Angeles Times followed-up with an equally welcome and flawedscathing critique of the foundation’s work in schools. Anthony Cody and others pointed outThe Times neglected to mention their responsibility in previously promoting some of the policies for which they were criticizing the foundation. Despite these shortcomings, these kinds of public admissions of mistakes and/or changes of mind by powerful institutions are always welcome news.
* 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.
* Research shows that health challenges provide learning challenges, and Obamacare has made a big dent in that problem. The state of California has gone even further by providing health insurance to 170,000 undocumented children under the age of 18.
* In Chicago, educators continue to show their strength in the face of attacks. Thousands of teachers participated in a one-day strike and a principal who was a vocal opponent of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s school policies (and who the district was trying to fire because of it) waselected to lead the citywide Principals and Administrators Association.
* No educator will be sad that Michelle Rhee’s organization, StudentsFirst went under (the word “merged” was used, but everybody knows what it really meant) this year.
* Changes in the GED, the high school equivalency test, have been disastrous for students, with the numbers of people taking and passing it plummeting since Pearson took it over. Fortunately, the company has come to its senses and made some adjustments that should help.
* Millions of students had great learning experiences in their schools this year.
The Worst Education News Of 2016 – So Far
* Nine people were killed in Oaxaca, Mexico demonstrations against government reform proposals that scapegoat teachers as the cause of that country’s education ills. Does that scapegoating strategy sound familiar?