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Education Opinion

Ten Edu-Stories We’ll Be Reading in 2015

By Rick Hess — December 31, 2014 5 min read
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Well, here we are at the end of another eventful edu-year. What lies ahead for education in 2015? Hell if I know. But, every so often, it seems like bloggers are supposed to offer insight into stuff like this. So, here’s my best guess at anticipating some of the key edu-headlines we’ll be reading in 2015:

10) OCR Tackles “Unconscionable” Pizza Bagel Gap. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights will launch a “long overdue” investigation into the inequitable distribution of pizza bagels and floral arrangements in faculty lounges across the land. “We think this ‘unconscionable’ pizza bagel-flowers gap is a big contributing factor in explaining why ‘effective’ educators don’t want to work in some schools,” an unnamed OCR official will explain.

9) New Reforms Are Found to Work . . . Until They Don’t. A boatload of new studies will report that X, Y, or Z “works” (e.g., “raises reading and math scores”), though few or none of them will demonstrate similar effects when replicated at new sites. Come next December, we’ll then get fired up for 2016 studies on other exciting new programs that--and I’m going out on a limb here--will go on to post similarly bleak track records.

8) Spot Inspections, Gender Surveys on Tap for Federally Supported Preschools. As a “clarification” to the federal Preschool Development Grants, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will call for spot investigations of early childhood centers to ensure that all blocks and cubbies are painted in accordance with federal guidelines. OCR will ask if the inspectors can help collect “more reliable and comprehensive” information on the sexual preferences and gender identity of preschoolers. Toddlers who fail to fully complete the gender identity questionnaire will receive mandatory counseling in accord with the Obama administration’s new Title IX “preschool codicil.”

7) Proposals for “Smart” Policy Disappoint, Yielding Calls for “Smarter” Policy. We will hear a lot of anguished, thoughtful calls for “smart” regulation and policy. When those regulations and policies are adopted and don’t work as intended, we’ll be told that it’s an “implementation problem.” The solution to this problem will be new proposals for “smarter” regulations and policies.

6) Researchers Discover That Schools Do Stuff Other Than Teach Reading and Math. In an acclaimed new study, researchers will discover that lots of what good teachers do isn’t reflected in reading and math scores. Indeed, in a stunning development, the researchers will discover that much school time is not devoted to reading or math--and that many parents aren’t even all that focused on reading and math scores. This will cause great angst and puzzlement among those who’ve insisted that a heavy dose of value-added reading and math scores is the mark of serious teacher evaluation. As one eminent researcher will tell the Washington Post, “I’d heard that reading and math scores might have limitations, but it took this study to make me believe it.” By year’s end, the reverberations of this discovery will still be rippling forth.

5) ED and ATF Lay Take Down the Toys “R” Us CEO. The U.S. Department of Education will team up with the ATF to lean on school systems to sponsor toy gun buy-back drives. The success of the operation will lead high-ranking officials at ED and the ATF to cook up a sting (dubbed “Operation Wet and Wonderful”) intended to nail source suppliers of water guns. In a great victory for law and order, school safety, and reduced water gun violence, more than two dozen prominent executives will be nailed. The highlight will be the much talked-about arrest of the Toys “R” Us CEO, who will prove how Neanderthal his company is by vehemently insisting to cameras during his perp walk, “But they’re only water guns, dammit!”

4) Republicans Will Be “Confused” as to What They Really Want, Despite Lots of Helpful Push-Polling and Advice. Dozens of new surveys by pollsters-for-hire will prove that Republicans really, really want policymakers to spend immense new sums on preschool and to embrace the Common Core. As one such Spice Girls-quoting pollster will tell the New York Times, “I’ll tell you what Republicans want, what they really, really want: they want the same things that my employer wants them to.” Somehow, Republican voters will fail to vote accordingly. And those darn Republican elected officials won’t get the memo, either. Meanwhile, lots of nice Democrats who used to work for the Obama administration (and now work as analysts, consultants, and lobbyists) will explain that what Capitol Hill Republicans secretly want out of ESEA reauthorization is . . . exactly what the Obama administration wants. Who’d a thunk?! Their proclamations will be treated as expert, nonpartisan analysis--especially by foundations and edu-journalists. All of whom will once again be puzzled when Republicans fail to get the memo.

3) Bush-Clinton Contest Judged Inevitable by Edu-Big Shots. By April, education philanthropists, education advocates, and assorted education big shots will come to regard a Jeb Bush-Hillary Clinton clash as inevitable. They will spend a lot of time planning on that basis and will then be shocked--shocked!!--and left befuddled and annoyed when one of the two closes the year in uncertain shape.

2) It’s Time to Embrace the “Moroccan Miracle.” Having first been disappointed by Finland’s declining test results and then the shocking discovery that the “Shanghai Surprise” was produced in large part by the unsavory manipulations of a totalitarian police state, the seekers of an international secret sauce will seize on new international test results to proclaim the “Moroccan Miracle.” The resulting edu-tourism will do wonders for a struggling Morocco and for edu-analysts eager for an exotic getaway. For schools and students? Not as much.

1) We Rename an Age-Old Virtue, Rendering It New and Exciting. A new book will garner a rave New York Times review after coining a buzzy new phrase for an age-old virtue. This time next year, we’ll be enraptured by the unappreciated import of “pervasive, unrelenting truth attachment” (PUTA). The author will win a MacArthur “Genius” grant. Parents and teachers will prompt knowing smirks from the sophisticated set if they’re behind the curve and use last-century lingo like “honesty” or “integrity.” PUTA-themed learning will get lots of airtime at conferences, with influential people sagely telling one another that schools should explore new strategies for cultivating PUTA in their students. And millions will be spent developing and purchasing PUTA-themed curricula, even as a raft of ed school professors lament PUTA’s unsavory cultural imperialism. Exciting times.

The opinions expressed in Rick Hess Straight Up are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.