Opinion Blog

Rick Hess Straight Up

Education policy maven Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute think tank offers straight talk on matters of policy, politics, research, and reform. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Ten Edu-Stories We’ll Be Reading in 2016

By Rick Hess — December 28, 2015 5 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

This past year has featured a slew of developments I’d have never expected to see. Nonetheless, people continue to ask if I’ve any thoughts on upcoming events in 2016. I suppose that comes with the territory when you work at a D.C. think tank. So, despite my shabby record as a prognosticator, I’ll give it my usual shot. Here are predictions regarding a few of the big edu-headlines we can expect to see next year:

1. State efforts to rebrand the Common Core continue apace. With great fanfare, Idaho announces its new “Idaho Grade-A Potato” standards. Colorado touts its “Mile High” standards, backing the new motto with a multimillion dollar marketing campaign. The tagline: “We don’t just mean Rocky Mountain high. We’re talking, ‘Drive across town to get a Frito pie and clean out the Ho-Ho section at Walgreens’ high.” Education pundit Andy Rotherham tells POLITICO‘s Maggie Severns, “Man, that’s high.”

2. NEA president Lily Eskelsen García is forced to apologize after another gaffe. At a University of Iowa forum in late January, she declares, “The entire Republican field consists of filthy corporate vermin bent on destroying our nation.” She later issues a correction, explaining she meant to say that the GOP candidates are “corporate-funded vermin bent on destroying the nation.”

3. In a tragic development, the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act leaves hordes of young D.C. education analysts adrift. Without NCLB, Race to the Top, or ESEA waivers, one-time education advocates eager to stay inside the Beltway are forced to take jobs lobbying for pharmaceutical firms and investment banking trade groups. In a soulful NPR segment, one former advocate says, “People told us we could go work in alleged state ‘capitals’ like Jackson and Jeff City ... but I’ve no clue how you’d get there. And, even if I did, I really doubt they have good craft beers. You know?”

4. Democrats for Education Reform maintains a brave face throughout much of the primary season. DFER president Shavar Jeffries even manages to intermittently say enthusiastic things about Hillary Clinton, at least until Clinton tells the Democratic convention, “More money works! Charter schools don’t! And remember, you can’t hug a test!” Jeffries is seen later crying softly into his beer at the hotel bar. DFER’s director of policy Charlie Barone tells a reporter, “I just need to be alone for a little while.”

5. A new poll from Pew stuns the nation when it finds that college students overwhelmingly say they feel safe on campus. College administrators are perplexed. One provost tells The New York Times, “Students have clearly developed false consciousness. It’s classic Gramsci. To survive the larger violence visited upon them daily by the university’s imperialist, white supremacist, ableist, cissexist heteropatriarchy, they have subconsciously convinced themselves that they inhabit a benign environment.” A senior official at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights plaintively insists, “We need to ask ourselves: What can be done to make students feel less safe? That’s the only way to move forward.”

6. A contretemps erupts when the U.S. Department of Education distributes posters celebrating the Every Student Succeeds Act but the printer somehow scrambles the old and new printing templates. Half the posters wind up reading “Every Student Left Behind” (the other half trumpet “No Child Succeeds”). Thousands of students respond to the posters by promptly dropping out of school. As one such student tells Education Week‘s Alyson Klein, “When even the inspirational posters expect you to fail, it’s time to pack it in.” Klein’s story draws much comment, especially her observation, “It’s strange how a few words mark the difference between goofy high hopes and soul-deadening nihilism.”

7. After accepting the new role of “Commissioner of Chicago Youth Sports,” former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is greeted with great enthusiasm before running into trouble. When he is told about new research on the benefits of data-driven shot selection in basketball, he mandates that all city teams take a specified share of shots from analyst-determined “sweet spots” just outside the three-point arc. He requires that all teams file weekly shot tracking sheets to document compliance, triggering a fierce backlash. A Chicago Tribune columnist asks, “I know the guy means well, but what the hell is he thinking?” Duncan responds, “These kids only get one shot to play youth sports and they deserve a chance to play the game right.” Duncan’s deputy tells The Washington Post’s Lyndsey Layton, “He’s just really passionate about the game.”

8. The new president of my alma mater, Brandeis University, announces that the title of “president” will be retired from use. His strongly worded letter observes that several former U.S. presidents were slave owners and that the title “carries ineradicable connotations of a colonialist hierarchical paradigm.” Pledging to be more proactive going forward, he also announces a new collaboration with North Korea’s renowned re-education experts on a program of mandatory “goodthink” training for faculty, staff, and students—and any passerby who regularly frequent the campus. Brandeis’s BlackLivesMatter chapter immediately denounces these “tepid half-measures” and calls for his ouster.

9. A pre-K advocacy group releases a series of surveys showing most Americans think young children should be fed, housed, loved, and educated. The surveys include questions like, “Do you think little kids should learn to read?” (89 percent of respondents say “yes”). While the results do surprisingly little to change public policy, the work helps pollsters cover their children’s exorbitant preschool tuitions ... and afford some really nice vacation homes. One veteran researcher observes that this kind of pay-for-findings polling may be a little distasteful, but notes, “You need to keep in mind that some of these vacation homes are really, really nice.”

10. Not content with current loan forgiveness proposals, Senator Elizabeth Warren introduces new legislation calling for lousy colleges to pay reparations to former students. This turns out to pose a real conundrum at Ivy League schools, where students learn little but still wind up with prestigious jobs in government or finance. The befuddled president of Columbia is moved to ask at a Senate hearing, “So, would we be expected to pay our students or not?”

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.

Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP
Education Massachusetts National Guard to Help With Busing Students to School
250 guard personnel will be available to serve as drivers of school transport vans, as districts nationwide struggle to hire enough drivers.
1 min read
Massachusetts National Guard soldiers help with logistics in this Friday, April 17, 2020 file photo, at a food distribution site outside City Hall, in Chelsea, Mass. Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, activated the state's National Guard to help with busing students to school as districts across the country struggle to hire enough drivers.
Massachusetts National Guard soldiers help with logistics in this Friday, April 17, 2020 file photo, at a food distribution site outside City Hall, in Chelsea, Mass.
Michael Dwyer/AP