Most Popular Stories of the Decade
An Education Week Retrospective
The more things change, the more they stay the same. To ring in 2020, we took a look back at the most popular news articles among Education Week readers. In a decade that saw some monumental policy debates around accountability, teacher quality, school safety, and school choice, schools were having to adapt and evolve to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse student population and a rapidly changing world.
Below is a list of some of the stories that resonated most with our readers over the past 10 years, curated by Education Week’s editors. It spotlights perennial challenges like equity, curriculum, teacher pay, and student well-being, as well as new pressures that are top-of-mind for educators.
Few education topics are as charged as teacher pay. Teaching has long been viewed as a low-paid job, but in recent years the strain on teachers to make ends meet garnered new attention, made it on the cover of TIME magazine, and even spurred a wave of teacher activism. So it’s no wonder that when we published this list of the states that pay teachers the most in 2017, it went viral. (We’ve since published a 2018 and 2019 version, too.)
Are there benefits to school uniforms? In 2005, we explored that question in a story that has since become one of our most popular of the decade. It’s closely followed in popularity by another piece from our archives, “Do School Dress Codes Discriminate Against Girls?” It seems educators today are still grappling with an old conundrum: What should kids wear to school?
What a decade it’s been for the common textbook. In 2013, we reported on how publishers were “digitizing print textbooks.” Since then, there’s been a dramatic influx in the use of classroom technology and the amount of digital student data collected—and a vast expansion in the market for educational resources and an explosion of open educational resources.
The move to personalize the learning experience for students took off in the 2010s. In 2014, when we published this story, educators wanted clarity on what it was. Unfortunately, the same can be said today. In 2018, we reported that personalized learning means whatever people want it to and in 2019, we said it’s used to mean just about anything.
A wave of technological innovation hit schools in the 2010s—but what impact did it have on classroom instruction? In 2015, we reported that while public schools spend more than $3 billion per year on digital content, “the student-centered, hands-on, personalized instruction envisioned by ed-tech proponents remains the exception to the rule.”
In 2015, an influential language arts teacher—and winner of a $1 million international teaching prize—had some surprising advice for young people considering joining the profession: Don't. "Public school teachers are so constrained right now by the common core standards and the tests that are developed to monitor what teachers are doing with them," she said. Her sentiment struck a nerve, to say the least.
Launched officially in 2009, The Common Core State Standards initially dominated education headlines. All but four states embraced the standards in a huge wave of adoptions in 2010 and 2011. Implementing them … that was another story. This 2015 article painted a dismal picture of the textbook-publishing industry’s response to new standards—just one example of the myriad of challenges the movement faced.
In the fall of 2014, the overall number of Latino, African-American, and Asian students in public K-12 classrooms was expected to surpass the number of non-Hispanic whites. That milestone was accompanied by a call for schools to vastly improve the educational outcomes for this new and diverse majority of American students.
On most measures of educational success, Native American students trail every other racial and ethnic subgroup. In 2013, we explored the reasons why in an award-winning story that begins with Legend Tell Tobacco, a 10-year-old on South Dakota's Pine Ridge reservation, outrunning the odds against his educational success.
Since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, and the more recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, school violence has become a hot button issue. Education Week journalists began tracking shootings on K-12 school property that resulted in firearm-related injuries or deaths. Now widely consumed, our school-shooting tracker is providing reliable information to help inform discussions, debates, and paths forward. We only hope someday this work is deemed unnecessary.
More From Our Decade in Review
- 2010 to Now: A Turbulent Decade for Schools
- Teaching in 2020 vs. 2010: A Look Back at the Decade
- The Decade in Illustration: The Best From Education Week Opinion
Compiled by: Stacey Decker, Deputy Managing Editor for Digital