Blake Neff at The Daily Caller recently published an article on predictions of the big education stories for 2015. I have a few comments and additions that may be of interest.
1. Common Core: The multistate education standards will continue to dominate the education debate.
After peaking in participation with 46 states, 2014 saw the tide for Common Core start to recede for the first time, as Indiana, Oklahoma and South Carolina all repealed the standards and moved to replace them with new ones, while Missouri and North Carolina created panels that could end in the replacement of the standards as well.
Don’t expect the fights to stop this year, especially since 2015 will mark the first year most states use standardized tests aligned with Common Core. With the new legislative season about to begin, many Republican lawmakers around the country are girding up for another assault. Bills aiming to repeal or substantially modify Common Core are being prepared in Tennessee, Wisconsin, Kentucky and numerous other states.
There is little doubt this will be a significant issue in 2015 and 2016 in large part due to the upcoming presidential election. Jeb Bush’s support of Common Core is going to hurt him and draw attention the issue would not otherwise get.
Common Core is a stealthy foot in the door maneuver by Washington, and despite claims to the contrary, is a means of, from the Beltway, mandating curriculum and increasing centralized power and control over state governments and local schools. It takes very little effort to resoundingly disprove the notion that federalizing anything improves it, unless of course one has downed the entire bathtub of Kool Aid. If Common Core disappears tomorrow, the net effect on learning in America will be zero, but the increase on local and individual liberty, substantial.
2. No Child Left Behind reform: For over a decade, K-12 education has been a marginal issue at best in Congress. The biggest reason for that: No Child Left Behind (NCLB).
The law, passed with bipartisan support in 2001, is now almost universally seen as broken thanks to mandating standards, such as universal proficiency in math and reading, that have proven impossible to reach. Dissatisfaction is so high that Arne Duncan’s Education Department has virtually suspended much of the law by handing out legally dubious waivers from its tougher requirements.
In 2015, however, there are promising signs that the partisan gridlock that prevented any update to the law may finally be breaking down. Sen. Lamar Alexander, who will be taking over the Senate’s education committee, has declared an NCLB update his top priority, and he wants to attack the issue fast, potentially having a bill up for debate before the end of January.
The most obvious change Alexander could pursue against NCLB is the scaling back or elimination of the “adequate yearly progress” requirement, which severely sanctions schools that aren’t quickly progressing towards universal proficiency. Almost everybody agrees that the requirement is broken and should be significantly scaled back to less drastic accountability measures.
Another change Alexander could pursue is a major reform to NCLB’s oft-criticized standardized testing requirements. Currently, federal law calls for all students to be tested from grades 3-8 as well as once during high school. Republicans could try to slash the number of required tests, or even eliminate them entirely. If they do, they’ll face initial opposition from President Obama, who has defended annual testing as an essential accountability measure. Even if Obama is opposed, though, Republicans will have an unlikely ally in strongly-Democratic teachers unions such as the American Federation of Teachers, which have loudly called for testing requirements to be changed.
This is a complex and schizophrenic issue. On one hand, conservatism lauds limited government and state control. On the other, NCLB, mandatory high-stakes testing, and similar “accountability” mandates have enjoyed strong conservative support, mostly based on ill-considered and faulty business management reasoning inapplicable to teaching human beings.
There are actually no downsides to complete abolishment of NCLB. It does not, in any way, improve classroom instruction or learning, in fact, its mandates are impossible, irrational, and steal enormous amounts of class time for testing instead of learning. Education is highly fad-oriented. Once a new fad is implemented, it takes around ten years for people to realize what a truly bad idea it was and do away with it. Tragically, that usually happens only when a new, equally damaging, expensive and moronic fad comes along to replace it.
And speaking of insane fads:
3. Sexual assault: Rolling Stone’s sort-of retraction of a spectacular story involving fraternity gang rape at the University of Virginia stole headlines last year, but 2014 also saw the Obama administration involve itself in the matter of campus sexual assault in a big way. That trend should continue in 2015.
Currently, the Obama administration has over ninety investigations pending against colleges and universities for possible Title IX violations over their handling of sexual assault. The administration believes universities are proving too lackadaisical in investigating complaints and punishing sexual assault and harassment. Now, it’s finally willing to use the severe threat of a potential cutoff of federal funds to compel change across the country.
Just before the end of the year, Harvard Law School reached an agreement with the federal government to avoid punishment, which involves reducing the rights of accused students and expanding the powers of accusers. This agreement could foreshadow dozens of similar ones that will be reached this year.
Another effort that began in 2014 and could explode in 2015 is the promotion of the ‘affirmative consent’ standard for sexual assault. This standard, which holds that individuals commit sexual assault if they don’t receive explicit prior permission for every sex act from their partner, was adopted this year at every public college in California as well as in the State University of New York system.
This is simple, so college administrators and professors will not be able to understand it. Rape is a felony, a serious, violent crime, and colleges have no business, none, investigating it or punishing supposed perpetrators. Colleges are not sovereign nations. The Obama Administration’s lunatic mandates are an extension of its unconstitutional, inherently destructive social justice fumbling and have nothing to do with justice or education and everything to do with implementing a radical, anti-male, anti-American, pseudo-feminist, marxist agenda.
When Barack Obama finally leaves Washington and the nation in a shambles, this idiocy will eventually be swept away, but in the meantime, it fulfills many wish lists of radical administrators and professors, and will cause great damage to higher education and innumerable innocent young men. Lawsuits will be filed and the courts will eventually strike down this Obamite insanity, but enormous harm will have been caused in the meantime, and all to no avail: none of this will in any way stop actual rapists.
4. College ratings: Announced a year and a half ago, just before Christmas President Obama finally unveiled his first tentative proposal for a federal college ranking system. The early proposal, which contains no specific details, centers almost entirely on how much a college costs, how well it prepares students for the job market, and how inclusive it is towards the economically marginalized.
Obama hopes to have the final system in place by the start of the 2015 school year, but his efforts are likely to face substantial resistance from Republicans in Congress as well as the higher education establishment.
This too is a bit of absolute lunacy. For the most part, most Americans make college choice decisions on factors such as geographic convenience, low cost, personal connections, and similar concerns. Any such federal ranking system would provide no useful information for the overwhelming majority of students and their parents, but would be yet another means for Washington to drive curriculum and other matters by the imposition of this system. This is, like virtually everything Barack Obama does or wants, radical leftist social engineering designed to harm America. It’s unlikely–thankfully–to succeed, unless Mr. Obama simply uses his pen or phone to do it, bypassing Congress.
5. School lunches: The Healthy and Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, first lady Michelle Obama’s leading policy initiative of the Obama presidency, will likely come into the GOP’s crosshairs this year. The Child Nutrition Act, which the 2010 bill was an update of, expires this year and requires reauthorization.
I’ve often written about this disaster, most recently, here. It’s unpopular on every imaginable level from the poor elementary school kids that have to eat this unpalatable dreck, to the people that have to prepare it, to teachers, school administrators, parents, state legislators, you name it.
President Obama may save this with an executive order, memorandum, or note on White House toilet paper or whatever he’s using this week to circumvent the Constitution, but eventually, this culinary and policy disaster will be consigned to the cafeteria trashcan of history, and good riddance.
One more issue, for now, to watch:
College Readiness: This is a current fad that is nearing the turning point and is about to be, thankfully, on the downward path to educational oblivion. Basically, it’s the idea, much beloved of Mr. Obama who sees it as just another control mechanism, that every American child should go to college on the public dime, so the schools must dramatically change their curriculums to prepared them all for college.
This is, on its face, insane. As Charles Murray noted, and as I explained in an update of a previous article in October, 2014, where I wrote:
Consider that many of our colleges and universities are now bogged down in a particularly fetid fever swamp of their own making. Apparently, at least 25% of the women that attend college can expect to be raped. They can probably even make reservations. And young men attending college are all presumed to be rapists, presumed guilty until they are inevitably found guilty by women’s studies tribunals. Yet the federal government wants everyone to incur enormous and crippling debt to attend college so they can be raped or thrown out of college as rapists. Who could resist that siren song? It’s a progressive, politically correct utopia!
I remember back in the 1400’s when I went to high school. Heady days. School counselors weren’t in the least afraid to suggest that some students might be better served by avoiding college. In fact, the commonly held belief was that most people would not attend college, opting instead for one of the skilled trades, trade school, or simply getting out into the workforce and discovering reality. In fact, I recall some students actually being told—gasp!—that they simply didn’t have what it took to succeed in college.
Am I making a simplistic, ‘good old days’ argument? Not quite. As one currently fighting in the education trenches, I have discovered certain realities, realities that my counselors back in the 1400’s also discovered: some people—probably most—simply don’t have the IQ or the dedication necessary to do real college level work. They—and I—are in good company in this much–abused belief.
And this absolutely essential reality from Murray:
For 40 years, American leaders have been unwilling to discuss the underlying differences in academic ability that children bring to the classroom. Over the same period, federal policy, backed by billions of taxpayer dollars in loans and grants, has aggressively encouraged more and more students to try to obtain a college education. As a result, about half of all high-school graduates now enroll in four-year colleges, despite the ample evidence that just a small minority of American students — about 10-15% — have the academic ability to do well in college.
There is no inconsistency between Kobrin’s results and a 115 mean IQ among white college graduates. The students who make salient points in classroom discussions, who write well-researched term papers, and whose final exams demonstrate that they understood the material are usually well into the upper half of the distribution of academic ability among those who go to college. In other words, they are somewhere in the top 15% of the population — and usually in the top 10%.
Not only is the college readiness idiocy damaging secondary education, and potentially millions of people who waste time and money, and often incur substantial debt, enrolling in colleges they have no business attending and where they have no hope of academic success, it’s harming higher education as well. Virtually all colleges and universities now have remedial high schools on campus where students that should never be in college spend a year or more taking courses designed to help them function in college, where many never wanted to be, and where they will never graduate.
I had the IQ, but not the dedication necessary for college success right out of high school. That came later, and no college readiness curriculum in high school would have been the least help to me. I have no doubt I was–and am–far from alone.
Much more on this, and other issues, in the near future.
“No Child Left Behind” should more honestly be called “No Child Gets Ahead”. It was predictable, and predictED, that this would fail dramatically. The problem is that by dumbing down the curriculum so that every child can do it, they’re not encouraging excellence in the brighter students. In fact, they seem to be denying that there ARE brighter students. Jerry Pournelle has been on this warpath for over a decade now, but things get worse and worse.
Under Obama, that’s a feature, not a bug.
Mike McDaniel said:
Quite so, and Republicans are little better.