Year in Review: Education News in 2018

In one of our first articles of the new year, we will be taking a look back at some of 2018’s biggest pieces education news.

The November elections brought lots of good news. The new Democratic majority in the House might be able to hold Betsy DeVos more accountable. Three additional states voted for Medicaid expansion, which should help huge numbers of kids and their families (research has already shown the positive impact on students when they have health insurance). Dozens of teachers won elections across the United States, including 2016 National Teacher of the Year Jahana Hayes (who became the first African American congresswoman from Connecticut). Tony Thurmond defeated Marshall Tuck and his millions of dollars from charter-school backers to become state superintendent of public instruction in California.

The teacher strikes that hit across the United States in the first part of the year (and the public support they received) won some concrete improvements for teachers and schools. Beginning in West Virginia and then spreading to Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona, and other areas, #RedForEd brought attention to the teacher compensation crisis, along with the need for increased overall education funding.

There have been several important and positive developments in the field of education researchA misleading “graph that never dies” is often used by opponents of school funding to supposedly show that, despite evidence, additional education moneys do not help students. In 2018, two education journalists published accessible explanations about how that graph, and other versions of it, are wrong. In addition, education researcher C. Kirabo Jackson co-authored a study finding something that all teachers know, but many critics appear not to understand: reduced school funding results in reduced student academic achievement. One would hope that this fact might quiet things down on the teachers “needing to do more with less” front. Kirabo also authored another important study that found “the impact of teachers on behavior is 10 times more predictive of whether they increase students’ high school completion than their impacts on test scores.”  Advocates of value-added measurement to assess teachers may want to take note. 

Students have been standing up. School dress codes can be problematic in many ways, including often being sexist and racist. However, thanks to student and community input, and more reflection on the part of educators, there appears to be momentum toward making dress codes more equitable. Students also are making their voices heard around the gun violence debate and its correlation to school shootings. 

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has initiated an effort to make NYC’s specialized high schools more diverse. We can only hope that this is just the tip of the iceberg, and that schools around the country will follow suit to create initiatives to increase the number of students of color in academically advanced programs and schools.

The Trump administration considered merging the Education and Labor Departments, although this piece of education news didn’t go anywhere. DeVos also proposed eliminating the federal office supervising English Language Learners. This may not be the best idea, as there are 5 million ELLs in our nation’s schools. There should be a federal office looking out for them. 

The K-12 T.M. Landry School in Louisiana — the source for all those viral videos of African American students learning they were accepted at Ivy League schools — was exposed for fraudulent academic records and child abuse. It was just the latest miracle school that has had the curtain ripped off it. Unfortunately, when a school sounds too good to be true, it probably is. 

The closure of 265 schools in Puerto Rico is certainly not going to help families there recover from Hurricane Maria. Plenty of research has shown the negative impacts that school closures have on students and communities. In fact, a new study came out recently. We can hope that this new school year goes well for teachers, students and their families, though. 

What do you think about our brief overview of some of 2018’s biggest developments in education news? Are there any pieces of big education news you think we should have included? Let us know in the comments.

Allison Green
Boston Tutoring Services

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