The papers have been full of editorials expounding on why the past decade was disastrous for America. There is much to forget and regret about the last decade but it wasn’t so bad for education. We should have made more progress than we did, but here’s 10 big advances that bode well for the decade to come:
- While there are few fans left, the 2001 reauthorization of federal education policy called No Child Left Behind marked a consensus that 1) measurement matters, 2) all students deserve good life options, 3) we should not rely on average achievement to measure a schools success, and 3) chronic academic failure is unacceptable.
- The 2005 Graduation Rate Compact publically acknowledged the dropout crisis and marked the beginning of the end of lying about graduation rates and expansion of alternative school aimed at dropout prevention.
- Data systems got a lot better in large part because of the National Data Quality Campaign. Race to the Top will help close the deal—soon every state will have a data system that tracks individual student progress from kindergarten to work.
- There was a massive increase in education entrepreneurship—school developers, human capital initiatives, and learning platforms—funded by massive new money foundations. The recession brought a new wave of talent into the sector that will make a difference for a generation.
- Charter schools hit the 5,000 mark and charter networks demonstrated undeniable performance in the most difficult circumstances.
- The concept of urban school portfolios with multiple models and operators became the dominant strategy of reform minded education leaders which increasingly includes mayors.
- Online learning exploded, with more kids learning online than in charter schools. Digital learning became more personalized with games, virtual environments, and social networking pointing the way forward.
- Reform advocacy matured. In 2001, EdTrust carried the equity agenda. Democrats for Education Reform and Education Equality Project joined the fray and represent the bi-partisan Obama agenda of high standards, educator effectiveness, and accountability.
- The beginning of a new employment bargain was framed by New Teacher Project and the National Council on Teacher Quality and embraced by the Bush administration and pushed even more aggressively by the Obama administration.
- The private sector began making important contributions in online learning and higher education. Several IPOs and new disruptive technologies increased interest of private investors. Small openings for private sector contributions, like Supplemental Educational Services (tutoring low income students), were met with entrepreneurial vigor that indicates that incentives will lead to investment and solutions.
Building on these advances, the decade to come will include a reauthorization of federal policy, a new generation of personalized digital learning, and an expanded array of options for educators to make a difference.