The best and worst education news in 2016


Larry Ferlazzo is a veteran teacher of English and social studies at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, California.  Every year he writes a list of the best/worst education news of the year — but this, so much has been happening that he decided to take a look halfway through the year, and here’s what he’s come up with. Ferlazzo has written numerous books on education, writes a teacher advice blog for Education Week Teacher and has his own popular resource-sharing blog.

By Larry Ferlazzo

I usually do a recap of the year’s education news every December, but thought it would be useful to experiment with  doing a mid-year review.  As usual, I don’t presume to say it’s all-encompassing, so I hope you’ll take time to share your own choices. I’ll list the ones I think are the best first, followed by the worst. It’s too hard to rank them within those categories, so I’m not listing them in any order.

* The Gates Foundation offered a weak but, nonetheless, welcome mea culpa for some of their strategic missteps.  The Los Angeles Times followed-up with an equally welcome and flawed scathing critique of the foundation’s work in schools.  Anthony Cody and others pointed out The Times neglected to mention their responsibility in previously promoting some of the policies for which they were criticizing the foundation.  Despite these shortcomings, these kinds of public admissions of mistakes and/or changes of mind by powerful institutions are always welcome news.

A California appeals court overturned the infamous Vergara decision attacking teacher tenure in the state and dealing a setback to anti-union reformers.

* In a pleasant surprise, the Supreme Court refused to weaken efforts by colleges and universities to promote student diversity and supported the University of Texas’ affirmative action program.

* Research shows that health challenges provide learning challenges, and Obamacare has made a big dent in that problem.  The state of California has gone even further by providing health insurance to 170,000 undocumented children under the age of 18.

* In Chicago, educators continue to show their strength in the face of attacks. Thousands of teachers participated in a one-day strike and a principal who was a vocal opponent of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s school policies (and who the district was trying to fire because of it) was elected to lead the citywide Principals and Administrators Association.

* Nine people were killed in Oaxaca, Mexico demonstrations against government reform proposals that scapegoat teachers as the cause of that country’s education ills.  Does that scapegoating strategy sound familiar?

* Teacher’s efforts brought national attention to the terrible physical condition of Detroit’s schools and the fiscal disaster of the school district.  Officials claimed teachers didn’t care for their students when they organized their sick-outs (including one who had earlier donated her kidney to a student). The state legislature and Governor responded, but their bailout package is being characterized as inadequate by many.

* National attention continues to be brought to the continuing lack of teacher diversity.  Effective strategies to respond to that crisis have been highlighted, but it’s unclear if they will be enacted.

* The Department of Education released a report finding that six million kids are missing fifteen or more days of school each year.

* At the same time many states are wisely eliminating high school exit exams, others are adding new citizenship test graduation requirements despite research demonstrating they do little to promote civic participation.

* Great education researcher and psychologist Jerome Bruner died at the age of 100. Here’s a video of him talking about how teaching affects learning.  It was filmed shortly before his death.

The Most Important Neither Bad Nor Good Education News Of 2016 – So Far

* The federal government is working with states to try to figure out how to implement The Every Student Succeeds Act.  It seems like it could be an improvement on No Child Left Behind, but it’s still too early to determine if this is going to be bad or good for teachers, students and their families. As they say, the devil is in the details.

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