Major education stories in 2010: same as the last verse, plus six

The St. Pete Times' education blog has posted an entry summarizing major K-12 2010 education stories in Florida. I looked back at my summary from the end of 2009 and realized many of the major stories last year continued this year: the effects of the Great Recession, college financial-aid reform, Race to the Top, common core standards, city governance battles, and teacher evaluation. What was new in 2010 as a major issue? In some cases, it was intensification of debate (such as Senate Bill 6 in the 2010 Florida legislative session). In other cases, it was a new phase: Race to the Top's two award cycles, the turnover of superintendents in New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, or the education jobs bill this summer that extended federal support for public-school employee jobs. New stories in 2010?

  1. Diane Ravitch's The Death and Life of the Great American School System. I suspect most observers of the "national scene" in K-12 politics in the U.S. would point to the publication of Diane Ravitch's book early in the year as a landmark around which the accountability debate revolved. Ravitch captured attention, in part because of her writing skills and in part because of her prior history as a member of the first Bush administration and a supporter of high-stakes test accountability and school choice policies. She is not the first person to back away from support for high-stakes accountability policies, but she symbolizes a broader disenchantment with No Child Left Behind. 
  2. Los Angeles Times' publication of value-added measures. The decision by the L.A. Times to publish so-called value-added measure right before the start of the school year and attach individual teachers' names to them is another symbolic point around people have argued the role of value-added measures, the practical problems such as one-to-one assignment of student to teacher, and whether the Times' publication of their database violated a reasonable expectation of privacy by teachers. 
  3. Republican resurgence. The third major new story in 2010 is the fall elections, not just for Congress but especially the new dominance of Republicans in state legislatures and governor's mansions. While Democrats will control the executive power in three of the five largest states, Republicans will hold the upper hand at the level where most policy action happens (states). There were some interesting intraparty battles (the Tea Party in the GOP, or the weakness of DFER's New York efforts in legislative races), but the main story is the rise of the GOP in states. But… they're not going to have much fun, I think. Most states are still in very deep trouble budget-wise, and that will overshadow almost all radical policy changes that legislative leaders might otherwise wish. 
  4. Head Start changes a-comin'. The fourth major new story in 2010 is the slow enforcement of standards for Head Start programs. In the future, for every cycle where the federal government evaluates local Head Start agencies, the lowest quartile by program ratings will have to compete with other potential Head Start agencies in the community. This is one few people covered, but it will change the face of Head Start programs in a number of areas. 
  5. For-profit higher-ed scandal. Recent quibbling aside, the GAO investigation tapes showed recruiters and advisors in for-profit companies such as Kaplan and University of Phoenix misleading prospective and enrolled students. While for-profit is where the recent growth has been, both in higher-ed enrollments and vacuuming up federally-subsidized loans, for-profits have been knocked on their heels. 
  6. Abandonment of other Obama initiatives outside K-12. The last new major story I will highlight for 2010 is the apparent abandonment of early childhood and community-college issues at the federal level. While the passage of the Affordable Care Act included financial-aid reform, the promises of a significant boost to community colleges have largely evaporated, as have early-childhood promises (with the exception of the Head Start changes noted above). Maybe they'll be in the Don't Ask, Don't Tell category, coming back to life at unexpected moments in 2011. But I am not going to hold my breath. 

In comments last week, you'll see some other suggestions for major news stories, one of which you see above as #2, another fits with the continuation, albeit with a New Jersey twist (Governor Christie, if you're going to abandon your state by heading to Florida during the blizzard this week, I hope you spent a lot of your own money in my state), and news stories about the extent of cyberbullying. I think with all end-of-year summaries, mileage varies considerably. What other new news stories deserve highlighting?