1. Questions about school safety surfaced almost immediately following the unspeakable tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. at the end of 2012. The school had strong safety protocols in place, but they were no match for a shooter with military-style weapons.
In 2013, look for more soul-searching conversations and concomitant action about school safety. Parents have an absolute right to expect that when they send their children to school, they will be safe and secure, and that they will be returned to them at the end of the day in the same condition. But this heated debate involves much more than amending school safety plans. On one side are the gun control advocates and on the other are the proponents of arming not only guards – but teachers and administrators, too. Where this argument will go is anybody’s guess, but it’s sure to dominate the education and political news this year.
2. High-stakes testing was in the news in 2012. While many national policy and opinion makers favored testing as a way to reform the educational system, those in the trenches disagreed. For example, parents organized boycotts against testing and local boards of education passed resolutions against testing.
The National Resolution on High-Stakes Testing has been endorsed by more than 13,700 individuals and 460 organizations. It calls on the U.S. Congress and the Obama Administration to overhaul the No Child Left Behind Act, “reduce the testing mandates, promote multiple forms of evidence of student learning and school quality in accountability, and not mandate any fixed role for the use of student test scores in evaluating educators.”
In 2013, expect the debate to heat up as more academics and education writers line up against high-stakes testing.
3. In addition, the related issue of teacher evaluations will continue to be hotly debated as teacher unions persist in questioning the wisdom of linking evaluations to testing.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo set a deadline of Jan. 17, 2013, for local school districts and unions in New York to agree on a teacher evaluation plan following the parameters set down in state legislation. If not, Cuomo warned, they would lose state aid. Only about 250 of the state’s 700 districts had approved plans as of Dec. 1.
4. Although 45 states have adopted Common Core standards, sponsored by the National Governors Association for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers, the implementation, cost, and quality of these assessments were increasingly under fire in 2012. Some believe Tony Bennett was defeated as Indiana’s state superintendent of education because of his support for Common Core.
In 2013, watch for news about grassroots efforts in several states against Common Core. Some states may even withdraw from the program, due to issues with the standards and assessments themselves, as well as the perception by some that they are a federal intrusion into education.
5. Parent/Family Engagement in schools made the news in 2012 with educators increasingly turning their attention to how to actively involve parents in their children’s education. On the other hand, a number of states adopted Parent Trigger legislation, which was passed to enable parents to take over schools — although most of these have been challenged in court.
The efficacy of the Parent Trigger will be debated and tested in 2013 amid concerns from educators that real reform efforts must include the professionals.
I wish you a happy, healthy, safe, and successful new year!!!
As 2012 fades into memory, we look forward to the blank slate that is 2013. With the still fresh wounds of the horror and destruction of the two Sandys — Superstorm Sandy and Sandy Hook Elementary School – the usual New Year’s Resolutions like losing weight seem frivolous and off key. These two cataclysmic events reminded us to count the blessings that we too often take for granted – family, children, grandchildren, home, health, and safety.
Ann Curry’s #26Acts of Kindness hits the mark with an imperative for each of us to give of ourselves in big or small ways to honor the memories of the Newtown victims. So does the 92Y’s #GivingTuesday initiative, which puts charitable giving front and center.
With so much devastation around us, we can only hope that 2013 will be brighter. Our New Year’s Resolutions – instead of being narrow and selfish – can truly help to make things better. They can also model for our children and grandchildren what is truly important. I, for one, am going to abandon my usual resolutions in favor of the following:
- Be kinder
- Be more compassionate
- Be more understanding
- Be less critical
- Complain less
- Praise more
- Be more forgiving
- Be more generous
- Be more present
- Be more appreciative
- Worry less
- Count blessings more