Looking to the Future: Trends for 2014 and Beyond
It's a Mid-term Election Year!
- By Fritz Edelstein
- January 1st, 2014
PHOTO COURTESY OF UNITED STATES SENATE
One should always be very cautious making legislative predications
in a mid-term election year. It is slightly easier to anticipate
some trends, but those too can be overtaken by events that no one
expected. Given the less than congenial political environment in
which we find ourselves, one never knows how things may end up.
And it is nearly impossible to predict “the
strange bedfellow partnerships” that appear
to resolve an issue or promote a solution.
The stalemate on Capitol Hill coupled
with the mid-term election will continue
to delay and deter resolution of several key
pieces of education and related legislation
that are overdue for reauthorization. However, there seems to be movement for a
few selected pieces of legislation.
What will trend and occur nationally in
education for pre-K through postsecondary
is a bit more predictable. There is no question
for several topics and issues that 2014 will be
a pivotal year. It will be very intriguing to see
what happens with the Common Core State
Standards, new assessments, NCLB waivers,
teacher evaluations and preparation, early
learning, e-rate and education technology,
student financial aid, postsecondary accountability,
project-based learning, competencybased
credits, extended learning time, online
learning and MOOCs to name a few.
The docket is full when it comes to pending
federal education legislation. This may be
the first time almost every piece of education
legislation is overdue for reauthorization. In
many respects this is embarrassing. Given
the second session of the 113th Congress is
the swan song for several members of Congress,
one hope will infl uence the passage of
several key pieces of pending legislation. Often,
legislation has been passed as a legacy to
that member(s). But, don’t get your hopes up.
There is a small glimmer of hope that the
House and Senate can come to a meeting of
the minds and reauthorize the Elementary
and Secondary Education Act (aka No Child
Left Behind — NCLB). But the chasm is
wide between the House and Senate bills. It will
be very interesting to see if there is some
give and take as deference to Senator Tom
Harkin who chairs the Senate’s Health,
Education, Labor and Pensions Committee
and is retiring. Chances are slim for any
agreement until after the mid-term election.
If one thing will push Congress to act
in a collective fashion, it will be their belief
that the waivers issued by the Department
to NCLB exceed its authority under the current
law. Thus, requiring Congress to act.
Similarly, there is a need to update
the E-Rate, which was originally shepherded
through Congress by Senator Jay
Rockefeller. The revision does not require
Congressional action, just the Federal
Communications Commission (FCC) to
act. It would be nice to have the update
named after Rockefeller. The effort is tied
to the Administration’s ConnectEd proposal
to move from funding school wiring
to providing better broadband, bandwidth
and wireless for schools and libraries, as
well as making some 21st century technology
adjustments to what is allowable to be
funded. The changes will occur in 2014.
The reauthorization of the Education
Sciences Reform Act has been halted
because of funding level differences
arising at the Committee level. There will
resolution in 2014.
Also behind schedule is the Perkins
Act addressing Vocational and Adult Education.
Given the significant differences
in approach to revising this legislation
given 21st-century skills and experience
needs, the bill won’t be finalized until
2015, but discussions will continue.
The Farm Bill has been put off until
January 2014, which includes the funding
for school lunch. This should be
resolved in the next few months and be
enacted before the summer.
Long overdue, but surely not a candidate
for quick passage under present
political conditions, is the reauthorization
of the Workforce Investment Act.
Also in the wings is a reauthorization
of the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act, which will take some
additional time to be finalized.
Last but not least, is the hot-button
issue of immigration reform that includes
the DREAM Act. This legislation
is totally tied up with the politics of the
mid-term election. Closure will be determined
by the will of the Congressional
leadership to complete legislation in
some fashion before November. Action,
or lack there of, will be a factor in the
November 2014 mid-term elections.
The budget and deficit reduction
battle will continue in 2014, since at
best there will only be a two-year solution
for sequestration and an initial
foray into deficit reduction by the end of
the current session of Congress. There
seems to be some light at the end of the
tunnel, possibly as a result of the midterm
election results or because of the
fast approaching mid-term election.
2014 is a pivotal year for the Common
Core State Standards. How many states
will in the end participate under that label
or another? How many will develop their
own? State and local politics will dictate
the answers. Similarly, how many states
will continue to participate in one of the
two assessment consortia and agree to use
either the PARCC or Smarter Balanced Assessment?
Which states will either decide
to develop its own assessment or use
another one such as ACT’s? This is hard
to predict, since state legislatures, state
boards and the local politics can make
things very fickle. A majority of states will
stay with the Common Core, but there
will continue to be some drop-off from
the original group of states to use one of
the two assessments. Some states will
partner together to create their own new
assessment. What is unknown is whether
the two assessment consortia be ready for
2015 or be delayed one more year.
One of the hot education topics in 2013
that will continue in 2014 is early learning
and early childhood education. There is
momentum at the local and state level to
push for an increased federal role beyond
Head Start. Be ready for more activity in
state legislatures and Congress in 2014 to
increase support for these programs.
If Congress does not act to reauthorize
NCLB in early 2014, then there will be additional
waivers for states, and even some
larger school districts, for specific parts
of the legislation in an effort to increase
student achievement, enable reform efforts
and provide districts with additional flexibility.
Also, there will be some push back
from selected members of Congress.
A controversial issue to continue in 2014
is teacher evaluation rules and requirements.
While experience over time will
improve the process, states and local districts
are all over the map. The debate will
continue over what should be included and
the proportions. Time will provide a better
understanding of how best to approach
this process. Unless a reauthorization fixes
the evaluations, one will see more waivers
by the U.S. Department of Education.
Tied to teacher evaluation is the debate
over teacher preparation and professional
learning. What should it look like, and how
should it be structured? In 2014, there will
be expanded efforts to change and improve
how we prepare teachers, who are eligible to
be trained, program options for preparation,
professional learning and the transition
from preparation to the classroom.
In 2014, there will be an expansion of
online learning in K-12 and postsecondary
education. In 2013, we saw the emergence of
MOOCs. But in 2014, we will see an expansion
of dual enrollment and early college
online offerings while students attend high
school. This increase may supplant the taking
of AP courses, since no one is guaranteed
college credit. Whereas, early college
course enrollment will guarantee a student
credit if the successfully pass the course.
There will be no big changes in student financial aid programs in 2014, but there
will be continued tweaking of the FASFA
form and improved information for students
on aid, including a new Toolkit developed by
the U.S. Department of Education. Also, students
and families will find more and better
information about student aid, courses,
programs and postsecondary education in
general, through a variety of independent
efforts such as Strive for College.
The improved e-rate will enable schools
to provide better access to the Internet, acquire
new equipment such as tablets, provide
more extensive offerings online and
assess online and get results in real time to
better inform teaching and learning.
Both project-based learning and competency-based credits will be more widely used
and accepted in K-12 and postsecondary
education. This is the beginning of a change
in how we assess what skills and knowledge
students of all ages have acquired.
The last topic is expanded learning
time, which is the evolution of afterschool
programs. In 2014, there will be
an expansion in extended school days
and expanded learning time. Given that
a majority of households have parents
who work, it is logical for students to have
new opportunities to learn and be active
while under the supervision of adults.
More states and districts will be offering
these programs, because they work and
are of value.
2014’s docket is full, and it could be a
very exciting or frustrating year depending
on what legislation is addressed; what
policy solutions are enacted; and if the
political divide mellows or not. Will there
be a meeting of the minds that it is more
important to find solutions and compromise
than to continue to have an indefensible
philosophical divide in education?
This article originally appeared in the January 2014 issue of School Planning & Management.