NPR’s Cladio Sanchez’ "6 Education Stories To Watch In 2016"

NPR’s senior education correspondent offers his predictions for stories in education in 2016.

1. The New Federal Education Law

The long, grueling fight to overhaul the 14-year-old No Child Left Behind law is over, but that’ll turn out to be the easy part. The new Every Student Succeeds Act returns most government oversight of schools back to states. But there are no guarantees that the states will do a better job than the federal government in two key areas: closing the achievement gap and raising the performance of the absolute worst schools.

There will be some relief for students burdened by excessive testing. But for the most part states will continue to rely on test scores, using them to punish schools rather than for improving curriculum and instruction. Reading and math scores will drop for all kids on the new, tougher standardized tests linked to the Common Core. But the dismal performance of groups that struggle will trigger more scrutiny from civil rights groups in 2016. We’ll also see those groups pressure states to deal with teacher quality and funding.

2. Moving On From Common Core

The controversy over the much-maligned Common Core State Standards will diminish. States will continue their efforts to re-brand or rename the standards, while for the most part following them. Despite the political controversy, the push for high academic standards will continue, and we’ll see little of the “race to the bottom” that happened under NCLB.

3. Charter Schools Under A Microscope

The charter school movement will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2016. With 6,700 schools and nearly 3million students across 43 states and the District of Columbia, charters are a powerful force. The federal government has poured billions of dollars into charters, and polling shows that a majority of Americans support them. But you can expect these publicly funded, privately run schools to face new scrutiny, and new criticism.

We’ll see more scandals involving fraud, corruption and mismanagement, despite efforts to weed out “bad actors” who’ve exploited weak charter laws in several states. As Joe Nathan, a senior fellow at the Center for School Change, who helped write charter school legislation in 32 states, puts it: “We have not done enough to deal with the crooks and charlatans, of which we have our share.”

Charters will also be one of the very few education issues to get any attention in the presidential campaign.

4. Dreamers Dreams Deferred

There will be an even stronger backlash against the push for greater access to college for undocumented students. Dreamers — students brought to the U.S. illegally as children — will face greater opposition because of the stalemate over immigration reform. The angry, anti-immigrant rhetoric from Republicans running for president will also shape this debate. Look for state lawmakers to consider even tougher measures to deny dreamers any benefits and push them deeper into a legal and educational limbo.

5. Goodbye Race-Conscious Admissions

Watch for the U.S. Supreme Court to ban race in college admissions, forcing institutions to abandon affirmative action policies. Schools will have to rethink how they recruit and enroll students in efforts to increase diversity. This will fuel an already tense situation on many campuses. Expect minority student protests and campus unrest to intensify.

6. Student Debt Takes Center Stage

Higher education leaders, or what presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio calls “the higher-ed cartel,” effectively killed the Obama administration’s attempt to create a more transparent, consumer-friendly way for students and parents to rate colleges. But with many of the presidential candidates calling for tuition-free or debt-free college, we’ll see these institutions undertake a more serious discussion about changing their pricing policies — largely out of fear that lawmakers in Washington will step in and do it for them.

Last Year’s List

  1. Standardized Testing Under Fire
  2. More Troubles For The Common Core
  3. In Congress, Deeper Divisions
  4. Focus On Campus Behavior
  5. Teacher Evaluation, Training, And The Vergara Fallout
  6. The Ferguson Effect: New Scrutiny For School Police

And some from NPR’s “crowd sourced” predictions for 2015.

  1. Blended Learning As A Daily Practice
  2. More Scrutiny of Student Data
  3. Broader Disclosure On Student Loan Defaults
  4. Moving On From Common Core Debates
  5. Reauthorization of No Child Left Behind; More School Choice
  6. Customizable, Game-Like Platforms
  7. Transition For The Online Education Space. “Snackable” learning will become a large part of the online education menu.
  8. More Options For Student Borrowers
  9. Competency-Based Education Picks Up
  10. More Nuanced Kinds Of Data In Schools
  11. The Digital Classroom Meets Labor Issues

2. Can we restructure and still be liberal arts?

  1. Are there ways we can restructure ourselves that will still allow us to deliver what we deem to be an essential liberal arts curriculum? 
    1.  Could we, for example, think about majors and/or graduate programs with fewer requirements? Majors vary from 10 credits to 16 or 17 — can this discrepancy be reduced?
    2. In smaller departments, are there still ways that we can combine smaller classes, have them offered less often, combine senior seminars, or the like?

4. Can the white paper help? New programs? Revenue growth possibilities?

  1. Can the White Paper help us to think about this: Are there other ideas for programs, collaborations with other colleges, etc. that can help us ensure that we remain true to our mission and values while we do this restructuring work?
    1. Are there new programs, majors, collaborations, etc. — noted in the White Paper or not — that folks would like to work on developing? Short term? Medium and long term?
    2. Where do we reasonably see revenue growth possibilities in the next year? The next 2-3 years?

Two Years of College for "Free": A Trend?

Smart four year colleges will start planning now to be coordinating with this phenomenon.

Oregon Will Become Second State to Offer Free Community College
Lawmakers approve new program in last minute pre-holiday vote

July 7th, 2015 3:10 pm | by NIGEL JAQUISS

More than 10,000 students are expected to benefit from a last-minute bill passed by legislators this week that makes Oregon only the second state (after Tennessee) to offer free community college.

The idea, according to state Sen. Mark Hass (D-Beaverton), is that a lot of needy students who might like to attend community college are currently failing to apply for federal grants that could pay for much of their education.

The new legislation, Senate Bill 81, offers a carrot: If eligible students apply for and receive federal grants for community college, Oregon will pay the balance of their tuition. The recipients must have lived in Oregon for 12 months, begin their community college course work within six months of finishing high school or the equivalent, take courses that are required for graduation and maintain a 2.5 grade point average. (And it’s not entirely free—each student must pay a minimum of $50 per term.)

ASU and EdX offering Freshman Year Online

ASU will offer a freshman year program  – all online – that will likely be fully transferrable and will cost around $6000. This latest iteration on MOOCs includes a focus not on isolated courses but a coherent program of courses – a freshman year foundation. The innovation here is the co-design of the courses (12 of them).  Of course the experience will be a far cry from what students get at a residential college, but but will it be $12,000 less? Or $40,000 less? 

Promising Full College Credit, Arizona State University Offers Online Freshman Program


Arizona State University, one of the nation’s largest universities, is joining with edX, a nonprofit online venture founded by M.I.T. and Harvard, to offer an online freshman year that will be available worldwide with no admissions process and full university credit.

In the new Global Freshman Academy, each credit will cost $200, but students will not have to pay until they pass the courses, which will be offered on the edX platform as MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses.

“Leave your G.P.A., your SATs, your recommendations at home,” said Anant Agarwal, the chief executive of edX. “If you have the will to learn, just bring your Internet connection and yourself, and you can get a year of college credit.”

And then there were 46

Sweet Briar College in Virginia announced it is closing. According to its Wikipedia entry, it had an endowment of $88 million, academic staff of 64 for 735 students. Unlike many of its peers it had not gone in for graduate programs in recent decades.

Sweet Briar College to close

BY KARIN KAPSIDELIS Richmond Times-Dispatch

SWEET BRIAR — Sweet Briar College announced today it will close Aug. 25, blaming “insurmountable financial challenges” caused by the dwindling number of women interested in single-sex education and the pressures on small, liberal arts schools.

The private, rural college near Lynchburg will hold its last commencement May 16 and cease operations at the end of the summer session after more than a century of educating women.

The college’s board of directors voted unanimously Feb. 28 to shut down after a yearlong study of its future failed to find any viable paths forward.

“This work led us to the unfortunate conclusion that there are two key realities that we could not change,” Sweet Briar President James F. Jones Jr. said.

Few students are choosing to attend rural schools where options for internships and work experiences are limited, and even fewer want to attend a women’s college, he said.

“The liberal arts college sector is embattled now on so many different fronts,” Jones said in an interview.

Sweet Briar will be the third liberal arts college to close in Virginia in the past two years, the result of financial pressures that also claimed Saint Paul’s College in Lawrenceville and Virginia Intermont College in Bristol.

After spring break ends March 15, on-campus college fairs will help match current students with transfer opportunities. Assistance also will be offered to students admitted to Sweet Briar for next fall.Jones broke the heartbreaking news to stunned students in a meeting just before 1 p.m. Some burst out of the auditorium in tears at first word of the closing. Others sobbed and hugged each other, and called their parents on cell phones as the reality hit them.

“Will someone please tell me if this is a joke?” one cried.

A few said they had found out just before the meeting after faculty and staff were told, but most appeared caught unaware.

Continue reading at Richmond Times-Dispatch

See also Inside Higher Ed

Is "fix education by starving it" an idea whose time has gone in California?

Nice to see a political analysis of California’s higher education problem.  Higher Ed Austerity as political offspring of a failing coalition. (h/t, KTS)

From Inside Higher Ed

The Higher Ed Austerity Deal Is Falling Apart

January 12, 2015
For years now, the main trend in public university policy has been to impose budgetary austerity on them. Regardless of the revenue level that universities seek or the efficiencies they announce, the result is always the same: inadequate public funding coupled with rising tuition and student debt.
On the surface, 2015 promises more of the same: more austerity, more fees, more adjuncts, more tech, more management, and more metrics— metrics as a substitute for money. Years of attacks on austerity economics by prominent critics like Paul Krugman have not damaged austerity politics, which favors some powerful interests and which has hardened into a political culture. Our public universities have been stuck in a policy deadlock that I think of as halfway privatization. This has meant the worst of both worlds: not enough tuition and endowment income to escape the perma-austerity of state legislatures, and not enough public funding to rebuild the educational core. 
There are signs now that this framework is coming unglued. One of them is the tuition debate that started up again at the University of California Board of Regents meeting in November 2014.