Five big education stories in 2013

From testing to teachers unions, from standards to sequestration, it’s been a newsworthy year in education. Here are five big stories we’ve been tracking all year long.

What would you add to our list?

COMMON CORE CONFUSION

What are the Common Core State Standards? What do they mean for my kids? What are the expectations for me as a teacher? Why did test scores drop in New York and Kentucky? Am I still allowed to teach fiction? 2013 has been a year of confusion for parents, teachers and school leaders with almost as many questions raised about the Standards as answered.

  1. The Hechinger Report: The ELA standards: Content and controversy
  2. The Huffington Post: NY Standardized Test Scores Drop as Expected
  3. NPR: “Fans say it’s long overdue. Critics say it’s heavy-handed, it’s window dressing, it’s scary.

A GROWING FOCUS ON EXPANDING EARLY LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES

President Obama pushed for it in the State of the Union and in his budget proposal. The DOE is supporting it through Race to the Top. Researchers and educators continue to speak out about the importance of early learning, and how access to language, books and learning opportunities from age zero to five predicts success in later years.

  1. The New York Times: Few States Look to Extend Preschool to All 4-Year-Olds
  2. The Washington Post: READ: Obama’s PreK Plan
  3. The New York Times: Language gap study bolsters a push for Pre-K

LAUSD, THE NATION’S SECOND LARGEST SCHOOL DISTRICT, ROLLS OUT IPAD INITIATIVE

iPads are all the rage, and nowhere is there a higher profile 1-to-1 tablet program than in the nation’s second largest school district. Los Angeles began giving iPads to students this year, but the rollout has proven to be challenging. Seeing how LA meets those challenges will be beneficial to other schools districts going forward.

  1. Los Angeles Times: LA school board OKs $30 million for Apple iPads
  2. Los Angeles Times: New problems surface in LA Unified’s iPad program
  3. Wall Street Journal: Schools learn tablets’ limits

PERFORMANCE OF U.S. STUDENTS CONTINUES TO FLAT LINE

NAEP and PISA scores were released this fall, with results mostly unchanged for American students. In the case of PISA, several other countries saw their scores improve significantly, which raises the question: What are they doing to move the needle that the U.S. is not?

  1. NBC News: PISA scores show test scores of U.S. students stagnant compared to global competitors
  2. Education Week: U.S. Math, Reading Scores Edge Up, But Gaps Remain

GROWTH MINDSET TAKES OFF

Grit, growth mindset and resilience were buzzwords in 2013. But research on these so-called “soft skills” is serious business. Educators and parents are paying attention to the research of people like Carol Dweck and Angela Duckworth, and looking for ways to bring it home and incorporate it into classroom instruction.

  1. The Washington Post: MacArthur fellow Angela Duckworth: Teach kids’ grit, not just their IQ
  2. Education Week: Growth Mindset Gaining Traction as School Improvement Strategy
  3. Annie Murphy Paul: The way we praise matters, even for babies

Photo: flixel