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The Best (and Worst) Education News of 2011

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(NOTE: The Huffington Post has also republished this piece)

Here’s my humble attempt to identify the best and the worst education news that occurred during the past 12 months. I hope you’ll take time to share your own choices in the comment section.

I’ll list the ones I think are the best first, followed by the worst. However, it’s too hard to rank them within those categories, so I’m not listing them in any order.

You might also be interested in my list from last year, “The Best (and Worst) Education News of 2010.”

THE BEST EDUCATION NEWS IN 2010

* A new “meta-analysis” of hundreds of studies found that “discovery learning” (inductive, inquiry, constructivist) was more effective than direct instruction methods. You want “research-based” instruction? Here it is!

* The organizing responses to attacks on teacher bargaining rights, including the approval of a referendum in Ohio to repeal a law limiting them there and the massive protests in Wisconsin resulting in partially successful state senator recalls and the recently initiated campaign to recall Governor Walker.

* The publication of Teaching 2030: What We Must Do For Our Students And Our Public Schools, an extraordinarily important book written by a group of educators laying out “a vision for what our students need and the teaching profession they deserve.”

* The hundreds of principals in New York who have signed a protest letter and are organizing opposition to the state’s new “education by humiliation” teacher evaluation system.

* The rapid demise of the poorly-designed and ineffective parent trigger effort in California, a not very veiled campaign by charters to parachute into low-income communities and take over neighborhood public schools.

* The success of the Save Our Schools March in Washington, D.C., which drew thousands of parents and educators to support a positive vision for our schools.

* The emergence of The Shanker Blog from the Albert Shanker Institute as the “go to” place for insightful, even-handed,and accessible interpretation of research data on education policy issues.

* A major new study found that — different from previous belief — teen intelligence is not “fixed” and that they can increase their IQ and cognitive abilities. Of course, many educators already knew this, but having more evidence to show children who have been given labels that make them feel like they are, as a student once told me, “born as smart or as dumb as they are going to be,” can be a huge help to changing their beliefs.

* A major effort to debunk the inflated statistics and myth of many so-called “miracle schools” that are touted by school reformers as proof their ideas work.

* Michelle Rhee’s rapid decline in public credibility as the Washington, D.C. test-cheating scandal, and how she handled it when she was Chancellor, continues to haunt her.

* Partially precipitated by an article in The New Yorker, there has been an increase in attention being paid to the idea of teaching “coaching” — outside of the official teacher evaluation process — as an important professional development strategy.

* The millions of students who had great learning experiences in their schools this year.

THE WORST EDUCATION NEWS IN 2011

* The awful Alabama immigration law, which has resulted in Latino families fleeing Alabama schools — and the state.

* A southern California high school was discovered to be giving color-coded student ID cards based on state test results.

* The pepper-spraying of students peacefully protesting in the town where I live — Davis, California — has got to be on this list.

* The Los Angeles Times expanding their public ranking of teachers based on the inaccurate “Value Added Approach” and the on-going effort in New York City by media outlets to do the same there.

* More and more states, like New York, Tennessee, and Florida are devising outrageous teacher evaluation systems with little connection to reality.

* The Atlanta testing scandal, and the “organizational misconduct” that was its primary cause.

* Bill Gates continuing in his mistaken belief that he knows what needs to happen in schools, and the millions he has at his disposal to damage educators, families and schools in the process.

* The unsurprising fact that Mark Zukerberg’s $100 million donation to Newark schools is being spent with little valued input from local parents and educators.

* The millions of students who are not getting the education they deserve.

What are your choices for the best and worst education news of the year?

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

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