Education was at the forefront of the national discussion in 2013. EducationWorld offers a look back at the biggest issues of interest to educators this past year.
Mobile Tech Continued to Rise (With Some Pitfalls)
Technology, particularly tablet computers, continued to play a large role in the K-12 classroom. iPads remained popular, and Chromebooks began to gain ground.
Tablet sales to educational institutions doubled from 2011 to 2012. In 2013, taxpayer money continued to fund many more purchases. And as school districts made buying decisions, availability of quality apps and the ability to manage device security were big selling points.
It remains unclear whether the use of tablets improves student achievement, and in 2013, many expressed caution regarding the trend. Pros include the ability of technology to differentiate to meet the needs of individual learners, while cons include the potential to negatively impact students’ social skills and increase their distractibility.
Of course, as more and more students got their hands on new technology, there were bound to be glitches. The most noteworthy tablet-related challenges were experienced by schools in Guilford County North Carolina and Los Angeles.
The President Fought for Student Web Access
Currently only 39 percent of America’s public schools offer wireless network access for the entire school.
Addressing this “silent majority” of students who lack adequate Web access, in 2013 President Barack Obama moved forward with his ConnectED program, designed to properly connect 99 percent of America’s public schools to the Internet within five years. While it’s hard to argue against closing the digital divide, the key question is how to fund the initiative.
The Obama Administration estimated the total cost of ConnectED is $6 billion. It remains to be seen if that money will come in the form of a tax increase, or via the FCC mandating an additional fee for mobile phone users. The FCC has the authority to issue such a fee as a result of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. In this case, a fee of about $12 would be added to the bill of everyone with a mobile phone plan.
States Continued to Adopt (and Debate) the Common Core
While 45 states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity have adopted the CCSS, in 2013 many continued to debate the merits of the standards.
Per the official Common Core State Standards Web site, “The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers.”
Criticisms of the standards included:
The Government Shutdown Hit Schools
From October 1-16, 2013, the U.S government shut down for the first time in decades, due to a healthcare-related debate raging between Democrats and Republicans. Preschool programs such as Head Start, which rely heavily on federal dollars, were forced to close their doors, leaving younger students without a place to go and parents scrambling to find alternatives.
K-12 schools hung on thanks to federal forward funding (such as Title I funds already appropriated), but grants and contracts were delayed, and a longer shutdown would have hurt districts that received as much as 20 percent of their total funding from federal grants and programs.