Only a glutton for punishment would want a rehash of the biggest K–12 education stories of 2020. They are no secret—and frankly depressing: widespread school closures, predictions about massive learning losses, and students going M.I.A. from remote learning. In the world of policy, states including Ohio pressed pause on state exams and standard accountability measures, trimmed education budgets due to the economic turmoil, and dealt with fraught debates over whether to re-open schools.
Sunnier times hopefully await Ohioans in the coming year, but amidst the gloom of 2020, there were still a few things to celebrate. What were the education stories that made last year merry and bright? Here’s my top five:
5. Charter school performance on the upswing. Recognizing the potential of a model that gives educational leaders freedom from red tape and offers parents more school options, Fordham has long advocated for public charter schools. At the same time, we’ve also insisted that charters provide quality options for the students who attend them. While Ohio has long been home to some excellent charter schools, the historical performance of the sector as a whole has tended to be spotty. But in October, a new Fordham éphane Lavertu of the Ohio State University brought good tidings about charter performance. His analysis reveals significant improvements in the sector in recent years, and he finds that brick-and-mortar charters today are making a big impact on student achievement, especially for pupils from less-advantaged backgrounds. These results should give charter advocates a reason to cheer. For open-minded skeptics, we hope these results will encourage them to reexamine their presuppositions.by St
4. Expanded private school opportunities for middle-income Ohioans. Going into 2020, the hottest topic of debate in education was the future of Ohio’s. School district officials around the state were lambasting the impending “explosion” of voucher eligibility, while private school advocates argued that rolling back eligibility would pull the rug out from parents. Through the early months of the year, lawmakers were knee-deep in negotiations trying to resolve the issue. But with the pandemic bearing down on the state, those debates were wisely put on hold. In November, legislators quickly took care of this bit of unfinished business by enacting much-needed to the EdChoice programs. One of the key reforms now permits households with incomes at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty guideline to apply for a voucher ($65,500 for a family of four). By raising the income threshold (it was previously set at 200 percent), private school opportunities will soon be within the reach of more middle-income Ohioans.
3. Innovative educators using the lessons of the pandemic to rethink education. It’s cliché, but the saying that “every cloud has a silver lining” is an age-old truism. While the pandemic has caused tremendous disruption to education, one possible upside is that it could be encouraging educational leaders to rethink how teaching and learning is done. To their credit, Ohio’s brightest and most innovative educators are already thinking about how they can leverage the lessons of the pandemic to improve education. In his local paper, Hilliard City Schools’ superintendent “Every event, even a crisis, provides opportunities for improvement.” With any luck, all of Ohio’s educators will adopt just that mindset as we move forward.recently discussed how the new norm of video conferencing could help forge stronger and more parent-centric relationships between school and home. On the Ohio Gadfly blog, charter school leaders and of the United Schools Network shared a number of lessons they’ve learned during the pandemic. The practices and lessons of the Breakthrough Schools in Cleveland and KIPP Columbus were also featured in a from Bellwether Education Partners and Teach For America. As Marschhausen writes,
2. Communities stepping up to lend a hand. Legions of stories could be told about how communities and citizens helped their neighbors during this turbulent year. To give but a small sampling: First up, a story from , where just after the pandemic shuttered schools in that city, General Electric and Staples teamed up to ensure that parents were able to print take-home learning packets for free. Also in the realm of supporting students in the shift to at-home instruction, stories from the , , and areas illustrate the generosity of community members who recognized the technological needs and took action to help. Last, kudos to the nonprofit groups, community centers, and churches that have stepped up to provide space for students to learn. Stories from and offer terrific examples of civic organizations pinch-hitting to meet student needs during the health crisis.
1. Parents taking the initiative to ensure continuity of learning. The dedication of Ohio parents who were thrust into an even greater role in their children’s education deserves the top spot on this list. Much of their work went unseen. The countless moms, dads, grandparents, and other caretakers who labored to help the children they love stay on track didn’t make too many headlines. Yet there were stories about parents taking initiative that did garner attention. As schools moved to online learning for the longer term, some parents banded together to create “. One Lakewood Parents, they’re kind of stressed out trying to figure this out. I think we all are. A little bit of normal for them, that’s what motivates me to do it.” explained the rationale, “,” where a parent or tutor could fill in the learning gaps
The past year in education has been one for the record books. The pandemic has unfortunately led to a constant stream of disheartening stories. But in the midst of such tumult, it’s also worth reflecting on and giving thanks for the tireless work that Ohio educators, community leaders, policymakers, and parents did on behalf of students. Onwards to 2021!