At this point, we’re all tired of hearing the word “unprecedented.” But clichés are clichés for a reason, and 2020 has certainly been an unprecedented year. Many of us would like nothing more than to leave this difficult year in the rearview mirror. Unfortunately, the events of 2020 seem likely to stretch into the new year. That’s especially true in education, as several of the biggest issues in 2021 will have a pandemic-related tinge.
Here’s five predictions about what’s in store for Ohio education in 2021.
5. Ohio will continue to focus on career and technical education
The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, often referred to as, was signed into federal law with overwhelming bipartisan support approximately two years ago. Since then, states have been hard at work for how to implement the law. . In fact, the Buckeye State was part of to improve career training and readiness long before the reauthorization of Perkins, and an are earning industry-recognized credentials. Governor DeWine’s contained several CTE initiatives, and it’s expected that his upcoming budget will do the same. As one of the few remaining education policies with bipartisan support, look for Ohio to continue expanding and refining CTE in 2021.
4. State and local leaders will look for creative ways to catch kids up academically
One of the big headlines of 2020 was that school closures and remote learning efforts led to, especially for . To address unfinished learning and prevent it from becoming permanent, schools will need to get creative about intervention efforts. indicates that increasing instructional time can narrow achievement gaps, so expect leaders to call for schools to offer a plethora of additional learning opportunities outside of regular school hours, such as or .
3. State testing will return, but accountability consequences will remain on pause
For intervention and remediation efforts to work, schools will need to know where students are academically. This means testing is. The type of testing matters, too. , but so are state assessments that offer leaders and the general public a big picture look at how students are doing—especially low-income and minority students who were probably hit hardest by the pandemic. Although some Ohio lawmakers—with the backing of traditional education groups—have to eliminate state testing for the 2020–21 school year, administering these tests is a federal requirement. That means Ohio can’t lawfully skip them unless it’s granted a waiver by the U.S. Department of Education. It’s unclear whether the incoming Biden administration will grant such a waiver, but and have expressed their support for state testing in 2021. If the vaccine rollout goes smoothly, and the majority of schools are able to safely reopen in person by the spring, it’s reasonable to assume that the feds will tell states to go forward with administering state exams. Regardless of what occurs with state assessment, though, it’s a safe bet that school ratings and other accountability consequences will remain paused for the 2020–21 school year (as back in June).
2. Resuming in-person school will be contentious and complicated
Speaking of schools operating in person, the early days of 2021 will probably be a redux of this fall, when reopening conversations were. , , . Experts predict that the next three months—including when students are set to return to school after holiday breaks—could be “ .” The fact that we’ll soon have vaccines available for essential workers such as teachers is good news, but it’s important to be realistic. Vaccines won’t make things safe overnight, and families with high-risk members may prefer to keep their students home for longer periods of time. The vast majority of schools are going to be facing tough questions early in the new year related to in-person learning and reopening, and those questions may linger into the spring. With any luck, however, the start to the 2021–22 school year will mark a very welcome return to normalcy.
1. Debates about the school funding formula will dominate the budget cycle
When thewas introduced in the spring of 2019, Ohio’s long-standing school funding debate took on new life. A pair of companion bills appeared before the during their lame duck sessions, but nothing was signed into law. That means that, as budget talks gear up next year, debates over the school funding formula are going to be hotter than ever—especially since budget season will occur in the backdrop of an economic downturn, and the Cupp-Patterson plan would add (if not more) to state spending.
There you have it, folks. Things are looking up—yay vaccines!—but for better or worse, 2021 will likely retain some of 2020’s drama.
Happy New Year!