It’s a challenge to make predictions that are not simply wishful thinking, but here are a few predictions for education in 2015.
1. Increasing anger directed at Common Core’s standards, tests, and data collection efforts by parents, teachers, and school administrators. Why did Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Education Trust, Achieve, Inc., and all the other organizations trying to promote the centralization of educational planning and policy-making in this country think parents, teachers, and school administrators were simply going to watch K-12 education vanish into a dystopian fog with barely a murmur?
Could these self-styled central planners have simply forgotten that there are no basic differences between conservative and liberal parents, or between right-wing and left-wing parents? All that most responsible parents want for their children is the kind of education Gates is paying a private school in Seattle to give his kids—an academic education, not mock-workforce training for a lumpenproletariat. And they won’t stop their protests no matter what their governor, commissioner of education and board of education tell them or do.
At some point, central planners have to compromise. School administrators can’t effectively run a building full of kids whose parents every day expect their teachers to justify the books they assign, the math, science, or history lessons they give, and the endless, mindless group projects and tests that reflect the idiosyncratic ideas of Common Core’s “curriculum” writers.
2. Drastic increases in home schooling and enrollment in independent secondary schools (sectarian or non-sectarian). Within five years, alternatives to the public school as an institution will be developing in every state. And the tax money for supporting them? That is where we will see legal breakthroughs. Once enough parents see that their local tax money no longer supports an institution that serves its ostensible purpose, local tax money will stop flowing to state or federal offices and will follow the child to whatever structures the parents have worked out for educating them. Before that happens, dozens of parents will refuse to fund bureaucrats beyond their reach, even though they cannot be jailed en masse. As middle-class Occupiers of their local school boards and school administration buildings, they will expect and have to be given the same hospitality they gave the original Occupiers.
3. A few state legislatures will break out of the legal chains that the Duncan/Gates/Fordham Triumvirate thought they had in place wherever there were signs of organized rebellion against their ideas for “transforming” public education. Hard to know which state will be first, but there are close to a dozen ready to try to work out something better than Common Core and better than whatever they had before Common Core.
4. Some African-American and Hispanic parents and community leaders begin to realize that Common Core was not designed to close a “gap” or improve their children’s academic records—simply upgrade their academic status, leaving them in the dust in the face of international competition. They will finally begin to tease out the racist assumptions underlying Common Core’s standards and tests, especially when they see where the cut scores are set for “college readiness.”
5. Drastic reduction in federal and state testing. There will be no testing in K-3 because local school boards will agree with parents and teachers that it is not a good use of instructional time to teach keyboarding skills to young children. Schools and parents will agree that objective statewide tests are probably useful at the end of grade 8 and grade 11, to let students and parents know if students are on track for authentic high school-level work or for a meaningful high school diploma.
6. Congress will refuse to pass a re-authorization of ESEA containing Senator Lamar Alexander’s language freezing in the use of Common Core-aligned standards and tests for states that want Title I money. The toxic label won’t be used, but he knows plenty of synonyms.
7. Congress will appoint an Expert Commission to analyze basic problems in K-12 and present possible solutions. The Commission will also be expected to address issues in teacher recruitment and preparation.
Sandra Stotsky is professor emerita of education, University of Arkansas, and member of Common Core's Validation Committee (2009-2010). She was Senior Associate Commissioner at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education from 1999-2003.