Education Post is not a news organization. We focus on sharing the personal stories of the people who live and work within the nation’s education system and connecting them with others who have ideas about how to fix it. But, because what happens in the world often shapes the way we teach, learn and advocate for high-quality education, we keep our eyes on the news, too—and we cover the big stuff as it breaks.
In fact, we’re proud of how we have covered the news this decade. As for what we count as “big stuff,” we’re talking about legislation passed at the national level, U.S. Supreme Court decisions and presidential administration policy guidance that affected the education system as a whole. Because of their sweeping nature, these events impact family autonomy and educational opportunity in major ways, at every level. We hope our coverage has helped to make those connections—and their importance to children’s educational success—clearer to each of our readers. Here’s to building on that tradition in the 2020s.
The ‘Big Stuff’
Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)
At the start of Education Post’s journey in 2014, the big education news of the day surrounded the legislative give-and-take that led to the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA for short, in December 2015. Meant to build on No Child Left Behind’s use of data analysis and accountability, ESSA caused (and continues to cause) a lot of mixed feelings.
Now-Education Post CEO Chris Stewart said at the time that ESSA could lead to an “accountability” to Black students that isn’t actually accountable at all.
While people from wildly different camps can claim some victory and some loss in this ‘bipartisan’ overhaul of No Child Left Behind, I mourn its passing and fear what it signals.
A.J. Spitz was a junior at Drake University when he wrote a piece from the student perspective on ESSA.
When we think about a school’s success, we should ask, ‘who can tell us the most honest feedback?’ We should ask, ‘who is our most influential and important resource?’ Let’s ask students.
For the rest of our coverage of ESSA, make sure to head to our site page on the topic.
Janus v. AFSCME
Public sector unions, including the teachers unions that may be most familiar to our readers, faced major changes to their funding structures as a result of the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in June 2018 of the case Janus v. AFSCME. The Court held that it was a violation of the First Amendment for unions to collect “agency fees,” “shop fees” or “fair share fees” from non-members who benefit from collective bargaining. Zachary Wright called the high court’s decision “another piece of horrible news” for working people overall, but in the context of the teachers unions to which he belongs, he said there might be a “silver lining” to the case.
Often, we take for granted, and under-value, that which we do not earn. Unions, perhaps, could have gotten overly accustomed to the money that filled their coffers in the form of mandatory dues, and thus have forgotten precisely for whom they are meant to advocate.
We also featured pieces like Education Post’s founder and board chair Peter Cunningham’s “After Janus, Unions Need to Give Teachers a Reason to Opt In and I Hope They Give Them One.”
Check out what Cunningham called the “teachers unions we need tomorrow” here:
For the rest of our coverage of one of the biggest public union cases in modern U.S. history, head here.
President Barack Obama introduced his administration’s guidelines on how to legally treat young people brought to this country without documentation as children in 2012. He called his executive order Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and intended it to be legal pathway to give these young people, who had no say in the decision to come to the U.S., a chance to access education and other official government services without fear of deportation. The country’s response to the action (including Obama’s successor’s attempts to rescind it) continues to make DACA a fluid situation nearly eight years later.
Education Post has been there for many of the twists and turns along the way. After the election of President Donald Trump, the White House’s position on DACA changed. College student Citlali Perez wrote in 2019 that the original action was itself insufficient for students like her, but that attempts to end the program were a worse solution.
As an undocumented student without DACA, I have always found it difficult to look to the future and imagine what I want to do, because it is not clear how I can do most things.
The rest of our DACA coverage can be found here.
The Creation and Rescission of Obama-Era Discipline Guidance
The other big educational policy swing between the decade’s presidents revolved around school discipline. As part of the Obama administration’s 2014 guidance, the U.S. Department of Education created new rules around how schools discipline, suspend and expel students, meant to address unfair disparities between discipline for students of color and their White peers.
Dr. Julia Carlson said some of these policy changes led to unintended consequences in classrooms, including increases in class disruption and, in the sad case of her own son, violence from students who would have previously been disciplined earlier in the disruption process.
[My son] dissolved into tears and said that he didn’t want to go to school anymore. He said he wanted to die.
That’s how important it is to get these policies right.
Education Post’s Laura Waters has argued in a series of explainers that the Trump administration’s changes to the Obama-era guidance, as implemented by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, is too hard a swing in the opposite direction, however. Waters says they may result in a return to the same discipline disparities that caused the guidance in the first place.
You can read Waters’ and others’ coverage of the shifting discipline picture here.
What other “big stuff” from the 2010s that you would add to this list? What do you think of the discussions surrounding these issues? Let’s work together in the next decade to make this all work for every student.