Current Trends in Education

Current trends in education are dictated by many factors, including research and policy. School Liaisons need to know what emerging trends in education are and how they can potentially impact the support and services available to military-connected children. The following issues are key to this understanding.

Reauthorization of ESEA

The current iteration of ESEA is slated to be revised. While the exact timing of the reauthorization is unknown, the Obama adminstration has released its “blueprint” for reform. This plan includes

  • requiring that state standards are based on college and career readiness;
  • focusing accountability on turning around low-performing schools;
  • providing flexibility and encouraging innovation; and
  • encouraging a complete education, rather than a focus solely on reading and mathematics.

Common Core Standards

An important movement is to standardize content standards across states so that the expectations for what students learn in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics and when they learn it do not vary by state. The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers have led this movement, called the Common Core State Standards Initiative. K–12 standards in ELA and math were released in June 2010, and as of January 2011, 43 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the standards. As time passes, more states continue to adopt.

The U.S. Department of Education in 2010 awarded funds to two of three consortia of states to develop assessments aligned with the Common Core State Standards. States were permitted to join more than one consortium, and 45 states are currently part of one or both. The assessments are expected to be implemented in 2014–15. States that have adopted the Common Core State Standards are developing plans for implementing them. These plans include changes in professional development, in teacher education, and in curriculum.

College and Career Readiness

Many students who graduate from high school are not prepared to enter higher education or join the workforce. They need to take remedial coursework in college or additional training for work. Many are not prepared to enter the armed services. The Common Core State Standards are intended to help ensure that students graduate from high school ready for college and careers by aligning end-of-high-school expectations with the requirements for entry to postsecondary education and entry-level careers. The assessments currently under development are expected to show students’ progress toward college and career readiness.

Extended/Expanded Learning

Extended/expanded learning opportunities (ELO), learning options outside of the traditional classroom environment, include a variety of after-school programs, apprenticeships, service learning, and private instruction that complement classroom learning. ELOs can be more engaging to many students than traditional instruction. As the educational impact of ELOs becomes clearer, policy makers are finding ways to fund and offer academic credit for participation in these programs. There is also a push among advocates to extend the school day and school year, particularly for students who are behind academically. Many high-performing nations and school programs have longer school days and years, which provide students with more time for learning and teachers with time for planning and professional development. Extending the calendar is expensive, however, because teachers must be paid for additional time in the classroom.

Global Competence/21st-Century Skills

Changes in the economy and society associated with globalization and an increasingly interconnected world have led to demands for students to develop the ability to think critically and solve problems, to communicate effectively, and to work collaboratively, in addition to developing a deep understanding of core content. These “21st-century skills,” as they are often known, require shifts in teaching away from rote memorization and toward the use of projects that ask students to use their knowledge to approach the kinds of problems they would encounter outside of school.

The increasing global interdependence has also placed a premium on global competence. Schools have been instituting programs that develop international awareness, respect for cultural diversity, and foreign language proficiency. As funders and policymakers prioritize global skills, opportunities for military-connected students to learn a foreign language and learn about other cultures and societies will become more commonplace.

Early Childhood Education

Research by Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman and others has shown that high-quality preschool can pay lasting dividends in improved academic achievement and attainment. Bolstered by such research, advocates have pushed for making preschool available to all children, regardless of income. Several states, notably Florida, Georgia and Oklahoma, have established a goal of implementing voluntary universal pre-K programs.

The primary challenge that most states face in offering universal preschool is raising the funding for these programs, which cost local, state and national governments about $4,600 annually per student. States have drawn from lottery ticket sales and other public revenue streams in order to pay for universal preschool measures. As public funding for preschool programs grows on a state-by-state basis, military families with young children may become increasingly eligible for government programs that fund their child’s preschool education.

The Federal government currently provides funding for early childhood programs through Head Start and the Child Care Development Block Grant, which are administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and through Part C of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which is administered by the U.S. Department of Education. School districts may also use their ESEA Title I funds to fund early childhood programs.

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