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A Look Ahead at 2014 in Education Reform

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The New Year is an opportunity to look toward the likely developments in education in 2014. My crystal ball suggests:

January

Buoyed by a judicial ruling that Louisiana's voucher program, aka Louisiana Scholarship Program, does not lead to segregated schools, the state expands the program to encompass all poor children. Governor Bobby Jindal declares, "Finally, all of Louisiana's poor folks will have the same choices as affluent families!"

In higher education, the American Studies Association, encouraged by the success of its boycott of Israeli colleges and universities, votes unanimously to boycott Louisiana's colleges and universities, protesting Louisiana's treatment of its own citizens.

February

New York University opens a new branch in North Korea and President John Sexton appoints Dennis Rodman as Chancellor of NYU -- Pyongyang. Responding to faculty critics, Sexton denies that it is all about money and assures that human rights violations in North Korea are "greatly exaggerated."

The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that several hundred voucher-bearing children from the Katrina-devastated Lower Ninth District express confusion when applying to a prestigious private school and discovering that the voucher covers only 20 percent of the tuition. They also learn that the kindergarten class has only 25 places, 24 of which will be filled by siblings of current students or children of alumnae parents. Five-year-old Ruby Jindal is accepted into the elite school's class of 2026, filling the one available slot.

March

The Texas Board of Education votes unanimously to amend science textbooks to read "the theory of gravity" when presenting Newton's, well, theory. Citing birds and airplanes, Board Chair Barbara Cargill declares, "Well, obviously the theory of gravity is just a theory. God decides what goes up and what comes down." Having been rebuffed at every other independent school, several hundred voucher students from New Orleans Lower Ninth District enroll at "Billy Bob's Bible Barn," a new K-5 school promising each student a new tablet with all 10 Commandments pre-loaded. New York's prestigious Collegiate School announces that all 185 seniors are headed to Yale in the fall.

April

Michelle Rhee, Founder and CEO of Students First, is spotted actually visiting with a student.

Showing remarkable political consistency, Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), introduces a bill cutting all funding for the National School Lunch Program. Ryan explained the bill: "As with extended unemployment checks for the jobless, providing students with unearned lunches takes away all their motivation." Ryan names the bill, "Hungry for Success." The American Studies Association issues a press release calling for a boycott of Paul Ryan.

May

Results from the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) are released by the National Center for Educational Statistics. The results, representing the scores of fourth, eighth and 12th graders, show no statistically significant changes, except in Louisiana and Texas, where scores plummeted on all measures. Texas Board of Education chair Barbara Cargill dismisses the results, pointing out once again that God decides what goes up and what comes down.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie holds a press conference, declaring that the small test score improvements in New Jersey are a direct consequence of his bold response to Hurricane Sandy. Education Secretary Arne Duncan responds to the indifferent results by declaring, "See, maybe your little darlings aren't so damned smart after all."

June

Eva Moskowitz, Founder of the Success Academy charter schools, denies that improved test scores in one of her schools are a function of its 47 percent attrition rate. "Look," Ms. Moskowitz states, "They don't call it school choice for nothing. We chose to have some students choose some other place to go. It's a free country."

Teach For America founder and board chair Wendy Kopp announces a new, accelerated two-week training program for recent college graduates. "The rapid proliferation of charter schools has increased the demand for very young, very inexperienced teachers who are willing to work very long hours for very low pay," Kopp stated. "This is the sweet spot of our mission and we can meet the challenge." Bill and Melinda Gates pledged an iPad for each graduate of the new training program, also pre-loaded with all 10 Commandments, as many of the new TFA recruits will be placed in schools in Louisiana and Texas.

July

In an otherwise slow month for school-related news, Pearson Education announces the acquisition of the United States Department of Education. John Fallon, Pearson's Chief Executive, appoints Arne Duncan as Chief Operating Officer for the new division. "Arne richly deserves this new appointment, as he has been working on our behalf for many years." Doug Peterson, CEO of the McGraw-Hill Companies, asks the SEC to investigate, claiming, "I was pretty sure we had Duncan in our pocket. This is ridiculous."

August

Appetite whetted by the successful ban of Mexican-American studies in Arizona, Republican legislators introduce a bill prohibiting foreign language instruction. Attorney General Tom Horne, former Tucson Superintendent, says, "Why should our children waste time learning French or Spanish? Our kids don't even speak English very good."

Wisconsin, having beaten teachers unions nearly to death, announces state-mandated, year-round, extended school days with no increase in teacher pay. Governor Scott Walker, who instituted a program of rigorous reading exams for all kindergarten students several years ago, reports, "If we are ever going to catch the Chinese, we have to start acting like the Chinese. Wisconsin's days of coddling teachers and children are over." Five-year-old Samantha Rodgers circulates a petition among her classmates to recall the Governor, stating, "Our days of coddling the Governor are over. He's messing with the wrong demographic."

September

Results are released from the second year of Common Core tests. Once again, scores in New York State reveal an alarming racial gap, as only 15 percent of African-American students scored at or above the proficiency level in language arts. In Arizona, where strikingly similar results are reported, former Superintendent Tom Horne says, "See! This is exactly what happens when you try to teach kids to talk Mexican." The one bright spot is Eva Moskowitz's Success Academy, where 100 percent proficiency was achieved. Responding to critics who reported that only two students were allowed to take the tests, Moskowitz stated, "Whatever."

October

Texas Representative Louis Gohmert introduces a bill requiring every American teacher to be armed. The bill, titled "Breech for America" will establish a new program giving recent college graduates two weeks of military training before placing them in school around the country. Gohmert reminds America that shooters choose schools because they know people will be unarmed. The bill passes both Houses of Congress, is vetoed by President Obama, and the veto is overridden -- all in 12 hours. Speaker John Boehner, wept openly as he hailed the passage of "landmark" legislation.

In a related development, Pearson Education announces a new line of arms training manuals, designed to "guide the new teacher through various scenarios requiring the use of lethal force." COO Duncan announces that funding for special education will be contingent on "at least 20 percent of teacher evaluations being based on firing range results." Pearson simultaneously announces the acquisition of The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which operates the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).

November

Texas elementary school principal Cleavon Jones is hailed for exemplary school leadership by Governor Rick Perry. Facing down a fifth grade bully, who had excluded her classmate from a birthday party, Jones is seen on security video declaring "Make my day," as he drew his weapon.

In Wisconsin, an armed standoff between humanities and science faculty members at Madison Elementary School ends peacefully when five-year-old Samantha Rodgers enters the faculty lounge firmly stating, "Grow up!"

In a stunning turn-around, America's ranking in PISA scores rise dramatically. The U.S. is second in mathematics, first in science and leads the world in reading literacy. Pearson executive Arne Duncan denies widespread rumors that the improved scores are related to Pearson's appointment of Michelle Rhee as Director of Metrics Analysis for OECD.

December

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie holds a press conference, citing the PISA scores as further evidence of the recovery of the Jersey Shore. Representative Paul Ryan credits his "Hungry for Success" initiative claiming, "It's easier to pull yourself up by the bootstraps when you're not so fat and lazy." Representative Gohmert observes that this proves, beyond a reasonable doubt, that an armed school is a smart school. Texas Board of Education Chair Barbara Cargill declared this as unequivocal proof of American Exceptionalism.

Governor Rick Perry misses the press conference. His staff reports that he was still trying to "...figure out what all these numbers mean" and that he hadn't been able to get his hair ready in time.

Happy New Year!