5 Education Reports That Defined the Decade

Dec 27, 2019 12:00:00 AM

by Andrew Pillow

The decade is coming to a close, but don’t expect the issues raised around education in the 2010s to be swept under the rug. Although the world has technically been in the age of information since the 70s, the advent of social media has made information more available and accessible—and education has benefitted from this information as much as any other field.

Over the past decade, many studies have shaped the way people view the field of education. But the five reports which follow are a few that have defined the 2010s. Although they are not unique, as hundreds of studies over the years have come to the same conclusions, they do give an accurate representation of the themes found in education discourse over the past 10 years.

1. Funding Gaps Between White and Minority Schools

A study on equity in school funding found the most predictable result of all time. Predominantly [pullquote]White schools are better funded than minority schools.[/pullquote] The result may not be surprising, but the extent of the disparity just might be. "Nonwhite School Districts get $23 Billion Less Than White Districts Despite Serving The Same Number Of Students" shows the sheer scale of the funding gap that exists between schools.

2. Students of Color are Punished More Harshly Than White Students 

The United States has made a lot of progress on the racial front since the days of segregation. But in many ways, there is still a long way to go. Black and White students may be in the same buildings today, but they still aren’t treated equitably according to “Are Achievement Gaps Related to Discipline Gaps? Evidence From National Data.”

[pullquote]Students of color are, in general, punished more for similar offenses.[/pullquote] This is not a groundbreaking finding, as this phenomenon has a long line of research behind it. But this study, in particular, postulated a correlation and perhaps predictive effect between harsh discipline and the much-maligned achievement gap.

This study is just the latest in a long line of research that finds a discrepancy between white students and students of color.

3. The Long-Term Toll of Student Loan Debt

[pullquote]As student loan debt climbs, so do the problems and the desperation associated with it.[/pullquote] “How do people feel about their STUDENT LOANS?highlights both the financial and emotional toll of student loan debt, as well as the lengths to which debtors will go to get rid of their student loans, including spending time in jail. This study was more of a poll, but it captures more of the story—it shows more than just the numbers.

With approximately $1.5 trillion in total student loan debt and rising, it is safe to say it was a key facet of the previous decade. Given the upcoming elections and proposals around student debt, one would guess it will be a prominent part of the next decade too.

4. School Choice Programs Outperform Traditional Public Schools 

The school choice debate has not always been as divisive as it is now. As a matter of fact, the initiative has at least semi bi-partisan roots. But the discourse has changed and become more confrontational. Most of that debate is around accountability and effectiveness. Many studies like “The Definitive Look at School Test Scores in Milwaukee and Wisconsinhighlight the effectiveness of school choice programs. Naturally, these are flanked by studies that claim the opposite and that is precisely what makes the debate so interesting.

[pullquote]The debate around school choice isn't going anywhere[/pullquote], so expect this issue to be just as big in the next decade.

5. The Profile of School Shooters … Or Lack Thereof

The nation is never more than one disgruntled sophomore away from having tough conversations about school shootings. It’s difficult to attribute the school shooting conversation specifically to the 2010s because, despite popular belief and sentiment, the 90s were technically much more dangerous relative to school violence. But it felt worse, likely due to the growth of social media. 

We know much more about the shooters than we ever did before with the exception of Columbine. “A U.S. Secret Service Analysis Of Targeted School Violence” sought to capture the essence and find similarities between school shooters. The study did find similarities but maintains there is no single profile.

[pullquote]School shootings are uniquely American and tailor-made to capture the nation’s attention.[/pullquote] This ensures that, unfortunately, they will likely remain a key part of the American school experience.

Education changed quite a bit in the 2010s. These issues—and many more— have had and continue to have huge impacts across the educational landscape. Admittedly, the items on the above list are not exactly the studies one would want to define a period of ten years in education and, hopefully, when this template is recycled ten years from now, they won’t.

Andrew Pillow

Andrew Pillow is a fifth grade social studies teacher at KIPP Indianapolis, a charter school where he has taught since 2011. He is also a former Teach Plus Policy Fellow and he has taught technology and social issues.

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