(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)
The 2011 legislative sessions set a new standard for K-12 reform, can 2012 hope to compare? The logical response would be something along the lines of “not bloody likely.” The electoral calendar, the fact that many of the reform states are likely to be distracted by policy implementation, and the fact that the molasses states and likely to stay in their torpor all point to a diminished of expectations for next year.
Taking a step back from questions of the pace of reform, it makes for good bloggy fun to speculate where large breakthroughs might occur.
Looking regionally, Big 10 country clearly led the way last year. Indiana engaged in incredible soup to nuts reform, with big reform undertakings in Ohio, Wisconsin and even (gasp) Illinois with tenure reform. The Minnesota legislature passed transformative reforms, but settled for some incremental steps this year. Big things are under discussion in Michigan. Iowa is discussing reform, while Pennsylvania seems to be searching for their sea legs, which I expect them to find.
By comparison to the Big Ten, the South seems stuck in neutral, outside of Florida, Louisiana and Oklahoma. Texas and North Carolina used to be reform leaders, but they faded after plucking the low-hanging fruit of reform (standardized testing). North Carolina shows some signs of rousing. Tennessee has entered into a serious discussion about reform. Reform is on like Donkey Kong in Oklahoma- special needs vouchers followed by school grading and 3rd grade retention and a tuition tax credit program.
The Northeast features some interesting dynamics in Maine, and fascinating struggle between Democrats for Education Reform and the AFT in New York. Lots of small rural schools in the northeast will eventually benefit from digital learning.
When you look out West, you see a clueless giant surrounded by more nimble neighbors. All three states bordering California-Arizona, Nevada and Oregon -have taken steps to enact reform. Yes- even Oregon! Governors Sandoval of Nevada and Martinez of New Mexico have brought a new energy to reform discussions in their states. Arizona, Utah and New Mexico have adopted A-F school grading, with Utah also passing a far-reaching digital learning bill.
Florida enacted comprehensive reform in 1999. Indiana did it in 2011. Which states will be next? I could tell you, but then I might have to kill you. Feel free to speculate in the comments section.