Editors' picks: The most impactful national education stories from 2013

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 31 2013 1:27 a.m. MST

Deseret News

Covering education for the Deseret News takes me to two distinct spheres. One is the “policy place” where lawmakers, reformers, education administrators and advocacy groups grapple over the best way to educate U.S. children and adults — and how to pay for it. It’s a land of reports, graphs, balance sheets and legislation.

The other is the place where the learning actually happens. It might be a classroom, a dining room table, a college library or even a computer station. It’s anywhere learners and teachers — the school kind and the family kind — come together.

My favorite education stories of 2013 brought the two spheres together, exploring trends, policies and innovations through the eyes of those most affected.

The experiences of one high school girl born with mild Down syndrome and another with a more severe disorder revealed rewards and challenges of including students with disabilities in regular classrooms.

A young woman who aged out of the foster care system illustrated the difficulties of attending college without family support — and spotlighted a new program designed to help.

A divorced dad’s efforts to stay involved in his children’s lives uncovered a promising new trend: fathers are volunteering at their children’s schools in increasing numbers. Research shows positive effects on grades.

Along with my readers, I felt the worry of a mother whose 3-year-old didn’t talk and another whose third-grader couldn’t read. I learned about the hurdles such parents face and rejoiced because these two found help from inside and outside the public school system.

Not all stories allow such personal tellings, though. The education world of 2013 was rife with talk of technical innovation, changes to traditional college structure and efforts to improve the achievement of K-12 students in the U.S. The Deseret News waded in.

On the higher-education front, efforts to change the credit hour system to one based on what students know and can do instead of how much time they spend in class showed promise. So did exciting ideas for blending face-to-face instruction with improved ways of learning online.

Some say reforms like these will bolster learning and save costs for college students and their families. Others say these innovations could dismantle higher education’s finance model. I’ll be watching.

Stories about the new Common Core standards adopted by most U.S. states tackled misunderstandings and spelled out areas of controversy. The subject remains contentious; expect more stories.

What happens in education policy is critically important because it affects what happens between learners and those who teach them. And that spells the future for each learner, and for our society. It is a privilege to tell you about it.

Celia R. Baker, Deseret News

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Northern Girl
Dexter, MI

I know people use the word "impactful" and feel like that's okay, but something about using it in the headline of an article about education strikes me as ironic. Sports, sure. Big splashy CNN news, okay. But maybe not for education. Technically, it is now a word, but one that was made up fairly recently.

No doubt education is changing, though, and I suppose so is language.

Providence, UT

Celia, there has been only one big story involving public education in Utah in the 48 years I've been here--too many kids, too little money, too little resolve to solve the consequent problems. Year after year, it's same old, same old. The solution that the state's governor and legislators could engineer--development of a dedicated, reliable, and adequate stream of revenue for public education--is never proposed. There's always an excuse: teachers only work 180 days a year and are thus paid enough, higher taxes would sink economic development, test scores show there's no problem. and so on. Neither-nor paralysis is the result. We can't do this, we can't do that, so nothing is done really.

Selecting the best and brightest for teaching, training them thoroughly with a year's mentored experience in the hopper, recruiting the cream of the crop through enticements, and retaining those who survive with FULLY professional reward and respect haven't a chance in Utah. Education on the cheap is what our children end up with--a sad commentary for a state that puts family first.

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