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15 Education Predictions for 2015

In 2014 we've covered education as the world-changing story it is and you've been along for the ride. And so at year's end, NPR Ed reached far and wide to bring you a set of provocative predictions for the education world in 2015:

1) Blended Learning As A Daily Practice
One thing American schools traditionally have is staying power. While they educate a different population than a century ago, the schools and classrooms are organized much the same. Yet that's starting to change. Blended learning — coupling technology based-instruction with live instruction — is evolving from an idea that was mostly hype to a daily practice for students in all kinds of public schools.

Andrew Rotherham
Bellwether Education Partners, a nonprofit consultancy

2) More Scrutiny of Student Data
In response to fears about student records becoming the proverbial permanent record, there will be more examination, and perhaps increasing regulation, of how long information should be retained in a way that can be associated with an individual student. We'll see more companies responding to public concerns, like Google's response to concerns about its scanning of student emails in Google Apps for Education, Class Dojo's decision to retain student records for only a year, or the Microsoft-led student privacy pledge,

Elana Zeide
Privacy Research Fellow, Information Law Institute, New York University

3) Broader Disclosure On Student Loan Defaults

The gainful employment rule [which seeks to regulate for-profit colleges' access to federal student aid] may turn into a disclosure rule [requiring all colleges to report their student loan default rates]. I could see that gaining a little more traction. Everyone likes the idea of accountability.

Kevin Kinser
Associate Professor, SUNY-Albany, and an expert on for-profit colleges

4) Moving On From Common Core Debates

The Common Core will continue to be litigated in some state houses, like Arizona, but for the most part legislators are getting tired of the issue. We will be looking for the recipes of successful implementation and identifying real classroom challenges. When teachers have a significant voice and opportunities for input on implementation, we are likely to see success.

Carmel Martin
Executive Vice President for Policy, Center for American Progress

5) Reauthorization of No Child Left Behind; More School Choice

I think we're going to see a lot of momentum on education in 2015 — both at the federal and state levels. At the federal level, we're almost guaranteed to see an effort to reauthorize No Child Left Behind. Conservatives should take that opportunity and create options for states to opt-out of the programs that fall under NCLB altogether. At the state level, we'll continue to see worthwhile efforts to advance choice in education. We might even see a few more states succeed in establishing innovative education savings accounts (ESAs) for families, enabling them to completely customize their children's educational experience. I predict that in 2015, recognition will grow for the idea that "public" education means publicly financing K-12 education, but means providing instruction in a wide-variety of settings: charters, private schools, online options and more.

Lindsey Burke
Fellow, Heritage Foundation

6) Customizable, Game-Like Platforms

In terms of game-based learning, I think we'll start to see more customizable game-like platforms that allow teachers to customize the content. A simple example would be a game like Jeopardy [where teachers can write their own answers and questions] — but a smarter version of that. That's where the adoption is going to happen, because teachers want to control the content so that students are really learning.

Jordan Shapiro
Professor at Temple University and an expert on game-based learning

7) Transition For The Online Education Space

"Snackable" learning will become a large part of the online education menu. The industry will start to figure out how learning best fits into the small spaces and snippets of time in people's lives. Online courses will allow users to dive deep OR get information in bite-size pieces. Mobile will be front and center in the morsel movement.

Andrew Wait
President of

8) More Options For Student Borrowers

Use and availability of income-based repayment (IBR) schemes, which set repayment expectations at a set percentage of the student borrower's post-college income, will dramatically increase in 2015. This is because policymakers have narrowly defined the student debt problem as a problem of student borrowers struggling to keep up with payments (i.e., avoid default). Therefore, setting payments at a more affordable level would seem to resolve the problems student debt creates.

However, this preferred policy strategy for resolving the student debt problem will only exacerbate the wealth gap between students who have even small amounts of student debt and those who do not have any debt, by increasing the time that it takes to pay off student loans.

William Elliott III
Founding Director of the Assets and Education Initiative at the University of Kansas, School of Social Welfare and an expert on student debt

9) Competency-Based Education Picks Up

Competency-based direct assessment will pick up steam. While most of these programs will also be offered wholly or mostly online and primarily for working adults, a number of competency-based models designed for traditional-age students will also turn heads and reinvigorate longstanding debates about the necessity of more practically focused delivery models.

Tony Friscia
President and CEO of Eduventures, higher education research and advisory firm

10) More Nuanced Kinds Of Data In Schools

I'm predicting that a group of concerned citizens will finally have a way of pushing back against data to give a more nuanced version of what data ought to look like in schools. That means anything from elevating anecdotal evidence to having students create their own assessments and demonstrate proficiency that way. We won't call it going back; if anything, it's more an enhancement for learning.

Also issues of diversity, including race and gender, may be included as part of teacher evaluation, especially as part of efforts to staff the best teachers for the most under-served populations, particularly of color.

Jose Vilson
Math educator and author, This Is Not A Test

11) The Digital Classroom Meets Labor Issues

I think 2015 will be year that brings teaching, labor, data and faculty governance into a necessary conversation. While adjuncts are planning a national day of protest on February 25th, I think the labor conversation is poised to broaden its vocabulary beyond wages and working conditions to issues of data and value creation in the university, curriculum control, and faculty governance.

I am hoping that we see more interrogation of the digital in our classrooms from a labor perspective and that we use that perspective to create solidarity — and much better jobs. Sadly, as the public university struggles with budgets, we are going to see more corporate partnerships like ASU and Starbucks, but I also think we're also poised to see quality public education programs that attend to nontraditional students, as well as community colleges, emerge as key figures in the discussions around the necessity of actually teaching today's students.

Karen Gregory
Lecturer in Sociology in the Division of Interdisciplinary Studies at the City College of New York. Faculty head of the CCNY City Lab

12) Good News By The Numbers

Predictions for 2015 :

  • More than 60,000 additional children will enroll in high-quality early learning.

  • 600 new commitments by colleges, organizations and companies will help thousands more students prepare for, and graduate from, college.

  • 10 million more students will have high-speed Internet access.

  • America's high school graduation rate will set a record — again.

Arne Duncan
U.S. Secretary of Education

13) Kindergarten Entry Tests

In 2015, we will see kindergarten entry assessments (KEAs) effectively implemented as a key transition from the early years to elementary school. There has been a great deal of discussion over the role of KEAs in recent years. In 2015, education systems will cut through the clutter and invest the needed resources to develop and administer developmentally appropriate KEAs and thus improve instruction for young children.

In 2015, the U.S. will deliver on its promise to early childhood educators. President Obama recently referred to early childhood education as part of the "essential promise of America." In 2015, we will see a genuine acknowledgement that our country simply cannot deliver on its promise without recognizing the value early childhood educators provide in ensuring young children are prepared for school and life.

Rhian Evans Allvin
Executive Director, National Association for the Education of Young Children

14) The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

I suspect that with the rumored reauthorization of ESEA that we will see an anti-testing narrative, but the entire system will still be tied to testing. [Politicians] will talk about teacher quality, but we will see a renewed emphasis on sending the least qualified candidates (such as Teach For America) to teach primarily poor children. They will talk about local control and will tweak accountability formulas, but the educational system will likely still be controlled in a top-down fashion instead of a bottom-up approach like California recently introduced for school finance. They will talk about turning around 1,000 schools, when in fact very few of the schools stay "turned around" because the poverty in the communities and special learning needs of the students are not being addressed. In essence, our politicians will give us more of the same failed education policy in 2015, while calling it a new direction and/or reform.

Julian Vasquez Heilig
Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, California State University, Sacramento

15) A New Agenda For Public Schools.

This new year of 2015 should hold a new agenda and strategy for public schools. The question at hand should not be, "What system do we use to teach our young?" It should be, "What exactly are we teaching them, and how can we better their experience while doing so?"... I am genuinely afraid for how the school system will look and feel like later along the road.

Jaxs Goldsmith
Senior Class President, Riverside University High School, Milwaukee

What do you think will happen this year in education? Share your 2015 education predictions with the NPR Ed team using #EdPredictions.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit

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