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Posted at 6:30 AM ET, 12/18/2009

The decade's 10 big education ideas

By Valerie Strauss

Since today is List Day on The Sheet, here are the 10 “Big Ideas” in education that dominated the first decade of the 21st century, as decided by Scholastic, the global children’s publishing, education and media company.

What did Scholastic get right, and what did it miss? Let me know in the comments section or at

*Alternate Paths to Teaching — From Teach for America, to Troops to Teachers, to urban Teaching Fellows programs, schools of education are no longer the only place that teachers begin their careers.

*Transformative Technology — From whiteboards to online education, 1-to-1 computing to eReaders, for the first time in the history of American education, classrooms are increasingly plugged in – and so are the students.

*Accountability — No matter where you stood in the debate on "No Child Left Behind", it’s impossible to deny that this decade marked a new era with a shift toward reporting the results for every child in every school.

*Data-Driven Instruction — Once we have data on every student, it’s easier to reach them quickly and to teach them better. Data is the new currency of 21st Century schools.

*Charter Schools — While the jury remains out on their effectiveness, there is no doubt that charter schools are incubators of innovation in education and harbingers of parent involvement in schools.

*The Rise of Digital Content — By 2020, 95% of all knowledge will be a search term away—marking a game-changing move from static pages to dynamic, digitized content.

*A Focus on Adolescent Literacy — With 65% of American 8th Graders reading below grade level, teaching reading is no longer a job just for elementary school teachers. Our middle and high schools are taking dramatic steps to tackle the job of teaching reading to older, struggling students—ensuring that every child learns to read in an era of global competitiveness.

*Books Are the New Black — In the decade that gave us "Harry Potter," "Twilight" and "The DaVinci Code," the hottest accessory is definitely the book. And it’s impossible to deny the power that a single book can have on children’s feelings about reading. According to the 2008 Kids and Family Reading Report, 74% of kids ages 5-17 say, “Reading Harry Potter has made me interested in reading other books.”

*It Takes A Village — More than ever, education is reaching beyond the walls of our schools to build strong communities that support learning both in and out-of-school. From the Universal Pre-K movement and burgeoning after-school programs, to summer reading initiatives and in-school community centers, we’re learning that it takes a combination of home, school and community to prepare kids for their futures.

*The American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA) — Although it is the hallmark of only the last year of the decade, with its more than $100 billion dollar investment in America’s schools, ARRA represents a historic moment in American Education. While we cannot predict its impact, we can say with certainty that ARRA will leave an indelible mark on this decade of ideas in education.

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By Valerie Strauss  | December 18, 2009; 6:30 AM ET
Tags:  ideas in education  
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I would argue that standards are one of the biggest ideas. All the testing in the world doesn't make a difference if you don't know what you're testing for.

Posted by: groundhogdayguy | December 18, 2009 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Data, yes, but data-driven instruction, no. Data, alas, is far more commonly used to evaluate than to drive instruction, which is an enormous problem.

Other impactful ideas (and not necessarily good ones): improving teacher quality, the rise and secularization of homeschooling, differentiated instruction, "learning styles," 21st Century Skills, and to coin a phrase, "literacy creep.” The increasing tendency to push explicit reading instruction into middle and high school.

Robert Pondiscio

Posted by: rpondiscio | December 18, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse

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