2010 saw dramatic policy decisions and research results in education at both the state and national level. Those with the most impact include:
National “Common Core” Curriculum. On October 12, Kansas was the 38th state to adopt the national “Common Core” language arts and mathematics curricula (now adopted by a total of 43 states and the District of Columbia). Over $350 million has been allotted to develop the national assessment tests. Widespread adoption makes it likely that national science and social studies standards under construction will be adopted as well.
New Qualified Admissions. On December 15, the Kansas Board of Regents approved modified Qualified Admissions requirements tightening freshman entrance requirements for the six regents universities. The larger regents curriculum also has an expanded "window" for unqualified students (from 10% to 15%). These requirements are “grandfathered” for next year's high school freshmen graduating as seniors in 2015.
For-Profit Universities Questioned for Quality, Recruiting. Throughout 2010, a U.S. Senate committee held hearings and the U.S.D.E. investigated selected for-profit schools. Some for-profits recruit “students” at homeless shelters, pay recruiters “by the head,” offer credit for minimal online coursework, and graduate nurses who had never set foot in a hospital.
Kansas Abandons “Race to the Top.” On April 13, the State Board of Education voted 9–0 to not
submit an application to the U.S. Department of Education for the second round of “Race to the Top” Awards. Looking at feedback from the initial application, it was obvious that criteria were stacked against rural western states. Final recipients were all east of the Mississippi River (except for Hawaii).
School Consolidation Accelerates. After having held steady at 303 USDs for decades, the number of Unified School Districts in Kansas has declined to 293 and will continue downward as more small rural schools are unable to offer a full curriculum to fewer students.
Video-games Cause of “Boy Problem.” A 2009 study of 8-to-18 year-olds by Douglas Gentile showed 12% of boys and 3% of girls were video-game addicted. However, this was only a correlation; there was the possibility that boys who were not academic were attracted to videogames. That videogames-cause-a-decline-in-academics was proven in research by Robert Weis and Brittany C. Cerankosky of Denison University. After measuring the students’ academic baseline achievement, they gave half of the boys videogame units and watched their academics nosedive, while academic performance for the control group of boys without videogames held.
Girls Texting Addicted. The Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project found that
one-in-three teenagers send more than 100 text messages a day. Texting in school has grown dramatically in the last 18 months and is predominantly by girls.
Value of “GED” Questioned. Several studies released in 2010 indicated the earning power of students with a GED is equivalent to non-high school graduates, is hardly the equivalent of a high school diploma in securing jobs, distorts graduation rates, and may promote drop outs.
High Cost of College Drop-Outs. Students who dropped out after just one year of college (between 2003-2008) have cost Kansas taxpayers over $93 million dollars according to the American Institute for Research (AIR). First-year college student drop outs cost the nation over $9 billion in state and federal appropriations and grants.
Pay-for-Scores Fails to Raise Performance. A study of performance-based pay published in September by the National Center on Performance Incentives at Vanderbilt University showed bonus awards of about $10,000 per teacher failed to have any lasting impact on student scores.
Stimulus Funding Cliff. Federal stimulus money and limited “rainy day” local reserves held staff cuts at Kansas schools to about 1600 compared to the previous year. With stimulus funds ending in June 2011, and no likely increase in state funding, Kansas schools will likely face additional layoffs.