2020 is coming to an end. This past year has been eventful, yet it is difficult to even remember everything that happened because so much has happened. In a normal year, the death of an international superstar like Kobe Bryant would have been the biggest story of the year but in 2020 it had been eclipsed by the middle of the summer. In a year such as this one it could be hard to remember what the biggest education stories even were. In both 2018 and 2019 teacher strikes dominated the headlines. That was not the case this year. So, what were the biggest education stories of 2020? These stories were chosen by considering both their immediate and potential impact and then ranked accordingly.
Affirmative action challenged in court again
The longstanding crusade against affirmative action quietly reached federal appeals court. This is far from the first attempt by conservative backed groups to overturn the controversial practice. However, this time is slightly different enough to make a difference. This lawsuit was filed on behalf of Asian Americans as opposed to white ones, and The Supreme Court (should the case reach that far) leans even more conservative than it did the last time the attempt to overturn affirmative action failed in 2016. This is a story to keep an eye on for the future.
Student loan relief
This will likely be the biggest story of next year however the monumental impact it would have necessitates putting it on this list. President-Elect Joe Biden has essentially promised to give borrowers some form of debt relief and even outright debt forgiveness. Considering there is around $1.6 trillion in student loan debt if he were ever to make good on this promise, it would immediately be the biggest story of the year. But for now, it is just talk.
NCAA athlete pay
NCAA athletes will finally get paid … sort of. The NCAA has moved towards allowing student-athletes to profit from their likeness. That is a far cry from actual compensation from the institutions themselves, but it would prevent guys like Anthony Davis and Johnny Manziel from leaving college empty handed.
New Secretary of Education
In a normal year this is the biggest story but obviously this isn’t a normal year. Miguel Cardona is Biden’s pick for Secretary of Education. This role defines the trajectory of education in the United States so it is important who this person is maybe even more so than the President himself at least as it relates to schools.
George Floyd fallout
Unless you were living under a rock, you are no doubt aware of who George Floyd is and how he died. It may seem strange to include his killing on this list as school was already out of session for the summer when it happened. However, in the aftermath of his death many schools and districts re-evaluated everything about how they operated. Some changed their curriculum. Some changed their hiring practices. Some even re-examined their use of school resource officers. The changes and conversations that happened in education after the events of the summer probably could not even have been mandated by law in the same period of time.
COVID-19 school closures
There is no way around leaving coronavirus closures off this list. Schools in the United States have operated through world wars, natural disasters, and even the threat of a nuclear apocalypse. So, anything that can cause schools all over the country to shut their doors for months at a time warrants inclusion on this list. This story isn’t just about the loss of instruction either as food, health and other wrap around services were dramatically impacted by the disruption of school.
Teaching grade school via computer seemed like a novelty until the entire country was forced to try it themselves. There were some pros and cons to this forced experiment. The digital divide made the switch to e-learning difficult, but the e-learning mandates made school districts address the divide. It is likely that parts of e-learning are here to stay for good. Even if that’s not the case, the nationwide experiment in delivering instruction via the internet will burned in our collective memories forever. No current student will forget the year they went to school at home and no teacher will either.