The 10 Biggest Education Stories of 2018​

We Count Down the Most Important K-12 Education News from the Past Year

From angry teachers to school district scandals to charter school firsts to public worker freedom, these are the stories everyone was talking about this year. Before heading into the new year, join us on our countdown of the 10 biggest education stories of 2018.

History-Making University Charter School Headline
Photo: University Charter School via

Alabama’s First Rural Charter School Is Also County’s First Integrated School

Trisha Powell Crain |

At 7:50 on Monday morning, when school started at the University Charter School in Livingston, in west Alabama’s Sumter County, students in kindergarten through eighth grade began a new era, hardly aware of the history they were making.

For the first time, black students and white students are learning side-by-side in integrated public school classrooms. More than half of the school’s 300-plus students are black, while just under half are white. Read the Full Story

Texas Denies Special Education Headline Card
Photo: Marie D. De Jesus/Houston Chronicle

Federal Investigation Finds Texas Schools Deliberately Delayed or Denied Special Ed Services

Alejandra Matos | Houston Chronicle

An arbitrary special education enrollment target set by the Texas Education Agency led school districts to delay or deny special education services to students across the state, according to an investigation by the U.S. Department of Education.

For more than a decade, TEA judged a school district’s performance based in part on the percentage of students receiving special education services. The benchmark, set at 8.5 percent, prompted school districts to delay or deny special education services, the Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs wrote said in a 14-page letter to TEA. Read the Full Story

Parkland Failures Headline Card
Photo: Screenshot/South Florida Sun Sentinel

Hide, Deny, Spin, Threaten: How a School District Tried to Mask Failures That Led to Parkland Shooting

Brittany Wallman, Megan O’Matz and Paula McMahon | South Florida Sun Sentinel

Immediately after 17 people were murdered inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the school district launched a persistent effort to keep people from finding out what went wrong.

For months, Broward schools delayed or withheld records, refused to publicly assess the role of employees, spread misinformation and even sought to jail reporters who published the truth. Read the Full Story

Charter School Teachers Strike Headline Card
Photo: Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune

Nation’s First-Ever Teachers Strike at a Charter School Halts Classes for 7,500 Chicago Students

Juan Perez Jr. | Chicago Tribune

Hundreds of educators at the city’s Acero charter school network walked off the job, halting classes for 7,500 predominantly Latino students and launching the nation’s first strike over a contract at the publicly funded schools.

The charter school strike offers a vivid illustration of how growing union influence and new political leadership might signal big changes for how charter schools operate in Chicago. Read the Full Story

Ending Obama-Era School Discipline Policies Headline Card
Photo: The White House/flickr

Federal School Safety Panel Releases Recommendations: Scrap Obama-Era School Discipline Policies

Lauren Camera | U.S. News & World Report

The White House released its long-awaited school safety report, recommending, among other things, that Department of Education scrap Obama-era guidance aimed at reducing the number of students of color who are disciplined – a move that ignited a firestorm among civil rights groups.

“Ultimately governors and state legislators should work with school leaders, teachers and parents to address their own unique challenges and develop their own solutions,” Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said on a call with reporters. “It does not impose one-size-fits-all solutions. The primary responsibility naturally rests with states and local communities. Local problems need local solutions.” Read the Full Story

School Shootings That Weren't Headline Card
Photo: Jupiterimages/Photo Images

Over Two-Thirds of School-Related Gun Incidents Reported by the USDOE for 2015-16 Never Happened

Anya Kamenetz | NPR

How many times per year does a gun go off in an American school?

We should know. But we don’t.

This spring the U.S. Education Department reported that in the 2015-2016 school year, “nearly 240 schools … reported at least 1 incident involving a school-related shooting.” The number is far higher than most other estimates.

But NPR reached out to every one of those schools repeatedly over the course of three months and found that more than two-thirds of these reported incidents never happened. Child Trends, a nonpartisan nonprofit research organization, assisted NPR in analyzing data from the government’s Civil Rights Data Collection. Read the Full Story

Taking Education Failures to Court Headline Card
Photo: AJEL/CC0 Creative Commons

More Than a Dozen States Taken to Court over Quality of Education

Dana Goldstein | The New York Times

The legal complaints have different areas of focus — from school funding to segregation to literacy — but all of them argue that the states are violating their constitutions by denying children a quality education.

Such lawsuits were filed in past decades, but the recent cases show a renewed energy for using the courts to fight for better education, and they may signal an end to a period when many courts, after the last recession, seemed unwilling to require states to spend more money on schools. Read the Full Story

Chicago Sexual Abuse Stuns Headline Card
Photo: Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune

Betrayed: Chicago Public Schools Failed to Protect Hundreds of Sexual Abuse Victims over Last Decade

 David Jackson, Jennifer Smith Richards, Gary Marx, Juan Perez Jr | Chicago Tribune

They were top athletes and honor-roll students, children struggling to read and teenagers seeking guidance.

But then they became prey, among the many students raped or sexually abused during the last decade by trusted adults working in the Chicago Public Schools as district officials repeated obvious child-protection mistakes.

Their lives were upended, their futures clouded and their pain unacknowledged as a districtwide problem was kept under wraps. A Tribune analysis indicates that hundreds of students were harmed. Read the Full Story

Teacher Walkouts Headline Card
Photo: Sean Davis/flickr

In the spring of 2018, thousands of teachers in several states staged walkouts, demanding higher pay, increased school spending and more.

The One That Started It All: Statewide Teacher Walkout Forces All West Virginia Public Schools to Close

And Then There Were More: Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina, Washington

The Janus Decision Headline Card

Supreme Court Delivers Janus Decision: Non-Union Workers Cannot Be Forced to Pay Fees to Public Sector Unions

Tucker Higgin | CNBC

Compelling individuals to mouth support for views they find objectionable violates that cardinal constitutional command, and in most contexts, any such effort would be universally condemned. Justice Samuel Alito

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Janus v. AFSCME that nonunion workers cannot be forced to pay fees to public sector unions.

Some experts had said a finding in favor of the plaintiff, Mark Janus, would be the most significant court decision affecting collective bargaining in decades. Read the Full Story

BOWDON: Teachers Get Respect

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in the Janus case that public school teachers who want nothing to do with private organizations called teachers unions will no longer be forced to pay them part of their salaries. Kind of sounds American, doesn’t it? Read the Full Opinion

Honorable Mentions

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