Conflicts over Education to Come in 2022

At school board meetings across the United States in 2021, parents physically fought each other. Others shouted and threatened school board members. These disagreements even entered state politics, like the 2021 Virginia governor’s race. The issues included how race, racism and transgendered student rights are taught. Most of the media attention last year also centered on critical race theory. For some, critical race theory, or CRT, is a way of understanding how race has shaped American society and public policy. For others, CRT creates division and conflict between white people and minorities. The theory, however, is not being taught to public school students in the country. Kate Phillippo is a professor at Loyola University in Chicago. Joseph Ferrare teaches at the University of Washington. These two researchers said these conflicts are likely to continue into the new year. And they shared their observations on the website The Conversation. Online education In 2022, conflicts over online education are likely to increase with the spread of the Omicron variant and the required vaccination for all students. The issue is whether parents should have control over how public money is spent on educating their children. This could lead to risks of moving money away from public schools to others like religious, private, and charter schools. By last autumn, schools in the U.S. largely returned to in-person classes. However, demand for home-schooling and online schooling has risen. Parents have discovered that those choices offer more control over the use of time, what their children learn, and safety from the coronavirus. In Washington State, the number of students choosing online education has greatly increased at for-profit schools that receive public money. One company, Washington Virtual Academies, saw a student body increase of about 85 percent from 2020 to 2021. Schools across the country saw a similar movement. And school choice supporters argued that parental demand for online education would continue. Ferrare and several others studied the effects of online education compared to in-person classes among students. They found that students who switch to online schools experience considerable learning losses in reading and math during each of the three years after switching. That evidence has forced policymakers to consider greater control over online schools.   Affirmative action Some American universities consider the race of a student along with other qualities like economic status for college admission. In 2022, legal cases involving affirmative action will likely create more disagreement on education in America. Affirmative action is a practice or policy of helping individuals belonging to groups known to have been discriminated against previously. This year, the case of Students for Fair Admissions vs. Harvard University will reach the U.S. Supreme Court. The group argued that Harvard held Asian Americans to a higher standard to give preference to black and Hispanic students with lower grades. Harvard says it uses race as one of many things it considers in admissions decisions. It believes considering race can help create a mixed community “where students from all walks of life” can learn with and from each other. Teachers unions In 2022, teachers' unions may continue to exercise their power even with ongoing efforts by parents and other groups to limit it. A union is an organization that represents the interests of teachers. Last year, teachers' unions effectively negotiated increased health safety measures against the spread of COVID-19 in cities including New York and Los Angeles. In January, a dispute over the COVID-19 safety measures kept 350,000 students from in-person classes in Chicago for five days. The teachers returned after school officials agreed to expand COVID-19 testing and establish rules for when to close schools during outbreaks. These wins signal the ability of teachers' unions to negotiate on issues like working conditions and pay. With shortages of qualified teachers, unions’ negotiation power may intensify.   Gifted programs American school systems usually have gifted education programs for students that show a high level of success. Many programs began as efforts to keep white families from leaving racially diverse public schools in urban areas. They were created to compete with high-performing private schools. Such programs have been under much criticism in recent years. Critics say they worsen racial divisions and inequality in the country’s education system. An Associated Press study of recent federal data found that nationwide, 8.1 percent of white and 12.7 percent of Asian American children in public schools are considered gifted. But only 4.5 percent of Hispanic and 3.5 percent of Black students are identified as gifted. In 2022, gifted education may become a national debate. So far, it has been centered in New York City, but it may spread. In early October, the outgoing mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio announced plans to end the gifted programs in the country’s largest school system. However, Eric Adams, the new mayor said he plans to keep gifted programs in place. In California, policymakers plan to group students of different mathematical abilities in the same classroom. Only in their last year of school will students be able to choose an advanced mathematics class. Other efforts are also launched in Boston, Massachusetts and Seattle, Washington to end the gifted education programs. I’m Gregory Stachel. And I’m Caty Weaver.   Joseph J. Ferrare and Kate Phillippo reported this story for The Conversation. Gregory Stachel adapted it for VOA Learning English. _____________________________________________________________________   Words in This Story   board – n. group of people who have been chosen to learn information about something or to give advice transgendered – adj. of or relating to people who feel that their true nature does not match their sex at birth opportunity – n. an amount of time or a situation in which something can be done variant – n. something that is different in some way from others of the same kind switch – v. to make a change from one thing to another : to start doing or using something that is different admission – n. the act or process of accepting someone as a student at a school affirmative action – n. the practice of improving the educational and job opportunities of members of groups that have not been treated fairly in the past because of their race, sex, or something else union – n. an organization of workers formed to protect the rights and interests of its members diverse – adj. made up of people or things that are different from each other