The year in education: Top Chalkboard posts of 2017

Fallen confetti at the start of 2017 after the New Year's celebration in Times Square is seen in Manhattan

From Betsy DeVos’s turbulent confirmation as the secretary of education, to the continued development of state ESSA plans, to the debates over free speech on college campuses, 2017 proved to be a hectic year for education in America. At every turn, the Brown Center Chalkboard offered timely, research-based insight into important events affecting U.S. education policy. To wrap up 2017, we’re highlighting the top 10 Chalkboard posts of the year.

Achievement gaps, school choice, discipline discrimination, and 4-day school weeks were just some of the topics that emerged in the national conversation on education policy this year; many of these themes are mirrored in the 10 most-read posts. A list of the Chalkboard’s most popular pieces can be found below, along with a short description. Read up!

Additionally, don’t miss a new Brown Center series on teacher diversity in America. In it, scholars examine the underrepresentation of minority educators in the U.S., providing insights to tackle the diversity gap among the public teacher workforce. There will be more installments coming in 2018, so check back often.

Without further ado, here are the top Chalkboard posts of 2017:

1) What do international students think of American schools?

In 2001, the Brown Center conducted a first-of-its-kind survey of foreign exchange students, asking their opinion of U.S. schooling. In the 2017 Brown Center Report, author Tom Loveless replicated the survey with a surprising result: Not much has changed. Among the findings, international students still believe that U.S. classes are easier and American students devote less time to schoolwork. Read here.

2) What BYU’s rock-bottom social mobility score reveals about college access

In January, a new ranking of social mobility across U.S. universities placed Brigham Young University almost dead last. Mike Hansen, a Cougar alumnus, writes about the troubling trend of income—not merit—determining access to high-quality college education, both at his alma mater and at institutions nationwide. Read here.

3) How healthy school lunches improve student learning

The Trump administration relaxed nutritional standards for school lunches over the past year, but a new study finds that a healthy lunch can boost student performance—especially among low-income students. Read here.

4) A troubling contagion: The rural 4-day school week

Many small-town schools are adopting 4-day weeks, but do they really cut down on costs? Decreasing the amount of time rural students spend in school could exacerbate the difficulties they face in overcoming economic isolation and lack of opportunity, cautions Paul T. Hill. Read here.

5) Surfing the 4th Industrial Revolution: Artificial intelligence and the liberal arts

Artificial intelligence isn’t just for STEM fields, according to Daniel Araya and Creig Lamb. As the 4th Industrial Revolution approaches, liberal arts grads—working alongside engineers—are essential to sustaining innovation. Here’s how colleges can pair imagination with AI to achieve success. Read here.

6) Analyzing racial disparities in school discipline

In the 2017 Brown Center Report on American Education, Tom Loveless examines trends in suspension rates in California schools. He finds that they have dropped significantly since 2013, but that African-American students continue to be suspended at a higher rate than other ethnic groups—about three times higher than Hispanic students and four times higher than white students. Read here.

7) The insidiousness of unconscious bias in schools

Unconscious bias—the phenomenon by which stereotypes influence an individual’s behavior without the person even being aware of it—can create and perpetuate inequality in the classroom. Seth Gershenson and Thomas S. Dee describe the harmful impacts of unconscious bias, then discuss how teachers and schools can combat it. Read here.

8) What international test scores reveal about American education

Has U.S. school performance improved over the past two decades? To shed light on this question, Tom Loveless analyzed the results of two international assessments—and found mixed results. Read here.

9) Race gaps in SAT math scores are as big as ever

New research finds persistent race disparities on the math section of the SAT, an important gateway to higher education. These stubborn achievement gaps reflect both racial inequalities in the United States and the failure of education to be America’s “great equalizer,” says Richard Reeves. Read here.

10) The value of America’s social studies educators

While much of the recent focus in education has been around science, literacy, and math, Michael Hansen and Diana Quintero look at who social studies teachers are and explore the unique role they play in the American education system. Read here.

Thanks to all of our contributors, and thanks to you for reading in 2017! Bookmark the Chalkboard and sign up for the Brown Center on Education Policy’s weekly newsletter as we continue to bring evidence to bear on debates surrounding education policy today.