In these essays, members of the Hoover Institution's Task Force on K–12 education, joined by several keen-eyed observers, blend prediction with prescription to paint a vivid picture of American primary and secondary education in 2030. What follows is necessarily speculative, and readers may judge portions to be wishful thinking or politically naïve. But none of it is fanciful-we're not writing fiction here-and all of it, in the authors' views, is desirable. That is to say, the changes outlined here would yield a more responsive, efficient, effective, nimble, and productive K-12 education system than we have today.
Readers should note, however, that each essay is complete unto itself; they were not written to yield a single coherent model in which all the pieces fit neatly together. Several cover overlapping territory (e.g., technology, which is apt to pervade our future), and others yield differing predictions about the same phenomenon (e.g., national standards and testing).
The opening essay by Paul Peterson seeks to show what education will be like in 2030 if nothing changes, that is, if today's trends are simply extrapolated.
The following thirteen essays are clustered into Curriculum and Instruction (five essays), Standards and Testing (two), Governance and Finance (four), and Privatization and Choice (two).
The set concludes with a recap by Chester Finn of what actually changed in American education from 1990 to 2010: evidence of what's possible during the next two decades.
Paul Peterson: Only if Past Trends Persist Is the Future Dismal
Simple extrapolations of current trends suggest that public education costs will rise sharply, pupil-teacher ratios will fall, and control over the education system will shift from families and localities to higher levels of government. Courts and collective bargaining agreements will also gain in influence. Meanwhile, high school graduation rates will fall, and learning will stagnate. Fortunately, those trends will be disrupted by an enormous rate of change in curriculum design and information dissemination made possible by technological innovation. PDF | View related video
Grover J. Whitehurst: Curriculum Then and Now
In 2030 curriculum is at the fore of education rather than serving as it did 20 years ago in the shadow of reform efforts involving teacher performance, choice, standards and accountability, and school governance. Students engage with curriculum in web-based environments that include virtual social agents. The curriculum and its delivery are the products of the field of cognitive technology that marries cognitive science with powerful information technologies. The power of curriculum means that differences among schools and teachers are no longer important determinants of learning outcomes for students. PDF | View related video
Daniel T. Willingham: Classroom Teaching in 2030
It seems self-evident that we can improve schooling if we tune education to the students' minds. But what about teachers? Teachers are expected to write curricula, write lesson plans, cope with enormous student diversity, and improve their teaching although they are given no opportunity to practice. This essay argues that those place unreasonable cognitive demands on teachers and pose a formidable problem in American education. PDF | View related video
Caroline Hoxby: The Future of Teacher Pay and Teaching
John E. Chubb: Equality and Technology
The achievement gap is not quite a thing of the past in 2030. But African American students are now achieving at levels approaching those of white students in the late twentieth century. All but 10 percent are graduating from high school; 25 percent are completing college. Public schools in the inner city have improved sharply, through twenty-first-century innovations-sophisticated technology and better teachers. Follow that progress through the story of Rasheed, an impoverished Philadelphian who faced long odds at birth but just graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. PDF | View related video
Tom Loveless: Time Spent on Learning
American students devote more time to learning in 2030 than at any other time in history. Students attend school about seven hours a day, two hundred days a year. Homework averages two hours per night in high school. Private tutors are hired to shore up academic weaknesses, and schools offer Saturday workshops for remediation. The nation has come to realize that more time devoted to learning leads to higher achievement. And higher achievement leads to better lives for children-and to a better nation. PDF | View related video
Williamson M. Evers: Standards and Competitive Rigor
In 2030, Americans benefit from K-12 academics that are rigorous, but not stultifyingly uniform. This pluralism emerged in the aftermath of President Obama's ill-fated project of creating a monolithic, inflexible set of national standards. A half dozen rivalrous standards soon evolved from the bottom up out of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, Core Knowledge, Common Core, the New Standards Project, state standards from the 1990s and 2000s, and other efforts. States now call on public school districts or schools to adhere to one of these sets of standards. PDF | View related video
Eric Hanushek: An Evidence-Based World
Although testing and accountability were contentious issues in the past, the school system of 2030 relies heavily on data. Schools, teachers, and parents all see better data as leading to improved schools. This change reflects the development of better and broader tests and a movement to evaluations based on learning gains by all students. The movement to better uses of information has led to raised student achievement, although U.S. students still lag the best international students. PDF | View related video
Martin R. West: A New Education Federalism
The federal government in 2030 foots more of the total bill for public education than ever before. National standards and tests in core academic subjects are used in all but a handful of states; a substantial share of federal money is allocated to states based on student outcomes; and the feds have increased spending on education data gathering and research and development by an order of magnitude. State legislatures, in turn, have shifted power away from dysfunctional school boards and are empowering parents and the public at large to exercise more control over their local schools. On the surface, these changes represent the culmination of a century-long trend toward more centralized control of U.S. public education. Yet this latest round of centralization has yielded more variety in governance arrangements and more responsiveness to local needs throughout the nation's school system. In short, it has revitalized educational federalism. PDF | View related video
Paul T. Hill: Reinvented School Districts
School districts will no longer manage all schools, hire all teachers, and assign students to schools. Instead, "portfolio school districts" will manage the mix of schools to meet the needs of all local students, hiring many different school providers, some from local providers-colleges, teacher groups, museums, and professional school management organizations-and some from statewide or national organizations. Some schools will rely heavily on online instruction and employ few teachers. To promote continuous improvement, portfolio school districts will hold all to the same student performance standards. PDF | View related video
Terry Moe: A New Politics of Education
Caroline Hoxby: The School Finance of the Future
Herbert J. Walberg: Vouchers Thrive
By 2030, vouchers (publicly or privately funded scholarships awarded directly to families to pay for private school tuition) had substantially displaced many failing public schools. Parents strongly preferred private schools, which provided superior achievement outcomes in the agreed-upon content of standard school subjects, as well as a diversity of additional subject matter, content, and methods of teaching and learning. The competition brought about by vouchers forced traditional public, parochial, and independent schools to improve their offerings, achievement, and appeal to parents. PDF | View related video
Chester E. Finn Jr.: School Choice
In 2030, nearly two-thirds of U.S. children benefit from school choice, up from half in 2010. Charters enroll 5 percent of students, and four more states have voucher programs; but the greatest expansion has taken place in cyberspace (half of all high school courses are now online), in homeschooling (6 percent), and in hybrid institutions. "Catholic charter schools" offer religious instruction early and late in the day. National "brand-name" schools are flourishing, and vastly improved data systems make it far easier to navigate among these options. PDF | View related video
Chester E. Finn Jr.: What Can Happen in Twenty Years?
Despite its vast inertia, U.S. education can change dramatically in two decades. Consider these seismic alterations between 1990 and 2010: (1) standards-based reform, (2) major alterations in the federal role, (3) the reinvention of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), (4) the advent and grown of charter schools, (5) enormous expansion of other choices, (6) alternative certification, (7) school governance innovation (e.g., mayors), (8) cyberlearning, (9) finance reforms, (10) greater integration of primary-secondary schooling preschool and higher education as well as data systems that enable individuals' progress to be tracked. PDF