Things for Educators to be Thankful For – 2014 Edition

Tuesday, November 25, 2014 -- Scott Sterling

In what’s become an annual tradition around here, the Thanksgiving Week blog post is reserved for giving you some ideas about what to be thankful for this year. The first thing, obviously, is that you probably have the week off and are reading this at home rather than in your chaotic classroom. Let’s get positive!

Funding, along with the economy, is slowly coming back

Although state education funding levels are still about 10% behind where they were before the recession, they are slowly increasing on a year-over-year basis. We have a long way to go but the corner has been turned. Hopefully this leads to more innovative tools for your classroom.

But if the money hasn’t reached you yet, crowdfund your own project

You know how difficult it can be to fund your pet projects. Your school probably doesn’t have the budget and the grant process can be difficult to navigate. Teachers across the country are turning to crowdfunding sites like Donorschoose and Kickstarter to fund everything from classroom essentials to projects that help them be more innovative. It’s great to have another resource for needed funds.

More sleep for high schoolers

School districts are finally starting to figure out that having high schools start before the sun comes up—forcing students to sleep through their first two classes—is not the best idea.

For example, Fairfax County in Virginia just approved a plan to have high schools start after 8 a.m. This comes after help from the National Children’s Medical Center, which advocates for adolescents to get at least 9 hours of sleep per night. The plan costs money ($4.9 million to be exact, mostly for new buses), but the benefits should be far-reaching.

Graduation rates are rising

For the first time, the nation’s overall high school graduation rate has topped 80%. If the upward trend continues, 90% of students will graduate by the year 2020. First, this is a reflection of the hard work of educators across the country. Second, in places like California, it seems as though the key is a slow but steady closing of the achievement gap among minorities. California also credits new and creative ways for student to recover credits, as well as dropout prevention programs.

Professional development no longer requires travel, or even classrooms

A big trend this year has seen more teachers taking to social media to form their own professional learning communities. Perhaps most notable in these efforts is teachers using Twitter to host chats like #edchat, a weekly conversation among teachers using a Twitter hashtag. You can find more education Twitter hashtags here. The bottom line is you no longer have to travel to conferences or hire consultants to learn about the latest strategies.