It has been an intense year for the American education system, starting with a nationwide fight for higher pay and benefits. Many of the teachers protesting this spring taught in states where conservative lawmakers cut funding for public schools, while charter enrollment continues to rise. Meanwhile, the Trump administration forged ahead on controversial federal policies, including the reversal of affirmative action, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos' new guidelines protecting students accused of sexual assault on college campuses, and a possible rollback of school discipline rules.
However, some of the biggest education stories of the year took place at the local level: Voters weighed in on voucher programs in mid-term ballot measures, educators went on strike across the country, and the "Me Too" movement came to higher education. Pacific Standard's education reporting told these stories and more, following frustrated parents, small-town principals, student activists, and a trail of taxpayer and corporate money.
Below, our best reporting on education inequality this year—and those working tirelessly to remedy it.
- "Francisco Ayala Resigned After a University Inquiry Found Him Guilty of Sexual Harassment. But What Happened to the Federal Grants He Received?" by Francie Diep
What happens to taxpayer money when scientists are faced with accusations or findings of wrongdoing?
- "The Secret Betrayal That Sealed Nike's Special Influence Over the University of Oregon," by Joshua Hunt
In the mid-1990s, University of Oregon President Dave Frohnmayer needed money to save his school. Alum and Nike chief executive Phil Knight was happy to help—as long as the university could be managed in a way that would maximize the company's brand and profits. But when Frohnmayer made a key misstep, Knight exacted a brutal punishment.
- "Can We Save AP World History?" by David Perry
The demands for rote memorization, coupled with Western centrism, are failing our students.
- "'I Can Be Free Again': How Music Brings Healing at Sing Sing," by John J. Lennon
I've seen firsthand how music can restore what's missing in prison: a respect for humanity.
- "How One Tiny Town Is Battling 'Rural Brain Drain,'" by Kaitlin Gillespie
Nearly all high school graduates in Onalaska, Washington, head off to college—but many come back home after earning a degree.
- "The Big—and Seemingly Impossible—Jobs of Small-Town Principals," by Caroline Preston
Rural school leaders have some of the most complex roles in education—and some of the highest levels of attrition.
- "How States Across the Country Are Dealing With Teacher Shortages," by Dwyer Gunn
States are struggling to both recruit and retain teachers.
- "Of Course Public Confidence in Higher Education Is Down," by James McWilliams
As Americans' faith in higher education reacts to rising costs, mounting debts, and the growing sense that preparation for the workforce need not take a four-year degree, the post-World War II ambitions of higher education may prove to be a noble failure.
- "To Understand the High Cost of Colleges, Think of Them as Investment Banks," by James McWilliams
A growing endowment generates wealth. A small part of that wealth is invested to bolster an administration tasked with generating prestige, and, as students rush to take out federal loans, raising tuition and fees.
- "The Art of Stimming," by David Perry
Applied behavioral analysis has left a legacy of traumatized kids. Why is it still the standard of treatment?