- Congress will talk about reforming the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, now in the form of No Child Left Behind, but won't be able to act. Today's highly partisan atmosphere and strong feelings about the role of government in education make the compromises required to pass significant legislation difficult to reach.
- The US Department of Education will continue to drive federal education policy. Its financial incentives to states in return for implementing its preferred policies have resulted in broad adoption of the Common Core standards, more support for charter schools and stronger teacher evaluations. The Department currently is offering waivers from certain NCLB accountability requirements, which three dozen states already have taken advantage of. Expect more such programs as the Department acts while Congress can't.
- States increasingly will seek exemptions from No Child Left Behind's testing requirements. Expect Congressional and state hearings seeking to discredit testing. Formative assessments and adaptive learning systems increasingly will be seen as smarter alternatives to once-a-year "high stakes" tests.
- Federal funding for education will be reduced as a result of the "fiscal cliff" issues, perhaps by as much as 8%. States are in no shape to make up the difference. Cuts are likely, so sales and influencer relationships will be very important.
- Technology will continue to attract interest -- not primarily for its improvement of the education experience, but because policymakers too often see laptops and tablets merely as cheaper alternatives to traditional textbooks. This will present pricing challenges and growth opportunities for content providers.
- The Common Core standards will come under fire from Tea Party conservatives who see them as an Obama program, despite the fact they were developed by the National Governors' Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Some states will delay implementation, raising questions about alignment of instructional materials.
- State anti-union legislation will continue. Some of it will impact teachers.