[In no particular order]

1. eRate’s getting a makeover: Taking a hard look at the shortcomings of the current federal eRate program, using the eRate for school technology is like trying to use a beeper to access the internet—the technology and service available just aren’t enough for what you need to accomplish. With more schools implementing BYOD policies, and more classes requiring the use of the internet for online tools, the eRate isn’t providing enough funding for schools to adequately implement their technology needs. However, this past July, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to open a new rulemaking process aimed at updating and enhancing the eRate. “The sooner we raise the eRate’s annual cap and equip schools with increased bandwidth, the sooner students will reap the benefits of true 21st-century teaching and learning environments,” said Keith Krueger, chief executive officer of the Consortium for School Networking. “This initiative moves our schools in that direction.” (Read: “FCC to revisit eRate” and “eRate survey highlights broadband needs.”)

2. STEM is gaining traction: Almost a decade ago, education leaders began talking about how the U.S. needs to focus more on math and science in order to compete in the global economy. “This is our Sputnik moment!” said pretty much every education stakeholder. Well, talk is fine, but it seems that over the last year, education has been putting thought into action with numerous pieces of legislation, as well as national events, to focus on integrating more STEM into all U.S. classrooms. From aligning state agencies with accountability for STEM scores in student testing, to encouraging Advanced Placement (AP) computer science classes in all high schools, and from holding national events for coding curriculum to proving federal funding for STEM initiatives in schools, 2013 has truly been the year of STEM. Watch out, global economy, nobody throws a comeback party like the us! (Have you seen this amazing commercial [just in time for the holidays[ for girls’ STEM toys?)

3. Common Core is so hot right now: The Common Core is like the cilantro of the cooking world: you either love it or hate it, and those that do like it really, really like it…and vice versa. Whether you think the Common Core will be the answer to all 21st-century learning or not, you have to admit that the collaboration  between states, as well as the effort of almost every school district in the U.S. to try and make learning better for students, is almost more heart-warming than watching A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. From investing time to plan implementation, to the amount of money needed to integrate online testing, schools have their hands full. But it’s the belief by all schools, that with the right tools and a better curriculum, that every student can reach their own success, that is truly something to be thankful for…not just in education, but in a snapshot of what our country can achieve when it wants to.

(Next page: More things we’re thankful for)