Why Are High Schools Refusing to Teach Students How to Be Successful in the 21st Century?
Read Never Before Seen Data and Find Out How You Can Upgrade Your District for the 21st century
Should High Schools Teach Students How to Become Wealthy in America?
I start this article with this question because it’s the key to ending the debate about the value of our K12 system. You are about to read never before seen data from the US Department of Education and hear arguments that no edu-celebrity has the expertise to explain.
And if you want to learn how you can upgrade your high school to a 21st century learning environment, read this entire article.
What’s Really Holding Student Achievement Back?
We’ve all read the headlines and the news articles. You already know America’s schools can’t compete on the global stage and that student test scores keep going down, despite dumping billions of dollars into the system.
But what if I could show you real data that proves those headlines and news stories wrong? Would you be interested to learn what’s really wrong with our high school education and how you can get more from your high school diploma?
The True Data Story:
Before this article can get into the who, what, where and why of what high schools should be teaching and why high school students are more disengaged and disinterested in school today than ever before — let’s dive into the real data story.
The NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress), tracks student test scores for the US Department of Education. They publish reports and data charts on their website. (here’s a link)
NAEP Report Cards - Home
Select a jurisdiction and a result to see how students performed on the latest NAEP assessments. Click on the to see…
According to data from NAEP, 86% of states that participated in standardized testing did NOT have declining test scores by students from 1992 to 2019 in reading. In fact, only 6 states saw a decline. (ND, WI, IA, OK, NH and ME).
In math the data is even more shocking. According to the NAEP, 100% of states that participated in standardized testing saw an increase in test scores by students from 1990–2019 in math. And as a nation, the overall increase was by 27 points across all participating states.
Feeling a little disconnected from reality?
So what’s the truth? Are test scores going down or up? And why would so many news outlets report that scores are always going down?
The Rotary Phone Mandate
Most of the people reading this article may not even know what a rotary phone is, that’s why I’m posting a photo so you can see what I’m talking about.
In the above image, you can see the phone has 10 circles with one number inside each circle, ie. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 etc. In order to dial a number, a person would pick up the receiver and place their index finger inside the circle and rotate the entire dial-face clock-wise until it reached the metal hinge. (the piece of metal to the right of “0”.)
This used to be the way people used phones back in the day. If you chose to use a rotary phone today — people would ask you why? With smartphones and touch screen technology, physically dialing a number seems old and outdated by everyone.
But what if the government passed a law that made it illegal to use smartphones and mandated that you MUST USE a rotary phone, as pictured above. And to justify the mandate, the government paid billions of dollars for a test that measured how fast you dial numbers using the rotary phone. Except the government ran into a problem — the data showed people were getting slower at dialing numbers.
Since the government thought the mandate was a brilliant idea — it refuses to change its mind, even though, everyone knows smartphones are 100% better.
This sounds like a far-fetched hypothetical example — except it describes our K12 system dilemma. Our government has mandated common core and testing, but when the testing shows student scores going down — they refuse to change.
Figuring Out Up from Down
If you’re just slightly confused — that’s on purpose.
I’m going to clear up the confusion right now — and you might want to re-read this article again after you connect the dots.
We started this article talking about declining test score data in news headlines over the last 20 years. And then I presented you real data from NAEP that showed test scores did NOT decline. They in fact went UP!
Here’s the truth. The never before seen data that I shared with you are the student scores for elementary students (grades K-5) and the data the newspapers use is from high school students (grades 9–12).
The newspapers are simply using the wrong data.
Reporters, elected officials and the general public should ignore the high school test score data because it doesn’t matter. The NAEP elementary score data already proved our elementary schools KICK-ASS!
When a student shows mastery in 19th century skills, which is what the NAEP data shows — it’s time to move on to teaching 21st century skills.
That’s the point.
When you hyper-focus on high school test scores — you get the opposite impression of reality. No wonder why a majority of Americans think there’s something wrong with our schools. The fact is there’s only one thing wrong— we don’t teach high school students 21st century skills.
Other than that — our K12 system is the BEST IN THE WORLD!
But let’s connect the dots. Focusing on the high school scores is like focusing on the rotary phone data that cares about how fast it takes someone to dial a phone using their finger.
At the end of the day — who really cares? No one would use a rotary phone unless it was mandated by law and even then — you would question the intelligence of the person that mandated it.
How come we are not questioning the intelligence of the people who mandated 19th century skills in high school? The NAEP data proves our high school students are ready to learn 21st century skills — when will we do the right thing?
The reason I’m on social media channels and publishing articles on Medium, is to prove reality to the general public. I have spent over 20 years of my career inside the K12 system. I know what the false impressions are and I also know what the real story is. At some point, we have to open our eyes and SEE THE TRUTH!!
I know you would do the right thing — if you had all the information. That’s why I write these articles. You deserve to know what’s happening inside our schools — not the talking points, not the propaganda and also not the false impressions.
But the real truth.
I need you to know there is a proven 21st century skills curriculum that works for high school students. In 2011, I became one of the first Superintendents in NJ to implement a 21st century skills curriculum in my high school. I ran it for 10 years — it works.
And it’s 100% better for high school students.
Once a student passes the standardized test in the 5th grade — they are 100% ready to start learning 21st century skills. And denying them the opportunity to learn 21st century skills is LIKE forcing them to use a rotary phone.
You simply wouldn’t do it. So why are you making the same foolish decision with your high school curriculum? You had a legit excuse before reading this article. The news media gave you the wrong facts, data and information.
But now you know the REAL TRUTH!! That means it’s time to act!
There was a lot in this article, so let’s take a moment to recap what you’ve learned.
- According the NAEP America’s elementary students (K-4) have learned how to read, write and do math
- Mandating standardized testing for high school students on reading, writing and math skills is like testing how fast a teenager can use a rotary phone
- Reading, writing and math skills are 19th century basic skills
- America’s high schools need to focus on teaching 21st century skills, so students will be ready for the 21st century
The purpose of my articles is to give you a more ACCURATE picture of the educational system. I am a recognized expert educator. I am also a 21st century skills expert with over 20 years of educational research. I founded an education think tank in 2013 to help further my research and also help Superintendents and school districts make better data-drive decisions.
If you want a better school system, follow my account, so you can stay up to date on the latest information and research regarding our schools, teachers and also the 21st century skills you need to know.
America once had the greatest school system in the world, we can reclaim our global position if we follow the right research.
About the Author:
D. Scott Schwartz, M.Ed. is also known as “The School Doc” on Twitter and Instagram because he analyzes the situation and diagnoses problems. In 2017, he was recognized as an expert in education by the #1 ranked state for education in America. Since 2013, he has been running an education think tank that helps school districts and leaders make better data-driven decisions. If you want to know more, follow the link in the bio.