Why I’m Praying Schools Don’t Go “back to normal.”
The inside truth from a K12 Insider
I know this is a controversial topic, which is why I’m cautiously optimistic this article goes well with my audience.
What is “Back to Normal?”
For the last several years, since March of 2020, when all schools in America shut its doors and began a grand experiment to teach kids remotely or via hybrid schedule, teachers and parents have been protesting, screaming and praying “things will go back to normal.”
I have over 20 years of experience in the K12 system, first as a classroom teacher, then as a principal and last as a Superintendent. I don’t want things to go “back to normal.”
Normal sucked. Normal is the reason we had news articles and headlines promoting the horrible student test scores over the last 50+ years. Normal is where teachers are overworked and underpaid. Normal is where administrators have zero allies. Normal is where parents distrust the school system. Normal is where students do TikTok challenges and bring weapons to school to fight against the system itself.
Why would anyone want to go “back to normal” if that’s what normal is?
The Fallacy of Learning Loss
As soon as I used that phrase, “learning loss” you know exactly what I’m talking about, correct? Except that you don’t actually know what I’m talking about. And here’s why and the truth from a real K12 Insider.
There is no learning loss folks. It’s a myth. I don’t know the purpose of spreading the myth, but obviously someone has a hidden agenda somewhere.
The truth is our elementary schools are doing a great job. Our elementary teachers are kicking ass and our elementary principals have their eyes on academic achievement.
According to the NAEP, (The National Assessment for Educational Progress), which is the US Government’s arm for education achievement and the Nation’s Report Card, our elementary students are doing amazingly well in school. The test scores prove that. In reading, elementary students have zero declines in learning from 1992–2019. And in math, elementary students have actually increased achievement by 27 points, from 1990–2019.
There’s a reason no one talks about these GREAT stats.
It would reveal to you that what we teach in elementary school is valuable and we need to stop attacking teachers when the numbers prove they are doing a good job.
The 19th Century Skills Curriculum
There is a grand agenda to HOLD SCHOOLS BACK! I don’t know why, but there is. Our K12 system was designed and started back around 1875. Back then, there were three main skills the school was supposed to teach kids, reading, writing and math.
You may have heard of them referred to as the Three R’s; reading, riting and rithmetic.
In the 1870s that made perfect sense. We needed a nation who could read, write and do math. If you wanted to empower yourself, pick yourself up by the bootstraps and live the American Dream, you better know how to read, write and do math.
And this continued in our nation’s schools until…
Well, actually that’s all we teach in our K12 schools. We teach the three R’s in Kindergarten and we still teach the three R’s in senior year of high school.
Now that you know all our students are learning 19th century skills and the NAEP data shows that our elementary students know them like the back of their hand — I ask you, where is the learning loss exactly?
Am I supposed to believe that a 5th grader who knows how to read, write and do math is starting 6th grade and forgot how to read, write and do math? Is it possible that high school students cannot read, write and do math anymore because of the Pandemic?
The hypothesis is not only dumb, but ludicrous.
The Real Truth About Schools
Here’s reality. Students in middle and high school are bored out of their minds. They were bored before the Pandemic, but during the Pandemic they finally found their voice to tell teachers and schools, “enough is enough!”
And their parents got on board as well and started to question the curriculum we are teaching in middle and high school classrooms. What exactly are you trying to pull here, K12 system??
So who actually wants to go back to normal then?
Why Older Students are Bored?
If you recall, I wrote that our entire K12 system is built on teaching the three R’s, reading, writing and arithmetic for all 12 grades. But the NAEP data shows that students have learned and acquired these skills as of the 5th grade, which means, what are students learning in class?
The real truth is students in middle and high school aren’t learning anything really. Yes, they are gaining more facts, figures and stats to add to their ability to be a contestant on a game show, but they are not building a foundation for success in the 21st century.
The Five Skills for 21st Century Success
Instead of going backwards, or “back to normal”, how about we move forward and advance our K12 system into the future? This is what I am hoping other people will agree with.
In 2020, Georgetown University published a groundbreaking report that revealed there are five special skills people need, if they want to be more successful in the 21st century.
You won’t find any news articles about the report. You won’t find headlines like, “GEORGETOWN RESEARCHERS SOLVE K12 CRISIS!”
Instead, you have to hunt and dig for educators like me, who do extensive research and are always looking for nuggets of gold to share with my colleagues, parents and the public.
Here’s what that report found.
If you want to make more money, get promoted at work, start your own business, build a brand online, have a successful side hustle, and have the money to retire when you’re older — you need to know these five skills.
- Team Building
- Problem Solving
The secrets out of the bag. This information was published in 2020. For the last two years, our K12 system has ignored this research. For the last two years, our K12 system has gaslit the public into thinking, “we need to go BACK to normal.”
What they really mean is “go backwards.”
I propose moving forward.
What a controversial educator I am? How dare he propose helping students learn the five special skills they need in the 21st century. “No, let’s stick to the tried and true, even though 5th grade students have mastered them and they are bored repeating the same three skills over and over again.”
I know I write a lot about the K12 system, and if you subscribe and follow me, you will start to see more articles about how you can use each one of these five special skills in your own life, to make more money or to get a promotion at work.
In fact, I already wrote a story that talks about how to build a company from scratch:
Trying to Build a Company from the Ground Up?
The Three Phases from Startup to Profit Making
The key point to understand is that our K12 system achieves the goals we set out for it by the 5th grade. Students in elementary school across the country are learning how to read, write and do math. We did it! We should celebrate that fact. It is an actual FACT!!
But if 5th grade students know how to read, write and do math, what should they learn next? What should middle and high schoolers be doing in school?
And the answer is learning the five special 21st century skills found in the research by Georgetown University. Refusing to acknowledge educational research is professionally unethical. We need to update and modernize our middle and high school curriculums. High school graduates should be leaving school knowing how to be young leaders, how to build productive teams, how to solve problems, and how to sell themselves and communicate well with others.
Why is that so hard to grasp? Why does the K12 system still want to “go backwards?”
Let’s not go “back to normal”, let’s move ahead toward a brighter future for everyone.
About the Author:
D.Scott Schwartz, M.Ed. is the CEO and Founder of Leaf Academy and an education think tank. He has consulted with schools on elevating teacher expertise, boosting student achievement and teaching 21st century skills. He also helps businesses that are stuck building audiences, revenues and customers. For more information, visit the bio and follow the link to the Leaf Academy website. Click on the Programs page for consulting services.