Why Parents Should be Worried About Sending Their Kids to School?
The Truth About Your Child’s School
Teachers are going to hate this article. That should tell you something about our K12 system and why parents should be worried about where they are sending their kids.
What Schools Teach?
After the Pandemic hit and schools shut down in March 2020, every parent, for the first time SAW what schools were teaching kids. Maybe parents should have been more involved before then, but that’s water under the bridge.
The truth is parents were looking at the assignments and the homework and scratching their heads.
Schools were supposed to prepare their children for the future. Schools and elected officials said schools were making kids college and career ready. But parents aren’t stupid. They looked at the material and couldn’t figure it out.
“How is THIS curriculum preparing my kid for life?”
Here’s the answer NO ONE is going to tell you. And it’s based on scientific research and I’ll also show you the data.
The K12 system is not designed to prepare your kids for anything. The K12 system is designed to “do schoolwork.”
What The Data Says
Before I get into what I mean by that last statement, let me first show you the data. This is test score data. So any parent that gets triggered by test scores, should turn away while I tell the other parents the truth.
Ask one of the other parents that can handle reality to take notes for you.
The NAEP (National Assessment for Educational Progress) publishes national test score data every year. It’s under the US Department of Education and it’s our federal government’s data experts.
According to their 2020 report finding, it showed that elementary students. That’s kids in Grades Kindergarten through 5th grade, did well in reading and math.
Let me repeat. Our elementary kids are not FAILING!
If you know an elementary school teacher or principal, you should SHAKE their hand and tell them “thank you!”
According to the data, our elementary students have not had 1 point of decline in test scores since 1992 for reading and we have seen an increase of 27 points in math.
Do you still feel triggered? That wasn’t the numbers you were expecting me to give you, was it?
The truth is that our K12 system has NO academic problems through the 5th grade. Interesting?
Here’s Why Parents Need to Be Worried
The problem BEGINS in the 6th grade. That’s good news if you’re a half-full kind of person.
“So what you’re saying is half of our K12 system is doing fine?”
That’s what I’m saying.
We could solve the other half, except there is an invisible force that prevents change. Are you ready for me to reveal what that invisible force is?
21st Century Research
Before I reveal the invisible force, let’s make sure you have the facts you need, if you plan on going to school board meetings and speaking with teachers and principals. Remember, you don’t need to argue with your elementary teachers and principals. They are doing what they need to do.
The problem begins in the 6th grade and carries through to senior year of high school.
I don’t expect parents to understand the underlying issues happening in our schools. To be quite honest, 90% of educators don’t truly get it either. I have been a K12 insider for more than 20 years and it surprises me the number of teachers who legitimately have no idea what a 19th century curriculum is, as opposed to a 21st century curriculum.
But here’s the research you need to know.
In 2020, Georgetown University published a groundbreaking report about the entire US Economy. You didn’t hear about it because not one media news outlet reported on the report. I could claim some grand conspiracy, but to be quite honest — I think it just went over their heads.
And it’s hard to report on a research report, filled with data and scientific research, when you don’t understand what the data is actually saying.
That’s why you need education nerds like me to explain these really arcane and obtuse reports and data to you. I can translate these complex reports into plain English, so you can learn the data and use it for you and your kids benefit.
(A little plug to Follow This Account)
One of the many findings in the Georgetown report was evidence that proved there are Five Essential 21st Century Skills that every American needs to learn.
To be clear, the report was not written to TELL K12 schools what to teach. The report simply found scientific evidence that proved every American must know these five skills or else they will probably struggle greatly in our economy.
As an educator, I was very excited to see this data and evidence. In 2011, nine years before this report came out, I was one of the first superintendents in the country to implement a 21st century skills curriculum in my high school program.
Finally having the scientific proof to prove that my decision was correct made me feel vindicated. And here’s why and why parents should be worried.
The educator community hates change. They hate change so much they will dig their heels so deep into the mud that not even a semi-truck could pull them out.
That’s the invisible force. Stubbornness.
What parents need to know is that your middle and high school is standing still, while the entire world is passing them by. They are not moving backwards, they are literally PLANTED into the ground and will not budge one inch forward.
The Georgetown report is a prime example of this stubbornness and unwillingness to change. Those report findings came out in 2020. I started my social media channels around September 2020. I have been tweeting, writing and posting about the Five Essential Skills for nearly two years.
Nearly 10,000 educators have seen my articles and posts. No one cares. No one has moved one inch out of their hole.
Here’s what you need to know. When you look at the assignments, textbooks and work your kids are doing in grades 6–12, have you been asking why does this look irrelevant and pointless?
The reason is because our K12 system was duped and bamboozled by federal law. I don’t want to get into the weeds here, but basically in 2002, the federal government passed a law “No Child Left Behind” which created two things, the common core standards and the standardized testing to measure those standards.
Here’s what you need to know about the law and the aftermath. First, the NAEP data which you read earlier is PROOF our elementary schools are on point. They did their job. Game, set, match! You can argue against common core and standardized tests all you want, but the data shows our kids have learned the common core standards and the tests prove it.
Here’s the problem. And maybe you can already see where I’m going. If 5th graders have learned the common core standards — then why are middle and high schoolers still being taught common core standards?
Remember, your middle and high schools are standing still while the rest of the world is passing them by. This is actual evidence and proof your middle and high schools is purposefully refusing to move into the present tense.
But before I dive into this argument. Will you please CELEBRATE the fact that America’s elementary students are learning. Would you please CELEBRATE our elementary teachers and principals. For once, I’m giving people good news and no one is CELEBRATING!!
Be happy. Elementary schools did their jobs. I’ve been championing elementary teachers for over a decade, but no one seems to be hearing me. But you see the data. Start cheering!!
Why Won’t Middle and High Schools Get Out of the Hole?
As I’ve already stated, the invisible force that prevents change is stubbornness. It’s not data, it’s not evidence, it’s not weak or strong leadership. It’s merely stubbornness.
Here’s what parents need to wrap their heads around. “No Child Left Behind” created the common core standards. And every leading educational expert in the country agrees that the common core standards teach three basic skills; reading, writing and math.
The world’s leading curriculum expert, Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs has said numerous time these three skills are part of what the educational community call “the traditional 19th century curriculum.” These are the same three skills the public school system was created to teach back in the late 1870s.
No one refutes these facts. You can argue against common core and standardized tests all you want — but again the data proves 5th graders have already passed the common core standards. Game over, right?
Wrong! Even though the NAEP data shows 5th graders know how to read, write and do math, the K12 system stubbornly refuses to teach our middle and high school students anything new.
That’s why middle and high school kids are still learning common core standards. There’s no other reason.
It’s time to move on.
And this is where the entire K12 system will push back. This is where educators dig in their heels and say “NO! I Refuse to Change!” Can you see the stubbornness now?
But you read the NAEP data. You know 5th graders passed the common core. Forcing them to continue to learn the same three skills in middle and high school is plain ridiculous.
Can you start to understand why our middle and high school students are stressed out at school, don’t want to go to school anymore, are refusing to do work, and defying teachers left and right? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that they are being forced to learn the three skills they already know.
Kids want to learn. But they want to learn NEW things. Not old skills, they already know. It shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to explain that to educators?
I know you get it. You’re smart. You know your kids. You know they aren’t bad. You know your kid wouldn’t purposefully defy a teacher, unless something was going on inside that classroom.
If you were trying to figure out why your kid isn’t acting the same way anymore, it’s because they go to school everyday and are academically tortured to death. Dare I say it, it’s academic gaslighting.
Can Parents Do Anything About It?
I get asked by parents all the time. “What can I do? I’m not a teacher. I’m not on the school board. I have no power.”
Do you feel this way, too?
One of the reasons I’ve been writing articles for the last two years and posting on Twitter and Instagram is to try and share the knowledge, expertise and facts that you need to know — so you CAN do something about it.
But I get it. You feel powerless.
And you are to a certain extent. And here’s why. The K12 system is designed to take away your power. It’s designed to disenfranchise everyone. If you think you’re powerless as a parent, do you have any idea how powerless teachers feel? Teachers say the same thing as parents, “I’m not the principal. I have no power.”
What’s happening right now is that all the powerless people are pointing fingers at the other powerless people and blaming them for not doing anything. Except everyone is powerless. No one knows what to do.
Have you ever asked this question, “But, what can I do??”
There is a real vacuum of leadership in education. So I’m going to fill that void. The hallmark of a good leader is their ability to empower others and that’s what I’m going to do with this article. I am going to empower you and every single parent that reads this article to find their power again.
Here we go!
If you are going to attend a school board meeting there are some things you need to know first.
- Your school board members are not bad people.
- Your school board members LOVE to vote on measures
- Your school board members are NOT EXPERTS in education
So when you attend the next school board meeting, keep those three tidbits in mind. If you yell and scream at your school board, they have NO idea how to solve your problem. You can get angry and mad, but again, they cannot solve your problem.
Remember, I’m here to empower you. So listen. This is important.
All you need your school board to do is VOTE for change. You can even suggest a measure they vote on. Here’s the language:
“I propose before the board and ask for you to vote on this measure. Will you vote to improve the quality of education in our district? Yay or nay?”
School board members LOVE to vote! That’s something they can vote on.
That’s step one in your empowerment.
Next, please stop arguing and yelling at teachers and principals and school board members.
It’s getting you nowhere. And it’s just making you more upset.
This article is about empowerment, not anger. If you really want better schools and change, then you need to buckle down and stop getting hot under the collar.
This is real life we are talking about here. This is your kids futures. I’m not playing games. You need to understand that the people you are yelling at don’t know how to fix your problems.
Let me repeat that. Your teachers and principals do not know as much as you HOPE they know. Which means, when you argue with them — they have ZERO solutions for you. Isn’t that why you’re angry in the first place?
You can’t yell at a 4-year old for acting like a 4–year old. What do you expect? The only crazy person in the room is the adult yelling at the 4-year old. Stop acting crazy!
I know teachers get insulted when I compare them to 4-year olds, but get over yourself. You’re acting like a stubborn 4-year old when you can’t admit the truth. The NAEP data shows kids learned the common core by the 5th grade, so what are middle and high schools doing? Come on now!! Don’t play a player.
The Social Justice Example
Let me break down the problem into a real world example. Over the last five years, most high schools in America have tried to create what is known as “social justice curriculum.”
Sounds like a good idea. Social justice stands for freedom. Social justice stands for equality. Social justice stands for the 1st Amendment. All great things.
Here’s the problem in reality. That social justice curriculum your high school is teaching — is based on common core standards. WHAT!! NO WAY!!
Yes way. That means, high school students are NOT learning what you want them to learn. They are NOT learning what you HOPE they will learn. All they are doing is reading and writing. You might as well call it a reading and writing course. Because it’s not teaching social justice.
At this point, you know all the facts, data and evidence you need to know to make change. This “pretend” social justice curriculum wants to be more than it is.
But you want to teach social justice. So here’s how a 21st century high school teaches social justice and tell me if this sounds better to you?
21st Century Research and Skills
The 2020 Georgetown Report, which you read about earlier proved there are five essential skills for the 21st century. Those skills are; leadership, team building, problem solving, sales and communications.
If you want to teach social justice the right way in a modern 21st century high school, you must first teach kids about leadership skills. Social justice cannot occur unless kids learn how to be leaders. I am an expert leader. I am leading a social justice movement to fix our K12 schools.
The only way for change to happen is if I can empower parents to make change happen. If I don’t learn how to empower others, how can I be a leader. When all you teach is reading, writing and math — it neglects teaching real leadership skills. Kids don’t learn how to be leaders by reading about it. They learn leadership skills by actually learning leadership skills.
For anyone that is curious what an introductory leadership course would look like, you can go to my website Leaf Academy and take the Beginner Leadership Course. Its 100% FREE right now on the Leaf Academy website. (link in bio)
But the curriculum those high schools are using is limited to reading and writing. Those students are not learning how to build teams, solve real world problems or communicate their ideas to others. It’s simply a summary class in social justice history. “Today kids, we will read about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and write a research report.”
Is that real social justice education? Not even close.
The Plan to Move Your District Forward
I hope you feel more empowered now.
But you want to get your district to move forward? How do you do that?
You may think you know the problems with standing still, but let me list a few of the real world problems caused by district stubbornness:
- Teacher Pay Issues
- Teacher Working Conditions
- Student Anxiety
- Unsafe Schools
- Low Student Engagement
- Increased Inappropriate Student Behavior
- Teacher Turnover
- Toxic School Cultures
- Toxic School Classrooms
Are these new problems? Not at all. All of these problems have been around for half a century, if not more. But the wheels on the bus are falling off because we live in 2022. And our system is stuck in 1985. And it won’t move!
There’s that invisible force again — STUBBORNNESS!
But you feel inspired and empowered to fix your schools. I want you to feel empowered, so here’s the plan to move forward.
Step One: Organize
It might seem obvious, but if parents try and approach the system by yourself, the system will crush you. It hates change, I‘ve already shown evidence of that fact. Thus the only way to approach the system is in a LARGE GROUP!
Please share this article, so other parents CAN EMPOWER themselves too.
Step Two: The Arguments and Counter-Arguments
You are not the first group of parents that have tried to fix the school system. And if you don’t follow my advice, you won’t be the last either. Generations of parents have been fed up and angry at our schools, but the system is designed to REJECT change at all costs. The only way you can beat the system is by playing the game AGAINST the system.
And that’s what I want to show you. Here’s how to beat the system at its own game.
The first problem is getting the system to admit reality.
Right now you know more than most teachers, principals and school board members. I know it’s sad to hear, but you’re on a mission to fix your school. Hear what I’m saying, so you can use it to your advantage.
The people inside your district need to know the student data. They need you to share with them the NAEP data that shows 5th graders PASSED the common core. You can even ask for the 5th grade test score data from your own district to PROVE your elementary schools did a good job.
It’s important your district admits 5th graders passed the common core, because the next part is going to be really difficult.
Everyone inside your district is going to HOLD STEADY on the idea that the common core standards covers grades K through 12th grade. Getting them to budge from their hole is going to be difficult, but it’s critical to making positive change.
What they need to understand and agree to is that the common core standards only teach three basic skills; reading, writing and math. That’s it. If they can admit and agree the common core standards only teach three skills, then you have a shot at making the next argument.
But this will be VERY difficult. They won’t want to admit this to you.
If you need to, you can show them this Reading Standard from the 12th grade:
Analyze a case in which grasping a point of view requires distinguishing what is directly stated in a text from what is really meant (e.g., satire, sarcasm, irony, or understatement).
This is a 12th grade standard.
It teaches kids in the 12th grade how to read. But the NAEP data already proved 5th graders know how to read.
Why do 12th graders need to learn how to read MORE?
If they push back, you can ask them honestly, are you saying that a 5th grader cannot analyze a case in which grasping a point of view requires distinguishing what is directly stated in a text from what is really meant?
Because the answer, honestly is YES THEY CAN! And the NAEP data proves they can.
If you can get them to at least admit the common core only teaches three basic skills, then you have a chance of making the 3rd argument
If by some miracle your district admits argument #2 is accurate, you need to ask them “why don’t we start teaching middle and high school kids something new?”
They may push back and say that they are legally mandated to follow common core, and you can look them dead in the eye and say “that’s not what the law says. It says students are supposed to pass the common core. Our students happen to passed common core by the 5th grade.”
Because that’s what the law says.
If you can get to this point — you are going to win this whole argument.
So fight really HARD to get to this point.
This is the easiest argument to make. You’ve already overcame the biggest hurdle so far. If your district admits the common core only teaches three basic skills and the NAEP data proves 5th graders passed the common core, and that your middle and high schools should be teaching NEW skills.
That’s when you introduce the evidence from the 2020 Georgetown Report, “Workplace Basics.”
The question will be “What should middle and high schools teach kids?”
And the Georgetown respot gives your district that answer. The evidence proves kids need to learn five essential 21st century skills and those skills are: leadership, team building, problem solving, sales and communications.
If middle and high school students learn those five essential 21st century skills they will be more prepared for college and careers.
And you can teach any high school course you want under the 21st century umbrella. You can teach social justice, you can teach American History, you can teach science and math. You can even teach Shakespeare. But the underlying learning objectives can no longer be reading, writing and math.
The five essential 21st century skills will give kids the ability to make enough money, live without debt, and afford a home. Being stubborn and refusing to change is the reason the American Dream is dead.
You can take a look at the Beginner Leadership Course and see for yourself. When kids learn the 6 Objectives of Leadership, it empowers them to pursue their dreams. And isn’t that what we should all want to do??
If you make it this far — and I have faith in you. I know you won’t give up and you will fight with every last breath to ensure your kid gets the education they deserve.
But the counter-arguments aren’t over. I told you — that invisible force is strong. The stubbornness NEVER ENDS!
It will be annoying. I know, I’m warning you ahead of time. But whoever you’re talking to just wants an excuse to escape back into their hole. If they can avoid changing and avoid MOVING FORWARD — they will take that opportunity.
So I want you to block them from running away. (metaphorically speaking)
Here’s what the stubborn person will say to you, “but how do we do that?”
They will use the “but” because they DON’T want to do anything. And it will be annoying and maybe even trigger you — but keep your cool. You already won 4 arguments. You are on a roll.
Here’s what you can say:
“I know you must have questions. The last thing you want to do is make a mistake. Which is why you should listen to a real educational expert and not just me. I’m a parent and I love my kid. You are an educator and you love your students. But if you love your students, don’t you OWE it to them to talk to a REAL EXPERT in education first before ASSUMING nothing will work. And if you don’t have any ideas or solutions — wouldn’t it be smart to talk to a real expert that has solutions and has solved school problems like these before?”
If you’re on argument #6, you are a POWER PLAYER! Seriously, well done.
Trying to move an educator out of their hole, when they use their whole body and mind to HIDE — is not easy. But you won the battle. Congratulations!!
You should feel proud of yourself, to be quite honest. You deserve it.
But there’s one more hurdle to jump over. Yes, it’s the last hoop the K12 system has set up to trip up people like you who have won the battle. It’s a dirty little trick the K12 system plays after they lose arguments. It’s petty, childish and immature. Welcome to what I’ve dealt with for over 20 years.
But here’s how you jump through this last hoop.
If you won argument 1 through 5, your district has admitted that common core only teaches 3 skills and that your district should start teaching 21st century skills. They even admitted that they don’t have all the answers and they agree to talk to a real expert. And that’s when they say to you, “thank you for your comments.”
They think the conversation is over, but you have one more ACE up your sleeve.
Your district will do ANYTHING to prevent change from happening. But they cannot escape a group of parents who demand they listen to an expert. Which is why you need to force your district to go to my website: Leaf Academy and contact me. They need to read these articles. They need to watch the Live Podcasts on Instagram.
I am hosting a zoom presentation for parents in Ohio this week on safe classrooms. I do parent group zoom calls all the time. You need to force your district to AGREE to set up a zoom presentation with me, in which I can walk them through the steps to fix their schools.
Where to Find Me:
On Instagram and Twitter : @theschooldoc
Every Tuesday, I broadcast a LIVE Podcast on IG, called “Tuesdays with Schwartz,” 5pm EST /2PM PST.
There’s this account on Medium.
And there’s is the website — Leaf Academy. (Link in bio)
I just posted on the IG account, 10 Facts About the K12 System
You did it.
You just won six arguments with a district, an educator, or a principal.
How do you feel? I hope you feel powerful because you are!
That’s some major power play you just pulled.
That’s the power of real leadership.
Teachers have been criticizing me on Twitter, saying “we don’t need a savior.” And I agree. I’m not a savior. I’m a leader and there’s a huge difference.
Real leaders listen to other people. Real leaders empower other people. And real leaders make positive change happen. If you follow me, you’re not saying “I need this person to save me.”
If you follow me, you are saying, “I like these ideas and I want to implement these ideas in my local community.”
Agreeing with someone else does not take away your power. And if that’s what’s been happening in your life — you need to walk away from those people. Those are not real leaders. Those are parasites.
I commend and applaud you for trying to make the six arguments. Even if you fail — just speaking truth to power is a beautiful thing. Don’t give up. If you fail the first time, just find more parents to back you up the next time. Change happens when you apply pressure over time. So keep applying pressure. And don’t stop until you can push your district and educators out of their HOLE!!
But you’re going to need to know my credentials to make the case.
So here they are:
I have over 20 years experience inside the K12 system. I started my career as a teacher and understand all of the struggles and stresses a teachers goes through because I lived them myself. I have a Masters Degree in Educational Leadership and have been a school administrator and leader since 2007. I was recognized by the NJ Legislature in 2017 as an expert in the field of education because I cracked the K12 mystery code and solved three major underlying problems.
Here are the problems I solved:
- Low Student Achievement
- Poor Teacher Performance in Class
- Ineffective School Leaders
I have been conducting research and doing field study since 2009. In 2013, I founded an education think tank called Education Development Institute and from 2013–2020 I ran workshops, seminars and development programs in schools across Northern NJ. All told, nearly 5,000 educators have benefitted from one of my programs. (I did all of this pro-bono and outside of my normal day job, which was principal and superintendent)
As I have stated, I was one of the first superintendents to implement a 21st century skills curriculum in my high school. In 2009, I developed the most effective teacher training program in the country, called the Teacher Development Program and I also helped hundreds of Principals and Vice-Principals understand their role in the school and learn how to be more effective leaders through another program I started called “The Principal’s Academy.”
The summertime is the time for change. It’s the time when districts have to get their ducks in a row and have to implement new programs for the Fall. If your district is facing a teacher shortage — you are already in a crisis situation. You have zero time to wait or waste.
I’ve tried to talk to teachers to make change inside your K12 school, but teachers are so afraid of their own shadow — they are all hiding in a corner hoping no one notices them.
Change is up to parents and school boards at this point.
If you are concerned about how teachers will feel. I can tell you, all 5,000 educators that participated in seminars and the Teacher Development Program were thankful someone found me and brought me to their school.
If you want better outcomes, higher student achievement, safer schools, end the toxic culture of education and prepare your kids for college and careers, then I hope you will let me speak with your community.
I just want to answer questions. I just want to get the right information out there so smart people like you can make good decisions. How can you make any decisions, when you aren’t even given the facts.
Thank you for reading and giving me your time (this is a shameless plug to hit the follow button) If you liked this story and found it valuable, please share it with people you know. Good luck in September, hopefully I’ll be speaking with you before then.
About the Author:
D.Scott Schwartz, M.Ed. is the CEO and Founder of Leaf Academy as well as an education think tank. He writes articles for Medium, and makes posts on social media providing data, facts and evidence to the general public. He hosts a weekly LIVE podcast on Instagram called “Tuesdays with Schwartz.” For more information go to the Leaf Academy website (link in bio.)