Would You Pay $20 to Fix America’s School System?
Everything You Need to Know About Improving Your Local District
Did you know that high school students that graduated from my K12 district could compete with Ivy League MBA students?
Would you like your high school graduates to do the same?
If you want to find out how you can upgrade your school district’s quality to this high level, then make sure to read this entire article. And if you want to learn the foundation of leadership skills, there will be a FREE bonus for you at the end of this article.
One Epic Failure
We have all read the headlines and heard the stories. America’s school system is broken, it’s failing, and it’s just not working anymore. Despite everyone being on the same page, one thing is also true — No one can fix the school system.
That’s right, for the last 70 years, America’s experts, the so-called best and brightest have tried and failed to reform our educational system. That’s what I call one epic failure.
I don’t mean to be sarcastic, but the truth is Ivy League Ph.D.s have tried their best to fix our simple school system and have failed over and over again for the last seven decades.
Here’s a news flash, if you want to call yourself the “best and the brightest,” then you need to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.
What’s a High Quality Education Worth To You?
This is a very important question in the 21st century. And the reason it’s so important is because tuition for higher education costs more than a home in America.
If you want to go to Harvard University undergrad, you will be asked to fork over approximately $200,000 for the privilege.
Although the media doesn’t seem to have a problem with that expensive price tag, most American families do. In fact, most families might consider choosing between making a down payment on a house or paying for college an extreme choice to make. And they would be correct.
And that’s the worst negative consequence of not having a higher quality K12 school system. What is a high school graduate supposed to do in America? If they decide to not go to college, they better be the greatest salesperson in the history of sales, otherwise the median salary of a high school graduate is only $39,000 a year. (Data according to the US Department of Labor.)
So when I propose fixing your school for $20, you might think this is a ruse or some kind of marketing trick. But I assure you that I’m for real and it would only cost your school district about $20 per student to have the best 21st century education in the world.
The 21st Century Dilemma
People ask me all the time, “how did we get here?”
By here, I assume they mean, “why hasn’t anyone fixed the problem? Why haven’t our educational leaders fixed our schools?”
And the real answer has to do with who is in charge and the trust young people have in those leaders. The truth is that our country is between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, we know we need significant upgrades to our educational system, but on the other hand no one wants to “ACTUALLY” fix anything.
People ask me all the time, “but why doesn’t anyone want to fix the problem? Can’t they see the negative consequences it causes?”
And the answer is yes, everyone is well aware that our school system is old and outdated and that the outcomes are devastating for America and our society.
So what’s the roadblock?
You read that correctly. Old people are holding America back. Old people are stopping change from happening in our schools. When I say old people, I’m referring to anyone over the age of 40 years old.
You might be asking yourself this question, “why would an older person not want to provide a better quality education to the next generation?”
This is where the answer gets very confusing, so let me break it down for you.
It’s Hard to Let Go
Old people love the old school system. They love the old school system so much that they just can’t let it go. Old people know our schools are old, but that’s why they love them even more. Old people want to feel nostalgic about everything.
And the last thing they want to do is see their old school become modernized. Maybe it reminds them of how little time they have left on earth, but for whatever reason, they just won’t let go.
Here’s the best advice I can give to an older person. “I know you love the old system. I know you don’t want to see it go, but even “Old Yeller” had to be put down at the end of the movie. It’s time to let go. It’s time to allow 21st century kids to learn 21st century skills. The old school system helped you be successful in the 20th century. Don’t you want to give students today the same opportunity to be successful in the 21st century?”
Did you know that students sitting in classrooms today across America are learning the same five courses students were learning 100 years ago in 1920?
It’s time to let go!
Field Testing Solutions
The main reason Ivy League experts always fail when they attempt to fix schools is because they never field test their theories. That’s because they research and develop these half-baked ideas in a quiet office, locked away in an ivory tower.
The minute they try and implement these new ideas, they fall apart under real world conditions and the stress of the classroom.
That’s not how I approached fixing and modernizing a school. I wasn’t in a quiet office somewhere or detached from the classroom. I was inside the K12 system, working side by side with teachers and teaching assistants.
All three of my solutions have undergone rigorous field testing and been stress tested by the most intense conditions in the classroom. This rigorous field testing took place over a 10 year period, which means everyone in education knows they work.
In fact, my three solutions work so well, that’s why the Superintendent and Director of Special Education from the Newark Public Schools wanted to sit down with me on four separate occasions to pick my brain.
Solutions, Solutions, Solutions…
Do you remember the first question in this article? “Did you know that high school students that graduated from my K12 district could compete with Ivy League MBA students?”
The reason why my high school students could stand toe-to-toe with Ivy League MBA students is because they were learning the same five skills being taught in those business schools. That’s right, my high school students were being exposed to the same five essential 21st century skills as Ivy League business school students.
They were being taught these skills because I became one of the first superintendents in the country to adopt a 21st century skills curriculum. If you’re not familiar with 21st century skills, you’re not alone. I first adopted the curriculum in 2011 and since then, unfortunately, not a lot of school districts followed my lead. The main reason they didn’t follow my lead was because of old people.
Remember why old people don’t like change? Do you remember that they love the old system and don’t want it to change-EVER!! It didn’t matter to these old people that my students were standing toe-to-toe with MBA students. It didn’t matter to them that my students were being more successful than their students. None of that real world evidence mattered to them. What I kept hearing over and over again is, “show me the data!”
The problem was back in 2011, there was no data to show them. I was one of the first superintendents to adopt this new 21st century skills curriculum, no one else was even researching 21st century skills at the time. Thus the old people won — they dismissed the curriculum and you and your kids suffered.
But it’s not 2011 anymore. And now there is data and evidence to prove the 21st century skills curriculum I adopted in 2011 not only works, but should be what your district should be teaching your high school students.
In fact, even old people can’t dismiss the data and evidence found by researchers at Georgetown University. That’s right, Georgetown researchers did a comprehensive study of the entire US Labor market and found that the five skills found in my 21st century skills curriculum are the five most valuable skills in the 21st century.
But I knew they were valuable, even without the data. I could see it with own two eyes. When one of my students became an entrepreneur at the age of 23 with only a high school diploma and an auto-mechanic certificate, I knew the curriculum was making opportunities happen for my students.
Here’s a question I want you to think about: “Is the reason most high school students seem lost because that’s how teenagers act or do they seem lost because they are not learning the 21st century skills they need to compete in the 21st century?”
As you think about that question, let me explain what you can do to help modernize your local school.
Overcoming a Negative Mindset
The most frustrating part about being a disrupter in the education space is talking with people who agree with you and then they do nothing to implement the change.
But I understand why.
There are two segments of people in our country. The first segment are the older people, and the second segment are people under 40 years of age. The single biggest difference between these two segments is their mindset.
People over 40 years of age have a negative mindset. Whereas people under 40 are more optimistic and hopeful for the future. The best example of these two mindsets can be found in our politics. Anyone over the age of 40 hates everyone and everything. They don’t care if you have a good idea or not, they just want to complain about everything.
And then there are the people under 40, who sit back and watch old people get nasty and rude and lose their mind over nothing.
And it leaves people under 40 with one thought, “is anything ever good enough for these old people?”
I’m not sure if you are aware, but the total number of people living in America under the age of 40 is actually greater than the total number of people who are over the age of 40?
If you are under 40 years of age, “Why haven’t you taken charge yet of this country?”
If you really want better quality schools, then you need to ignore the negativity. You need to listen politely to old people and then do the right thing.
Old people do not care about the future. The fact is that you are the one that will be alive 40 years from now. The fact is that your children are the ones suffering in an old school system. Stop waiting for old people to fix the problem, it’s your time to make a difference.
Roadmap to Success
I am no stranger to modernizing schools. I first became an administrator in 2007, by 2009 I had implemented the first solution. By 2011, I had implemented the second solution and by 2013, I had completely modernized my K12 district.
Whether you are in a wealthy suburban district or a low-income urban district, these three solutions work and work really well. If they didn’t why did the district leaders of one of the largest and underperforming school districts in America want to sit down with me?
If you want the best 21st century education in the world, then you need to follow the full roadmap I have outlined, which will modernize all 84,000 schools in America.
Are you ready to see the roadmap?
The 21st century roadmap includes three winning strategies:
- Teach 21st century students 21st century skills
- Help support teacher professional growth
- Show administrators how to be 21st century leaders
You already know about solution number one. In 2011, I became one of the first superintendents in the country to adopt a 21st century skills curriculum. This was the curriculum that taught my high school graduates how to compete with MBA students.
But let me tell you about the two other solutions. First is the Teacher Development Program, which I started in 2009. This became the most successful and popular teacher prep/training program. The purpose of the program was to help teachers, regardless of years of experience, become experts in the classroom in two school years.
This program was so effective at helping teachers become expert teachers that K12 districts within a 50 mile radius of my district tried to steal teachers who graduated from the program. In fact, one district offered the best teacher I ever observed, $100,000 to go work for them.
The program was also so impressive that the State of NJ changed its teacher certification requirements from a 1-year program to a 2-year formal mentor program in 2014 to encourage other districts to follow my model.
But that’s still only two of the three winning strategies. The third program I created was called the Principal’s Academy. I started this around 2013 and it was designed to help school administrators become 21st century leaders.
One, two, three, problems solved.
Making a Difference in Your Community
If you’re reading this article and saying to yourself, “yes, yes, yes I want all three solutions in my school! What can I do?”
I want to give you good news.
There are two ways to modernize your school into a 21st century learning environment. The first way is to get the principal of your local school to agree to speak with me. There is not a principal in America who doesn’t want to implement all three of these strategies tomorrow. Especially when they learn that one of the biggest benefits of the Principals’ Academy is learning how to work less hours per week.
The second way is to get your district superintendent to talk to me. This is a harder sell, to be honest. Most superintendents in America are old people. And like I said before, old people love the old system. I could show them evidence that 21st century skills could help their high school graduates earn $100,000 a year, and they will still tell me about the “glory days” of the old high school.
But I don’t want to give you marching orders. The reality is that Millennials and Gen Z didn’t learn the five essential skills either. And you need these 21st century skills just as much as K12 students do.
That’s why I have a FREE bonus for you. In order to receive the bonus, you will need to follow the link below and register for a FREE Webinar that I created and hosted. It’s called “What You Don’t Know About Leadership?”
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I hope you learned a lot about how to modernize your school and what you can do to make a difference in your community. Please follow my account if you like this type of content because I’m trying to get to 100 followers. And please share this article so that the momentum keeps moving forward and we can finally fix our school system once and for all.
About the Author:
D.Scott Schwartz, M.Ed. is better known as “The School Doc” on social media. In 2017, he was recognized by the #1 ranked state for education. He is a 21st century skills expert, including Leadership, Sales and Communications. He provides consulting help to businesses and schools on a limited basis. He also writes freelance and on Medium. If you want more info, you can learn more at Leaf Academy (find the url link in bio.)