There’s no doubt that we are all facing challenges beyond what we signed up for as the repercussions of the Covid experience continues beyond the tenth month.  The impact causes us all to rethink “normal” and recalibrate our lives.  Some experience this transformative process as follows: “Change creates a growth mindset.”   Then again, there are others who see it as follows: “This too shall pass.”  And of course, most of us are somewhere in between.  Whether one sees the current conditions from a learning opportunity or a temporary hiccup leading back toward normalcy; its effect on education and our K-12 students has been significant.

However, I will to try to articulate a vision of public schools beyond Covid: As a means to inspire transformation of a system that has been calling out for true reform for so many years.  Personally, every cell in my body and soul is invested in the belief that we are currently in a transition, which transcends Covid, and it’s imperative that we take this opportunity to transform public education through our creativity and collective wisdom. So I will get to the point for those who are uncertain you are willing to spend time with this piece:

  1. The traditional public school model, often described as a “one size fits all model”, continues to fail a vast number of K-12 students and we see this in graduation rates, drop-out rates, social emotional assessments, and the impact of school on the future prospects of K-12 graduates.  From my lens, there’s very little reason to return to “normal”.
  2. Also, we are in the midst of a social cultural transformation where diversity, equity, inclusion, and personal expression & promise are surfacing in contrast to compliance, binary models of exclusion, racism, and uniformity.  As a result, I am strongly recommending the philosophy and practices behind Universal Design for Learning [UDL] for it serves as a guiding light for educators everywhere to follow to truly reach a diverse number of students.  
  3. Specifically, instead of unconsciously supporting the corporate influences and their economic agenda upon the public school system, I see us coming upon a major shift within the general context of public education: Where a child-centered approach to learning and a transparent approach to parental choice creates a new systemic set of options for all students rather than the privileged few.   

I believe it’s time for us to break through a “back to normal” perspective: We are called upon to rethink our vision for schools, and approach learning through the remarkable promise each student presents; it’s so much more than “meeting standard”.  This shift highlights a meaning-centered approach to instruction requiring a child-centered methodology to learning; which is a value system projected throughout UDL.  

I do not believe I stand alone with these insights: So let’s be honest with ourselves, the current educational system reflects the following values:

  1. At the school and district levels; education represents an employee-centered system with power, control, and decision making guided by the employees, as parents and community stand by the wayside as spectators rather than empowered stakeholders.  In most states, most local educational decisions are established through the relationship between the labor unions and the board of directors.
    1. At the state and federal levels, the business of education represents a corporate agenda highlighting a common core, standards, and political posturing as follows: “… [standards] were drafted by experts and teachers from across the country and are designed to ensure students are prepared for today’s entry-level careers, freshman-level college courses, and workforce training programs.” 

Structurally, there is nothing “child-centered” within the traditional model; though most teachers hold their students dear within their hearts.  The system reflects a formulaic one-size fits all platform and is guided by the notion that every student is an empty vessel waiting to be filled-up with skills preparing them for “the future” [employment].   How well is this working for your kids? 

Honestly, when I look around, I see a number of young people who are:

  • Disengaged or disconnected from their jobs, [if they are employed],
  • Feel a sense of entitlement rather than project a deep seeded work-ethic and …
  • Express anger and hostility toward society, the economic system, and the American Dream [whatever that means]; and project a diminished belief in their future.

More to follow in upcoming blog articles …