An Educational Revolution vs. Going Back to Normal

Could it be time for an educational revolution? As we look to the 2021-2022 school year, there is a lot of talk of “going back to normal.” I understand the desire to not wear masks, to forget worrying about the health of your loved ones, and to never use the word quarantine again. But as we talked about in the previous blog, is what we were doing worth returning to? Was the experience that our students were getting at school so fabulous that we can’t wait to go back to it? I don’t think so.

This is the perfect time for an educational revolution.

When you think of a revolution, they usually have some type of crisis involved. Most of the time, there is an oppressive enemy that has affected the lives of the common man to the place that they can’t take it anymore. They then become open to a major change. As we move forward post-Covid 19, there are several very important factors that are coming together to help fuel this educational revolution.

1. Declining Enrollment

This scene has played out in most states, including states that have never experienced this type of decline. In Colorado (where I live), the statewide K-12 enrollment was down almost 30,000 students. This is the first decline in over 30 years. Nationally, that number has been estimated to be between 500,000-1,000,000 students. Where did these students go? With many states tying funding to the students, this is an even more important question for districts and budgets. 

2. Digital Tools

Teachers and kids are far more comfortable with digital tools than they were a year ago. I admit it, before March 2020 I had never used Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Now, they are just part of how I do business on a daily basis. The idea of a digital workflow of passing assignments back and forth, student to student, and student to teacher is second nature. Much of the electronic infrastructure is in place to move forward in different ways than the pencil/paper approach that has dominated for centuries.

3. Flexibility

We have seen rigid systems become flexible, so we know it can be done. College Board allowed AP tests to happen from home. The NCAA waived some of the outdated policy for school entrance criteria. Many districts made adjustments to attendance and seat time restrictions that have little to do with learning. It is going to be very hard to put that cat back in the bag.

4. Teacher Fatigue and Burnout

There is a major crisis looming on the horizon in America. We have a large number of teachers and other professional educators leaving the profession. Some of this is due to retirement or natural attrition, but some of it is attributable to the difficulty and challenge of being a teacher in modern society.  A recent survey in the state of Colorado revealed that as many as 40% of current teachers have/are seriously considering leaving the profession after this year. 

You can argue about pay, benefits, challenging parents, and other factors. Much of that may be true. But I also think part of the issue is that the work teachers are doing is not engaging. They don’t feel a sense of purpose. Maybe even they feel like they are part of a factory machine, not inspiring student learning like they anticipated when they entered the profession.  

What is possible for the future of education?

How can we create an environment that inspires both students and staff? How can we take what we have learned over the last year and a half to build a better school model? The School Redesign series will continue to address these aspects of an educational revolution.

By Nathan Gorsch | July 5, 2021, 12:08 PM PT

Up Next: How Did We Get Here? – Coming soon!

Meet the Writer

Nathan Gorsch is the Principal of Village High School in Colorado’s Academy 20 School District. There, he supervises the online high school program for over 400 students in both primary and supplemental online/blended enrollments. His role encompasses curriculum selection/development, teacher evaluations, student scheduling, marketing, and enrollment.

His degrees include a Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction from Colorado Christian University, a Bachelor of Science from Illinois State University, and a Certificate in Education Administration from the University of Denver.

Currently, Nathan also serves on the AASA Personalized Learning Cohort, the ASD20 Envisioned Future Taskforce and the Academy School District 20 Research and Design Team. He develops strategic plans and shares learned best practices for e-learning and improves personalized learning implementations across the United States.