Adapting and Thriving in the New Normal

A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform is a seminal report. Considered a landmark event in modern American educational history, it was published in 1983 by the U.S. National Commission on Excellence in Education. More than three decades later, the overarching question remains: have we improved educational opportunities for all students?

It Just Isn’t Working: PISA Test Scores Cast Doubt on U.S. Education Efforts was recently published in the New York Times. Dan Goldstein asserted that despite billions of dollars in spending, two-thirds of American students are not proficient in reading. This illustrates the need for a different, more comprehensive and effective approach to help all children succeed.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been described as a pandemic layered atop several epidemics. This includes structural economic racism and a lack of adequate educational opportunities at school and in the home.  As a result, we must reexamine and reinvent our schools with an emphasis on preventing problems with practical programs.

“It’s easier to build strong children than repair broken men,” said Frederick Douglas, activist and author.  We can no longer accept, or consider it “normal”  that our educational system isn’t adequately meeting the current needs of our children. If we don’t take immediate action, there will be tragic results in the future.  This begins with early interventions to make learning more adaptive, engaging and relevant. Addressing the social and emotional needs of all students is the first step. If we are to adapt, what must be done to engage students in relevant ways for everyone to thrive?

The New Normal for Education

By the time today’s elementary school children graduate with The Class of 2030, they will be living in a vastly different world. The challenges of the next decade will be unprecedented. As a result, sweeping changes are required to mitigate the foreseeable problems of the new frontier.  

First and foremost, we must build an “Education to Employment” system that actually works.  There is much evidence the current system has failed the majority of students (the ones motivated to either stay in school or seek training to improve their skills). It’s also clearly not working for those who have dropped out (no longer engaged with the system and are not motivated to improve their skills).     

Do you remember being asked in High School: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  Today, that’s no longer a fair or valid question because of future technological advances that will significantly disrupt the workforce.  For example, it is predicted that automation will replace up to fifty percent of existing jobs in the U.S. alone. 

Occupations associated with lower education attainment levels will decline by up to 11.5 million jobs in the U.S. by 2030.  Concurrently, the fastest growing occupations will require higher-level cognitive skills in areas such as problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity. Additionally, thirty to forty percent of jobs will require explicit social-emotional skills.  

Social-emotional skills are already in high demand, but in short supply, in the workforce.  In a survey of several thousand employers, fifty-eight percent said new college graduates are not adequately prepared for today’s workforce. This is primarily due to a gap in social-emotional skills. Incredulously, fifty-five percent of youth surveyed agreed with these findings.

Asking Better Questions

Given our current educational systems, less than fifty percent of students will be prepared for the fastest growing jobs. Coupled with the increased urgency and complexity of the global challenges these students will face—plus the opportunity to innovate at a speed and scale previously unimagined —we must better understand the way forward.  

As a result, a paradigm shift has occurred requiring the answers to more relevant questions: What problem do you want to solve?  What are your interests?  What do you care about?  Reinventing schools focused on addressing these questions will result in cultivating and realizing the purpose and passion of each student.

Drawing on the insights that were developed through the Future of Jobs Report, the Platform for Shaping the Future of the New Economy and Society identified four key focus areas to accelerate the closing of the growing global skills gaps:

1.   Lifelong learning and upskilling 

2.   Future readiness and employability

3.   Innovative skills funding models

4.   Skills anticipation and job market insight 

The aim of Closing the Skills Gap Accelerators is to create global and national public-private collaboration platforms. The purpose is to address skills gaps and reshape education and future training. The accelerator model drives systematic change, highlighting the need for collaborative action across different scales – not just institutional structures and policies, but also norms, attitudes and through individual business commitments.

It’s apparent the “New Normal” requires adapting to meet the challenges over the next decade.  The big question is will enough be done so the Class of 2030 will not only adapt, but thrive?

Preparing the Class of 2030

The Work Ahead, Machines, Skills and U.S. Leadership in the 21st Century is a report from the Council on Foreign Relations Independent Task Force #76. It concludes that “the most important challenge facing the United States— given the seismic forces of innovation, automation, and globalization that are changing the nature of work—is to create better pathways for all Americans to adapt and thrive.” This conclusion is consistent with The Class of 2030 and Life-Ready Learning summary report by Microsoft and the McKinsey Consulting firm.

As noted on page 31 of The Work Ahead, Machines, Skills and U.S. Leadership in the 21st Century: “Everyone needs guidance, but some people get it and some don’t.”  Due to the average ratio nationally of eight-hundred students to one counselor, many students never even receive the most basic professional assistance or guidance services to ensure they are college and/or career ready. To remedy this problem, the report recommends “the online portal Journeys—a new application being developed by San Diego-based Journeys Map. It will allow both high school and college students, as well as mid-career workers in transition, to chart various educational paths to achieve their career goals.” 

Journeys Map is a learner-centric platform. It is designed to create personalized and highly relevant pathways/ journeys based on individual interests, strengths and skills. This information allows educators to put the learner at the center of the educational process. The personalization process allows educators to gain insight into their students to build on “what’s strong, not what’s wrong”. This approach will help optimize the full potential of every child — starting with identifying their purpose and passion.  As a result, the academic focus can be directed toward what problems they want to solve, building on their strengths and ultimately cultivating their calling

Journeys also serves as an aggregator of data from a wide range of sources to ensure learners of all ages can explore their options. Examples include O*NET OnLine, College Scorecard and so that a large amount of data is provided with each search result.  This allows users to explore over 1,800+ career opportunities, 9,500+ institutions of higher education and approximately 20,000+ degrees and certifications.

D. Clayton Hoyle currently serves on a number of Advisory Boards, including DreamSmart Academy, with responsibilities primarily focused on growth and value-add strategies. Clayton received his bachelor’s degree from California State University, Chico (CSUC) and earned School Counseling credential as well as completed their School Psychology practicum.  After graduating, he accepted a professorship position at National University, San Diego. During his tenure at National University, Clayton completed their MBA program while holding a wide range of administrative positions. Responding to the urgent need to improve K-12 education, Clayton created EDmin Open Systems and served as Co-Founder and President. His leadership and vision of providing better tools/ systems for educators in general and counseling/ guidance professionals in particular was instrumental in the creation of Journeys to ensure that every learner is college AND career ready.

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