Some Known Knowns Heading into 2021

I tweeted the following recently:

It was a holiday tweet I sent haphazardly while walking my dog and will post it again when we are all back at it after Thanksgiving break. But, I want to start by answering my own questions. What do we want to be thinking about now that we will be regretting not thinking about when the 2021-2022 school year starts. These are just my initial thoughts and I don’t have answers to any of them. But these are some of the things we need to be planning for alongside dealing with the day-to-day of managing a campus or district in the middle of a polarizing health pandemic.

Again mostly pondered while walking my dog through the streets of suburbia so don’t hold me to any of it.

Known Knowns:

  1. We know that whenever students return to face-to-face learning en masse – whether it is at the start of the 2021-2022 school year or beyond – the lived experience of the pandemic will have created an even larger divide. Just as the pandemic has not symmetrically affected society, our students will return to the shared schoolhouse having lived very different realities since March 2020. Many will have dealt with death and financial tragedy while others will have been relatively shielded from the stressors of the pandemic. I don’t have the answers to how we reintroduce our students to one another because there is no clear right answer. But I do know that we must do this before we start academically segregating them based on any assessments or screeners to measure their COVID slide. I worry that if we jump into intervening academically too quickly there will be unintended negative consequences we will then spend years unweaving.
  2. Blended/virtual learning has proved appealing to many older students. If we as public education leaders do not create opportunities for students to continue to learn virtually similar to what they have had during the pandemic, then charter and private school networks will jump on that market demand. This was already happening prior to the pandemic of course, but like so many things, it is now accelerated. If you are reading this in Texas, talk to your local political heroes as we need them to change legislation that allows public school districts to fairly compete in the virtual K12 learning space.
  3. We will need to address academic intervention differently. The potential negative consequences of how we address intervention scares me more than just about anything. We can easily turn a bad year into a bad career if we are not careful about being measured with our intervention. Students and teachers have a limited amount of time together each day. I can already feel Ed Tech vendors salivating with the potential to boost their commissions. We will need to keep out guard up more than ever and remember that our industry “partners” have very different incentives than we do as public education leaders.

Just some thoughts. Next week I’m going to think through some “Known Unknowns” and hopefully share some of your thoughts on these or other “Known Knowns.” Share your ideas in the comments below or respond to that Tweet above.


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