PivotED - "More, Better Support" Issue (February)
A newsletter (for adults) about career readiness (for kids).
A scan of the recent news, research and thought leadership of the past few weeks leads me to a common theme: in 2022 America, every single person working, in or affected by, the K-12 education system needs better, deeper, and more support. Our kids, many of whom are now in their third school-year impacted by pandemic-related decisions and educational inconsistencies (not to mention stress in their home lives) need support. Our teachers, who are quitting in droves, pushed to the brink by an ever-more-complex mission in the face of stagnant wages, need support. Parents, many of their livelihoods, careers and future plans impacted by the complexities of raising school-aged kids during a pandemic, need support.
With so much talk of a ‘metaverse’ dominating the headlines in recent weeks, what strikes me is that there is a deep mismatch between the rate of progress our society is making in bringing new and awe-inspiring technology to bear, and the rate at which we are ensuring a supportive and safe environment exists in which our kids can learn, grow, understand the world around them, and make the connections that will serve them best on their journey. There’s a mismatch between the rate of technological progress and the rate at which we’re ensuring that parents — the people with the deepest concern for their own kids — aren’t left out of those conversations and virtual spaces.
I hope that this week, readers will join me in pondering this question: how can each of us in the career readiness and K-12 universe come together to ensure that our work to support kids is progressing at the same rate of change as the world of technology? I hope that, as we read about the metaverse coming to fruition, we all can commit to creating in parallel the circumstances, pathways, and experiences that will help kids to not just have fun and connect with one another (as important as those things are), but also to thrive in the real world and make the successful transition from childhood to adulthood.
President & CEO, American Student Assistance
Putting Students in the Driver’s Seat: Leveraging Student Agency in Career Exploration
The Story: Based on ASA’s research, six major themes have emerged that offer meaningful insight into Gen Z’s habits, needs, and ambitions. For example, Gen Z youth have an affinity for entrepreneurship, but also place a very heavy emphasis on social causes. They want to have a high degree of agency over their future planning process, but still value others’ insights. In this piece, ASA’s Alisa Wilke shares findings from a panel discussion at the Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE) conference in December, and elaborates on those six themes.
The Bottom Line: Career exploration and self-discovery aren’t just about young people picking career paths, but instead about supporting them as they unlock the skills and abilities that will allow them be the best version of themselves… no matter where they land. When adults understand the drivers and needs of today’s youth in the aggregate, they can more appropriately fine-tune their role and the guidance they give during the discovery process.
Helping Middle Schoolers Think About a Future Beyond the Pandemic
The Story: Hechinger Report beautifully captures the pandemic zeitgeist facing so many American youth: one of confusion, chaos, and high-stakes decision-making. Quoted in the piece is Frances Jensen, neurologist and author, who says of teenagers that “They do not have the frontal lobe connectivity to sustain lifelong consequences of their decisions. They may rush into an area that seems like they are peer pressured into. I’d be concerned about having a seventh grader say: ‘I’m going to be a rocket scientist’ … or being railroaded into a track for either university or vocational school.”
The Bottom Line: Students need deep support in their decision-making. The weight and permanence of decisions made about the future while in high school cannot be underestimated. Therefore, those decisions and that process can’t be confined to one single test, event, or even year, in the K-12 sequence. Helping kids understand their options, connecting them to mentors and a network of support, and showing them that learning and exploring happen on a continuum, can help to remove so much of the pressure and uncertainty in their lives.
What It Takes to Recruit Future Teachers During the Pandemic
The Story: EdSurge reminds us of the present-day reality: K-12 education, like so many other professions, is facing a dire recruitment and retention crisis. Yet, the a lack of qualified teachers will bring about a ripple effect of negative ramifications for future generations of kids. Those teachers who have stayed are burned out, demoralized, interacting with hostile parents…all while underpaid. Teacher training programs within colleges and universities are falling short of new recruits, forcing many programs to shutter. Many are getting creative to help renew public interest in the profession and ensure that prospective teachers understand their role and value in society, turning to measures like hosting virtual simulations of in-class teaching, or using college students as substitute teachers.
The Bottom Line: What’s happening in schools around the nation is heartbreaking. We need the talents, passions, and energy of teachers to guide our kids through their educational journey, or we run the risk of creating even deeper and more pronounced pockets of inequity…deeper societal divisions. From my perspective, anything industry, communities and policymakers can do to lift some of the burden off the shoulders of teachers — to help lighten their load while advocating for better pay and support for educators— would go a long way to mitigating some of the damage inflicted by the education system’s “Great Resignation.”
‘This is Creating More Loneliness’: The Metaverse Could be a Serious Problem for Kids, Experts Say
The Story: The metaverse clearly offers a lucrative landscape for investors and ripe ground for innovation. Yet, let’s think closely about how previous digital innovations — like social media — impacted generations of children, from self-esteem and bullying to addiction and worse. This article stresses that the pitfalls of the metaverse could be as bad, if not worse, in the metaverse we will likely all frequent, if steps are not taken to prevent harmful scenarios from playing out.
The Bottom Line: Every business leader, education professional and parent needs to be paying attention to what’s happening with the metaverse. Are we prepared to ask young children to distinguish between a much more vivid alternate version of reality than we have ever known...and reality itself? If so, what might that kind of immersion into a loosely monitored space mean for their mental health? Much like social media, I hope that we will not fear digital progress and change…I am not advocating that we throw the good out with the bad… but if tech leaders are to get this right, they must harness the lessons we have learned in the last 10 years and do all they can to safeguard childrens’ well-being…not as an afterthought, but before a metaverse becomes ubiquitous in our lives.
These Four States Account For Half Of The Recent College Enrollment Decline
White Paper: Improved Student Outcomes in Middle School Career Exploration
25% of People Will Spend At Least One Hour Per Day in the Metaverse by 2026
The SAT is Changing: Here’s What to Know (U.S. News & World Report, February 7, 2022)
9 Immersive Career Programs in Pittsburgh Where Kids Can Experience Careers Firsthand (Kidsburgh, February 6, 2022)
Federal Grant to Provide Hands-On Projects for Young Children in Springfield (KY3, February 8, 2022)
How K-12 Book Bans Affect Higher Education (Inside Higher Ed, February 10, 2022)
Podcast: The Metaverse of Learning with Taylor Shead (Getting Smart, February 2, 2022)
MU Researchers Receive $12 Million in Grants to Explore Technology Boost in K-12 Education (Columbia Daily Tribune, February 10, 2022)
Catalyze Challenge: Call for Submissions Open Through February 22, 2022 (Calling all innovators and entrepreneurs with ideas to help young people achieve economic opportunity and lifelong success through career-connected learning. Grants totaling $4 million available.)
“Landmark Study: High-quality, Non-college Pathways” @ SxSW EDU Conference & Festival
Austin, March 8, 2022, 2-3PM CT
“Educator PD: Key to Increasing Student Achievement” @ SxSW EDU Conference & Festival
Austin, March 9, 2022, 2-3PM CT
San Diego, April 4-6, 2022
Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE) Annual Conference
Virtual, November 3-5, 2022