Now Trending in Education: Post-pandemic Input/Output Stresses

Do you wonder what’s trending these days in the education arena? My next four articles will spotlight some of the most recent post-pandemic trends now taking shape in K-12 and/or university settings. Some of these might be a real surprise to our readers, so to tantalize your curiosity, allow me to tease each of these startling trends well in advance:

  1. Input/output strains in education
  2. When technology in schools becomes a “hot mess”
  3. “Less is more” comes to education
  4. Technology planning is back

So, let’s begin with some myth busting. It turns out, two disconcerting input/output strains on the education system are indeed genuine, and not merely chicken-little fearmongering: I am speaking about 1) the Great Resignation and 2) post-pandemic Learning Loss.

The Great Resignation
One of the most important inputs in the educational endeavor is the teacher. Early on during the pandemic, I wrote an article, lamenting: “lots of teachers are Hell Ballquitting. Both at the university and the K-12 levels. Good teachers. Some of the best. The Rona did this to them. Poorly implemented technology did this to them. The rush, the press, the chaotic urgency did this to them”. Some people never believed this worrying, at least as it was related to education. But now we know it’s quite real, at least at the K-12 level Recently the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics confirmed that 2.6 million educators and staff left education during the pandemic. Even more recently, the U.S. Labor Department revealed that some 143,000 teachers left the field just this last academic year. I’ve seen this all at play on a personal level. Nearly a dozen of my previous or current graduate students, all K-12 educators, have recently left their classrooms. Many more are desperately looking for an exit door. Granted, a few are moving into positions of greater responsibility because they are fearless and well prepared. These folks are running towards a goal. But most are transitioning into the business/industry arena and are running away from K12 or university education. These latter post-educators are jumping into private sector jobs that are welcoming them with open arms: the pandemic did that, by the way.

Although the Great Resignation is real, to be fair, I also notice that more and more young people are still cueing up to fill the ranks of exiting educators, enrolling in preservice teacher programs in decent numbers. But the loss of experienced/well-seasoned/first-class educators is a palpable casualty, especially in the short run, as the next generation gradually develops their professional chops.

Learning Loss
Switching now to output strains, the most important output in any educational endeavor is learning. Learning well. This, too, is in peril. One of the pandemic’s unwanted byproducts was the “learning loss” associated with repeated school closings, reduced learning schedules, sub-par instruction via distance learning, and the incessant quarantining of children. When the notion of “learning loss” first reared its ugly head, I noticed that, in conference after conference and article after article, educators were denying that any loss occurred at all. It’s understandable—a predictable reaction—to defending one’s turf. But the truth is now evident: the learning loss associated with the Rona and our school policies was disastrous. Even at our own university, a group of instructors recently did a post-mortem on the previous semester, and we all agreed that the quality of student work, the overall education experience, and expected learning growth were at all at extremely low levels. Again, this stark notion of learning loss is no myth.

The implications of these dual trends for our readers might be instructive. First, it’s a good time to hire and bring on board experienced educators for your firm. You’ll get some of the best. Second, it makes sense to figure out how to aim your products at an obvious pain point—learning loss—to build momentum. – Len Scrogan