Pandemic-weary School Superintendents Seek Answers
Insights from the 2022 AASA National Conference on Education
Nashville, TN – Among the 3,000 attendees at the 2022 AASA National Conference on Education there was both an energy and underlying weariness. The energy came from the large presence of education administrators from across the United States seeking solutions to common problems:
- Pandemic issues (e.g., school scheduling, mask policy, enhanced safety measures, stress on teachers)
- Teacher shortages due to turnover, teachers leaving the workforce for better paying jobs, and relatively low pay for the amount and quality of work demanded by the job.
- A rapidly changing student demographic with greater socio-economic learning (SEL) needs and diminished family support, which teachers know to be the foundation from which learning activities of any child take off.
- A political environment where administrators are called upon to address contentious issues. These issues range from mask mandates, to the purported teaching of critical race theory, to testing, to inequality of opportunity, to threats of violence at school board meetings.
The National Conference on Education, presented by AASA, The School Superintendents Association, is the premier professional development and networking event for school superintendents and administrators in the United States. The annual event ran this year from February 16-18.
The Chess in Schools team of Jerry Nash, Neil Dietsch, and Christie West made the trek to Nashville, Tennessee. Their goal was to understand the current concerns of educators and promote the benefits of Chess in Education.
Insights from Top Educators
US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona praised educational leaders for their extraordinary efforts in confronting the challenges of the pandemic. He recognized the stresses that they had to endure. He and many other speakers echoed the sentiment that the educators deserved far greater recognition for their accomplishments than they have been accorded.
One of the best sessions was a report by three members of the Learning 2025 Commission launched by AASA in 2021. The three were all CEOs of education companies working on products and services for the future.
The starkest messages had to do with how much students and the workforce that they will eventually enter are changing. Sessions offered a multitude of statistics sufficient to confirm that students are departing high school without the social-emotional learning (SEL) skills of preceding generations.
SEL is a term that is now in vogue among today’s educators, but it is not new. Educator’s focus on SEL bodes well for the future of chess in education (CIE) programs, since CIE programs are closely aligned with SEL concepts.
Other key themes included:
- Education systems must be redesigned in light of a changing workplace.
- The workplace must be redesigned in light of the evolving graduates that education does (or does not) produce.
The most startling revelation to this writer was the amount of change that was taking place, not just in the future work environment, but in the skills that will be necessary to succeed there.
A key problem is that educators and even many business people have little insight into what the future holds. As a result, there is little understanding of what specific content will be required to prepare students for the jobs of the future. As a consequence, schools are preparing students for jobs of the past, not the future.
One longtime conference goer reported that this was the first time she had seen a chess training organization at the conference. As a result of their visit, the Chess in Schools team gained a better understanding of the current issues and challenges facing education decision makers. These are important insights for those of us working for the success of CIE in the United States.