December 11, 2020

Good Afternoon Friends!

Ah, we are so, so close to winter break. I know that some of you are virtual now or have virtual learning scheduled for next week. I hope this time gives you some respite and relaxation, and a lot of time to read because there is a lot loaded into this email!

Skimmers … overall giving is up, 10 most significant studies in education, this next one on overcoming pandemic fatigue and revisits the model of reaction to this kind of crisis, but it also helps set you up for “escape velocity,” Obama shares his approaches to making tough and constant decisions, six burning questions article covers the transmission and other questions on the vaccines, this article is really disturbing, so be aware of that before you read it, but it largely outlines the way that one of the most popular websites on the internet is used to keep passing around videos of children being sexually abused, this article about calling people in instead of calling them out, and entrepreneurship as a way of helping kids manage anxiety and find purpose.

For those along for the longer ride ….

First, let’s start with positive news. Independent schools have been rocking it out, even if right now you feel like beating your head against the wall with news of yet one more teacher / admin team member / student who must quarantine due to close contacts with COVID positive people. MISBO started the shout-out to independent schools with this piece in the Hill, AFSA ran their own piece on boarding school resiliency, and our own Brandon Hall got this spot in metro ATL area news. Yes, everyone has been burning the candle through the middle, but we are collectively holding our own and that is good news. On the other good news front – overall giving is up and education has cracked the top three recipient groups for the first time in the newly released “Why America Gives” report.

Let’s start out with some higher level pieces you might want to check out.

Starting Broad

First, Edutopia has pulled together the 10 most significant studies in education this year. These are not business model pieces, but more about education itself. My favorite two are around grading bias and how to limit it and on getting learners to ask good questions. These might be helpful to share around.

The rest are much more big picture.

  • This one on the next normal operating model distills what we have learned through this wild time.
  • The next one sort of feeds off of that notion, but it is one I am going to read more carefully after the break. It is about overcoming pandemic fatigue and revisits the model of reaction to this kind of crisis, but it also helps set you up for “escape velocity.” I recognize that there was probably way too much Star Wars in my youth, but the notion of escape velocity right now is certainly appealing.
  • Yesterday’s session on making the impossible more possible focused in part on helping people find quick ways to re-set during the day, and it occurred to me that a few months ago I started doing a little of that as a coping mechanism. Apparently I am not the only one, President Obama shares his approaches to making tough and constant decisions in this piece and it includes setting those down times to process.
  • This one might be a good one to share with your board. Although it’s written for the for-profit sector, it is all about purpose and the board’s role in embedding purpose in everything an entity does – and that is certainly applicable to our schools.
  • I love this one on workplace slang. I despise workplace slang. I have actually texted a good friend while he was on a panel because he said “let’s double click and zoom in on that for a second.” This Economist piece – in a rare moment of levity for that publication – captures some of the trends of the moment. I feel like we should start a jar that requires deposits anytime someone in the office uses one.
  • Finally, keep an eye on these trends around the generational wealth gap. This is going to become increasingly important as Millennials represent more of our parent base. As a Gen-Xer, I am happy to see my generation hanging in there, and we did tend to delay having kids, but wealth disparity will continue particularly as people live longer than ever before and the costs of medical care for the Baby Boomers uses much of that wealth in ways that we have never seen before.


Let’s move on to all things vaccine as there has been a lot of ink spilt on this topic this week.

  • First, the FDA had a long and rather dry meeting getting the Pfizer vaccine through it’s first hurdle yesterday. The hang-up that divided the vote? Clearing the vaccine for use in those 16 and up. This is good news for our schools in that more of our high schoolers will be eligible for the vaccine if the final emergency approval accepts this recommendation. At this time, testing is happening to monitor effects in those as young as 12. There is a lot of great insights on the vaccine front. The most important, I think, is that we still don’t know whether the vaccine will stop transmission from vaccinated people. To me, this is sort of like getting a the present without the necessary batteries to use it, but I understand these are less than ideal development circumstances. This six burning questions article covers the transmission and other questions in more detail. I would add to that article this one on what educators need to know about the vaccine, too.
  • As we discussed last week, mandating vaccines is heavy on people’s minds, although it won’t be a piece of our reality for many months yet. I like this legal-ish piece on whether employer should mandate it, but I also like this one on various claims and exceptions to such a mandate that might come up. This piece about a recent Fourth Circuit decision relating to the ADA is going to get a lot more real when schools are looking at working through ADA accommodations requests in particular.  And, I think it really helps to understand what kind of community immunity we need and where people are on their comfort level with the vaccine.
  • On the nuts and bolts side, some cities are deep in planning for vaccine delivery, maybe one of the largest public health pushes we have had in this country in generations.
  • Finally, do keep track of the changes happening out there. Fisher Phillips did a nice follow up on the quarantine changes from the CDC last week (with employer recommendations). And the states are getting into the act, too. TX released additional guidance in response to its adoption of the CDC changes.
  • In addition to the quarantine changes, states are tightening up some requirements. In VA, the governor released another executive order, this one requiring masks at all times indoors, unless eating or drinking for those five and older, masks for those five and older when outdoors, when physical distancing cannot be achieved or individuals are not family members living in the same residence, social gatherings are now limited to 10 persons. Social gathering limits do not apply to daily operations of schools, but the limit does apply to school social gatherings such as staff holiday parties, etc. Indoor sports are limited to 25 spectators, outdoor sports are limited to 2 spectators per athlete. Watch your state to see if similar guidance is coming your way.

PPP Loan

PPP loans continue to cause no small degree of heartburn, but Caryn Pass and Meredith Boyland put at least some of our concerns to rest this week. They also have a handy publication that might be helpful to you.

Higher Education

Here is another topic to keep an eye on. It is readily apparent that the incoming Biden Administration will be more likely to work on the challenges of the pandemic from a centralized vantage point. This will have its strengths and some challenges. One of the challenges might be the nominee for CDC director, Rochelle Walensky. Dr. Walensky has been highly critical of the CDCs current approach to higher education, arguing that much, much, much more testing should be done and that those who cannot afford to do it should not be operating in person. This raises questions about what Dr. Walensky might be thinking about the k-12 world as well. Regardless, high ed appears to already be planning for next year. Cal State has been a front-runner in decision making and it is already calling for more in-person classes next fall. Something that might be a leading indicator for the industry. They are going to need some concrete plans because the current college admissions data is a mixed bag.

Student Safety

You might have missed this story this week, but I wanted to draw your attention to this article around what is happening with PornHub. This article is really disturbing, so be aware of that before you read it, but it largely outlines the way that one of the most popular websites on the internet is used to keep passing around videos of children being sexually abused. This has been an incredibly busy time for many schools and sexuality education for students and developmental education for parents was likely not a top priority, but kids are accessing this information, too. Shafia Zaloom wrote this follow-up piece to help parents speak with students, and it can also be helpful for educators. Her insight extends beyond child abuse to the overall negative impacts of watching pornography and helping students put it in context.


A few quick topics on the DEI front. I love this article about calling people in instead of calling them out. I wrote about the call-out culture this summer, and I find it disturbing on a few different levels, not the least of which is that calling people out seems incredibly unlikely to lead to learning. NBOA has this open article around risk compliance and every day bias. And, finally, this overview around thinking about names of buildings and schools pulls together good examples.

Some good quick hits, mainly on the education front:

  • Anyone I talk with about curriculum seems to be going after math. On the one hand, I was a bit of a math kid and that makes me sad, on the other hand, what this guy is talking about with a math curriculum that is designed around the notion that computers exist and we should be using them to help with computation, makes a lot of sense.
  • Along those lines, this article is about spatially gifted kids and how little we recognize their talents in traditional education settings. If you have ever spent time with these kinds of people (I married one), you have to know how incredible those skills can be. Not that I brought him into the process of measuring for the new bedroom furniture that included a slightly larger bookcase for yours truly.
  • Struggling with grading adjustments during the pandemic? Good overview of what is happening out there in this article.
  • Are you revisiting your school’s curriculum or books for more diversity? Don’t fall into any of these seven pits
  • Want some inspiration? Kids might be more connected with each other – world wide – than ever due to COVID.
  • Anxiety is a huge issue for kids today, as is a lack purposefulness. Can entrepreneurship help?
  • Do you have any more open houses coming up? Our friends at Final Site have some great follow-up strategies that might be helpful.

In news of the weird, but unlikely to go away, cellular agriculture provides opportunities to grow meat without killing animals. As it turns out, at least at the moment, in Tel Aviv it tastes like chicken. When I think about the future jobs related to that piece of the food, science, and agricultural industries, it is a little mind-blowing. And, Jimmy Fallon took on 2020 in Broadway musical outtakes for some fun earworms and chuckles.  

Happy Hanukkah to all of our friends celebrating and have a great weekend everyone!