- having the potential to become disastrous, at a point of crisis
- having decisive or crucial importance in the success, failure, or existence of something.
Education leaders are facing serious issues in 2023 driven by a period of disruption – a worldwide pandemic, divisive politics, prevalent gun violence, and financial crisis. Looking at a study of trends to watch in 2023 at least 5 of these trends have risen to the definition of critical in every sense of the word:
- Student safety– just when you think that you have heard the worst possible gun violence headlines, events that “could never happen in your district” have happened in districts that have said the same thing. What will you do to pre-emptively ensure the physical and mental safety and security of the children in your school?
- Mental health – the mental health issues our children, staff members, family members, community members have all been exacerbated by the past years of polarizing politics, isolation, and fear. Besides the extreme results of poor mental health (see #1) student mental health issues are now considered the #1 learning obstacle.
- Teacher and staff shortages (see 1 & 2) – staffing shortages, especially in the area of special education, have forced districts to look for creative and innovative solutions. The difficulty of finding, hiring, and retaining staff has affected the daily operations of many school districts.
- Academic Recovery – a new study indicates that our students have lost up to 1/3 of a school years’ worth of knowledge and skills. What will student assessment look like and how will we address the inequitable legacy and economic disparity that have been compounded by the pandemic?
- School Finances – Significant changes to school finances due to the looming Covid spending deadlines, the implication of the May 11th end to the Covid public health emergency, shifting student populations, etc. will force decisions with wide implications and potential polarizing outcomes including school closings, staffing issues, etc.
On the heels of COVID, education leaders are facing an inordinate number of critical decisions and issues. Critical decisions require critical thinking – “exercising or involving careful judgement or judicious evaluation.” These issues call for collaborative work and creative solutions. They call for transparent thinking processes – the ability to break down problems into manageable pieces – and the ability to “show your work.” They call for deliberate and step by step approaches that guide the discussion, clarify your understanding, prioritize your criteria according to your district’s needs and wants, creatively develop options, weigh the risks and determine what needs to be done.
All district actions, big and small, are facing intense scrutiny …..from selecting a book to closing school buildings…and all deserve the benefits of critical thinking – a judicious evaluation – using solid processes like Situation Appraisal or Decision Analysis. Critical thinking will enhance your efforts and elevate you solutions to ensure that you get the best possible results for your district with transparency and support.