2800 hundred years ago in Greece, a priestess named Pythia was famous throughout the ancient world for divining the future, and it is said no major decisions were made without consulting her first. Recently, a similar site was unearthed in Fair Oaks, California near Sacramento, and a new oracle has taken her place. This oracle, known only as Charles, is said to possess the wisdom of the ages, and can see into the future of education. And although his predictions have not been verified, experts throughout the education world as well as news media organizations ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, FOX, News Corp, AT&T, Bloomberg, NPR, US News, Learning Counsel and the Hollywood Reporter have all sent reporters, many of whom are said to be at or above the intern level.

According to the oracle, 2021 will be a year of change in education, with major drivers including the COVID-19 pandemic, record technology spending, a teacher shortage, advances in the field of cognitive capacity and the urgent need for student wellbeing. On January 15, a top ten listing of predictions was unearthed for the year 2021. Carbon dating shows these predictions, which were seared into the bedrock surrounding the shrine, to be somewhere between 3000 years and eight days old. The exact dating of the predictions is somewhat inconclusive.

The Oracle’s Predictions for 2021

  1. A new teacher shortage is creating a newfound appreciation for gig-economy teachers – across the country, and in particular places like LAUSD are having an enormously hard time staffing during the COVID-19 pandemic. The shortage of quality teachers has been building for some time. Even before the pandemic, many states were losing a quarter of their new teachers after the first year, and our new teachers are Millennials with no expectation of long-term employment. Add in the fact that in the past eight years, the number of students enrolled in traditional schools of education in the U.S. has dropped from 609,106 to 337,690 and you have a problem. The fact that a large percentage of our teachers are over 60 and at high risk from complications to the Coronavirus makes the teacher shortage a near-desperate situation. The best near-term solution is for schools to contract with a reputable agency like Scoot Education. They take all the risks and incur the costs of finding the right candidates. Without outsourcing, your district’s HR department can quickly become overwhelmed.
  2. EdTech spending in 2021 will eclipse that of 2020 and will set a new standard for technology funding – the two dominant reasons are available funding and need. Three sets of funding will come together in 2021 to push spending further than it has ever been. There are still $ billions left from the original CARES Act, there is a new $82 billion package headed our way from the new stimulus package just passed by congress, and the Biden administration is threatening to secure an additional $100 billion in EdTech spending. Not since the Gods on Mount Olympus has this much power been on display. With Washington DC hurling down its lightening bolts of money, the 2021 technology spend could easily best the record 2020 technology spend of $35.8 billion by 20 percent.
  3. A new understanding of cognitive skills will completely reshape education methodology – leading experts like Betsy Hill and Roger Stark are helping educators understand how individual students’ cognitive strengths and weaknesses define their ability to learn – how understanding an individual student’s cognitive profile (not learning style) is vital to helping them learn -- and how cognitive skills can be strengthened to build learning capacity. A better understanding of cognitive skills is allowing teachers to construct learning environments and experiences that give the brains of all their students an equitable opportunity to learn and to demonstrate what they can do with that learning.
  4. Students’ emotional wellbeing becomes the number one challenge in public education – for the second year in a row, the social emotional wellbeing of students has been identified as a top pressure point among American education leaders. The pandemic has put a very fine point on this fact, causing additional stress on our learners (and their teachers).  Teachers are asking, “What is social emotional health and how do we define the healthy child? What are some ways that schools can keep students healthy? What is the role of the teacher in keeping children safe and healthy?” The emotionally healthy individual is one that doesn’t let his or her emotions override logical decision-making. Instead, their emotional and logical reasoning operate in harmony. Emotional intelligence is the ability to manage one’s relationship with others. Surprisingly, research has shown that skills in this area are bigger predictors of health, achievement, wealth and quality of life than either IQ or socio-economic status. Schools will address this need in record numbers in 2021 and attempt to tamp down the burgeoning need now erupting in schools. 
  5. Teachers and administrators welcome an end to the era of high-stakes summative testing- 2020 saw an interruption in the number of high-stakes testing given by schools. Expect this trend to continue in 2021, with summative testing being increasingly replaced by formative testing and software that shows student work in progress.
  6. Homeschooling and the straight-to-consumer EdTech market will continue to grow at twice the pace of in-school technology purchases. 2020 let the genie out of the bottle, as parents and grandparents discovered a world of high-impact, consumer-grade learning software that blows the door off much of the teacher-created, PDF-driven lessons issued by schools. This new software, with an emphasis on excellent UI/UX, is driving the decision for parents to keep their kids at home in favor of a homeschool or podschool experience. With a 20 percent growth last year and an even larger jump in 2021, expect the straight to consumer market to go nowhere but up.
  7. Distance and hybrid learning will continue unabated until the Fall 2021 term, despite all the vaccines now available in the market. The speed at which the vaccines will be distributed has been overhyped and underdelivered. Even with best intentions, the majority of Americans will not be vaccinated until the Summer. Expect widespread school openings in the Fall 2021, but with up to 30 percent of enrolled students (and their parents) requesting an online curriculum.
  8. Large education conferences will continue to be virtual until 2022. Some smaller, local and regional conferences like the Learning Counsel are expected to re-emerge in the Fall of 2021. Expect the larger conferences to begin to re-emerge in January 2022.
  9. Even with virtual and hybrid classes, whole group learning will continue to be the dominant model but will shrink from the current 62 percent to under 50 percent next Fall as schools learn how to maximize the effectiveness of online learning. Expect in-person schooling to get the message, with more and more lessons being delivered in a small-group setting as students return to classes next Fall.
  10. By the end of 2021, fewer than 67 percent of American, school-aged children will attend traditional public schooling.  Expect this number to decrease by an additional 3-5 percentage points through the decade.

With the discovery of the new oracle, expect additional predictions to be unearthed throughout the year. As they become available, they will be reported here for your enjoyment.

About the author

Charles Sosnik is an education journalist and editor and serves as Editor in Chief at the Learning Counsel. An EP3 Education Fellow, he uses his deep roots in the education community to add context to the education narrative. Charles is a frequent writer and columnist for some of the most influential media in education, including the Learning Counsel, EdNews Daily, EdTech Digest and edCircuit. Unabashedly Southern, Charles likes to say he is an editor by trade and Southern by the Grace of God.