Why the School One Chooses Matters

The thirteen years of school between kindergarten and senior year should prepare a student well for college. And yet, in the United States, only 37% of high school graduates are prepared to take college-level courses. Fewer than that, only a quarter, are prepared to take college-level mathematics. First-year college students are now required to take seminar courses in expository writing, critical reading, and analysis because many K12 schools have failed to teach these essential skills.

There are a number of factors that contribute to the dismal outcomes of K12 education in our country, but one thing is for certain, where your child goes to school makes a big difference. There is plenty of empirical evidence that proves there is a high correlation between educational attainment and employment. The more educated you are, the higher your income and the less likely you are to be unemployed. Much of the conversation and research, however, focuses on access to higher education at the exclusion often of the importance of what happens during the K12 years.

K12 education is the foundation on which everything else rests. If you fail to learn to read between kindergarten and fourth grade, you face a lifetime of challenges. Math skills like knowing your multiplication tables or how to work with fractions are essential building blocks to the math you will learn, or fail to learn, later. High school students who learn how to analyze texts effectively and write with clarity are at a distinct advantage.

The working world is rapidly changing and our students need to be prepared. There has been a lot of talk about jobs—we’ve all read about the effects of automation on manufacturing. But in recent months, we have become increasingly focused on the future effects of artificial intelligence. We haven't come to terms with what happens when we've automated ourselves out of work, particularly the kind of work that white-collar professionals used to do. This type of automation has already started to rapidly infiltrate jobs like writing, accounting, and the law—the kinds of jobs that many of us chose and that many of our children will choose as career paths.

Independent K12 schools are focused on developing the essential skills that children will need to navigate a world very different from the one in which we grew up (one in which it will be perfectly normal to have a number of entirely different occupations over a lifetime). We’re particularly interested in making sure that our programs build resiliency and a desire for lifelong learning. These two skills are essential for those who will likely have to reinvent themselves several times during their lifetime.

Most parents have a choice in where they can send their children during the formative K12 years. Making the right choice can set a child up for success in our ever changing world.

About The Author

Geoff Wagg

Geoff Wagg was appointed Head of School at Waynflete in 2013. He grew up in Montreal, Quebec and graduated from Phillips Academy. He received his B.A. from Connecticut College and his Ed.M. from Teachers College, Columbia University. Geoff has served in a variety of administrative posts including Head of Upper School at The Episcopal Academy outside of Philadelphia for ten years. Earlier, Geoff served as the Director of Technology and Department Chair at The Bullis School in Potomac, Maryland, and was a History Teacher and Technology Coordinator at Friends Academy in Locust Valley, New York. He started his career teaching history at St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire.

Early in his career, Geoff focused on helping schools find appropriate ways to integrate emerging technologies into their programs. He served for many years on the National Association of Independent School’s 21st Century Curriculum/Technology Task Force. More recently, Geoff has turned his attention to faculty professional growth and evaluation. He helped launch the Folio Collaborative, conducted research on the topic during his Klingenstein Head of School Fellowship in 2016, and has spoken at regional and national conferences.

Geoff sits on the boards of the Association of Independent Schools in New England and the Independent Schools Association of Northern New England. He and his wife, Alice Starr Wagg, have three children, Henry ’22, Emily ’20, and Nick ’18.