Resolution to Oppose the Common Core State Standards

WHEREAS, the purpose of education is to educate a populace of critical thinkers who are capable of shaping a just and equitable society in order to lead good and purpose-filled lives, not solely preparation for college and career; and

WHEREAS, instructional and curricular decisions should be in the hands of classroom professionals who understand the context and interests of their students; and

WHEREAS, the education of children should be grounded in developmentally appropriate practice; and

WHEREAS, high quality education requires adequate resources to provide a rich and varied course of instruction, individual and small group attention, and wrap-around services for students; and

WHEREAS, the Common Core State Standards were developed by non-practitioners, such as test and curriculum publishers, as well as education reform foundations, such as the Gates and Broad Foundations, and as a result the CCSS better reflect the interests and priorities of corporate education reformers than the best interests and priorities of teachers and students; and

WHEREAS, the Common Core State Standards were piloted incorrectly, have been implemented too quickly, and as a result have produced numerous developmentally inappropriate expectations that do not reflect the learning needs of many students; and

WHEREAS, imposition of the Common Core State Standards adversely impacts students of highest need, including students of color, impoverished students, English language learners, and students with disabilities; and

WHEREAS, the Common Core State Standards emphasize pedagogical techniques, such as close reading, out of proportion to the actual value of these methods – and as a result distort instruction and remove instructional materials from their social context; and

WHEREAS, despite the efforts of our union to provide support to teachers, the significant time, effort, and expense associated with modifying curricula to the Common Core State Standards interferes and takes resources away from work developing appropriate and engaging courses of study; and

WHEREAS, the assessments that accompany the Common Core State Standards (PARCC and Smarter Balance) are not transparent in that –teachers and parents are not allowed to view the tests and item analysis will likely not be made available given the nature of computer adaptive tests; and

WHEREAS, Common Core assessments disrupt student learning, consuming tremendous amounts of time and resources for test preparation and administration; and

WHEREAS, the assessment practices that accompany Common Core State Standards – including the political manipulation of test scores – are used as justification to label and close schools, fail students, and evaluate educators; therefore be it

RESOLVED that the Chicago Teachers Union opposes the Common Core State Standards (and the aligned tests) as a framework for teaching and learning; and be it further

RESOLVED, the Chicago Teachers Union advocates for an engaged and socially relevant curriculum that is student-based and supported by research, as well as for supports such as those described in the Chicago Teachers Union report, The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve; and be it further

RESOLVED, the Chicago Teachers Union will embark on internal discussions to educate and seek feedback from members regarding the Common Core and its impact on our students; and be it further

RESOLVED, the Chicago Teachers Union will lobby the Illinois Board of Education to eliminate the use of the Common Core State Standards for teaching and assessment; and be it further

RESOLVED, the Chicago Teachers Union will organize other members and affiliates to increase opposition to the Common Core State Standards; and be it further

RESOLVED, that a copy of this resolution be sent to the Illinois State Board of Education, the Chicago Board of Education, the Governor of Illinois, and all members of the Illinois legislative branch; and be it finally

RESOLVED, that should this resolution be passed by the CTU House of Delegates, an appropriate version will be submitted to the American Federation of Teachers for consideration at the 2014 Convention.


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Poetry Trumps Testing

Eliya, age 12, wrote on the back of her ELA testing booklet on April 2, 2014:

April Used to be Poetry Month

April used to be poetry month

Where we’d learn about rhythm and rhyme,

But now that standardized tests have set in,
They tell us we just don’t have time.

There was ‘Poem in Your Pocket’ day,
Where you share your unique voice,
But now creativity’s gone away,
Now it’s nothing but multiple choice.

They say tests show how smart you are,
And teach you all you know,
But how does filling in circles,
Help anyone learn and grow?

In class, when we could be thinking,
Learning how we can go far,
We’re categorized by the grades we get,
Like those numbers are all we are.


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We need to look to interim steps for dealing with student, parent, and educator anxiety being brought about by the Common Core initiatives. We need to acknowledge that how we are going about raising standards is part of the problem, and we need to acknowledge that our obsession with standardized testing as an efficient method of appearing accountable is part of the problem.”

“It is not OK to accept that kids will be upset by excessive testing, that crying, freaking-out, making confetti out of and/or and vomiting on their tests is standard-operating-procedure when conducting assessments.

 “Let’s stop the insanity and let’s start with a decision to reduce the debilitating anxiety being generated in our schools every day…it will not be easy, but your decision should be”


There’s a “bug” going around schools these days.

The symptoms are not serious at first. It starts out as a slight headache but quickly becomes a stomach ache, and before long everyone is reporting high fevers, feeling worn out, having trouble concentrating, just plain out of sorts. It seems to affect teachers the most, but every few weeks the kids catch it, parents are starting to report concerns about sending their kids to school on certain days, administrators report they have never seen anything quite so severe, and even school board members are starting to receive lots of anxious telephone calls. I’ve heard experienced educators explain that these things happen in schools and, while troublesome, it’s OK, these trends only last about a decade! Ten years???

You and I know that ten years is not necessarily all that long, but it’s going to mean consuming a lot of chicken noodle soup. There really must be something we can do without waiting 3,650 days for a cure. Let me share a story that leads up to a recommendation I’d like to make.

Donnie Dunlop and I were sitting on my parents’ front porch in upstate New York one late August afternoon. It had been a typically warm, humid, week and we were just shooting the breeze, as ten year-olds sometimes did in those days. It was 1951, so we didn’t yet have TV, video games, X-boxes, organized sports, the world-wide-web, or many of the wonderful distractions our kids have today. Donnie was becoming quite animated and really into the idea that when we grow up we needed to make a difference in the world.  We started arguing about what would be the biggest contribution we could make to mankind, heady stuff for ten year olds!  Donnie was good at inventing things, making up stories, being overly dramatic, and he liked magic tricks. He was convinced that being the best magician in the world would make the greatest impact as he could amaze and entertain people world-wide, bring laughter to young and old…he sounded like the original side-show barker!  I thought that was fine, but I was convinced that, thanks to Ms. Gilbertson, my third-grade teacher who had an intense interest in science, that a cure for the common cold would be the medical break-through of the century. We were rudely interrupted by three very loud whistles, like a train was going through our backyard, but it was only Mrs. Dunlop calling Donnie home for dinner…she would have loved texting!

Donnie went on to become a most successful lawyer and worked his magic in the courtroom for many clients. I went on to be an educator, not a scientist, and as you know we still don’t have a cure for the common cold. But in 1971 I did discover a more modest “cure” while doing the original research for my doctoral program. I was interested in identifying effective ways to prepare future teachers, and I bumped into a good deal of research indicating that how one deals with anxiety can play a major role in a beginning teacher’s success or failure.

My work looked at the application of a muscle relaxation system process called systematic desensitization. Today it is a commonly used strategy for self-relaxation, but then it was a novel approach to dealing with anxiety as applied to teaching. I asked future teachers to write down a list of situations they thought might cause them anxiety once they were in the classroom (finishing a lesson before the allocated time, dealing with an angry parent, being observed by the principal). I taught them to literally relax almost every muscle in their body in about 20 minutes, using systematic desensitization. In the relaxed state, they re-visited the list of situations that might produce anxiety. The theory at work was the body cannot tolerate anxiety and relaxation at the same time. In the relaxed state, they began to think about and to visualize the potentially anxiety producing situations. It was very effective…well, not 100%, but every future teacher reported feeling more confident about how they might handle the situations, and they reported feeling remarkable better about themselves and their chances of being successful when the anxiety producing situations came up.

It may not be a cure for the common cold, but with supporters and critics alike saying things like the roll-out of the testing for the Common Core is potentially a “disaster,” and thinking it could turn out to be a “train wreck,” anxiety is running rampant throughout school systems. We need to look to interim steps for dealing with student, parent, and educator anxiety being brought about by the Common Core initiatives. We need to acknowledge that how we are going about raising standards is part of the problem, and we need to acknowledge that our obsession with standardized testing as an efficient method of appearing accountable is part of the problem. We need to introduce a series of systematic strategies to deal with the anxiety being caused by the incredibly insensitive and educationally inappropriate roll-out of the Common Core. Hopefully, the manner in which we are going about implementing the Common Core will soon be modified, but for now we need to be cognizant of the fact that anxiety, especially to the degree we are seeing it emerge today, needs to be addressed. It is not enough to just say “relax” and get used to the 21st Century; it is not enough to say it’s just an adjustment period, we’ll all be fine; we will not be fine!

Our kids are less than 15 % of the population but they are 100% of the future. We owe it to them to stop the insanity that a few esoteric university experts, one major for-profit corporation, and multiple mis-guided state legislatures are causing, a daily illness that is not only sad but unnecessary. The long-term “cure” for this illness lies in stopping this assault on our kids and our profession, but the short term fix requires a direct infusion of anxiety reduction strategies so our people can at least deal with the turmoil being created.

Whether it is traditional transcendental meditation, yoga, systematic desensitization, or some combination of relaxation strategies, individual teachers and, in some cases, an entire school ( have been successful by acknowledging anxiety and addressing it. It is not OK to accept that kids will be upset by excessive testing, that crying, freaking-out, making confetti out of and/or and vomiting on their tests is standard-operating-procedure when conducting assessments. Accepting the knowledge that teachers and administrators will feel pressured into cheating on the scoring, that our profession will eventually lose some of its finest educators and inevitably fail to attract the best and the brightest for the future, that education in the 21st Century requires winners and losers, that anxiety is somehow OK and can be an effective motivator, absolutely mystifies me!!!

I know I’m old-school, believing that an effective teacher working at the developmental level of the student, engaging and challenging but not threatening, fostering creativity, having fun, loving right and wrong answers, measuring progress by individual growth, and looking forward to arriving at school every day is the kind of teacher we all want. Right now I’m having trouble finding that kind of teacher. There’s a very serious epidemic going on and it’s connected to the Common Core, how it’s being implemented and how it’s affecting our people. We need to step in with a temporary prescription and buy time for a medical breakthrough that will eradicate this insidious disease. I think it’s critical that we make a serious commitment to a comprehensive anxiety reduction program at every school in our country.

I’m old-school enough to remember Marshall McLuhan reminded us that the “medium is the message”–how true it is today, as having goals is fine but how we are going about reaching them is the real message. I remember Albert Einstein’s caution that “not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted”–he would be appalled at what we are doing today in the name of accountability. I remember when Art Combs wrote that “the most important ideas people have are those ideas they have about themselves”–he would be outraged by how our students and teachers are perceiving themselves and their schooling today.

Some sixty years ago, on my parents’ front porch, on a late August afternoon, Donnie Dunlop and I were young, idealistic, and excited about learning how to make a difference in our world. I’ve come to accept the fact I’ll probably never see a cure for the common cold, and maybe that’s OK. Right now the Common Core needs my attention…and yours.

Let’s stop the insanity and let’s start with a decision to reduce the debilitating anxiety being generated in our schools every day…it will not be easy, but your decision should be.









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Last night I watched a video of Clint Eastwood’s most recent movie Trouble with the Curve (2012).

Not sure what the critics said when it first came out, but I thought it was quite entertaining, warm, generally well acted, clearly predictable but that’s OK…not every film has to be an Academy Award winner to be effective.

In fact, the more I think about Trouble with the Curve, the more I feel it’s a film every legislator and every educational policy maker should be required to see…my version of Paul Ryan’s need to have everyone read Ann  Ryand.

If you have read the book Moneyball and/or seen the recent movie version and/or know the concept—cyber-metrics can be a powerful tool in identifying a successful major league baseball player—then you might really appreciate how Trouble with the Curve is its counter-point. Where Moneyball is a fascinating 21st Century strategy to capture, sort out, and apply incredible amounts of data to a decision about a player’s potential, in Trouble with the Curve Eastwood plays an aging major league scout who gets data the old fashioned way…he uses local sports pages from newspapers, checks out some statistics, some data, but relies very heavily on his personal and professional instincts, nurtured over many years of up close and personal experience.

Remind you of anyone?

Reminds me of my best teachers and the kind of teachers I believe we need for the future!

In January 2014 I will have been an educator for 50 years…that’s a lot of “experience.” I’d like to think it has been a developing and evolving 50 years, not just one year 50 times. And while I love what the Internet world has brought to our lives, the huge advances made possible by technology, I also identify with Eastwood’s character in the film: I’m deeply disappointed by what is seemingly being lost, as aging scouts and educators move on.

It should not be an either/or situation, but I fear that the current educational winds are blowing all common sense, all personalization, all head and heart decision-making away…replacing them with tons of objective data, statistics, state and international comparisons, derived from standardized testing, common standards, and easy to measure metrics.

One thing my 50 years in education have taught me: not everything that counts can be counted.

Thanks for the reminder, Mr. Eastwood.

Happy New Year to all…hoping the future doesn’t throw you too many curves!

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I am a huge fan of Professor Yong Zhao and am sharing with you a recent BLOG he did on China’s proposals to reduce school testing.

With China’s ranking in the recently reported PISA Test results and comments by US Secretary of Education Duncan suggesting we are going to continue our insidious “race” with higher scoring countries, this update by Dr. Zhao is especially interesting.

 Dr. Yong Zhao is an internationally known scholar, author, and speaker. His works focus on the implications of globalization and technology on education. He has published over 100 articles and 20 books, including Catching Up or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization and World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students


China Enters “Testing-free” Zone: The New Ten Commandments of Education Reform  (

No standardized tests, no written homework, no tracking. These are some of the new actions China is taking to lessen student academic burden. The Chinese Ministry of Education released Ten Regulations to Lessen Academic Burden for Primary School Students this week for public commentary. The Ten Regulations are introduced as one more significant measure to reform China’s education, in addition to further reduction of academic content, lowering the academic rigor of textbooks, expanding criteria for education quality, and improving teacher capacity.

The regulations included in the published draft are:

  1. Transparent admissions. Admission to a school cannot take into account any achievement certificates or examination results. Schools must admit all students based on their residency without considering any other factors.
  2. Balanced Grouping. Schools must place students into classes and assign teachers randomly. Schools are strictly forbidden to use any excuse to establish “fast-track” and “slow-track” classes.
  3. “Zero-starting point” Teaching. All teaching should assume all first graders students begin at zero proficiency. Schools should not artificially impose higher academic expectations and expedite the pace of teaching.
  4. No Homework. No written homework is allowed in primary schools. Schools can however assign appropriate experiential homework by working with parents and community resources to arrange field trips, library visits, and craft activities.
  5. Reducing Testing. No standardized testing is allowed for grades 1 through 3; For 4th grade and up, standardized testing is only allowed once per semester for Chinese language, math, and foreign language. Other types of tests cannot be given more than twice per semester.
  6. Categorical Evaluation. Schools can only assess students using the categories of “Exceptional, Excellent, Adequate, and Inadequate,” replacing the traditional 100-point system.
  7. Minimizing Supplemental Materials. Schools can use at most one type of materials to supplement the textbook, with parental consent. Schools and teachers are forbidden to recommend, suggest, or promote any supplemental materials to students.
  8. Strictly Forbidding Extra Class. Schools and teachers cannot organize or offer extra instruction after regular schools hours, during winter and summer breaks and other holidays. Public schools and their teachers cannot organize or participate in extra instructional activities.
  9. Minimum of One Hour of Physical Exercise. Schools are to guarantee the offering of physical education classes in accordance with the national curriculum, physical activities and eye exercise during recess.
  10. Strengthening Enforcement. Education authorities at all levels of government shall conduct regular inspection and monitoring of actions to lessen student academic burden and publish findings. Individuals responsible for academic burden reduction are held accountable by the government.
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We continue to hear about big government versus small government,

about doing the right thing for people versus staying out of people’s lives,
about fair versus unfair taxation.
Yes, the role of government, personal freedom, and taxes are the talking points at the centerpiece of most political conversation. I’m not really a one-side or the other kind of guy, and most of us are not. We know that there are no easy answers and 140 character Twitter comments or repetitive slogans help but they don’t get to many who vote. Whether you live in a blue state or a red state or whether you are for or against a certain individual running for public office, the upcoming 2014 national elections are just around the corner; you might want to keep this in mind:
Individual initiative has made this country great, but that initiative has always been complementary to our collective commitments.
You and I—-“we”—make a powerful partnership!

So, how do “we” make the case for or against government, individual freedom, and taxes?  Do YOU want smaller government and lower taxes???

Before answering too quickly, please check out the following list from the very interesting blog “What Would Jack Do?” It’s a specific list of what NOT to do if you DON’T believe in taxation for the greater good.  I’m not a negative person, but sometimes a focus on “no” is a way to make a point—here’s the list:

  1. Do not use Medicare.
  2. Do not use Social Security
  3. Do not become a member of the US military, who are paid with tax dollars.
  4. Do not ask the National Guard to help you after a disaster.
  5. Do not call 911 when you get hurt.
  6. Do not call the police to stop intruders in your home.
  7. Do not summon the fire department to save your burning home.
  8. Do not drive on any paved road, highway, and interstate or drive on any bridge.
  9. Do not use public restrooms.
  10. Do not send your kids to public schools.
  11. Do not put your trash out for city garbage collectors.
  12. Do not live in areas with clean air.
  13. Do not drink clean water.
  14. Do not visit National Parks.
  15. Do not visit public museums, zoos, and monuments.
  16. Do not eat or use FDA inspected food and medicines.
  17. Do not bring your kids to public playgrounds.
  18. Do not walk or run on sidewalks.
  19. Do not use public recreational facilities such as basketball and tennis courts.
  20. Do not seek shelter facilities or food in soup kitchens when you are homeless and hungry.
  21. Do not apply for educational or job training assistance when you lose your job.
  22. Do not apply for food stamps when you can’t feed your children.
  23. Do not use the judiciary system for any reason.
  24. Do not ask for an attorney when you are arrested and do not ask for one to be assigned to you by the court.
  25. Do not apply for any Pell Grants.
  26. Do not use cures that were discovered by labs using federal dollars.
  27. Do not fly on federally regulated airplanes.
  28. Do not use any product that can trace its development back to NASA.
  29. Do not watch the weather provided by the National Weather Service.
  30. Do not listen to severe weather warnings from the National Weather Service.
  31. Do not listen to tsunami, hurricane, or earthquake alert systems.
  32. Do not apply for federal housing.
  33. Do not use the internet, which was developed by the military.
  34. Do not swim in clean rivers.
  35. Do not allow your child to eat school lunches or breakfasts.
  36. Do not ask for FEMA assistance when everything you own gets wiped out by disaster.
  37. Do not ask the military to defend your life and home in the event of a foreign invasion.
  38. Do not use your cell phone or home telephone.
  39. Do not buy firearms that wouldn’t have been developed without the support of the US Government and military. That includes most of them.
  40. Do not eat USDA inspected produce and meat.
  41. Do not apply for government grants to start your own business.
  42. Do not apply to win a government contract.
  43. Do not buy any vehicle that has been inspected by government safety agencies.
  44. Do not buy any product that is protected from poisons, toxins, etc…by the Consumer Protection Agency.
  45. Do not save your money in a bank that is FDIC insured.
  46. Do not use Veterans benefits or military health care.
  47. Do not use the G.I. Bill to go to college.
  48. Do not apply for unemployment benefits.
  49. Do not use any electricity from companies regulated by the Department of Energy.
  50. Do not live in homes that are built to code.
  51. Do not run for public office. Politicians are paid with taxpayer dollars.
  52. Do not ask for help from the FBI, S.W.A.T, the bomb squad, Homeland Security, State troopers, etc…
  53. Do not apply for any government job whatsoever as all state and federal employees are paid with tax dollars.
  54. Do not use public libraries.
  55. Do not use the US Postal Service.
  56. Do not visit the National Archives.
  57. Do not visit Presidential Libraries.
  58. Do not use airports that are secured by the federal government.
  59. Do not apply for loans from any bank that is FDIC insured.
  60. Do not ask the government to help you clean up after a tornado.
  61. Do not ask the Department of Agriculture to provide a subsidy to help you run your farm.
  62. Do not take walks in National Forests.
  63. Do not ask for taxpayer dollars for your oil company.
  64. Do not ask the federal government to bail your company out during recessions.
  65. Do not seek medical care from places that use federal dollars.
  66. Do not use Medicaid.
  67. Do not use WIC.
  68. Do not use electricity generated by Hoover Dam.
  69. Do not use electricity or any service provided by the Tennessee Valley Authority.
  70. Do not ask the Army Corps of Engineers to rebuild levees when they break.
  71. Do not let the Coast Guard save you from drowning when your boat capsizes at sea.
  72. Do not ask the government to help evacuate you when all hell breaks loose in the country you are in.
  73. Do not visit historic landmarks.
  74. Do not visit fisheries.
  75. Do not expect to see animals that are federally protected because of the Endangered Species List.
  76. Do not expect plows to clear roads of snow and ice so your kids can go to school and so you can get to work.
  77. Do not hunt or camp on federal land.
  78. Do not work anywhere that has a safe workplace because of government regulations.
  79. Do not use public transportation.
  80. Do not drink water from public water fountains.
  81. Do not whine when someone copies your work and sells it as their own. Government enforces copyright laws.
  82. Do not expect to own your home, car, or boat. Government organizes and keeps all titles.
  83. Do not expect convicted felons to remain off the streets.
  84. Do not eat in restaurants that are regulated by food quality and safety standards.
  85. Do not seek help from the US Embassy if you need assistance in a foreign nation.
  86. Do not apply for a passport to travel outside of the United States.
  87. Do not apply for a patent when you invent something.
  88. Do not adopt a child through your local, state, or federal governments. 89.Do not use elevators that have been inspected by federal or state safety regulators.
  89. Do not use any resource that was discovered by the USGS.
  90. Do not ask for energy assistance from the government.
  91. Do not move to any other developed nation, because the taxes are much higher.
  92. Do not go to a beach that is kept clean by the state.
  93. Do not use money printed by the US Treasury.
  94. Do not complain when millions more illegal immigrants cross the border because there are no more border patrol agents.
  95. Do not attend a state university.
  96. Do not see any doctor that is licensed through the state.
  97. Do not use any water from municipal water systems.
  98. Do not complain when diseases and viruses, that were once fought around the globe by the US government and CDC, reach your house.
  99. Do not work for any company that is required to pay its workers a livable wage, provide them sick days, vacation days, and benefits.
  100. Do not expect to be able to vote on election days. Government provides voting booths, election day officials, and voting machines which are paid for with taxes.
  101. Do not ride trains. The railroad was built with government financial assistance.

Thanks to the original author:

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Students in England taking the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE), a testing process that has generated issues much like the USA’s NCLB.

What’s wrong with this picture?

I see a symbolic illustration of how an obsession with testing has changed not only how we measure what happens in schools but it is also a yardstick of what’s really happening in schools. And what’s happening is simply depressing  to consider if you care about the future of schooling, as it is becoming, from my view, a testy situation–pun intended!

Sadly, the idea of taking a test is an innocent enough concept and, in fact, an important concept. A test does not have to be thought of as a pejorative word; it does not have to be thought of as a nasty four-letter word. In fact practically everyone wants tests—we want our airline pilots to have passed lots of tests, we expect our surgeons to have done well on  all of their tests, our teachers need to be certified, we believe that medicines should be tested before they receive approval for distribution, we want to take a test-drive before we buy a new car, consumers want products tested before they buy them, when there’s a health concern diagnostic tests can be lifesavers for humans and for our family pets, and then there’s the white-gloves test to see if the house if ready for company.

In schools we have always had tests, some better than others, but despite a few bad experiences we have never thought of tests in quite the same way as we do today. A random review of blogs about testing found these very representative comments:

from a mom: “I think this whole test business is awful. I remember going on field trips and doing fun science lessons when I was in elementary school. I would not have the love of reading I have today if I had to take all those tests instead.”

from a dad: “Too much testing and not enough learning. We need to come together and find a better way to make sure our kids are succeeding. Speak out!”

from a teacher: “Rather than holding teachers accountable for student progress and improvement over time, this legislation (a new teacher performance system in NY) dictates that students and teachers, out of an entire school year, will be judged by a few hours of a no.2 pencil scratching.”

And Califonia Governor Brown recently delivered an interesting one-liner in the context of criticizing a piece of testing related legislation, “Adding more speedometers to a broken car won’t turn it into a high-performance machine.”

A fascinating piece from the Educational Testing Service in 1999, “Too Much Testing” is worth a visit, even though it was written over a dozen years ago. You can download the full report at

It has clearly withstood the test of time!

Posted in leadership, teachers, testing | Leave a comment


        Why is this lady off on another adventure?
                        Isn’t that Kimberly?

The same lady who celebrated her 30th birthday by taking a 15 plus hour trek up and down Half Dome with her sister?

        Yes, that Half Dome and that Jennifer!

The same lady who would rather be water-skiing, enjoying sailing, or kayaking on Canandaigua Lake?

                                    Yes, that lady!

The same lady who left a successful career with Four Seasons, living and working in Chicago, New York, Nevis, and San Francisco and decided to give it all up and go to graduate school at Syracuse University?

                                   MA in International Reations from the Maxwell School

                                         MS in Public Relations from the Newhouse School

             Hanging out with the children of India while researching  international water issues.

Yes, that lady and that Syracuse University Public Diplomacy Program requiring completion of dual master’s degrees from two of the most pretigious programs in the country. From engaging classrooms to reserach in northern India to an internship at the US Department of State in Washington DC, Kimberly’s love of learning and making a difference by solving enviornmental issues is front and center.

 Why another adventure?

At the graduation ceremonies this weekend, there were many words of wisdom shared, but the ones that probably best answer the question “Why?” came from the speaker who reminded us it’s easy to offer criticism—but we have a chance to make a difference when we offer solutions.  

Kimberly intends to make a difference! 🙂

Congratulations, Little Guy. Your friends and family are so very proud of you, and we know the world is a better place because you care so much!!!        

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Around the December holidays, I always think about this message from the late, great comedian and sometime philosopher, George Carlin; it has been a few years since he wrote this, but much of it seems to still ring true…see if you agree:

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider freeways but narrow viewpoints.

We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less.

We have bigger houses and smaller families, more knowledge, but less judgement, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We’ve learned how to make a living, but not how to make a life. We’ve added years to life, but not life to years.

We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but we have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not our inner space. We’ve done larger things, but not better things…

Remember, spend time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever.

Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn’t cost a cent.

Remember to say “I love you” to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend a hurt when it comes from deep inside you.

Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again.


      Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take,
           but by the moments that take our breath away.

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I’m 70 years old and there are times when I can’t remember why I just walked into the den or what I was looking for. Early dementia? No, just, as my favorite doctor used to say, “Your briefcase is full.” It’s full, of course, because I have lived so long and have had opportunities to put so much in my briefcase.


The interesting thing is I can remember my 3rdgrade field trip to a local bank as though it were yesterday. I can remember my first camping experience, our family trips to the beach, being selected for a Little League team, our eighth grade trip to DC, especially the Smithsonian, our wedding day in 1964, the birth of both daughters (vividly), and the list goes on.

I share this because I just returned from a weekend trip to DC where I was stunned by my feelings of pride in our overwhelming beautiful capital, my awe of the bigger than life monuments and the reminders of the many important people and events that have made us so special, and an incredible understanding of how complex our country is and why we need a dynamic and reliable government.


So, I share this not because I want to make a case for more research on dementia or argue for bigger government. I share this because my weekend trip to DC somehow brought to light a perspective on current events in our world that I now believe might be better addressed with effective 21stcentury leadership. 

I’m deeply concerned about the current leadership in two major arenas:

q I am very concerned about the crisis of leadership in our Congress, the narrowing of our national perspective, the pandering to special interests, the failure to put the greater good at the center of our discourse.

q I am equally as concerned about the crisis of leadership in our educational system that has allowed data-driven-everything to dominate every decision, resulting in the loss of important teaching-learning opportunities for our teachers and students.

So, what’s the connection? What would a 21stcentury leader emphasize?

Field trips! Yes, field trips!!!

School districts nation-wide have all but eliminated meaningful field trips, whether it’s the economy squeezing the budget, fears of increased liability, alternative strategies such as virtual visits, or, as in too many cases, a misunderstanding of the worth of a field trip. The common response to “Why not a field trip?” is “We need more time on task for the areas of the test.” Sadly, what these comments don’t realize is the results in almost every area of any standardized test would be enhanced by an effective field trip. Not a believer? Take a moment and reflect on your schooling: what were the most memorable school activities you can recall? I’ve done this hundreds of times with future teachers and in every case a field trip or a project related to a field trip makes the list—every time! It could be a senior trip to DC, a project presented at the State Fair, a rewarding day at an amusement park, a band competition, a whale watch—the list is extensive.

Real and life-long learning occurs when there is a personally meaningful event, a connection, an ah-ha or an OIC (oh, I see) experience. Field trips provide meaningful learning and should be among the last things to go when there are decisions to be made at school.

I’m equally as sure that our elected officials in Congress need to take some field trips. When I hear how “bad” big government is, I have to wonder, do they get out and around in DC to visit and to know what our big government agencies really do? I’m sure there is room for some belt-tightening, but the country I have known, grown up in, prospered in, needs now more than ever to reach out and make a difference in the life of our people. Whether it’s the complex work of the State Department or the comprehensive issues worked on at the EPA, the Department of Agriculture, Veterans Affairs—-the list is extensive. The work is important. It makes us who we are as a nation.

Government makes a difference when it serves its people; that is happening in this country better than any other place in the world, and politicians looking for an issue would serve us all better by taking a field trip, checking things out, and making recommendations for improvement rather than thoughtless statements that “less government is better government.”

Yes, field trips. Still not convinced? I know not everyone can hop in a car, train, bus, or plane and visit DC, but it would really be a treat and a vivid reminder of what an awesome country we live in. In fact, most field trips provide opportunities for learning and evidence that we live in a very special place.

We still have a lot to learn. Let’s take a field trip!

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