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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Walking to DC March 29 and 30, 2010

The end of March in Connecticut means our CMT’s (state mastery tests) have ended. Most schools have been focus on these assessments for the past two months. For the months of February and March children in grades 3 to 8 lose Art, Music, social studies, and science. If you are poor and attend one of our regular urban elementary schools then art, music, social studies, and science most likely left long before February.
We keep hearing about the growing behavior issues with our children. Well this is what happens when you take away art, music, social studies, and science.
Who are these policy makers and politicians who can’t understand that what children read counts, art counts, and music counts. Do they really believe their test inspires learning?

March also bring parents to my office with their concerns and questions. Some I have known for years, and others are new.  Before the new ones say the first word I can read their thoughts. Our son or daughter needs help. He/she doesn’t do well with these tests.  I’ll ask is she/he passing their classes? Often the answer is yes, but these tests.  I always point outside our windows in the Literacy Center, and ask do you see all of these young people walking around our university? They say “yes.” I say this university never once requested any those state mandated test scores from any of these students.
This university does not care about those scores, Yale down the road does not care, and not one other university in our state requires those scores as part of their admission policy.
Then the real conversation begins, we always find a few real gifts their child possesses, and we build from there, and finally develop a plan of action. There are no miracles here. No promises, no lies, just hard work, and the realization that everyone can learn. Everyone can do better, and we work on doing better together.

The notion that more testing will improve reading scores is a pipe dream (a fantastic hope or plan that is generally regarded as being nearly impossible to achieve). Instruction feeds academic achievement not testing. Let me say it loud and let me say it clear, instruction feeds academic achievement not testing! We have spent the past 8 years testing our children in reading and math in elementary schools all over this nation. We have virtually moved art, music, social studies, and science out of the curriculum, and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) data suggest we have little on nothing to show for it.  750 billion dollars spent on educational reforms that gave us little or nothing in return. Do we really need to continue down this road?

A curriculum without art, music, social studies, and science will not inspire learning in our children.  My whispered prayers today are for more art, more music more history, more geography, and more science in our schools. You know the stuff that inspires learning.  I am not opposed to standardize testing, but the notion that the only measure of a child’s academic success is a single standardized measure is wrong.  This type of assessment is not balanced.
I define Balanced Assessment as a "photo album of performance - over time". Such an album includes classroom-based daily performance of students, alternative assessments as well as authentic assessments.  There are formal, informal, and differentiated assessments. Norm reference tests are included with criteria reference assessments.  Individualized assessments, motivation and effort put forth by the student.  There are notational observations by teacher, a student's grade point average, along with teacher, student and parent reflections and goals.  Balanced Assessment portfolios provide a clear picture of the whole child - from multiple perspectives.
Assessment and evaluation as rooted exclusively in formal standardized testing is narrow, it is essential to include the voices of all stakeholders; students teachers, parents, pupil services, and multiple assessment instruments and various assessment approaches while conducting a balanced and thorough assessment. Assessment is a photo album of performance over time that includes so more than state and federal mandated tests.

I walked 3.5 miles yesterday, but today I was inspired by those Florida parents and teachers that started posting  on the facebook wall of the Florida Senate Majority  notes against SB 6 and HB 7189, (bills to tie tenure and pay increases to test scores). Reading their posts inspired a fast 6.5 miles, and burned 1010 calories as well. I loved reading this on the page at noon today:

“Florida Senate Majority Office  Due to a high volume of comments on our wall, we respectfully request that any individual who wants to share an opinion on legislation being considered by the Senate, use the discussion tab to post your remarks. We appreciate having a lively discussion of the issues and want everyone interested in participating to have an opportunity to share”

So they do notice, and we can act, and we can post. GO Florida teachers and parents! Tell them we don’t want their 30 pieces of silver. Let them know Florida children are more than test scores. The crazy guy walking to DC loves Florida.
Almost forgot to mention my music choices for my walk today. Lots and lots of Creedance Clearwater Revival You know 'have you ever seen rain," Born on the bayou," "Green River," "Spirit in the sky," and I end with Aretha Franklin's "Respect"... Let me say it was all good. 
I am walking to DC,

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Walking to DC March 28, 2010

My hero and dearest Friend Dr. George Gentile United States Marine and Iowa Jima survivor.

My friend Dr. George Gentile a Iowa Jima marine who past away a few years ago loved coming to Pulaski Middle School in New Britain to talk to students about his experiences, and they adored Dr. Gentile.
They made him feel like a rock star once by asking him for his autograph after a talk he gave at Pulaski Middle School. That is George up there signing his autograph. He had a line of students asking for his autograph that day.
One group of students loved Dr. Gentile so much they came out to clean the New Britain Iowa Jima Memorial for him.
This was before NCLB. Even back then the Connecticut newspapers loved to print negative stories about children and their low-test scores. I remember one day George calls me up at CCSU, and starts telling me:
“Jesse you tell those kids they are all right in my book.”
“I can’t believe the Hartford Currant could print that these kids are failures.”
 "Where was the newspaper the day those kids cleaned our Memorial?”
You see Dr. Gentile understood that our children are more than test scores. This morning I visited the Iowa Jima Memorial, and said a few prayers for George, my uncles, and the boys that gave their all to this nation. Something tells me Dr. Gentile would say walk Jesse walk, and walk with your head up high. 

My Whispered Prayers on this 2010 Palm Sunday were thank you(s) for Jan Resseger, Minister for Public Education and Witness of United Christ whose written testimony submitted to the reauthorization NCLB provided the committee with a moral rejection of NCLB’s “Blueprint for reform.” Here are Minister Resseger 6 priorities for reauthorization of NCLB:

1.    Recognize that it is unfair and immoral to demand equal outcomes while remaining silent about equalizing the resources at the federal and state levels that create the opportunity for children to learn: address with resources the generational educational debt of poverty and segregation:
2.    Address economic and social issues outside the school day that impair learning;
3.    Improve the most vulnerable public schools turn away from blaming teachers and punishing the schools that serve the poor;
4.    Test children only in ways that improve instruction, measure real performance, and encourage exploration, imagination, and critical thinking;
5.    Set a visionary and at the same time workable school improvement time line to replace the utopian 2014 deadline; and
6.    Develop the unique gifts of each child, created in the image of god, rather than worshiping data and standardization.

Today my music was spiritual. While walking I kept thinking about how strange this concept of measuring the achievement of our children through test scores really is. On this 2010 Palm Sunday I imagined what would Abraham, Mosses, David, and Jesus think about viewing children as data?  What would they think about political leaders and policy makers spending one trillion dollars on bubble sheet tests, standards, assessment tracking systems, and public school reforms based on business models?

Somehow I find myself thinking they would say walk on Jesse, Walk on, and bring your message that children are more than test scores to DC.

Today my music was all-spiritual. My mother loved listening to Merle Haggard’s version of  “He walks with me”. Momma love her gospel music, and she left us with that love. Today I walked my 6 miles with my mother God rest her dear soul walking right by my side.  So I cried as I walked my 6 miles this 2010 Palm Sunday singing “ He walks with me, He talks with me, He tells me I am his own”.  My mother would approve of my walk to DC. She would cheer me on, she would say go tell it on a mountain Jesse, go tell them Children are more than test scores.
I am walking to DC,

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Walkng to DC, March 25, 2010

Today my whispered prayers were for Florida's teachers. The Florida Senate passed a bill that ties half a teacher's salary to test scores and placing their job on the line over a set of years. My prayers are whispers that some day our political leaders in Florida, Washington DC, and in every corner of this nation will come to understand this simple truth America's children as more than test scores.

Music for my walk today, lots of folk stuff, Pete Seeger, Peter Paul, and Mary, Dylan, and lots of rockers singing versions of "We shall over come". I love Bruce Springsteen’s version. I was outdoors; Shirley from Connecticut said you need practice on streets, curves, hills, grass, and tar mat surfaces. What Shirley says people tend to do! Outdoors it was, and it was a perfect walk.

Another 6 miles down. My meditations today led me to consider reading as a form of resistance and action. If an author exposes a powerful lie, (even if she may have been an insider) does reading her book become a form of civic action when it questions the status quo pushing that lie? I decided yes reading is an action, so is writing, emailing, calling, faxing, twittering, facebooking, standing up, sitting down, walking, and speaking up. Silent acceptance is not an action.

Our children are so much more than test scores, and so are parents and teachers. Wake up Washington DC!

I am walking to DC,

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Walking to DC March 24, 2010

Salutations Bloggers,
My whispered prayers today are for Mike an ESL teacher from Hartford Connecticut who I met last night. Mike explained that since the advent of "NCLB" his time testing students keeps growing. He now spends 61 out of 180 days each year testing rather than teaching his students. Another Hartford Special Education teacher Candace said she is spending the same time testing students. Heather, a Hartford art teacher and parent of a Hartford Public School student explain that testing has taken over her curriculum. Am I the only one missing something here with NCLB? The capital that feeds academic achievement is not testing, but instruction.

My music today was Pink Floyd's "Another brick in the wall" The weather was sunny, and I walked outside singing:"Teacher, teacher leave them kids alone" I ended with some Billy Idol Dancing with myself, and Rebel, Rebel. Guest you could say my walk was jamming today. I almost forgot to mention I walked another 6 miles, and melted some 800 calories away. 

Lots of people are asking where did this walking thing begin. So here it is:

Like many of you, these high stake assessments have been a long struggle for me.   It actually began even before NCLB.  We arrived in Connecticut in 1997, and I soon discovered that the first 6 weeks of school was practice for the Connecticut Mastery Tests (CMT’s).  For my daughter Erin who was going into 3rd grade, there was no getting to know each other the first few days of September, no building of community; just immediately begin practicing for the state test the first or second day of school. It was insanity in my opinion to give away the start of every school year to this nonsense.

By 1999 I was working locally with a group of faculty members, teachers, and other professionals to develop an anti-high stakes position paper. This was a rather big risk for me at the university, a new, non-tenured faculty member - in the School of Education.   We wrote the paper asking faculty from other departments to sign it.  In the end some 38 people signed on, and we sent it to The Commissioner of Education. It took our state newspaper (The Hartford Courant) nearly a year to have the position paper published in their newspaper.  Back then there wasn’t too much interest in this type of thing.  Our position paper, delivered to the Commissioner and published in the newspaper pretty much went unnoticed.  Never the less, we felt a sense of accomplishment.    Over the next few years we went our separate ways. A few of us stayed in touch and at times work together on common issues.  In the last two years we have added some new/younger faculty, and we continue to collaborate together.  These are the people who are helping me with my walk to DC.

I held on to those same principles I had back in 1997, and since then have been tenured and promoted. I am now the Director of our University Literacy Center.  I continue to be active in my opposition to high stakes assessment.   I collaborated on  three anti NCLB conferences.   I have brought Susan Ohanrian, and other big names in to those conferences.  Our very first conference was "Children Are More Than Test Scores"… so now you know where the group name comes from (-:

Last year we brought in David Berliner (Manufactured Crisis and Collateral Damage) as our keynote speaker for our annual Central Connecticut State University Literacy Essentials Conference.  My position and life’s compassion allows me to work with children, parents, teachers, and schools on a daily basis. My major concern, (or should I say my pain) is with the limited value of the actual data collected with high stakes assessment from special needs children. I am not against standardized measures, but I am against single measures used to categorize and box learners in reductionist little boxes.

I advocate in every way that I can for children, parents, and teachers.  Lately, to me it seemed that no one was listening, especially with this RTTT rhetoric.  I decided I needed to advocate in a different way.  A group of teachers and fellow faculty members started presenting resistance stories at National Conferences.  We have been well received by teachers and educators.  In November of last year I knew something had changed, at two of these conferences, teachers at the presentations began to cry, at the end of the presentation, audience members (teachers/faculty members) wanted to hug us for presenting the resistance stories.
I felt compelled to do more, at the end of our sessions when people asked “Jesse what can we do”?  I started thinking about this walk. I told myself I would do it – myself - a one man protest.   But people began to ask “where” “when” and “can we join you” Thus, this is how “The Walk” began…

I am a compassionate teacher who loves his work.  Honestly, I never imagined I would become an activist.  I am often reluctant to step outside my little safe room.  In my room all children and teachers are valued, and we all enrich our learning journey together.  I could have stayed in my little corner - if they left the children and teachers I work with alone.  But, NCLB/RTTT misguided testing requirements consistently dehumanizes the children and teachers around me.   So yes,  Bloggers, I started on January 2nd,  with 250 miles on my treadmill, (and weighing  34 pounds less…)   I am (for me) in serious preparation for my walk in August to DC to protest this insane policy of NCLB/RTTT.  I am overjoyed that so many others want to join this effort, I am now envisioning “State Chapters” but my resources are limited.   I invite others to join me, but the only certainty I really have is that I am walking. 

In reaching out to others, I am beginning to think we may actually have become that tidal wave of change.  I am open to all suggestions.  I see my potential partners as PTO’s and Teachers Unions.  I have not as yet approached these groups – but this network is growing…  I would most definitely need some help to go public with this aspect.   It is not easy giving 110 % to my work, and now to this cause.  But in August of this year, whether it’s with 3000, 30, 3, or just me - I will walk to DC to protest this state of affairs.  Let me know what you think…
I am walking to DC,


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Walking to DC March 23, 2010

Today’s whispered prayers were for the 23,000 teachers who were given pink slips last week in California. Is this the promise of “Race To The Top” that our federal government will abandon public schools in need? One does wonder how the same federal government that ran head over heals to save Wall Street could turn it’s back on it’s public schools. We don’t need new tests, new standards, new curriculums in boxes, new data tracking systems that reduces our children to test scores. 23,000 fewer teachers’ means larger class sizes for children always ready struggling.

As a person of intense faith I believe everyone will be held accountable in the end.
Who would you rather be; The man walking to DC, because someone has to tell them children are more than test scores, or the people in Washington DC who saved Wall Street, but could not find it in their hearts to save our schools?

Today’s six miles was the hardest thus far, but then I saw Children are more than test scores go over 3000 members, and I ran the last mile as 814 calories melted away(-:}

Music choices James Taylor’s Walking man started the walk, but Lee Ann Womack’s “ I hope you dance” took me home at a fast run.
I kept playing with the words substituting walk for dance, and thought of ways on Labor Day as I reach DC maybe people could be walking all over this nation to the beat of I hope you walk, I hope you believe our children are more than test scores…Then I thought there must be some way to bring us together digitally when I reach DCI hope you never lose your sense of wonder.
In side my mind it went:
“You get your fill to eat, but always keep that hunger,
May you never take one single breath for granted,
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed,
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens,
Promise me that you'll give fate a fighting chance,”

And when you get the choice to sit it out or walk
I hope you walk, I hope you walk.

Tonight I am joinning Kurt love's group to brainstorm ways we can help each other fight NCLB. I take great pleasure in knowing that "Race to nowhere" is previewing in New York. Wish I could be there! Need to figure a way to bring it here as well. Love that film, and the way it inspires parents and teachers to see beyond the bubles on test sheets.
I feel a tidal wave building in my imagination. I believe in dreams, and I am walking to DC,
Jesse Turner

Monday, March 22, 2010

Walking to DC March 22, 2010

Well 6 miles, and 814 calories melted away today. My whispered prayers today are for the parents of children who don't fit those neat little standardized testing bubbles. Like Brandy Culver Simmons whose son is in the second grade with an IEP since the start of the year. She and her son are happy where they are at, but the powers that be want to move him to a new school. Where is Brandy's and her son's school Choice? NCLB is not listening to parents, children, or teachers in any of this. Neither Brandy nor her son wants to change schools. I was so touched by her story I walked an extra half mile today. I am not suppose to reach six miles a day until April, but her story gave me the power to go the extra distance today. Roll on August I am on a mission.

Well we are at 2,812 members, and growing by the hour. Georgia Hendrick is carving a walking stick for my walk. You remember Georgia she designed our image for "Children are more than test scores. Well she figures children, parents, and teachers can send me ribbons to attached to my walking stick to show their support. I love the idea, and envision thousands of ribbons on my walking stick. Won't that be a glorious sight? I bet people will notice a guy walking with a stick like that.

My music for today was all spiritual. I began with "Here I am lord"I felt compelled to walk on and sing along as I listened to these words:

"Here I am Lord
Is it I Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night
I will go Lord
If you lead me
I will hold your people in my heart."

Then "Amazing Grace" by Julie Collins lifted me further. There is something deep inside me that is moved by religious music.

I did walk inside today with a nasty rain falling, and thus I was able read another chapter on my kindle in Diane Ravitch's book. She is weaving a powerful case against NCLB/RTTT, and exposing some of the most powerful educational reformers of the past decade as charlatans. This is an absolute must read for anyone wanting to understand how NCLB is undermining our public schools.  The TAWLers are planning a shared online reading group of her book. You can bet I’ll be joining them for this one.
I am walking to DC,

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I am walking to DC March 20 and March 21, 2010

Salutations friends, my sincerest apologies for not posting yesterday, and for posting two days together at once. Yesterday was our CCSU 2010 Literacy Essentials conference.
March 20, 2010
My whispered prayers today are for a little girl from Connecticut who has Leukemia, and whose pathetic principal went to the hospital to give her the Connecticut Mastery Test. Could you imagine this sicko doing something like this? The ugliness that that NCLB brings out in administrators never ceases to amaze me. Let me say not all administrators are like this. There are decent principals out there, but ones like this give them all bad names.
today Dr. Don Leu from the University of Connecticut was our keynote speaker. Dr. Leu is a gifted scholar who I have known for about 10 years now. His speech focused on his field New Literacies, or as some people like to say Digital Literacies.  Dr. Leu  and his students took us on a ride into the future, and it was exciting. He warns us that the current focus on paper and pencil testing is leaving our children behind.
If you ever have the chance to hear him please do he is a genuine visionary, and his work on digital comprehension is fascinating.
I also got to spend time with Barry Lane who is such a gift to teachers and children. Barry Lane puts the fun back into learning and teaching, and I was blessed to have spent three sessions with Barry. We danced, sang, and walked away with tones of practical ways to blend higher thinking order processes and fun into our teaching.

Almost forgot to say I did 5.5 miles again. Hey did you think I would miss preparing for my walk to DC? No way I am is on a mission to walk to DC, and give Secretary Duncan a piece of his mind. My music was all Motown today. Needed to walk fast, and Motown makes my feet fly.
Another thing I did at the conference was set up a table to inform people about my walk to DC, and to promote the facebook group “children are more than test scores”.
It was fun, and everyone who stopped by was positive, and I am certain I picked up a few new members, and maybe even a walker or two.

March 21, 2010, today was bright, sunny, and warm. So I drove up to Eastern Connecticut to walk. I walked up, down, and around the hill up around UNCONN. Wow, it was just shear bliss, and I walked 6 miles, and loved every second of my walk. My whispered prayers were thank you to the Lord. Two weeks ago I thought is anybody listening? Does anybody care about this insanity called NCLB/RTTT?
Tonight some 2,626 members later I know I am not alone. I am humbled, and completely taken by surprise, I am in total awe of how many people have joined our facebook group “Children are more than test scores”. This is a dream come true, and they post and share their ideas, concerns, and hopes openly.  They inspire me, and I am walking to DC.
Today my meditations were thankful thoughts, and the hope that when I make it to DC that a few people will be there to greet me. 
My music for my walk today was a DC or Bust playlist on my iPod of Dylan. Marley, Joan Boaz, Peter Gabriel, Sinead O’Connor, and Andrew Lloyd Webber, with a little Gospel music.
I am struggling with how to post my Google walking map the thing is 15 pages long. Let me know if anyone has any ideas? I want to do it right, because it will allow people to walk a mile or two with me, and share their NCLB/RTTT stories as well. 
I am walking to DC,

Friday, March 19, 2010

March 19, 2010 Walking to DC

Well friends here is my kindle and iPod they have taken me 372,000 steps to being to ready for my walk to DC. Almost forgot I lost 33 pounds along the way as well. Today is a bright sunny 72 degree day in Connecticut. So it appears that my indoor walking days will soon be ending. The kindle will soon be left at home, and it will be just that dynamic duo Jesse and his iPod. Hey big outdoors get ready for my 800,000 step walk to DC. This morning I met with our local parent leader, (Tyler's Dad) of the New Britain walk for autism. Looks like I am walking in June with them to help them get a few walkers for their cause. 
My whispered prayers today are for all those families living with autism. May they find acceptance, compassion, and the support they and their love ones need. Go Tyler! Tyler is one of the many children who have gone through our Literacy Center, he is a good reader, honest, hard working, and a blessing to all those who know him. He is not limited by his autism, but by those minds who can't see beyond his label. Tyler is beautiful, and so much more than a test score.
I will be promoting my walk at the CCSU Literacy Essentials Conference tomorrow. I am not asking for money, (remember my walk is self funded), but maybe I'll pick up some walking buddies at least for the Connecticut part of my walk. I'm not really sure what promoting my walk means, but I know I need to get out, stand up for what is right. Like Bob Marley sang "Stand up for your rights".
I guess you can tell it was Bob Marley all day today. I end my walk with "I am the small axe coming to cut you down". Someone tell Arne Duncun a small axe is walking to DC,

Here is a peek at spring sneaking up arpund the corner(-;]

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I am walking March 18, 2010

I bet you thought hey Jesse where is your blog? Did this guy skip his 11,000 steps today? Never doubt my determination friends, I walk everyday. Today it was another 5.5 and 756 calories melted away.

Today's my whispered prayers were inspired by Yvonne Siu-Ruyan who forwarded me a link about Congressman Joe Baca who introduce a “Bill to End No Child Left Behind Testing Requirements” (Bill Would End Costly Testing Requirements, Reign in "Teaching to the Test" Culture).  I am holding a "leave a message for Joe saying thank you" party this weekend. Plus having everyone call his or her congressperson to support Joe's bill.

I was also humbled by a poem from Joan Rankin Gaston a music teacher from North Carolina who sent me “ I don’t teach test scores” poem. Take a look at it on our facebook page if you have a chance. It weaves the harm all this testing is doing to teachers and children perfectly.  Then Sarah MCintosh Puglisi responded to Joan's poem posting a painful truth attesting to the damage this policy is doing as well. These are my three heroes today, two delivered powerful truths, and one left me a door of hope. These ladies humbled me, and I am honored to be in their presence.

You can read Sarah story about helping a child who was abused, and Joan Rankin Gaston poem on our facebook page under “ here is a little gift from Joan.
Also the link Yvonne Siu-Runyan forwarded to me on the bill is:

I did read the Diane Ravitch book, and continue to be impressed with the way she is laying out her case against NCLB, and she is at least opening my mind to taking a second look at the “Common Standards”, but like Stephen Krashen I am extremely concerned that these policy makers will use them as an excuse to develop more tests. My kindle is cool, but I will soon be leaving the treadmill behind for the outdoors. Something tells me my kindle may be dangerous for walking outside (-;

Music, well today is was country music that kept me focused. I like the old stuff you know Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Waylon and the boys.  Strange as it may seem I end with Buena Vista Social Club. I grew with a Latin flavor and Motown all around me. I was the last white kid in our neighborhood, a real ghetto boy through and through. Music kept us going, inspired us, moved and sustained us. Church fed the soul, and music fed our feet.  The ache breaky heart country stuff stole a piece of my heart during my stay in Arizona. There is nothing better than Hank Williams late at night in the Tucson desert under a million stars.

I keep dreaming and walking to a place called change. We have to stop this insanity of reducing our children and teachers to numbers on test that by pass their souls.
Sorry my blog was a little later today. I had a day full of meetings, but I always do my walk. Since my blog came so late in the day we have no swaeaty picture today, but you do have a look in my tie.
I am walking to DC,

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

JHAPPY Saint Patrick’s Day everyone!

Hello Fellow bloggers, (I still can't believe I am blogging-I am such a paper and pen kind of person) I'm not certain if you can see my "I am walking to DC....Because someone has to tell children are more than a test score coffee cup. Feels cool, and holds the coffee well, and it brings instant smiles to both parents and teachers.

Another 5.5 miles’ day remember Jesse is on a mission to walk to DC here.
Sadly last night the Hartford Board of Education voted 5-4 to change their contract of district seniority. Good luck with that in the courts! The mayor appoints a majority of the board-so while he may have won last night’s vote his super majority is slipping. I wonder if this has anything to the two indictments against him, and his coming trail for corruption in Hartford.  My payers are with the Hartford AFT teachers and those parents being split apart while schools and children are suffering.

How many steps are in a mile? What is that you say magic voice "2000 steps". How far is 10,000 steps anyway Magic voice? The average person's stride length is approximately 2.5 feet long. That means it takes just over 2,000 steps to walk one mile, and 10,000 steps is close to 5 miles. That is a mere 800,000 steps for me to DC. No Problem Man, as my Jamaican brothers and sisters love to say. Why I am already at 11,000 steps a day, and I add another 2000 steps a month. No problem Man!

I just finished another “11,000 steps” day. I am looking forward to my coming “20,000 steps” days this summer.
I am walking to DC,

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

My letter to President Obama the one that started it all

Jesse is Walking to Washington, DC
Susan Notes:
This is magnificent testimony. Follow Jesse's blog here.

By Anthony Cody

Regular readers may recall that back in November I expressed my frustrations with the direction Obama and Duncan have taken in education through an open letter to the President. I also began a Facebook group, Teachers' Letters to Obama, and collected over 100 passionate and well-informed letters, which I sent to Obama and Duncan in December. One of those letters stuck with me. I wanted to share it with my readers, but the author asked me to wait -- he had some plans in the works. Those plans are now in place, so today I share with you this letter from Jesse Turner:

by Jesse Turner

Walking is an old story for me. As a child my mother, sisters, and I spent a winter without gas heat, (Father walked out on us--we could not pay the gas bill before the winter legal shut off date). We had a little kerosene heater for our only source of heat in our apartment. It was the coldest winter of our lives. My mother was a waitress working 10 hours a day six days a week. There was never enough of anything.

I guess you might call us the original latch key kids of the 1960's. We stole electricity from a socket in the hallway. Only one appliance at a time could be put on, and only at night. We were afraid someone would find out what we were doing. Each evening as our mother climbed the three flights of stairs to our little apartment we were there at the door complaining, "we're cold, mom, and tired of sandwiches." We moaned and we moaned every night.

She would kick off her white shoes, take off the red apron, and sit
down, and say "how was school today?"

We would shut off the lamp, put on the candle, and turn on the electric kettle. We tell her school was warm. We tell her no one got in trouble. My sisters would say we went to the library. The library was warm, and the library ladies were nice. As soon as she took that first sip of tea almost on cue I would say, "I'm cold mom."

It never ceases to amaze me how she held it all in. Always a brave smiling face saying "well, then, let's all have some tea" to warm everyone up. We would sleep with blankets, coats and sweaters.

We woke up during each night with cold noses, and blew warm air into cupped hands to warm them. I love doing that to this very day on a cold day.

Mother came home from work one particularly bad snowy night to find us huddled together complaining about how cold it was in our little apartment. This night tea was not enough. So she says "let's walk around. Let's walk around the apartment. Let's start in the kitchen, and move from room to room. Let's keep walking. Don't stop! Keep walking now. Let's keep adding some more clothes. Put a pair of pants over your pajamas. Put an extra shirt on. Keep walking. Don't stop. Put on an extra sweater. Put your coats on. Keep walking -- don't stop."

"Hey little Jess, you look like you are sweating. You must be hot." "Oh yes, momma, I'm hot. Let's take off our coats."

All warm and cozy we sat down, and mom told us the story of the Hebrews, and how they walked for 40 years in the desert. We grew up watching Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, walk all over this nation of ours on television. I learned about the Cherokee Nation and their "Trail of Tears" in school. Years later on the Navajo nation I would learn about the Navajo "Long Walk" from my friend Tony Gatewood on the third mesa. I have no illusions about walking. I only know somehow it keeps us warm. It starts things moving, and it is so much better than standing still. Plus I have some other feet stepping beside me to help pull it off.

I figure we'll start walking this year, and maybe some others will join us next year, and maybe some more after that. I don't know where it will go, but I want to walk just the same.


This is not just about walking,

This is about feeling powerless,

This is about starting things moving,

This is about one trillion dollars not being spent on tutors to help teachers in their classrooms reach children who are falling behind,

This is about not hiring 100,000 new teachers to reduce class size,

This is about 94 dead teenagers in Chicago,

This is about one teenager set on fire by other teenagers in Florida,

This is about a young 15-year old California girl raped in public view after her homecoming dance,

This is about the 2009 US Justice department report showing over 60% of American children reporting they were exposed to violence last year, and no one questioning this,

This is about another White House looking at test scores rather than looking at the human faces behind their numbers.

This is about spending a trillion dollars on new tests; curriculum packages that come in boxes, and endless new standards that US Department of Education Impact study after Impact study show declines in comprehension and no effects.

This is about a new form of insanity, one that spends billions everywhere, except where it is needed most.

This is about another generation being left behind.

This is about Sarah's (one of our new inservice teachers) first grade reader reading at the third grade level having to sit through phonics lessons because he needs to learn to sit still, (when she knows it is because he does not fit in their little boxes).

I have no power. I have no army.

Like you Mr. President, I too have an audacity to hope and two feet willing to walk. I am one man, but I can be a witness. I can walk to DC, and tell parents, teachers, and children someone is listening. My name is Jesse Turner, and this summer I am walking to Washington DC to protest this misguided educational reform policy.

I am not alone. I have joined Teachers' Letters to Obama Join me there, and join with the more than 1530 people who have joined the Facebook group I created, "Children are more than test scores" You can also follow my blog, Children are more than test scores.

We are walking to Washington, DC.

Jesse Turner
Director of the Central Connecticut State
University Literacy Center
New Britain, Connecticut

March 16, 2010 Walking to DC

I began my day with prayers for Nancy Winterbloom a teacher of 38 years from Martin Luther King Elementary School in Hartford Connecticut. She publish an inspirational letter this past Sunday in the Hartford Currant (,0,6995513.story). Nancy is speaking at the Hartford Board of Education tonight, and so will many other teachers, parents, and students. I hope the board listens to her voice of reason. My thoughts were with Sarah Mcintosh Puglisis another teacher who is losing her ability to walk, and facing surgery, but yet still finding the energy to teach her first graders. Yes I am whispering prayers of hope for these two ladies today, and parents, children, and my fellow teachers everywhere.

Today it was another 5.5 at a 4 incline, and some 865 calories melted away. Today’s music was all Les Misérables. Let me say I could walk all the way to DC. I am looking forward to teaching at the Literacy Center today. We are celebrating women's History month here, and I have been giving out gold medals (plastic party store ones of course) to every child who can name five famous women, and tell me what made them famous. If they do this we stop everything at the Literacy Center, the teachers and children gather round as Dr. Turner places their gold medal on that child, and gets down on his knees bowing down over and over three times saying " ________ are smarter than Dr. Turner, and I bow down to your brain power". It is so much fun watching their smiling faces. By the way I have to buy more medals this women's history invitation is breaking the bank (-: This is what inspires a love of learning Arne Duncan, and I feel sorry that you can't see beyond your test scores. You really are a very small man.

Today Anthony Cody in his education week blog posted my letter to Obama, and Susan Ohanian posted my letter on her Good News page. I think I should share that letter that started me walking to DC here my blog in case you missed.
I am walking to DC,

Monday, March 15, 2010

March 15, 2010 Walking to DC
Well today meditations began as always with prayers. I believe in the power of prayer. My prayers were beautiful silent whispers and hopes that our leaders, policy makers, and politicians would start to view our children as gifts, as magic, as so much more than test scores.

I read another chapter in Diane Ravitch’s book, and came to understand the hope of A Nation At Risk report. Even though I have quoted it in my own dissertation I had forgotten how much possibility it offered us. She clearly pointed out the damage being done by NCLB. While she punches away every chance she gets at NCLB. I am coming to like this tireless puncher of truth.

What really inspire me today though was thinking about my dear old friend Danny Lopez, a Tohono O’odham Elder. Back in 1993 I went to the University of Arizona to begin study for my PhD, and found a little job teaching Tohono O’odham students from the O’odham nation in Cells Arizona. It was the most amazing learning and teaching journey ever.  Moving to Arizona meant my wife, my daughter, and I would be as poor as church mice for six years, but become amazingly rich in spirit.
The first time I met Danny Lopez he was standing outside my classroom door. He looked like he was cleaning the doorframe. I look over, and said good morning. He looks back, said thank you, and walked away. I assume he was the custodian, and move on. A few weeks later at a Tribal government meeting there he was leading the crowd in a special blessing.

Danny was a highly respected tribal leader. Toward the end of the night I went over to him, and said hello. He smiled this most beautiful smile, and said "welcome Jesse Turner teacher from the east". I got the courage to ask Danny what was he doing to the door on that day. Even today nearly 17 years later I can’t hold back my tears thinking of his response. I can’t help crying as I write thinking about Danny’s words. Here is what Danny Lopez my friend that great Tohono O’odham elder said that day:
“ I was blessing the doorway to learning. I was honoring all those that pass through that door, and you our new teacher. Those who come to teach our children humble me. I wanted to give you a great blessing and welcome you to the Tohono O’odham Nation. Then he said: “ Native peoples view education as a sacred trust, and we honor all teachers.”

That day I was Danny’s student for the lesson of a lifetime. Teaching is a sacred trust, and now you know why I begin all my teaching days with whispered prayers for our students, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, policy makers, and politicians. I pray our nation comes to understand that part of our sacred trust is learning that our children are more than test scores. Today another 5.5 miles on the treadmill and another 757 calories down .
I am walking to DC,

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Walking to DC March 14, 2010

Preparing for my walk to DC this morning on my treadmill I covered 5.5 miles at a level 4 incline. I burned a little over 800 calories. My routine on the treadmill is to read on my kindle, and listen to inspirational music on my iPod.  I let my imagination go wild. I imagine meeting people on the walk to DC, and listening to their NCLB/RTTT stories. Sometimes I see myself alone, sometimes someone joins me, and sometimes my imagination even sees hundreds walking with me.

My reading for this week is Suzanne Collins “The Hunger Games” and Diane Ravitch’s new book, “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education”. I find both books compelling reading. However music this rule the day today on my treadmill.

Today my inspiration came from the number of new facebook voices on “Children are more than a test score, ”and music from Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. This morning it was Starlight express that took over at 5 miles, and brought me home.
You have to love this musical’s plot.  It revolves around a group of toy railway trains, portrayed by actors on roller-skates, who come to life inside the mind of a small boy. The trains race to become the 'fastest engine in the world', and in the end, Rusty the underdog triumphs, and wins the race and the heart of the beautiful observation car. Musicals and my imagination running wild won the day as we all were marching into DC together.
I am walking to DC,

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Day 1

Today is my first blog ever. I am new to blogging, but not new to fighting for the rights of children, parents, and teachers. I have been fighting the battle for balanced assessment for many years now. It is not that I am against using standardized assessments, but what about other sources of data?  What about a student's GPA? What about what students have to say? What about what teachers and parents have to say?  We all know some learners do not do well on certain kinds of assessments. What happens to these students when we rely on single standardized assessments?
To rely on one single measure from an outside source as the main indicator of a child's or a school's success is narrow minded and misguided. It weakens parents, communities, and our democracy. 
The decision to walk began in November, (2009) at the National Council of Teachers of English conference in Philadelphia. I was presenting NCLB resistance stories with Dr. Barbara Clark, Dr. Joss French, Dr. Lynda Valerie, Megan Zebra, and Dr. Kurt Love.
Barbara told people she walks in the Thanksgiving Road Race in Manchester Connecticut with her students every year handing out literature that questions NCLB.
Next thing we said lets walk to DC.
I post a letter to Anthony Cody’s Letters to Obama. That was 32 pounds ago. I said I was walking to DC, and I am a man of my word.
I will post the letter I wrote to President Obama that was included in Anthony’s Cody letters to the president.