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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

June 18, 2010 Walking from Hamden to New Haven CT

Good newsreaders. We are on the radar.

1. Michael Strickland wrote on the walk:
2. Helen Ubines wrote about the walk in the Hartford Courant and the Chicago Tribune:,0,2318944.column
3. Children are more than test scores made it to the Washington Post via Valerie Strauss list of groups opposing NCLB/RTTT.
4. Dr. Stephen Krashen, Dr. Jong Zhao, and Richard Larkin twitter updates about the walk.
5. Susan Ohanian put us on her Yahoo Good News page again.
6. 20 more ribbons arrive this week from East Hartford Connecticut, (they came from a teacher in a group of teachers I spoke to about my walk last week).
7. That is Dean Mitchell Sakofs from the School of Education and Professional Studies at Central Connecticut State University in the above picture. He offered great advice and some tech tools to help me out as well.

A quote for thought: President Theodore Roosevelt said: "To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society."
Two Hartford Connecticut voices from the history classroom:
Last week I met two extremely talented middle school history teachers. The first one a young man named Dan a newly tenured teacher from the University of Connecticut  just left his tenured position in the Hartford Public Schools to teach in a suburban district. He said he was leaving, "because they were not letting him teach history. The first year I started off teaching history, and loved it, and my students enjoyed learning about history.  By the end of my second year I was told to stop teaching history, and start teaching writing. The focus shifted to preparing them for the CMTs, (state mastery tests). My students hated it, and so did I. I left to teach history. Kids need to learn history. "

The Roman historian Cicero :” History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time; it illuminates reality, vitalizes memory, provides guidance in daily life, and brings us tidings of antiquity.”
Something is wrong with a middle school that passes over history to work on preparing for mastery testing.

The other middle school history teacher is from one of Hartford's Magnet Schools. He teaches history as a special these days. "In the past Dr. Turner all our students had social studies every year five days a week, the sixth graders learned geography, seventh graders learned world history, and eight graders learned US history all year long. Now with the focus on keeping test scores things have changed. History is not on the test. So two history teachers were let go, and I teach 40 minute hit and run history lessons." He said students may or may not get history. Even when they do it is so condense it makes no sense. "It is a shame, a real shame on America."

Not a shame on America, but a shame on Washington DC. I am perplexed by these NCLB/RTTT reform policies.  Does anyone in Washington understand the impact of their reforms on local schools?  Let me be the first to tell it like it is, if it is not on the test children don't get it...Civics gone and citizenship gone sacrificed to preparing for the test.

Winston Churchill said: "The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see." A nation without history in its public schools is doomed to fail. There are things more important than Secretary Arne Duncan's data. History is one of them.

My whispered prayer today is that Washington DC's Educational leadership returns to sanity. They need to understand Children are more than test scores. History is a corner stone of public education. A corner stone too big to measured on some bubble sheet. Alexis de Tocqueville wrote: "When the past no longer illuminates the future, the spirit walks in darkness."   I am walking to DC, because I refuse to live in darkness.

Helen Ubines wrote about the walk in the Hartford Courant and the Chicago Tribune:,0,2318944.column

Children are more than test scores made it to the Washington Post via Valerie Strauss list of groups opposing NCLB/RTTT.

Michael Strickland wrote on the walk:

Susan Ohanian put us on her Yahoo Good News page again:

Dr. Stephen Krashen, Dr. Yong Zhao, and Richard Lakin twitter updates about the walk to DC regularly.

Who knows maybe our next stop will be on CNN.
I am walking to DC,

Monday, June 14, 2010

A litte before and after picture comparisons for readers. What a difference a year makes. My wife who is a teacher has been walking with me as well. We love this protest walking stuff.
That is June 2009, and this is June 2010.
 So readers walking for what you believe is healthy stuff. Go for it, and remember Children are more than test scores. If anyone between Connecticut and DC would like to share a cup of coffee during my walk to DC let me know?
I am walking to DC,
I am walking to DC

My Creative protest walking to DC on June 11, 2010 my birthday.

This is my Grand Nephew, and like all children he was born so much more than a test score. One can only wonder what kind of fools would reduce children to mere numbers on a test.  

Dr. Martin Luther King wrote in his autobiography: “I became convinced that noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. No other person has been more eloquent and passionate in getting this idea across than Henry David Thoreau. As a result of his writings and personal witness, we are the heirs of a legacy of creative protest."

I am called to walking as my creative protest. Dr. King’s legacy of service compels me to walk.  I imagine the first time Martin heard James Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Every voice and sing”. I try to live in Martin’s steps today. His shoes are of course much too big for me. I took his American history lesson with me on my walk today. Principal Johnson’s poem "Lift Every Voice and Sing" was publicly performed first as a poem, as part of a celebration of Lincoln's Birthday on February 12, 1900 by 500 school children at the segregated Stanton School. In 1919 it would be set to music, and the NAACP adopted the song as "The Negro National Anthem." Principal, James Weldon Johnson, wrote the words to introduce its honored guest Booker T. Washington.
The song provided Dr. King and a nation of African Americans with hope for the future, and pride in their struggle for equality. While walking today from Meriden to North Haven Connecticut Principal James Weldon Johnson’s words gave me strength and filled me with hope as well. There is something powerful about walking, reflecting, and singing that empowers a person. It is no coincidence that the first public reading began with the voices of 500 children. If you open your hearts, and close your eyes you can hear the children singing:
“Lift every voice and sing,
'Til earth and heaven ring,
 Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
 Let our rejoicing rise
 High as the listening skies,
 Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.       
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on 'til victory is won.”
Today my whispered prayer is for 500 voices singing Principal’s Johnson’s poem whenI arrive in Washington DC on Labor Day.

While reflecting on our government’s obsession with testing, I also reflected on The U.S. Department of Justice 2009 Children’s Exposure to Violence: A Comprehensive National Survey Reported that on Physical Assault Nearly one-half (46.3 percent) of all the children surveyed were physically assaulted within the previous year, and more than one-half (56.7 percent) had been assaulted during their lifetime. I find my self-wondering why our nation’s leaders see standardized testing as the our nation’s number one problem, and not violence? Am I the only one who sees the disconnect here?

On the road this morning. While walking in Meriden I came upon an elderly women walking with a cane. The path was small so I walked off to the side to give her a free path. She smiled, and said: What a good-looking young man you make walking. I said thank you for the complement. She said it is so nice to see people walking to get healthy.  I said my name is Jesse I am walking to DC to protest all the tests children are taking in schools. Well, she just looks at me, and said WHAT!  All the way to DC? In the next few minutes I discover her name is Sharon she is 73 years old, and a retired teacher. She tells me she can’t drive anymore so she walks. She said I have lost over 100 pounds. I smile, and told her that beats my 48 pounds I lost preparing for my walk.  Next she said: Already married I suppose?
The good ones are always taken. Before I leave she tells me "those test were stupid when I taught, and they are still stupid today"
Sharon is the first person I have talked to on the road while walking. Remember I begin my walks at 6:AM to beat the traffic and heat. Not many people out that early. I loved our little talk. Usually it's me, and the morning chorus of birds singing, and the passing cars just rolling along.

About an hour later in Wallingford I pass a beautiful little trailer park.  It really is beautiful, well kept with nice small gardens outside many homes. I see another elderly women with a child outside waiting for the school bus. While passing them the little girl said: “Nice walking stick mister”. I reply "thank you I am walking to DC" Well Grandma’s face lights up, saying” All the way to DC…You must be kidding?”  In less than a minute I explain my protest walk to DC. Grandma tells me she is raising her granddaughter. Her daughter and her husband have addiction problems. Then she tells me when her granddaughter was in the third grade she came home one day angry, so I asked her "what did you do in school today? She is such a sweet girl, and always tells me something nice, but this day she just puffs up, and doesn’t say a word. I pressed again, and the next thing I know is she is crying. She starts saying I am stupid, I can’t do these tests. Well I said you are not stupid those tests are stupid…When you get to Washington DC you tell those people the test are stupid not our children"

Walking along I think yes it is stupid for our nation to spend billions of our tax dollars on more testing when over half of or children report being the victims of violence. We can't afford to let Washington DC educational plicy dictate what happens in our public schools any longer. They just don't get it, and neither does our national media!
When was the last time the national press walked America's roads, and stop to talk to everyday people about No child Left Behind/Race To The Top? 
We need to stand up, speak up, walk, write, and email our policy makers and politicians to stop their foolishness.
Dr. Martin Luther King said: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” 
I hear you Martin, and I promise I will not be silent about things that matter.
I am walking to DC,

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

6/8/10 Meeting with classroom teachers and pre-service teachers

Tuesday June 8, 2010 walking to DC news

I have mapped out the next 10 miles for this Friday morning’s walk.   I have also been corresponding with a few people who are interested in walking with me in Connecticut. We are working out the details, and a couple of people will definitely do some of the walking with me in Connecticut.  When they join me I’ll let you all know.
There are others who just want to meet with me to hear about the walk to DC.
Tonight I met with 12 teachers and a few education students at Central Connecticut State University in an Introduction to Special Education course.  The walking man was their guest speaker tonight:-)

It is never easy for me to tell people about this walking to Washington DC project. Personally I have been advocating for a balanced assessment model for many years. My view includes multiple forms of assessment, informal, formal, performance based assessments, and learner inputs. I see assessment as a portfolio rather than sets of isolated data. I have been struggling with NCLB, because it over looks informal assessments lacks real teacher input, and it’s over reliance on standardized assessments.
The problem with explaining to people where walking to DC began is? Really where should I start?

Well today I worked my way backwards. I began with our facebook group “Children are more than test scores.”  Besides 6171 members is impressive to people.  I worked my back to day one when I thought I was alone, and worried people might think I was crazy.  I shared how inspired I am by the comments people leave on our wall on Children are more than test scores. I love to point out that our numbers keep growing as well.  I show them the walking stick Georgia Hedrick made for my walk to DC. My tired feet needed it walking miles ten and eleven last Friday. Thank you Georgia.
I always share a few stories from parents and teachers who have shared with me about the negative impacts of the NCLB legislation. You know the stuff that never makes the evening news.
One teacher in the audience shared her story as well. She explained how overwhelming teaching has become tracking all the required data. A teacher's day begins long before the first student enters the room. 

However the highlight of my day was the package in the mail I picked up on my way to tonight’s talk. It came from Kim Weaver a member of our group on facebook from California.  I waited to open it until my meeting, because I knew Kim was sending me some ribbons for our walking stick. You can see it in the first day’s walk video.
While it appeared I was walking alone in the video, people should know I am never alone. 
Last Friday John Foshay was always down the road keeping an eye on me, and videoing portions of the walk for our facebook page. Calling out words of encouragement along the way. Always ready if needed.
I had Georgia’s Hedrick a retired teacher,  (37 years in the classroom) from Nevada, and her muti-colored ribbon with me every step of the way.
 I waited to open Kim’s package, because I wanted this audience to know I am not alone on this walk. If people can’t actually walk with me they can do other things besides walking, like send me ribbons.
I need heroes on this walk, and my heroes last Friday were John Foshay and Georgia Hedrick. I am never alone on the road.You see I always walk with my heroes.
My heroes this Friday will be Abigail, Gracie, and their mother Kim Weaver whose ribbons are next to Georgia’s.  I tied their ribbons on my walking stick right there. I am posting a few photos for members to see.
I also gave my audience a handout with six things they could do to help with the walk, or speak out against NCLB/RTTT policies. (I'll post them here as well in the morning).

Today’s audience was extremely receptive, ask great questions, and share their own stories. I think I may have pick up a few volunteer walkers tonight.  They also gave a tremendous round of applause when it was over. This is not the story of a crazy man walking to DC, but the story of a tidal wave building.
I am walking to DC,

Monday, June 7, 2010

Day number 1 Walking to DC the first 11 miles

As Henry David Thoreau, American author, poet, naturalist, tax resister, surveyor, historian, and philosopher said, quote “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away”.

From my perspective I can hear Henry say “walk on Jesse, don’t be afraid to walk to the beat of your own drum”. Thus it was, this past Friday June 4, 2010 at 6:30 am as my walk to D. C. officially began. There were no brass bands, no chorus singers, or cheers leaders this morning. If it weren’t for my good friend John Foshay and our very own Facebook group “Children Are More Than Test Scores” these first steps would have surely gone unnoticed. Never the less the lord gifted me with a stunning sun filled morning, full of sweet cool breezes to guide my walking journey on day one.

Armed with Georgia Hedrick’s walking stick, my iPod full of good music, and a heart full of hope I walked my first 11.1 miles through New Britain, Kensington, Berlin, all the way to Meriden Connecticut.

Martin Luther King Drive. As I passed the small figurehead of Dr. King, I repeated some of the words of his “I have a dream speech” and I somehow felt connected to our nation’s struggle for civil rights. I don’t need a genie to tell me Dr. King understood that America’s public schools are more about morality, Justus, and hope than numbers on standardized bubble sheets. I know he too would be next to Henry David Thoreau saying “Walk Jesse walk”.  I felt empowered by their lives.

Soon I found myself on Chestnut Street outside the old South Congregational - First Baptist Church, where two years ago I attended the funeral of Dr. Justus Beach who had just passed at the ripe old age of 87.  He was an outstanding grandfather, father, professor, and friend of mine at Central Connecticut State University. As I passed the church, I offered a prayer of thanks for having had the honor of working with Justus on our Reading and Language Arts Advisory Board. What kind of person was he? Well in 2000 a retired Professor Beach had graciously provided scholarship funding for students from economically and educationally disadvantaged backgrounds enrolled in the University's Teacher Preparation Programs. CCSU Students to this day still benefit from his gift. There is no doubt in my mind that Justus too, would understand my walk, and would cheer me onward. Rest in peace, my old friend, rest in peace.

I continued with whispered prayers as I walked up around Arch Street reflecting on the challenge ahead. In my humble opinion our politicians, policy makers, and educational leaders appear determined to undermine our very system of public education in America. Their policy pits magnet schools, charter schools, and local schools against each other. Shouldn’t all public schools be on the same team? When was the last time you heard Secretary Arne Duncan say something positive about a local school?
They just don’t seem to understand you can’t win our minds until you win our hearts. We don’t need a race we need unifying. No one is going to win our hearts with calls for more testing Mr. Secretary. From the very beginning I have been opposed to the No Child Left Behind legislation, and have been fighting it all along. NCLB allocated one trillion dollars to close the achievement gap. We could have hired an army of tutors to actually help child who struggle with math and literacy, but instead we skipped the tutors, and went with testing, new standards, and new curriculums. What is the return on these educational reforms? Well according to Washington’s own data we have little or no effect on closing the achievement gap. Surely eight years of little or no effect means a change in policy.
I had such high hopes for change with the election of President Barack Obama, but sadly have found that Race To The Top is a continuation of the same old failed policy. Fighting this insane educational reform policy is like hitting your head against a brick wall. No one in Washington appears to care what parents, teachers, and children think about the impact of all this testing has on children.  It was actually a prayer that started me thinking about this walk last November.  I was thinking about how Moses fled across the Red Sea to Midian where he tended the flocks of Jethro, and how he walked all the way back to Egypt. The whole world remembers the story of Moses saying to mighty Pharaoh “Let my people go”.  It was walking and faith that took the Hebrews to the Promise Land. I find strength in prayer, I find courage in my faith, and I find hope in walking.

As I walked through parts of Kensington and Berlin, on Connecticut Route 71A and onto Chamberlain Highway I was listening to some good music, a little country, some Bob Marley, and 11.1 miles later I arrived at West Main Street in Meriden, just as Merle Haggard finished singing one of my favorite spirituals “He walks with me”.
It had taken me roughly three hours, and there he was, John with a cold bottle of water, and a big smile. Whew… 11.1 miles down, and nearly 400 to go, but who is counting I am walking to DC on the old colonial road.

First Meet up Day 1:

At lunch I met with Mrs. Donna Morin.  Donna is a special education and reading teacher at Pulaski Middle School in New Britain. We have known each other for over 10 years, but have not seen each other for the past three. Like all old friends we caught up on family and friends rather quickly. Next Donna shared her past year’s experience as the President of American Legion Department of Connecticut Women’s Auxiliary.  Then I shared my crazy idea about walking to Washington DC to protest NCLB/RTTT. She talked about the impact NCLB/RTTT has had on the children she teaches. Donna was a panelist on our 2003 Children Are More Than a Test Score Conference, at CCSU. Like I said before I have been fighting this misguided policy for a number of years. In 2003 Donna elegantly explained to the audience how the growth of learning is overlooked by standardized tests.  She told me how after 36 years of teaching, she was for the first time feeling lost. We talked about one of my favorite students “Tyler’ who also happens to be one of her students this year.  Tyler is one of the most amazing adolescents who just happens to have Asperger’s syndrome. He lights up any classroom and brings a smile everywhere he goes. Tyler is a gift not a test score.
Donna mentioned how Tyler had told her that I would be walking this Sunday with his team at UCONN’s Rentschler Field for Autism Speaks.  We did what many teachers do when discussing the insanity of NCLB we shared coffee, needed hugs, resistance stories, and left each other feeling a little helpless.

So what exactly does all my walking and meeting with parents and teachers accomplish Jesse?  When I returned to my office to check my mail there was one from Donna, I’ve already told her I would use it here… here goes,
“Dear Jesse,
 I can't begin to tell you how wonderful it was to see you today!  You are a tribute to teachers, parents and students everywhere.
Thank you for restoring the hope that I need to have to see our profession once again meeting the needs of students.   I have become very disillusioned in the past few years while watching what education has become: nationally, district-wise and in our own school building, as well.  I began to question my role as a teacher and wondered if I had "overstayed my welcome" in my career.
I love teaching, as you know, it is more than just my career, it has become whole once again, I am re-energized to go forward and not give up, thanks to the discussion that we had today.  Thank you for that, Dear Friend.  Even Walt noticed a difference when I came home.  He said, "You must have had a good day today!!"  I told him it was one of the best days of the year!!
I anxiously look forward to your next visit next.
The funny thing is, I felt the very same after our talk. I am energized, and ready to walk to DC. What does walking and talking accomplish? It energizes us, and offers us hope. While I am no Moses, no Dr. King, no Henry David Thoreau, no Justus Beach, I am Jesse, I can be one man doing something to try to change the world. 
I began with Henry David Thoreau, and it is only fitting I end with his words “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them."
I am walking to DC,
PS Readers if you are really restless you can also view a three minute movie of my day one walk on Facebook's Children are more than test scores group page. As Tiny Tim said "God bless everyone"