Dad, testing is affecting my bladder and my play! #TrueQuote

State testing is impacting my second grader’s view about the Georgia Criterion-Referenced  Competency Test (CRCT) and high-stakes standardized testing, in general. [And I promise I keep my personal and professional rhetoric on this topic to a minimum at home!]

This morning, PJ told us that they are not allowed to use the bathroom from 8:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. because of the CRCT testing, which second graders at PJ’s school don’t take officially. But the rest of the school is on “testing lockdown.” Additionally, he said that his teacher announced that recess would resume on next Monday, after the CRCT is completed. Now, I know I should not base my entire understanding on the perceptions of a second grader. There is some perspective-skewing, I’m sure. But still!

My eight year old is now imprinted with the idea that CRCT takes away his bathroom and recess. That stinks!

He’s certainly learning some lessons from state testing, and he has not even taken a test segment yet.




Chris Thinnes offers a much more eloquent parental response here and here. I’ve added Chris’ posts to this post after the original publication. Chris’ sharing will certainly help me to be a better parent in such family decision making in the future. Thank you, Chris.

Do we give our students enough credit? #WhatIfWeekly

Do we give our students enough credit?

What are the traits and characteristics that we hope students develop most deeply? What knowledge and understanding?

Certainly, those schools that have engaged in exercises like “Portrait of a Graduate” have wrestled with such considerations as an entire community. A number even work to structure program and experience in such ways that there is intentionality around the development of the graduate, not only the delivering of a curriculum.

Are these some of the attributes you would name?

  • Curiosity
  • Development of a passionate pursuit and constructive interest
  • Persistence and deep practice
  • Responsibility
  • Creativity
  • Multi-media communication skills and language competency
  • Enthusiastic connection with joy-producing activity
  • Autonomy and initiative
  • Scientific knowledge and understanding
  • Presentation capabilities

What do we credit?

Do all of the credits awarded by a school – to determine successful completion – have to be curated and generated by the school, and only by the school?

Certainly, when a student enters a school from another school, credits can be granted by the receiving school – credits that the student actually earned elsewhere, namely, the previous school.

Occasionally, at the school where I worked last, we awarded credit for summer study, particularly for programs earmarked “Talented” or “Gifted Youth.”

With the rising tide of Khan Academy, badgification, MOOCs, and online learning, surely the time is not too far away that a school will award a seventh grader or eleventh grader credit for completing a physics course via Coursera or Udacity or iTunes U.

Even independent study is not too far afield from what I’m about to ask next – I mean, many schools have systems for students pursuing “independent study.”

So what would it say about a school if the school granted credit for a body of work that a student created on his or her own? Something not originally located in the course catalog. With all of the talk and movement around “student-centered learning” and “student-directed learning,” I would hope and imagine that at least a few schools are contemplating how they might formally recognize student learning pursuits that don’t necessarily arise from the school itself as originator or curator.

Don’t we want to give credit to those students who can show evidence of developing the traits and characteristics named above, even if the body of work in the “course” was not created by a faculty member or administrator? Isn’t that the whole point in the first place – to nurture life-long learners who self-initiate curious pursuits of persistent development of brain cells and heart cells?

Three Quick Examples


When I moved back to Atlanta to teach middle school, a high schooler had converted his Ford truck to run on used cooking grease. He would go to local fast food stores and ask if he could transfer their waste grease to his tank in the back of his truck. He had modified his truck so that it was actually fueled by this recycled material.

Today, why would we not grant credit for such demonstrated learning?


A high school sophomore earned his student pilot’s license for single-engine aircraft. See one of the articles here. In addition to joyfully pursuing an interest, the accomplishment demonstrates admirable persistence, commitment, and strong knowledge in a variety of scientific topics.

What if the student could apply – if he wanted to do so – and receive credit for this work in a way that would result in its listing being included on a transcript?


Another high school sophomore writes, directs, produces, and hosts a cooking show called the SWAGourmet! Along with the multiple episodes bundled on YouTube, the SWAGourmet also maintains a blog, from which people can link to the show, request recipes, and connect to related news stories.

When I saw this former student of mine last December at a Sunday brunch, SWAGourmet was the first thing he mentioned when I asked how he was doing. I loved hearing that genuine and non-bragadocious pride in his voice. And, I now love following his work, thanks to his multi-media  sharing.

Anticipated Criticism

“But if we absorb that personal-hobby stuff into the credit system, we’ll set a precedent we don’t want to be burdened with. We’ll have to credit anything and everything.”

“Making it for-credit will remove some of the joy from the activity. You know, Bo, not everything has to earn quantified credits.”

“Does that mean that students could forego the course requirements in the course catalog and replace or substitute the entire curriculum with their personal interests? You’ve lost your mind, Adams.”

“Sure, Bo, and we’ll give credit for going to the bathroom, too. And holding the door open for someone… and taking out the trash. … No, that’s not ‘school’ and it shouldn’t be.”

“But what about the NCAA clearinghouse? What about the colleges and universities? They don’t want to see such ‘soft’ work on the transcripts. We’d never get that passed.”

I’m sure there are other criticisms. Those above are just the ones I’ve already heard from actual educators as I brought up the topic in casual conversation – as I was just pursuing my own curiosity.

Yes, and…!

And there were others that loved the idea. They immediately started to think about how such a system could work in conjunction with the current offerings – just like MOOCs, online academy offerings, summer credit, independent studies, etc.

The dreamers seemed to believe that by organizing such a system – granting credit for work not included in a school’s official course catalog – a school community could communicate to students that their self-curated learning and persistent pursuits MATTER. Such a hybrid could show students that their voices and myriad interests can equally contribute to the development of those “Portrait of a Graduate” traits and characteristics. One person I spoke to even suggested that a committee of faculty, parents, admin, and students formulate the process by which a school could launch such a program.

And we all enjoy getting a little credit, now and then, for things that we are excited about doing and becoming, don’t we?



Buying in, not selling out. A personal reflection on #purpose inspired by a good friend.

Last week, a good friend took a little jab at me. I don’t think he meant it as a jab. He meant it to be funny. Actually, I think he was expressing deep and genuine curiosity, but because he was uncomfortable just asking me the question, he resorted to making a joke. Maybe to see if I would bite.

He said something like, “So, how are things going now that you’ve sold out to the for-profit world?”

Bless his heart – he got an ear full of questions from me about what he was actually curious to know and what assumptions his question was really based on. I say “bless his heart” because he was the one I “unloaded” on. My cup on this topic felt full because in the last three weeks about ten people – all in the school business – had made hints at wanting to talk about the same issues. I didn’t bite at the previous nine innuendoes. [It’s interesting how some things can come in waves (maybe because it’s school contract season?). And, of course, perhaps I was more sensitive to the sentiments and hidden curiosities because of the perceived volume in a short time.]

After a deluge of questions from me and honest replies from him, I shared with my good friend that I had taken about a 12.5% reduction in salary when I moved jobs. I shared that I had given up one of the most incredible benefits packages among all U.S. schools, including a completely free campus house and a meal-a-day cafeteria that I would put up against many three and four star restaurants. I reminded him that I had announced my intent to leave in September 2011 – five to six months before I had secured my next position or any guarantee of “big bucks” (to the horror of my father) – because I felt so strongly about the direction of my next chapter in educational leadership and service. A leap of some faith that was all about purpose and nothing about pay.

I also told him that I gained far more than I had sacrificed or given up. 

After nearly 200 conversations between September 2011 and February 2012, I was able to join an organization that aligned beautifully with my desired purpose to be part of a team who could support schools and educational organizations that truly want to undertake the serious opportunities for significant transformation. I am in a studio of folks that want to amplify and accelerate positive change for groups that invite us in to partner with them to design and implement higher and holistic sets of possibilities.

Now that nearly eight months had passed, I could assure my good friend that I felt justified and reflectively peaceful in making my transition. While I missed the known and “comfortable” life of school principal, I was growing immeasurably among my new team of transformation designers, strategists, and sense makers. I could share that I feel harmonious with a group of people that aim to assist and empower organizations that want to radiate acting on the things that matter most.

I could also share that my quality of life benefits were through the roof. That I had regained my life as a husband and father. That I was in a place that did not brag about level of exhaustion as a measure of worth and productiveness. That I was in a place that places high value on creativity and vulnerability – with actions and daily habits, not just with words.

Throughout the conversation, I could share that my personal decision to begin a new chapter to my book was based on purpose and not paycheck. Despite being as immersed in capitalism as anyone, I could tell my friend that I had not, in my opinion, “sold out.”

But I do feel that I have bought in and anted up – to opportunities for more significant transformation in the educational landscape.

I so appreciate his willingness to listen and engage. And I am grateful for his encouragement to write a post about our conversation. He said he was thankful to understand my actual narrative so that he could throw away his inaccurate assumptions.

He is indeed a very good friend.

“What does learning a lot feel like, Dad?”

Driving PJ, my eight-year old, to school this morning, I asked, “Peanut, how’s school?”

“School’s great, Dad. I love school.”

“Are you learning a lot?”

[Long pause]

“What does learning a lot feel like, Dad?”

That question has stuck with me all day! If you feel so inclined, I’d love to read how you might respond to such a question.

Nothing like crowd-sourcing my parenting!

Rappin math versus wrapping math

“You know, when my dad lost his sight, I started doing accounting for him, and math was the one area that I was able to succeed in,” Scott says.
from NPR’s 2 Pi: Rhymes And Radii, Jan. 8, 2013

The podcast quoted above is a touching story of a teacher working really hard to connect with his students and help them succeed. I’m intrigued by his tactics of putting math to rap and hip hop. Very creative.

But what’s even more interesting to me – he says math really clicked for him when he had to start doing the family accounting. How might he apply that insight to his classroom and instruction?

So, is math rapped as powerful as math wrapped (in real-life context)?