Category Archives: Developmental Appropriate Practice

Sooo… You Think I’m a Conspiracy Theorist Because I Oppose Common Core & High Stakes Testing?

I have found there is an interesting phenomena with people who do not know how to handle an individual who is putting information on the table to be considered.  The information may run counter to the main stream or contrary to popular belief.  I am learning at my older age, most people value conformity over divergence.  We are to do and believe exactly what those in charge tell us to do and believe.  Anyone who asks the hard questions, researches, and looks underneath the surface… running counter to the “group think”… are often deprecated.

Albert Einstein once said, “Question everything.”

To question is to think.

To follow blindly in order to respect “authority” will not improve the world or promote change.  When the Jews were being slaughtered by Hitler, who risked their lives and stood against him?  When the blatant discrimination swept our nation forcing human beings to sit at the back of buses, drink from different fountains, and go to separate schools, who raised their voice to stop the inequity?  When people have been enslaved, who fought to free them?

When our school system is putting practices into place harming the most innocent of all, who has the moxie… the courage… and the voice to crusade against the malpractice?

Recently, I was on a discussion thread in Washington’s Paramount Duty, a group fighting for full funding of our public schools.  An individual asked if I was worried about the cost of “microchips inserted into kids brains to measure their biometric rhythms” and followed up to reassure me this was already considered in the cost of the assessment.

Obviously, the sarcasm bled through the screen and was meant to vilify my questions and contributions to the discussion thread.

Interestingly, this individual is the Policy Director of the Washington Round Table and Partnership for Learning.  Both of these organizations are funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and promote common core and the high stakes tests.  As I looked further into his past it was found his history included working for:

  • Data Recognition Corporation
  • Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction
  • Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Consider his motivation, as I asked questions and presented my findings on the discussion thread, for denigrating my contributions.  He basically pulled the “Conspiracy Theorist” card and tried to paint me out as some wacko doodle.

Later, he also defamed Dr. Wayne Au, University of Washington Professor.  Dr. Au is a well renown researcher regarding standardized testing and publishes many articles and authored a book exposing the discriminatory nature of the one hundred year history of testing.

Most recently, the “Conspiracy Theorist” card has been pulled by some of my colleagues.  They’ve accused me of aligning with a crazy legislator and buying into all of his “conspiracy theories”.

Let me set the record straight.

There are nine legislators serving the Spokane Region.  Three are in the Spokane Valley, three serve the bulk of the middle section of the city, and three others the district I live.  I write to all nine legislators.  (I actually write to legislators statewide). I’ve asked to meet with all nine legislators.  I have had the opportunity of speaking personally with five of the nine.  Currently, one is being scheduled with a sixth.

I think of the song played often on Saturday mornings when I was growing up, “I’m only a bill.”  This song has been instrumental in teaching many young people the process of getting laws changed.  Thus, my motive to write my legislators and meet with them.

One of the legislators in particular, has been called a “looney” and a “wack job” by same colleagues.  I was questioned as to why I would meet with him.


Soooo… why, by me meeting with him last summer for an hour and a half to share my concerns about common core and the high stakes tests, does this imply I’ve aligned with him and become a “Conspiracy Theorist”?  (I appreciated this legislators time. Many give only 10 minutes with their constituents or none at all).

For the record.  I’m bi-partisan and pretty disenfranchised currently with the two largest political parties.  As John Sheffield, New York teacher said, “I’m beholden to no group except to the children of (my state).”

So… since the accusation of me becoming a “Conspiracy Theorist” is now on the table, let me take some time to share all the “Conspiracy Theorists” I’ve aligned myself with:

  1. Joint Statement of Early Childhood and Health Professionals on The Common Core Standard Initiative
  2. Common Core Standards: Ten Colossal Errors, Anthony Cody, National Board Certified Teacher and author of Living in Dialogue.
  3. Save Maine Schools, Emily Talmage, 4th Grade Teacher
  4. Peg with a Pen and founder of United Opt Out,  Peggy Robertson, ELA Coach and Reading Interventionist
  5. EduResearcher, Dr. Roxana Marachi, Educator, researcher, and youth advocate with 15 years of experience connecting research findings in the fields of educational and developmental psychology, cognitive neuroscience, social development, and school safety with practical applications for improving learning, motivation, and behavior.
  6. Four Seattle Teachers Declare, “We Refuse to Give the Test”, The four teachers of conscience are Julianna Krueger Dauble, Judy Dotson, Susan DeFresne, and Becca Ritchie.
  7. More Than a Score, Jesse Hagopian, high school teacher, author, and crusader against high stakes tests.
  8. Parents and Educators Against Common Core Standards, 22,000 members strong.
  9. Over 100 Education Researchers Sign Statement Calling For Moratorium on High-Stakes Testing
  10. The Smarter Balance Common Core Mathematics Tests Are Fatally Flawed and Should Not Be Used, Steven Rasmussen, SR Education Associates
  11. Dr. James Milgram – Common Core Forum Baton Rouge, former NASA Mathematician, the ONLY mathematician to serve on the validation committee of the common core, refused to sign validation document of common core math standards. Dr. James Milgram bio.  Google his name and there are many presentations made by Dr. Milgram across the United States.
  12. Dr. Sandra Stotsky, the ONLY ELA representative on the validation committee of the common core.  She, too, refused to sign the validation document of the common core ELA standards.  Dr. Sandra Stotsky bio. Google her name and there are many presentations made by Dr. Stotsky across the United States.
  13. About This Testing, Denis Ian, veteran teacher
  14. A Chronicle of Echoes: Whose Who in the Implosion of American Public Education, Dr. Mercedes Schneider, teacher, researcher, EduBlogger, and author.
  15. Dr. Diane Ravitch, educator, author, worked for National Education Department.
  16. Dr. Gary Thompson, Early Childhood Psychologist

There are many other educators who I could place on this list.

It is a growing list.  More and more of us are coming to realize the truth behind common core and the common core tests.  Trying to discount those of us willing to speak up and out for children, by throwing out the “Conspiracy Theorist” card, exposes the person’s fears and unwillingness to do their own research and seek out the truth.

I personally will not remain a compliant conformist when witnessing children being harmed through the current education reforms.  I want to scoop them up and hide them in my “attic” so the “Testing and Accountability Regime (TAR)” can not touch them.  This Regime is definitely “TARring” many children as the blackness covers their hearts and minds.

Throwing out the “Conspiracy Theorist” card is typically an attempt to defame, slander, disparage, insult, denigrate, deprecate, vilify, and assassinate the persons character and point of view.

Those of us giving up hours of our time for children, teachers, and public schools are far from “Conspiracy Theorists” or “Helicopter Moms”.  We have growing evidence exposing the flaws in the common core standards and the invalidity of the common core tests.

So next time, before anyone pulls the “Conspiracy Theorist” card,  they may do well to offer their perspective to the conversation respectfully with peer reviewed research… rather than tossing out words vilifying others.


Passionately Submitted,









About This Testing… By Denis Ian

“In the heart of a child, one moment …. can last forever.” – Denis Ian

About this testing …

There is no virtue in making children so brave that they might withstand the idiocy of adults. Nor is there any virtue in lying to children so as to protect adult ridiculousness. And when adults trip over their own commandments and reason away the subtle wounding of children … then they themselves have committed a great sin.

Childhood is an extraordinary moment. It has its own sanctity because it is the maker of first memories … and we make big deals of firsts in our lives. And first memories should never be ugly. Not ever.

But what has become of us? Why have we arrived at this moment when children become fair game in an adult controversy? Instinct tells us never to place children in the middle of a muddle. But here we are … hearing unbelieving tales of adult unfairness that seem such the antithesis of what is expected from the guardians of our children.

Life is a long frustration. The great beauty of maturity is that we learn to keep our cool and to react only to the most insistent frustrations. Adults learn to separate the important from the unimportant … and it prevents us from the nasty human inclination to settle on easy scapegoats … and then to punish the weakest and most vulnerable.

Scapegoats are born of frustrations adults cannot control … and we have loads of frustration surrounding this wretched reform. But frustration is never a green light to exercise a disturbing dominance over the smallest of the small. If that is the first impulse of an adult, then they are in a queer orbit.

Children cut off from pizza parties and ice cream treats because their parents exercised their right right of refusal? Little humans in little desks made to sit and stare for hours … in of all places … a school? Children confronted by some towering goliath … insisting that they revoke their parents’ own wishes? What the hell is going on here?

Where is the wisdom in gluing children to desks for hours as they squirm their way through some asinine educational gauntlet that has no real purpose other than to pay homage to some testing god? Who thought that a good idea?

This is a mess that cannot be unmessed. When will we start over … and get this straight?

Is this how children should ever be treated? Are there not school campaigns to disarm bullies … and to champion kindness? Have those champions vanished? Were those just paper heroics? Empty nonsense? I sense adult ugliness seeping through a holy firewall behind which childhood is protected. It seems too many are now comfortable liars … even with children. And worse, some have become hypocrites.

There is never an excuse to scar a child. And if you’re in the child business … that sort of action condemns you to a special sort of hell.

For children, school is a majestic cathedral. A near shrine where every minute should be crammed with as much wonder as a minute might hold. To disturb that atmosphere is to violate the inviolate.

A school has no place or space for anyone unable to plug into their memory bank for recollections of their own childhood. If one cannot stay linked with with the memories of their own past, perhaps they shouldn’t be in the memory-making business at all.

When one’s memory of childhood evaporates, so does one’s empathy. And that is a signal to move on.

“Childhood is a short season.” Give it its due.

Denis Ian

Just What Is At Stake With The “High Stakes” Tests? How About Childhood?

I wrote my local school board a letter with some of my concerns in regards to the High Stakes Tests and misinformation being spread in the local community about the parents right to Opt Out of these tests.

The first two sentences of the short reply to my letter are as follows:

Thank you for contacting the school board with your comments on testing.   Could you please clarify what tests you consider to be “high stakes” at the elementary level?

Sure. I’d be happy to answer.

  1.  Any test taking two months of a teachers time at the beginning of the school year and requiring over 80 data checkpoints to be collected one on one with 5 year old children is HIGH STAKES. This robs the teacher of the time to set up a welcoming classroom community and an atmosphere of safety and warmth.  Rather the children are out doing “independent activities” while the teacher meets with individual children.  This is the last thing children need with their first experience in school.  The teachers time is saturated with collecting data and entering in data… and for what purpose?
  2. Any test determining a placement for the next grade is HIGH STAKES.  Whether it be a third grader whose ELA scores are being considered for promotion to 4th grade… or a 6th grader whose MATH scores determine the track they are placed in for middle school (especially when said tests are being found to be seriously flawed), and ignoring classroom work and classroom based assessments… is a complete HIGH STAKES tragedy.
  3. Any test claiming to determine if a child is “College and Career Ready” and ignoring years worth of classroom accomplishments and work patterns is HIGH STAKES.  When the ex U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, said we should be able to look a 7 and 8 year old in the eye and tell them whether they are on track for college or not, um… we have a high stakes situation being pushed early.
  4. Requiring any test to be taken in order to graduate is HIGH STAKES.
  5. Any test used to rank, sort, and compare children and schools is HIGH STAKES.
  6. Any test requiring a 95% participation rate by a State Department of Education in order to be recognized for outstanding and innovative teaching and learning is HIGH STAKES.  (A school who has a high number of parents opting their children out of the tests because they believe the tests are invalid, does not decrease the incredible teaching and learning going on in said schools.  Currently, Seattle School District has 40 out of 98 schools reporting higher than 5% Opt Out rates.  Are those schools not outstanding?  Are those schools not innovative?  Are those schools filled with inept teachers?  Are the principals of said schools inept leaders?)
  7. More importantly still, the HIGHEST STAKE of all… is the loss of CHILDHOOD.  The loss of play and developmentally appropriate classroom experiences in the youngest grades will have long term effects beyond anyone’s imagination.  Worksheets and dittos do not grow dendrites. (Depression and Mental Disorders are on the rise for a reason).

The School Board, and School Boards at large, may also take some time to consider why the behavior problems have escalated in our elementary classrooms.

  • Just how much recess are children getting in our schools?  Many only get a total of 30 minutes to eat and play combined. (This was the case for my son last year.  He came home with uneaten lunches because he learned he gained more play time if he didn’t eat).
  • The current adopted curricular materials are filled with worksheets… is boredom a problem? What happens when children are bored?
  • How much time are children spending on testing and test prep?

Maybe we all should be asking, rather than what tests are considered “high stakes”…

1) What exactly is at “stake”?


2) How are our children being robbed of their childhoods in the current Testing Accountability Regime?

Denis Ian, teacher and child crusader extraordinaire, sheds some light on these questions in “About This Testing“.

“In the heart of a child, one moment …. can last forever.” – Denis Ian

“Childhood is a short season.” Give it its due. – Denis Ian

Thank you, Denis.  You are SPOT ON.

The “Highest Stake” of All… Childhood

Passionately Submitted,


HIGH STAKES TESTING: Education System Malpractice and Mental Abuse… Some Humans Have Lost Their Damn Minds

This Story Comes From Clayton County Georgia

Warning: After reading this story, the reflux to vomit may take over.

Report from a Clayton County Teacher

“Yesterday, before and after testing, a colleague who is a first year third grade teacher lost her damn mind. She assaulted a third grade student of hers and told him he was dumb, shouldn’t have been in the room testing because he was going to bring her scores down. She berated him and the class telling them they were going to cause her to lose her certification.

This young first year teacher said, “Unless they have $50,000 to pay for her teaching certificate, they had better score well.”

She was furious 50% of her evaluation was dependent on “stupid third graders”.

The boy was reduced to tears and promptly vomited all over the floor.

Her colleagues refused to report the unprofessional, abusive, and vicious behavior yesterday.

This test… Georgia Milestones… is destroying our kids”.

This System is Breaking Kids and Teachers


It sure is.

I’m outraged.

As an E D U C A T O R and P A R E N T…

I. Refuse. To. Be. Silent.

breaking silence

Shame on the U.S. Department of Education

Shame on all legislators who continue to vote for this abuse.

Shame on any educator at any level who believes these tests are valid.

Shame on School Boards at the local and state levels who promote these tests.

Shame on all the lies and propaganda and rhetoric being spread and paid for by the corrupt Oligarchy.



Teachers are being forced to give these tests to children who are not ready. Teachers know the students do not understand the skills or concepts, yet are forced to deliver these outrageous assessments. Teachers are being told it is their fault if their students don’t meet the standard. (Flawed standards). Teachers lose their jobs when their evaluations are based on these tests… tests with reading levels above the children’s grade assignment and questions demanding high levels of analysis.

Mental Abuse.

These tests put everyone involved in the pressure cooker.

Eventually an explosion happens.

The Joy of Learning

No Teacher Should Feel Pressed to this Point of Breaking

“Parents MUST BE THE ONES to make this testing stop. Teachers cannot control this. I 100% in no way condone the actions, words, etc of this teacher, but I can tell you I understand the PLACE she was pushed to and that is not within her control. How she handles the weight is certainly something she has to work on, but these teachers need parents advocating, demanding, and speaking up… ‘We won’t stand for our children or teachers to be put through this abuse’!” –Georgia Parent of a 4th Grader

The Testing Bomb

nuclear bombWho built this Testing Bomb?

Who placed the Bomb in our schools?

Who asked teachers to hold the Bomb?

If the Bomb goes off, who is to blame?

Passionately Submitted,



Be Divergent! Opt Your Child Out of the Common Core Tests!

Are the affects of Common Core starting to impact your child?

Are you starting to question what the Common Core Standards are and who wrote them?

It is worth every ounce of your time to find out what is happening to the schools across our nation.  It is worth every ounce of your time to dig below the surface and research for yourself.  There is a lot of rhetoric out there.  Those with a lot of money pushing for the common core and the high stakes tests have the money to produce nice sound bites and videos to paint the common core and the tests in a good light.

Recently, Ready Washington, posted a contest to high school aged children to produce a video why they “Opt In”.  If their video wins they are awarded $500.00. The background music played, the filming professional, and…

I gagged.

Seriously?  The only way to be successful in the future is to take a test?  Not one student featured in the video said one thing about how taking the test enhanced their learning.

Common Core >< High Stakes Tests


I often hear educators say, “I don’t have a problem with common core, it is the testing I am against.”

The two are not separate.

As more educators and parents learn of the link between the two, the light bulb goes on and the truth shines brighter.  This is a complete overhaul of the education system and the education profession. Those who have been big players in promoting it, pushing it into the schools on to other people’s children, opt their own children out.

Does this raise a red flag?

The Kings of Common Core

Common Core Standards put learning into a Box.

The Common Core Tests only measure what fits inside that same Box.

Imagination 3For me, I desire for our children to think outside The Box.  I promote the use of imagination, innovation, creativity, and curiosity.  These four words don’t fit inside any box.  These four words can not be measured by a test.

Think about it.

Do we want a society of standardized people who all think alike and can regurgitate text and facts all at the same time?

A cookie cutter society.


Do we want a society of individuals who are able to think outside the box?

Divergent Thinkers.

If it is the latter, opt your child out of the common core tests and send a clear message you will not subject them to The Box.

In order to counter the propaganda coming from Gates funded groups like Ready Washington, there are many of us without the billion dollar backing speaking out against common core and the high stakes tests.  It’s called, “We the people…”

The Grassroots Divergent Thinkers.


Listen in as Cindy Ann Goodbrake, Idaho parent, and myself, Spokane, Washington educator and parent, speak courageously against common core and why Opting Out is the best thing you can do for your child and our schools.

Go To: March 9, 2016 – Common Core – Part Two

Watchman Wednesday Podcast

Be Divergent.

Opt Out.

Passionately Submitted,


Imagination Quote






The Real (CC)… Curiosity and Creativity in Action

Fraction 3My son has had no formal instruction in fractions. Children are naturally curious. He quickly was able to figure out the value of each colored fractional piece by using concrete materials.

I asked what is one of those pieces worth? Two of the pieces? Etc…

Then I asked him if we could cut the black “candy bar” into 100 pieces?

“Yep” he said. He instantly grabbed the pen and started to try to show me the size of what one hundredth would look like?

This stumped him for a bit. He made it into 20 equal parts, then tried to cut the 20th into parts. After cutting it into 80ths, he said, “Oh, boy… I needed to draw one more line…” he did and then he said, “These are the approximate size of a hundredth, mom.”

I then asked, “What are you noticing about the half and the hundredth?

He said, “The half is much larger.” So, I asked… “what is happening when we cut the candy bar into pieces?” He said, “The more pieces there are, the smaller the part.”

Fraction 4“Give me more mom!”

I grabbed the 1/2 piece. How many ways can you make 1/2? He instantly went to work. He found 2/4, 3/6, 4/8, 5/10, 6/12. Wrote each of them like: 1/2 = 2/4.

I then circled all the denominators of the equivalent fractions. I asked, “What do you notice?” He said, “2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12! They are counting by twos!”

Yes. What else do you know about those numbers?

Long pause.


I waited.

“They are even!”

Fraction 5Yes! I said. Now what if we cut this candy bar up into sixteenths? I wrote: 1/2 = /16. What would make an equivalent fraction?


“Give me more mom!”

So I wrote: /20 , /100…

“Too easy mom…come on! 10/20ths and 50/100ths. You are going to have to do harder than that!”

So I wrote: /80 , /150, /96.

Handed him the pen. And watched. He put 40 above the 80 and 75 above the 150… instantly. Then paused at the /96. In about 5 seconds he wrote 48/96.

I asked, “How did you figure the last one out?”

He said, “Well, I broke the 96 up. First I thought of 80. Half of 80 is 40. Then I took half of 10, that is 5, then I just had 6 left. Half of that was 3. Soooo…. 40 + 5 + 3 = 48! Half of 96 is 48, so 48/96ths = 1/2″

(80 + 10 + 6 = 96)… He took half of each of those and added.

I did not directly teach him one thing. He made the connections and the discoveries with my guidance. Took all of 25 minutes!  Asking the right questions is the gateway to a child’s natural propensity for curiosity.

RIGORCrying Child 2 VS.


Fraction 1

Passionately Submitted,


 References: The Real (CC)… Curiosity and Creativity Part One

The Real (CC)… Curiosity and Creativity

Part One

The CC Switch-a-roo.

CC has become the acronym for Common Core.  No more… !

Exchange the two Cs for Curiosity and Creativity… the REAL CC.

Curiosity and Creativity emphasizes the heart of inspiring and educating children.

The Common Core Standards are just that… Common.  No child is common. The standards streamline learning with claims of “rigor“, when what our children need most are learning environments in which they can learn at their individual developmental pace.  Because children grasp skills and concepts in different ways,  honoring each child’s learning style creates an atmosphere of “vigor“,  the essential nutrient needed most in their earliest years of learning.

The concerns with the common core include:

  1. Standardized Learning.  An attempt is made to box children into learning the same things at the same time at the same pace.
  2. Only that which can be measured is aspired to and made most important through high stakes testing.

Very limiting.

The landscape of learning is a much wider path.  Children traverse it when they are allowed to explore.  They like to see what is around the corner and over the hill.  Through the common core, we have compartmentalized their learning and are keeping them on straight and narrow roads.  Children are contained to only one road at a time.  They master a road, check (test), and then are allowed onto the next straight road.  Check (test).  And so forth.

What of traits like curiosity and creativity?  Are these measurable?  Do we consider these important attributes for our children?

Sir Ken Robinson outlines three principles crucial for the human mind to flourish. He captures the following principles eloquently in his TED Talk: How to Escape Education’s Death Valley.

  • Human beings are naturally DIFFERENT and DIVERSE.
  • If you can light the spark of curiosity in a child, they will learn without any further assistance…. CURIOSITY is the engine of achievement.
  • Human life is inherently creative.   One of the roles of education is to awaken and develop these powers of CREATIVITY.

So often the standards are referred to as “rigorous”, but rigor is about death…  Education’s death valley.  Rather, the aim for our children needs to be “vigorous”… about thriving and growth, and vigor is about life.  In order to meet the goals of a society filled with thinkers, innovators, inventors, explorers, painters, historians, writers, mathematicians, adventurers, etc…  we can not lose sight of the valuable role curiosity and creativity play.

Reassuring children have vast opportunities to use their natural Curiosity and Creativity, the real CC, within the learning process, will enable each different and diverse child to flourish in the valley of life.

The Vigorous Curiosity and Creativity (CC) in Action

Fraction 3My 8 year old son has had no instruction in fractions. Through the use of concrete materials, he quickly figured out the value of each colored fractional piece.

Then I asked him if the black “candy bar” could be cut into 100 pieces? He instantly grabbed the pen and started to try to sketch the size of a hundredth. This stumped him for a bit.

He made it into 20 equal parts, then experimented with dividing the 20th into parts. After drawing the 4th line, he achieved success by dividing the bar up into 5 equal groups of 20.

After comparing fractions and examining the sizes of fractional values he was able to conclude, “The more pieces there are, the smaller the part.”

As he wrestled with each mathematical question I asked, he continued to request a progression of more difficult problems.

My questions had him hooked, and his natural curiosity had his engine revving.

Fraction 4      Fraction 5

By the end of the fraction expedition, he had begun making sense of the concept of equivalency by finding several ways to make 1/2. He made many connections with my intentional guidance.

Asking the right questions is the gateway to a child’s natural propensity for inquiry. Tapping into where a child is developmentally, utilizing multiple learning styles, and honoring their unique intelligences, are the keys to unlocking the door to new learning.

Curious children naturally learn.

The world is full of valleys, mountains, bridges and tunnels… Children are capable of paving paths unforeseen.

RIGORCrying Child 2 VS.


Fraction 1

Passionately Submitted,



The full 25 minute fraction lesson linked here.

Definition of Rigor

Definition of Vigor

Rigor Belongs to Mortis… Not Our Children

Rigor Belongs To Mortis… Not Our Children

Georgie Porgie, Puddin’ and Pie,

Took some tests that made him cry,

When the computers came on in May,

Georgie Porgie ran away.

Georgie Porgie is headed straight towards issues with mental health.

Welcome to Georgie Porgie’s “rigorous” world.

 As the concept of “rigor” is explored, a picture of a ladder comes to mind. Think of a ladder with 12 rungs. Children enter classrooms standing upon different rungs. Picture for one moment, a child standing on rung one.   All the rungs in between are missing leading up to the ultimate rung…



Every child is pushed to rung 12 regardless.ladder 3

  • How does the child reach rung 12, when the stepping stones to 12 are gone?
  • Do we look at the individual child and offer instruction at their individual level?
  • Do we take into account what is developmentally appropriate for each and every child?


  • Do we plow on… in the name of “rigor”?
  • Do we teach them at such a level of frustration they lose their confidence as learners and give up?

What are we doing to our children in the name of rigor?


The new buzz word in education.

StandardizedWe educators are encouraged to teach with more rigor… in order to help all of our students meet the new rigorous standards. In fact, one of the major shifts the Common Core Standards espouse is rigor. It is our job to push them to the top rung. Every single child must get to the top rung by the test date, regardless of their abilities, individuality, or where they started.   Furthermore, all children are to accomplish the rigorous standards at the same exact time and prove it on a computerized test occurring on a handful of days in time. This test is the end all be all measurement as to whether the child has achieved the ultimate rung.



I went to my friend, Merriam Webster, and the word is defined as:

  • rigor: the difficult and unpleasant conditions or experiences that are associated with something
  • rigor: the quality or state of being very exact, careful, or strict


Does it draw you in?

Do you get “warm fuzzies all over” reading the definition?


Merriam Webster has more…

Full Definition of RIGOR

  1. a (1) :  harsh inflexibility in opinion, temper, or judgment :  severity (2) :  the quality of being unyielding or inflexible :  strictness (3) :  severity of life :  austerity  b :  an act or instance of strictness, severity, or cruelty
  2. a tremor caused by a chill
  3. a condition that makes life difficult, challenging, or uncomfortable; especially :extremity of cold
  4. strict precision :  exactness <logical rigor>
  5. a : obsolete :  rigidity, stiffness c :  rigor mortis
  6. b :  rigidness or torpor of organs or tissue that prevents response to stimuli


Did this solidify the “warm fuzzies”?

Did the clouds break open and pour rays of sunshine into your world?


Did the black thunder clouds clap loudly and send a bolt of lightning straight to your heart?


My guess is the definition solidified, like it did for me, the icy realization of what “rigor” is all about, and it zapped the Common Core Standards for what they really are… death.

Maybe this is why the rigid, inflexible ELA and Math programs have seeped into many schools, promoting exactness and precision, and the uncomfortable conditions within the walls of our classrooms.

Rigor… prevents the response to stimuli.  EEKS!




Brrrrrrrrr….I just felt a tremor caused by a chill.

There are a lot of excellent teachers surrounding me. We believe in high standards for our students. We believe in developmental appropriate practice for each and every one of our students. Excellent teachers have an uncanny ability to look at each child individually, assess where they are, what they need, and how to challenge them at their unique learning pace.

Children standing on the lower rungs:

In a beginning of the year checkpoint, it was discovered that 80% of students in fifth grade were unable to do multi-digit multiplication or long division with whole numbers. According to the CCSS, students learn to fluently multiply multi-digit whole numbers using the standard algorithm in 5th grade (5.NBT.5), and fluently divide multi-digit numbers using the standard algorithm in 6th grade (6.NS.2).

The first module from the district pacing guide entails place value of decimals, and addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division of decimals. (Rung 10). These students, missing rungs four through nine, were being taught skills and concepts they had no access to because the foundational skills necessary weren’t there. Yet, when I mentioned this, I was told the students had equal rights to the mathematical content as the rest of the students, “The standards are more “rigorous”, and the only way for them to learn the more “rigorous” standards is to teach with more “rigor”. Teach the module in the order given, and find another time in the school day to ‘catch the students up’.”

Can anyone take a flying guess as to how these students did on the End of Module 1 Assessment?

To view the Module 1 Assessment, Scoring Guide, and an Example of Level 4 Answers, click (here).

Most scored level 1s and 2s.   Went home with failing grades.

This is Rigor folks!

Ladder 4 Raise the rung so high the students can walk right under it.


Next? Move on to the next module of instruction… fractions!

“Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do? We swim, swim.” – Dory from Nemo.

Just keep rigoring, rigoring, rigoring. What do we do? We Rigor, Rigor.

Children standing on the higher rungs:

What of those students who are exceling? Students in 6th grade placed in advanced math classes? Here’s a story you may find disturbing:

“My child told me that out of his class, only two students passed the SBA Interim Practice Test, both Math and English. He said that the teachers were quite upset, and compared test results from other schools within their district, to try and show them where/how they went wrong. He was fascinated, because prior to the test, the class was of course instructed that it was not to be spoken of or about in any manner, with anyone, including parents, so he knew this was a big “no no”. He was breaking the rules speaking to me.”

On February 18th, this mom received the following letter from the school:

Dear Families,

Tomorrow we will be mixing up the orange and green classes for the remainder of the year.  We have put a lot of thought into this process. Here are our reasons.  First, the majority of our orange advanced math students are having a very difficult time keeping up with the accelerated pace and content of the advanced math curriculum.  The frustration factor of students has reached an all-time high and motivation an all-time low.  (Emphasis mine)

Only a handful of students meet the criteria to continue in advanced math.  The rest were placed probationary.  The students who qualify for advanced math will continue with the program in a small group and everyone else will begin Chapter 5 of our regular 6th grade curriculum.

Flabbergasted isn’t near the word to capture my thoughts.

The majority of the 11 and 12 years olds placed “probationary”.  This is college and career ready?

How “rigorous”.

The mom went on to express:

“So now, only a few of the advanced students will continue to be taught the advanced math, the rest will now be demoted to the regular class, these are my words, not theirs. Isn’t it wonderful to know that the advanced students really aren’t talented, and they were able to be taken down a peg or two, as certainly it couldn’t be the curriculum?  They WILL be forced to conform and stop thinking, no matter the cost.”

My brain buzzes around questions like:ladder 1

  • Are the students really not smart enough?
  • Are they really not motivated?
  • Are they really incapable?


  • Could it possibly be the program?
  • Could it possibly be the instruction the program encourages is not engaging or aligned with research?
  • Are there manipulatives?
  • Are the lessons differentiated?
  • Do they get to explore ideas or regurgitate answers from the followed script?
  • How many pencil and paper problems are the students given a day?

Rigor Rigor Snore Bore… Death.

The death of the hearts and minds of our children.   The death of the love of learning.

This kind of rigor is about death… not life.

A fourth grade teacher on the west side of Washington State attached the picture below, and wrote, “This is what happens when we put our children into pressure cookers. Shared by my friend, Florida parent/activist Sandy Stenoff. Florida, where student test scores make up 50% of a teacher’s evaluation (even if you don’t teach those students), and 3rd graders don’t go to fourth grade if they don’t pass the state test. These “reforms” sound great to corporate thinkers who know nothing about what motivates children or teachers. Or perhaps they do know, and this is their intent. Please help us turn this machine off! We must return to a place where authentic teaching and learning are possible, are encouraged, are funded.”

Sandy writes, “My son is a college sophomore and shared these words from a HS senior, so I made this poster. He said, ‘Look at this. This is how most kids really feel now’. To me, THIS is the highest stake… an entire generation of children who leave school feeling like this.

“I’m so…”

Rigor 1

What are we doing to our children in the name of “rigor”?

“I just want to get a repetitive mindless job I don’t feel extremely anxious about”




How many years have we had in NCLB? Fourteen years? Isn’t this enough time to paint a pretty clear picture this standardized, one size fits all, high stakes testing madness…

Does.   Not.    Work.

So… what does the National Department of Education do with billions from philanthropists?

Create yet another set of standards. More “rigorous” standards. The individual state’s set of standards supposedly failed, so these National “Common” Standards are supposedly filled with magic bullets of “rigor”.   The tests so “rigorous”, children at eight years old, with hand spans missing the length of a key board, are asked to type essays incorporating a comparison analysis of two separate texts, type explanations about how they solve “rigorous” math problems using deep levels of reasoning, and…

Their eyes fill with tears.

Rigor in The Classroom… A Short two minute Video

Rigor 3

Watch (Here)

Absolute crazy making.

This video is metaphorical and exemplifies the vicious cycle of “rigor”. The continued mandates, in the name of “rigorous standards”, have impacted the teacher, the principal, and clearly the most precious of all…. Our children.

This kind of “rigor” belongs to Mortis.

Rigor Mortis.

This rigor is stiff and lifeless.

It will be the death of our public school system unless we change course.

Georgie Porgie Run Away.

Far, Far Away.

Our children deserve high standards at their developmental learning level, whether they come to us at rung one or twelve. They deserve to be challenged and encouraged to grow at their own individual, developmental pace. Rigor 2

Passionately Submitted,



Rigor 4 1. This licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist describes, in alarming detail, the harmful effects the common core state standards and the high stakes tests are having upon children, as well as teachers.  View the 13 minute video (here).


Crying Child 12.  The following article was written to capture real stories from real families about the impact of common core and the common core aligned programs focused upon rigor.  Click (here) for the full story.

Crying Child 23.  This photo was submitted by a parent. Her child is suffering with the age inappropriate, error and trick laden, too much, too soon, too fast, common core homework. This photo was shared on social media. Without asking for any response, it still received hundreds of commiserating comments within a half hour.  The responses can be read (here).

A Mince of Words… Part Two. Duck Duck Goose!

“If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like a duck, it must be a duck”

Or is it a Goose?

I awoke Friday morning excited to be facing a four day weekend.  Cup of coffee in hand, I sat down to my computer to catch up on news and here is the first post I read:

I am baffled, perplexed, confused, and a little dumb-founded that a research-based approach to teaching young children, to age 8, is being dismissed by educators who are also advocates for these same young children. Spending the last year, or more, entrenched in the national board professional teaching standards, DAP (Developmental Appropriate Practice) was absolutely important. Teaching on the edge of a child’s understanding is important. Knowing where a child is developmentally so you know what question to ask to get them to the next level is important. Asking children to do something they can’t do or are not ready for yet is disrespecting a child. Help me understand why this is even an issue.”

I looked at the comment tab and already the responses were flying.

I know this well respected, veteran, accomplished teacher personally.  Our history goes way back to our work at the state level.

As I scrolled, I found the comment made by another accomplished primary level teacher, inquiring if any of us saw the district post about “Developmentally Appropriate Practice” and the “scolding” it entailed.


I instantly went to the district webpage and found this post for the week of Feb. 11 – 17:Goose 1

“What is developmentally appropriate practice? This phrase gets thrown around a lot in the educational community. This short article summarizes the current research on the topic. Teachers that we have shared this with commented that they found it insightful given the recent adoption of standards and curricular materials.”

My blood pressure went up a notch.  I had been sent the very same article to read in response to my letter to the District Elementary Curriculum Coordinator two weeks prior.  The teacher’s inquiry and feelings hit me hard enough, I could do very little else for the rest of my day, but write. My original retort, “A Mince of Words… I see a Duck… I hear a Duck,” can be read (here).

It seems it is thought the phrase ‘developmentally appropriate’ gets thrown around a lot in the educational community… and it appears those who have read the short article have found it “insightful”.

I’m a bit fascinated by this, as I consider the many, many, MANY teachers in Spokane who are beginning to express their grave concerns with both the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and the current mathematics curricular materials.  The term we use is most definitely “developmentally inappropriate”.

As mentioned in Part One, we teachers are not alone in our concerns… 500 Early Childhood Specialists seem to agree with us…  many who are psychologists too, just like the author of the short article referenced by Daniel T. Willingham of University of Virginia.

Let’s do a little background check of Dr. Willingham… shall we?

For starters, Dr. Willingham (bio) is a professor at the very same university as the founder of Core Knowledge, E.D. Hirsch.  Two Peas in a Pod.

Eric Donald Hirsch, Jr. (born March 22, 1928) is an American educator and academic literary critic. He is professor emeritus of education and humanities at the University of Virginia.[1] He is best known for writing Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know (1987),[2] and is the founder and chairman of the Core Knowledge Foundation. 

Interestingly, Dr. Willingham also serves on the Board of the Core Knowledge Foundation.


Dr. Willingham Seems to Think Learning Styles Don’t Exist

He writes:

“But don’t you think it’s a good idea to teach to all the styles? It might be, but there’s not much reason to think it’s because kids have different learning styles. Maybe it’s always good for kids to experience any idea in several different ways, even if all the experiences were in the same style. Maybe one of the experiences is especially well-suited to help kids understand the concept. Maybe the repetition is good. If it’s a good idea to teach to all styles, great, but I’d like to figure out why kids are learning more that way, given that other predictions of styles theories aren’t supported. The notion of learning styles is dated. No one believes VAK (Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic) anymore. It’s been superseded by more sophisticated theories.”

Goose 3No one believes in Visual, Auditory, or Kinesthetic learning styles anymore?

No one believes?!!

There are more “sophisticated theories”?

Well.  I believe.  So do many of my colleagues.

We work with real children in actual classrooms.

No Goose is going to convince me otherwise.

If you’d like to learn more about his “sophisticated” theories and research on this topic read (here).


Honk. Honk.

Dr. Willingham’s Articles and Books DISCOUNT Piaget’s Theories of Child Development.

The short article posted on the districts webpage clearly shines the light on his view of the topic.  If you read the article clearly, he is discounting years of research of the renowned Piaget.  He was able to further express his views in (the article) entitled, “What is Developmentally Appropriate in Learning,” found in The Washington Post.

He writes: The New York State Education Department has a website that is meant to help teachers prepare for the Common Core State Standards. Author Chris Cerrone posted a bit of a 1st grade curriculum module on early civilizations. Here it is:

Core Knowledge words

 Cerrone, writing @ The Chalk Face, asked primary grade educators to weigh in: “What do you think of the vocabulary contained in this unit of study?”

The responses in the 78 comments were nearly uniformly negative. As you might expect from that volume of commentary, the criticisms were wide-ranging, much of it directed more generally at standardized testing and the idea of the CCSS themselves.”

Is it surprising K-3 early childhood educators might be a teensie weensie negative?

Noteworthy, for those of you starting to catch on, the ELA version of EngageNY is based specifically on Core Knowledge and the vocabulary in the picture above comes directly from one of the Modules.


Honk. Honk. Honk.

He equates Core Knowledge to the Montessori Philosophy.

And Core Knowledge is not alone. Another curriculum has had first-graders learning about ancient civilizations not for a decade, but for about a century: Montessori.”

This is laughable because my son attended Montessori through Kindergarten.  Walking into a Montessori Classroom and a Kindergarten Core Knowledge Classroom are unmistakably night and day. Heck… in a Kindergarten Core Knowledge Classroom they aren’t even allowed to engage with books until January.  My son was surrounded by books and encouraged to pour over books from 10 months through Kindergarten at the local Montessori School he attended.

Montessori philosophy believes children have their own, special individual developmental levels, and honors each child where they are, and builds from there.


Honk. Honk. Honk. Honk.

Dr. Willingham Unravels Howard Gardener’s Multiple Intelligences

The infamous Harvard University professor Howard Gardner, who is best known for his theory of multiple intelligences, has been a long-time critic of Hirsch. Gardner described one of his own books, The Disciplined Mind (1999), as part of a “sustained dialectic” with E.D. Hirsch, and criticized Hirsch’s curriculum as “at best superficial and at worst anti-intellectual”.[22] In 2007, Gardner accused Hirsch of having “swallowed a neoconservative caricature of contemporary American education.”  Is this also true of Willingham?

Willingham said of Gardener: “In the end Gardener’s theory is simply not all that helpful.  For scientists, in the end the theory of the mind is almost certainly incorrect.”  See his full unraveling of Gardener’s work (here).

Dr. Willingham also states in his critique of Dr. Gardener, “The soul general implication he supports is that children’s minds are different, and an educational system should take account of those differences, a point developed in diverse ways by his many followers.”

Ahhhhhh…clearing my throat…

Those of us that actually work with children, do just happen think children’s minds are different, and we should take these differences into account.

Yeppers.  We do.

Goose 4In the last district mathematics coaches meeting we were taken through an activity led by an experienced math coach.   We were asked to choose an EngageNY lesson and list on a cross referenced chart, the cognitive learning levels found, as well as the multiple intelligences.

For each pair of instructional coaches dissecting a lesson, can you guess what was discovered?

The Lions share of each EngageNY lesson fell in the lower levels of cognitive complexity, and few multiple intelligences were addressed within the lessons.


Honk. Honk. Honk. Honk. Honk.

Others Believing in Developmental Appropriateness.

Ahhhhh…. How could I forget the infamous Grant Wiggins? Grant Wiggins is the co-author of Understanding by Design and the author of Educative Assessment and numerous articles on education. He is the President of Authentic Education in Hopewell NJ. You can read more about him and his work at the AE site (click here) He writes:

“Over the years I have grown increasingly tired of Hirsch’s one-note samba about reading.  But I’ve kept my peace because the reading wars are endless, polemical, and easily bog one down in foolish debates. But these latest posts are just too over the top for me to remain mum.

For those unfamiliar with Hirsch’s critique, the only thing he thinks that truly matters is content knowledge. All of our ills – in reading, in learning generally, and in civic life – come down, in his view, to a failure of schools to teach a core and standard set of content.”

Is this what many of us are seeing in EngageNY?

Dr. Wiggins even points out how Willingham refutes Hirsh on a few points, even though they are bedfellows.  For Wiggin’s full critique click (here).

In Wiggin’s (backward design), the teacher starts with classroom outcomes and then plans the curriculum, choosing activities and materials that help determine student ability and foster student learning.  Wiggins, however, quotes Willingham, when trying to establish the importance of conceptual understanding of math in this article: (here).  Willingham proposes children learn concepts and skills simultaneously.  One does not necessarily come before the other…  Long debated topic in math circles.


Honk. Honk. Honk. Honk. Honk. Honk.

Other Critics… Spokane Teachers

The following discussion thread included two veteran, accomplished teachers of primary aged children:

Teacher A: There is a great article by Grant Wiggins (Understanding by Design) that talks to this. Also E.D. Hirsch and Daniel Willingham attack Lucy Calkins over and over again, who doesn’t love Lucy ? Last year I emailed both Richard Allington and Regie Routman about Core Knowledge. They both responded with opt out of it at all costs. Regie’s recommendation was to get out of the former school as fast as possible.

Teacher B: I remember the article well. Lucy could teach circles around either one of them with the new units of study. Reader’s workshop units of study coming this summer. Can’t wait.

Teacher A: Yes, Regie also said to ask where the data was around the use of ALL the worksheets stating there is NO data that connects worksheets with retention of a concept.


And Honk! Honk! Honk! Honk! Honk! Honk! Honk!

Who is Richard Allington?

Richard Allington is the author many books on reading instruction. He even came to Spokane. He wrote, “What Matters Most to Struggling Readers?” He is the one that basically says students need to be reading in a leveled text they can read at a 95% independent level accuracy rate.

Who is Regie Routman?

Regie Routman is a woman from Seattle who has worked closely with the IRA (International Reading Association). She says kids need to follow the gradual release of responsibility. She has a background in Reading Recovery.

Spokane School District has invested thousands and thousands (probably millions) of dollars into Reading Recovery.  They are also investing thousands and thousands of dollars into Math Recovery.  BOTH of these programs are embedded with the practice of what is “developmentally appropriate” for children.  BOTH programs target where a child is, and then challenges them from there.


Honk. Honk. Honk. Honk. Honk. Honk. Honk. Honk.

How “Insightful” was the Daniel T. Willingham’s Article?

From the mouths of accomplished, veteran teachers… (sharing just a few)…

Many teachers were baffled, perplexed, confused and a little dumb-founded by the districts blurb, as the first quote captured at the beginning of this blog post.

The discussion thread continued…

“I don’t understand why any of these things are needing to be addressed. We know so much about stages of development…why are the ‘decision makers’ choosing to ignore what we know to be true and push forward with high stress, developmentally inappropriate standards…?  Completely baffling and a waste of everyone’s time. (Especially the children’s!!) You can buy an infant a two wheel bike and even set them on it every single day…they still will not ride it until they’ve learned everything that they need to learn first…until THEY are ready!! Seems so simple!!”

“I often think about how important the skills of your Plan-Do-Review were! There are so many critical thinking skills, creativity skills, and life skills that students need to learn along the way to become successful. I loved those times when we could connect the Art room to the classroom… integrating the arts is so important to cement learning! Unfortunately, those skills are currently being ignored because reading and math are more important. When do you think the pendulum will swing back the other way?”

“They keep changing/raising the standard, but kids are essentially the same as they have always been. They are humans, not robots that can be reprogrammed at the whim of a given standard. It’s great, even important, to set and reach for high standards as long as we recognize that children develop at different rates because each one is a unique and precious creation that was never meant to fit into an idealistic matrix of rigid, time bound demands.”

“We are provided scripted developmentally inappropriate lessons with no repercussions, and the principal doesn’t seem to mind. As some teachers who do care have their careers on the line, teachers who JUST WANT TO TEACH and LOVE CHILDREN and have great PASSION, are sometimes either run out or throwing in the towel.”

I’m a bit confused myself.

Why would an article like this be posted on our district’s webpage?

It seems counter intuitive.

It goes against everything we know about DAP (Developmentally Appropriate Practice). One teacher expressed, “It wasn’t very smart to post an article like this for seasoned, veteran teachers to read.  We know better than this.”

From the premise the author is making… all the way to the background of the author… it seems much the opposite of the professional development and training we’ve been offered throughout the district’s history and currently.

Is it the goal here to promote more “insight” from an author who:Question Mark

  • Claims there is no such thing as learning styles
  • Shirks Piaget’s research around child development
  • Discounts Developmental Appropriate Practice (DAP)
  • Argues Gardener’s Multiple Intelligences


Honk. Honk. Honk. Honk. Honk. Honk. Honk. Honk. Honk.

What does “Developmentally Inappropriate” Practice Look Like?

In (Part One), I posted a (video) of a little girl struggling in tears, trying to do her homework from the EngageNY program.  It is astounding to me 6 year old children are being sent home pages of homework to complete with very little understanding of what they are doing.  I have witnessed this directly in my own neighborhood.  First graders coming home with 6 pages of homework.  They are throwing fits and having stressful breakdowns. There is a preponderance of evidence around the value of homework and what kind of homework should be sent home.  If parents need to be watching videos to help their Kindergarten – 3rd grade children at home, we have a huge problem as an educational system.

Furthermore, what children have parents who can access these “helpful” videos at home?

In my school, less than four children per class have access to the internet in their homes.

This is discriminatory and lacks the educational equity required for all our children to be successful.Goose 2

Sadly, this story came my way, “Another child literally bangs his head on his desk, because he’s not developmentally ready, or it’s not developmentally appropriate in the scripted EngageNY program, and the teacher is at a loss because she can’t REALLY adjust for him, because of the “benchmarks”. He feels like a failure, that’s what is going on…in 2nd grade. Bravo to the system. He could be made to love math, accepted where he is, and WHO he is, and moved from there… instead so many are learning to hate it.”

“If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like a duck, it must be a duck”

Developmentally Inappropriate IS Developmentally Inappropriate

My Own Take on the Article

Daniel T. Willingham’s article is a Goose.

As a veteran, (accomplished 25 year educator), I found this post on the district webpage demeaning to my intelligence, as well as a slap to my years of experience working with children from pre-school through 8th grade.

The in-between the lines implications and wording by the post, paint early childhood educators as professionals who don’t have brains.  We just throw out the term “developmentally inappropriate” to blow smoke up each other’s Patooties…  We are about making excuses for ourselves because our students aren’t getting what we are teaching them through the “Goose” Programs we are handed.

EngageNY, aka Eureka Math, aka The Story of Units, aka Great Minds has some history worth learning.  The program is not well differentiated, is over peppered with worksheets, and lacking many necessary components in order to make it “developmentally appropriate”.

I think of Kathy Fosnot and her research around learning landscapes.  “Developmentally Appropriate”.

I think of Van De Walle’s research and the essential building blocks children need to gain mathematical understanding.  “Developmentally Appropriate”.

I think about the brain research in the book, How the Brain Learns Mathematics, by David Sousa. “Developmentally Appropriate”.

So… ultimately, what did I think of Dr. Willingham’s short article filled with “current” research?


This Goose did not lay anything golden.

Honk! Honk!

Goose 6 Honking

Passionately Submitted,


For more information on the history of EngageNY click (here).

For more history on EngageNY click (here).

For information about how Core Knowledge and Amplify are connected click (here).

If your interested in following the money regarding Amplify and Core Knowledge click (here).

A Mince of Words… I Hear a Duck… I See a Duck.

“If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like a duck, it must be a duck”

Developmentally Inappropriate IS Developmentally Inappropriate

No two children are alike… all are in different places, learn at diverse rates, and deserve to be challenged at their instructional level.

Duck 3On January 31st, I wrote my District Elementary Curriculum Coordinator a letter expressing my concerns around the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the  EngageNY curricular materials.   I sited my references and explained how my thinking has shifted in regards to K-3 standards. I do find flaws and believe some to be developmentally inappropriate.   The response to my letter was warm and well received.  Return communication came with links to articles for me to consider.  (One article, referenced in the direct quote from the district webpage below).

On February 8th, I sent a letter to my son’s principal opting him out of tests I determined to be developmentally inappropriate. You can read the letter to my son’s principal (here). I sited many of the same references, and gave many of the same reasons for my growing concerns with the CCSS and the testing that follows on the coattails.


Many, many, MANY of my colleagues are expressing their concerns with the mathematics curricular materials, whether it is called EngageNY, A Story of Units, Eureka Math, or Great Minds… it is still the same curricular materials with the same basic lessons being presented to students. Many, many, MANY of my colleagues are using the term “developmentally inappropriate”.   I will go one step farther to say that many, many, MANY educators across the state of Washington and the United States are raising their voices claiming the “developmental inappropriateness” of the K-3 standards as well as the EngageNY Math Program… aka A Story of Units, Eureka, now Great Minds… aka another Duck?

Just one short week after my letter to the district elementary curriculum coordinator and my son’s principal,  this appears on the district’s webpage for the week of Feb. 11 – 17:

 “What is developmentally appropriate practice? This phrase gets thrown around a lot in the educational community. This short article summarizes the current research on the topic. Teachers that we have shared this with commented that they found it insightful given the recent adoption of standards and curricular materials.”

This “current research” written in the summer of 2008, before the birth of the CCSS machine.

I happened to be on a teacher discussion thread this weekend when this statement was brought to my attention.   This veteran, dynamic teacher expressed, “Did you see the article in this weeks SPS newsletter “scolding” us for using the term developmentally appropriate? I guess that’s the new ‘no no’ word in our district!!”

Duck 4Well.

It certainly is not a “no no” word for me.

Developmentally Inappropriate.

Couldn’t help it… it just rolled off my tongue.

Who else is using this term?  Is it just a group of early childhood educators who have worked with children for years and years and years?  Are we alone?

Let’s examine the use of this term… “developmentally appropriate” or “developmentally inappropriate”.  Shall we?


Has anyone ever taken their small baby to a doctor?  Did you discuss anything about development?  Did you ask any questions in regards to what is developmentally appropriate?  Were milestones discussed?  Did you want to know when you could expect your baby to hold his/her head up?  Did you want to know when it was normal for them to sit up, take first steps, walk?

Did the term developmentally appropriateness come up at all?

Did you ever discuss when your child would be expected to say his first word?  Did the doctor discuss ranges of what was normal?

I had a friend whose son wasn’t gaining language acquisition.  He did not fall within developmentally normal ranges.  She took him to the doctor to find out why his language was delayed.  No first words.  Only grunts.  Because it was past the developmental range, they did further testing and determined he was hearing impaired.



My son saw a child play therapist when he was three years old.  He went to three sessions.   She reassured me my son was totally within all ranges of developmental appropriate behavior for his age.   In fact, she found his ability to make analogies to his life experience at a level she hadn’t seen before.  He was functioning above the developmental normal continuum.

During this same time period, The Montessori School he attended shared a checklist of my son’s abilities.  He was cutting with scissors, knew his letters, was coloring and drawing, and much more. I think the term used with me was, “Your son is within all the developmental appropriate ranges for children at his age.”

Did the child therapist use the term developmentally appropriate?


Did the Montessori teacher use the term developmentally appropriate?


Quack. Quack.


 A local mother shared she had been taking her son to a psychologist to figure out some behaviors her son was exhibiting.  They discussed many aspects of her son’s life.   At the end of one of the sessions they got into a discussion about how children in elementary school are expected to type their solutions to math problems into the computer as well as lengthy paragraphs in the reading and writing portions of the state test.

The psychologist gasped, “Developmentally Impossible!”

His concern was the fine motor ability of children and their hand spans over the computer keys.  Children’s mastery of the keyboard happens at different times for different children.  It also involves practice.  Who will be the better keyboarders when computer access is considered… home verse nothing at home.  Will better keyboarders be able to type more?  Does this mean they KNOW more?

My colleague and I agreed children can learn to type and do in class projects where they are typing papers and importing graphics… but on a high stakes test to measure their cognitive abilities and comprehension of text… no.

Developmentally Inappropriate.


Slid off my tongue again.

What about Dr. Megan Koschnick, an early childhood psychologist?  What does she have to say about this idea of developmental inappropriateness?  As I listen to her 23 minute presentation, I am fascinated by the title of her presentation: “Common Core is Developmentally Inappropriate.”  Listen (Here)

She starts her speech in this way, “I was asked to give a presentation about whether or not I thought the common core standards were developmentally appropriate.”

There’s that word again.

In the first minute and a half, the term developmental inappropriate is seen or heard five times.   It would be interesting to watch the video through and tally the number of times she uses the term.

Quack. Quack. Quack.

 Early Childhood Specialists

It seems 500 early childhood specialist have grave concerns with the standards too.   They believe they conflict with the compelling new research in cognitive science, neuroscience, child development, and early childhood education about how young children learn, what they need to learn, and how best to teach them in kindergarten and the early grades.  It seems 500 early childhood specialists were concerned with developmental appropriateness too.  See their four concerns and all 500 specialists who signed the joint statement (here).

Quack. Quack. Quack. Quack.

 Licensed Clinical Social Workers and Psychotherapists

Mary Calamia, LCSW, CSASC speaks at the New York State Assembly, Minority Education Committee at the Forum on Common Core.   This is a passionate 13 minute presentation about the impacts of Common Core and programs like Engage NY… aka Eureka, Story of Units, Great Minds… another Duck? Watch it (here).

This clinician works with parents, children, and half of her clients are teachers.  Her case load represents 20 different school districts in Suffolk County.  In the summer of 2012 her teachers started to express increased anxiety for having to learn two entirely new curricula for math and ELA.

She says, “This is the first time I heard of the one size fits all taking the imagination and innovation out of the hands of the teacher.”

She says, “You can’t regulate biology, young children cannot engage in this type of critical thinking the common core calls for.  This would require a fully developed prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain that is not fully functional until adulthood. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for critical thinking, rational decision making, and abstract thought… All things required of the Common Core Prematurely.”

Developmentally Inappropriate.

Quack. Quack. Quack. Quack. Quack.


Carol Burris, Principal of the Year, New York, 2013, said:

“I do not believe that any of the players in this project are evil people trying to control the minds of kids.  Rather they are true believers with an ideological allegiance to untested curriculum. The Common Core has some features that are good and others that are awful.”

The awful part is the one size fits all approach demanding all children meet the same learning goals and targets at the same exact time.  Our children are not robots or machines spewing forth correct information on the spot lickety split.

Developmentally Inappropriate.

Quack. Quack. Quack. Quack. Quack. Quack.

The Children Themselves

Have you ever heard the cliché… “from the mouth of babes”?  Watch the following 2 minute video taken of this 2nd grade little girl.  Her tears may move you like they did me.  Pay particular attention to the worksheet she refers to…  pause the video if you have to, and look at the very bottom.  Do you recognize the mathematics program by chance?  See the video (here).

There are many more stories from children that can be told.  I have a pile.  For now… this second grade girl will speak for the rest of them.

Homework like this, from math programs like this, to meet the “rigorous” CCSS standards…

Developmentally Inappropriate.

  • What are we doing to our children in the name of rigor?
  • In the name of College and Career Ready?
  • What are we sacrificing to Get. Them. There.?
  • Are years and years and YEARS of developmental research being ignored?

In this compelling talk, Dr. Peter Gray brings attention to the reality that over the past 60 years in the United States there has been a gradual, but overall dramatic decline in children’s time to play.  The impact is staggering.  Watch the 16 minute TEDx entitled, “The Decline of Play and the Rise of Mental Disorders” (here).



It is interesting to me how doctors, therapists, psychologists, and children can show us the absolute picture of what is developmentally appropriate and what is developmentally inappropriate.  I find it demeaning, as a 25 year, accomplished educator, to hear I’m not supposed to use the words “developmentally inappropriate.”

It’s like saying… erase the education you received from University of Washington, Whitworth University, and Gonzaga University.  Erase the years of experience you have working with early childhood children.  “Developmentally Appropriate” does not exist anymore.  Erase the term.  It’s a “no no”.

Developmental Appropriate has been replaced with a new famous term…  RIGOR.

Those of us who question if something may be developmentally inappropriate are looked down upon as if we don’t believe in rigor or high expectations for our students. 


Book Cover... Developmentally Appropriate (2)

Is it really going to be suggested Early Childhood Teachers are not supposed to say “Developmentally Inappropriate”?  Doctors can.  Clinicians can. Therapists can.  Early childhood Psychologists can. Award winning Principals can.  Montessori Teachers can.  The tears in our children’s eyes can.

But… “no no” to any public school K- 3rd grade teacher?

Bunk again.

Even teacher’s resources claim the term “Developmentally Appropriate”.

My Banner:  Developmentally Inappropriate IS Developmentally Inappropriate.

Teaching a Kindergartener how to do long division with the traditional algorithm is _________________?

Don’t say it.

Spending time teaching 6th grade students how to count from 1 – 100 is _____________________?

Don’t say it.

Don’t slip.

Developmentally Inappropriate.


Extreme examples to make a point.  However, what other term are us lil’ ole early childhood teachers suppose to use?

“If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like a duck, it must be a duck”

Developmentally Inappropriate IS Developmentally Inappropriate.


Duck 1

 Passionately Submitted,


To be Continued… Part Two… A Mince of Words… Duck Duck Goose! (Here)