My Dinner with Betsy

My Dinner with Betsy

Friday morning, I woke up, fed my kids breakfast, drank a large glass of water and went to the gym. A pretty typical day at my house, but when I walked outside, noticed that it was much colder than usual. On the drive to the gym, the sky was filled with dark clouds, through which slips of red sun peaked through. It was ominous. I don’t know if that was a harbinger of what was to come when I was to meet with the Secretary of Education, or just Fall in Seattle. Either way, I didn’t like what I saw.

In February, Betsy Devos, was appointed the US Secretary of Education, even though she has no background in education, except giving money to organizations that are homophobic, or anti- union, or anti public school, or all of the above. Her big thing is school choice, which is the push for students to be able to choose what schools they attend. While it makes sense that students not be relegated only to the schools in the zip code, her desire for school choice is actually an extension of Jim Crow.

History lesson!!!

School choice has its origins in white supremacy. After Brown vs the Board of Education, many schools in the South still refused to integrate their schools. To get around integration, school districts would use the vouchers that were provided, to send only white students to private schools. The black students would be denied vouchers. In Virginia’s Prince Edward County, in fact, they even managed to close the entire public school system, making it extremely difficult to get an education, if you were black. Black families that had the means to do so, moved to northern states, but those that could not, cobbled together a form of home schooling, or, in most cases, were forced to leave the school system permanently. It wasn’t until 1980 that the private schools decided to allow black students to attend. The Fuqua Academy, as it was called, only did so, so they could keep their non-profit status. The result was that only 1% of the Fuqua student body was black, though the black population of Prince Edward County was almost 40%.

In 2013, the black student body still only made up 5%, or 17, of the 363 students. Virginia was not alone, and during the 50s and 60s, white students left the public school system, to enroll in private institutions, using federal and state vouchers. In 1990, Alabama was recognized as having the greatest educational inequities, disproportionately impacting black students and students with disabilities. It was to be resolved in the state courts, but was blocked by the state attorney general. That person is now the US attorney general, and his name is Jeff Sessions. The same Jeff Sessions who reversed a policy to allow transgender students to use the school bathrooms that fit their gender identity. He also says the Department of Justice will no longer protect gay or transgender students from workplace discrimination, and that he will not seek federal oversight on police departments suspected of abuse.

But I digress…

Today, the school voucher system, promoted by Secretary Devos, targets low income students, yet some districts place no barrier on financial means. Of the students receiving school vouchers, 60% of them are white, while only 12% of students receiving vouchers are black. In 2013, those numbers were 46% and 24% respectively, so the gap has actually widened. As reported by the Century Foundation, the students that benefit mostly from school choice, are the advantaged students that are eligible, whom tend to be middle class and white. The voucher system has effectively made economic segregation increase, which is the exact opposite of its intentions, yet it is where education reformists, like Devos, tend to hang their hat.

Friday afternoon, I took my kids to the playground, in the hopes of letting them blow off steam. Also, I was afraid they were going to kill each other. There was no school and they were getting a little cabin feverish. At the playground, they had fun, and I enjoyed watching them play, in a way, only children can play: without abandon. It was still chilly and overcast outside, but I was looking forward to my dinner with Devos.

The 1000 seat dinner was to be thrown by the Washington Policy Center(WPC), a non-profit, think tank that promotes sound public policy based on free-market solutions. The WPC has been around for years and they have a large base of supporters, that come from across the entire state of Washington. The WPC focuses on solving problems with the environment, agriculture, healthcare, education, and more. The one commonality is that all of their solutions are free market based. Free market is another word for capitalism, and, as we know, capitalism is all about making that “skrilla.”

My kids and I walked back home, ate some snacks, and then I changed clothes. The dinner was labeled as “business attire,” so I had to break out my flyest gear, and put on a tie. Looking like the black Mr Rogers, with a deconstructed Afro, I jumped in my car, turned up the Led Zeppelin, and drove to Bellevue. Where else in western Washington, but Bellevue, would someone attend an event honoring Betsy Devos?

I arrived at the Bellevue Hyatt, to see several hundred people protesting the arrival of Secretary Devos. Signs ranged from the punny “IKEA has better cabinets,” to the plaintive “Fully Fund Education.” I also a couple signs that were basically just expletives. I understand their sentiments, but they lacked originality, or focus, which ended up taking away the potency of the protest.


New Secretary, Who Dis?


I took a few pictures, fist bumped some protestors, and headed towards security. To my surprise, I entered the hotel and walked to registration, without any trouble. I was repeatedly asked if I was here for the event, by different police officers, but when I told them, “yes,” they pointed me in the right direction. The first thing I noticed when I walked into the venue was that this was a very well organized event. I got my name tag and table number within seconds, with clear signage for the bathrooms, coat check, and beverages. The second thing I noticed was that the beverages were cash only. The least expensive ticket was $350, and for that amount of money, I would have liked a complimentary Coke. But, like I said, it’s about that skrilla.

I was on the early side, and walked around to read some of the literature. There were pamphlets discussing the need for transparency in how the state uses money for transportation related issues, and the need for us to reduce carbon emissions to create a greener environment. I read about the need to protect our agricultural workers and the need for more local control of government spending. I read many statements that rang true and fact based articles that supported the positions espoused by the WPC.

An hour passed while I was reading, and no one spoke to me. To be fair, I also didn’t seek conversation with anyone else. As I was taking notes about what I was reading, a woman walked up to me and asked me if I was a reporter. She didn’t say hello, or greet me, in any way. She just abrasively asked if I was a reporter. I told her “no, I’m an educator.”

“Oh. Ok. I just wanted to see if you were a reporter.


“Have a good day.”

“Ok. You too.”

I don’t know what to make of that interaction, but I’m happy she spoke to me. It made me look up from my reading, to notice that more people had arrived. As I looked around, I noticed that I was one of three faces of color. This is Bellevue, but I was still a bit surprised. I kept walking around and began to examine the other attendees. They were mostly people of my age, or older. Definitely white and definitely middle to upper class. There were some young people present, that were members of the Young Americans group, who were to attend the dinner in the next room. Devos was to speak to them after speaking with the older folks, like me. That dinner was for those under the age of 39.

“Are you also alone?”

“I’m sorry? Oh, yes, I am”

A gentleman of about 65 and his daughter approached me and we began to talk about how we didn’t know anyone at the event. They were a nice twosome and quite friendly. During our conversation, they asked why I had never been to an event before. I told them I had recently moved from New York, and was relatively new to the Washington Policy Center. The gentleman looked at me, and asked about rubber rooms.

“Well, they closed I think.”

“Still, the fact that they existed makes no sense!”

“I agree.”

“Why they can’t fire teachers that are useless, is beyond me.”

It was at this point that I realized why the anti union argument was gaining traction, with WPC and organizations like WPC. Rubber Rooms were rooms that teachers, that have been, or will be disciplined, must go to, while they are waiting for a decision about how to handle their cases. The Rubber Room is basically a purgatory sentence for classroom teachers, and to my knowledge, only existed in New York City. The teachers receive a full salary, must sit in that room for an entire school day, without leaving, save for lunch and bathroom breaks, until a decision has been made, on whether or not, they can go back to class. That may be a week, a month, a year, and some cases, close to a decade. If a teacher is accused or misconduct or incompetence, they go to the Rubber Room. This practice supposedly ended years ago, but I can see why it frustrates most people. I also understand how this practice is associated with teachers’ unions. However, many teachers are exonerated, and the process is supposed to be less than 30 days. It is equally important that we understand that this happened in NYC and is not representative of all teachers or unions or all school administrations across the country.

The gentleman’s daughter left for the bathroom, and he told me that his grandchild, his daughter’s kid, suffers from seizures. The seizures prevent the girl from attending a public school that can meet her needs, so she attends school online, which is supported by school vouchers. His complaint was that Washington state doesn’t do enough for parents. Whenever school choice is debated, I hear stories like this family’s story. I get asked how I can be against charter schools and vouchers, when I hear stories like this one. My answer is simple:

I am not against school choice.

A parent or guardian should have every right to choose the school that best fits the needs of their child. Zip code or wealth shouldn’t dictate the educational tract of a person. It is a choice that a family makes for their family. The government, nor I, nor anyone should make that choice for anyone else. In my many years as an educator, I have worked at traditional public schools, charter schools, private schools, and religious- based institutions. Although I may like some places more than others, it was always about the students and responding to the culture of the youth being served. The question we should be asking ourselves is not “is school choice the answer?” The question is: “why are people so invested in school choice?”

Economics Lesson!!

The Community Renewal Tax Relief Act of 2000 provided tax incentives to businesses that are located in, and hire residents of, economically depressed urban and rural areas. Most charter schools are in lower income neighborhoods serving mostly students from that area. Businesses that invest in charter schools can double their investment in seven years. The number seven is important because the tax incentives last for seven years, before they expire. In order to keep receiving tax breaks, businesses diversify their portfolios by building more and more charter schools in those areas. Of course with the influx of money, comes the prestige associated with money, which leads to gentrification, which leads to why more wealthy white students go to charter schools, than the students that are meant to be served. In effect, charter schools are one of the leading cause of gentrification, and wealth disparity.

All about that skrilla.

The doors open and I sit down at my table, next to an older white couple. We greet each other and I also say hello to the other 7 people at my table. Everyone is white, except me. They are all smiles, so I smile back. The older couple to my left ask what brings me to the event.

“I wanted to hear Devos speak.”

“Do you like what she has to say?”

“No, but I’m willing to listen.”

“What do you do, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“I’m an educator.”



“Retired police officers.”

Of course, I would sit next to two police officers, at a Betsy Devos event, surrounded by 900 white people.

“Why don’t you like school choice?”

“I’ve got nothing against school choice, but it’s not the answer to solving the problems with education.”

“Yes, we need more teachers working on the bad behavior of students. Those kids won’t learn any other way.”


“Don’t you agree?”

“Absolutely not, the answer isn’t discipline. First we must understand the needs of students and meet those. If we look at the maladaptive behaviors of young people and blame them, because their maslovian needs aren’t met, then our education will continue to operate a system with opportunity gaps. We must look at the teacher training programs and how teachers are prepared to teach. We teach them in a 20th century modality, ignoring the 21st century world, in which we live. The curriculum doesn’t reflect the students being served. I don’t just mean students of color. I mean all students will benefit from having subjects taught in a manner more accepting of different cultures and perspectives. If we end white supremacy, we can solve education problems.”

“Well, I’m sure you know more than I do, about education.”

I apologized for my rant, and she said she appreciated it. It was the rare time I was able to speak with someone, in real life, that had completely opposing views than I. She began talking about her friend, who was a teacher, that was underpaid. She spoke about how Washington was great because it was so welcoming. It was a good conversation.

“Hello and welcome to the Washington Policy Center Annual Dinner!”

The evening’s emcee came out to wondrous applause. He made a joke about the hippies protesting and a joke about the Huskies. I didn’t understand what he was talking about, so I started to eat my salad. When I looked up again, everyone was standing for the Pledge of Allegiance. I stood up, clasped my hands behind my back, and looked at the 100 foot wide USA flag, that was the backdrop for the stage. When the Pledge finished, we all sat down. Then the emcee asked everyone to stand for the National Anthem.

I did not.

My table mates looked at me and then turned their heads. Everyone else sang the song, with hands over their heart. When I could see the stage again, Secretary Betsy Devos was standing at the podium, and addressed the audience.

I wish that I could say that she said something amazing, or that she said something completely onerous, but she did not. She spoke her speech and smiled, in a way only the very wealthy can smile: without joy. She spoke about three students (all of them were of color) that were able to choose their school. One of the three made a video that told the typical sob story of being poor, black, and uneducated, until she was given the opportunity to attend a charter school, where her life changed. She now works with Devos at the Department of Education.

The crowd roared with praise.

Secretary Devos spoke about how school choice saves lives and is the way to go. She said there was no “one size fits all” model for education, then she said school choice will improve education. Then she left the stage and went to the room next door, to speak with the Young Americans.

My cop neighbor table mate asked if I changed my mind about her. I told her I agree that there is no “one size fits all” model, but that school choice is wonderful for those that have the resources to choose a school. School choice is a band aid that only some people can have. The rest of society has to find other ways to cover their wounds.

Somehow, we started talking about police violence and she said that that doesn’t really happen, where she lives, in Kent. I looked at her wondrously. I asked her if she thought Black Lives Matter is anti-cop? She said yes. I talked about how black people were killed by police and we were only saying that our lives also matter. She said, again, that that wasn’t an issue in Washington. I spoke about the several police cases, in Washington, where cops have killed black people. She stared at me. It was at this exact moment where I felt like everyone in the room was also staring at me. My other table mates kept their backs to me, and I went to take a bite of my fish. Before I could a woman came onstage, to say a prayer. She was black which surprised me, but then I remembered how “we shole is gud at chu’ch,” and sat with my hands on my lap.

When the prayer ended, I took a bite of my food, looked at my watch, and excused myself from the table. Not one single person acknowledged that I was leaving. As I walked out, I heard the emcee talk, again, about hippies, but this time it was referencing how the Huskies were losing to those “hippies” at Berkeley.

When I got in my car, my shoulders relaxed. I drove out of the parking lot, playing an old A Tribe Called Quest song.

“Oh my god, yes oh my god

Oh my god, yes oh my god”

I couldn’t have said it better, Busta.

I got home and watched Dave Chapelle’s newest comedy special. I hugged my kids and kissed my wife. When I woke the next day, I grabbed my bag to head to the airport. Today was Saturday, and 45 youth and I were headed to Arizona for Macklemore’s concert.

But that’s another story…




By: James Miles

More Digital Teaching Resources at Your Fingertips

More Digital Teaching Resources at Your Fingertips

You might have heard that we recently tripled the teaching resources available to teachers in Kiddom’s Library. Not only are we excited, but we’d like to share our team’s favorite content providers. So without further ado…


Liz, Curriculum Specialist


Zearn: Elementary Math

LizAs an educator I am always looking for resources that are made with the student in mind. Zearn is that resource. They understand things about young children that a lot of us take for granted. The imagery is straightforward and easy to understand. The lessons are fun and engaging. They encourage student interaction, check for understanding and give corrective feedback so students can learn from mistakes. There are no flashing distractions or unnecessary components. The language used is student friendly and always has read aloud options. Zearn can be used as a full adaptive math curriculum that meets the students at their level or as targeted teaching opportunities to supplement a variety of other programs.


Kashon, Teacher Advocate


NextLesson: Math, ELA, Science, Social Studies K-12

Kashon: NextLesson is a great addition to the Kiddom Content Library. From the student’s perspective, you can select from a wide variety of subject matter that interest you, and share this with your teacher for more personalized assignments. From the educator’s perspective it’s a great tool to gauge a student’s personality type and find resources to engage them. You can also search lesson plans by aligned standards, giving teachers the ability to develop a child’s skill set within the parameters of their interests. They have great project based assignments that bring learning to life.


Amanda, Community Partnerships


IXL: Math & ELA PK-12, Science & Social Studies: 2–8

AmandaI can’t wait for teachers and students to experience what IXL brings to the classroom, catering to kids learning at different paces and on different levels. I was fortunate to find IXL in my third year teaching 6th grade Math. Students ranged in their mathematical ability from the elementary to high school level and I was determined to provide opportunities for kids who needed remediation andkids that needed a challenge. Incorporating IXL work-time in my classroom engaged my students at their appropriate level. I would select a number of lessons or topics for my students to explore and the IXL program monitored their progress, prompting students to move forward once mastery was reached or to practice more if they needed help. As the facilitator, I could see progress on each skill and provide small-group instruction for those students that got stuck within a concept. IXL provides immediate feedback, standards-aligned lessons, and more time for me to support students one-on-one.


Melissa, Professional Development


Listenwise: ELA, Social Studies, Science 6–12

MelissaAs a high school English and Social Studies teacher, it never made sense to me that students were only asked to analyze print texts on state exams. As an adult, I get news and entertainment across so many forms of media, including podcasts and audiobooks, and I deepen my understanding of new ideas through debate and discussion with friends and colleagues. That’s why I love Listenwise for using public radio podcasts to bring my students current events in an accessible, engaging format. It’s often hard for students to connect to faraway events they read about, so the varied perspectives from podcasts and interviews encourage empathy and critical thinking as students learn. Using audio sources also allows all of my students to access the same ideas and content, regardless of their reading levels, making it a great tool for differentiation. Listenwise also pairs graphic organizers and comprehension questions with their podcasts so that you can assess critical listening skills in addition to their silent reading comprehension. Easily keep your curriculum up-to-date with in-depth news stories and help your students become informed citizens.


Jessica, Curriculum Specialist


Everfi: Healthy Relationships, SEL 6–9

Jessica: I love a lot of content but I am very excited about Everfi because they offer resources for subjects and topics that are underrepresented in the digital world. I used the Healthy Relationships interactive modules in my health class to support students who struggled with conflict resolution, communication, and making decisions. The comic book style made the “true-to-life” scenarios more approachable for students who were not interested in role playing the situations in class. This resource is also great for people interested in covering Social Emotional Learning skills which have been in high demand. The greatest part is that this is all free. Soon, we also hope to share some of their other great life skills courses on Kiddom.


Shabbir, Support Analyst


TEDEd: Multi-Subject

Shabbir: I’m a visual learner with a variety of interests across all subjects and I could not be happier about the addition of TEDEd to the Kiddom library. TEDEd has videos curated for a wide variety of subjects, mostly geared towards an older student audience. TEDEd videos have a knack for being informative, but what makes them stand out are their engaging animations, pacing, and delivery. Maybe most important of all, many TEDEd videos have special guest speakers with expertise on the topic- so not only do students get exposed to information in a fun way, but now they are familiar with with some faces in the subject’s field. With TEDEd on your Kiddom utility belt you can assign engaging, personalized assignments, thoughtful remediation, and lessons that spark discussion and thoughtful dialogue.


Abbas, Chief Academic Officer


Desmos: Math 9–12

AbbasAs a former high school math teacher, I recognize it can sometimes be challenging to find opportunities to translate what’s being learned in the classroom to students’ lives. Sure, if we had more time to plan, we could probably come up with a plethora of creative projects and activities that help students understand how their daily lives are impacted by the mathematical concepts covered in class. Unfortunately, we aren’t always privileged with time to plan like this for every topic. Enter Desmos. Desmos connects a rich graphing calculator to engaging, real-world activities. These activities can instantly help your students engage with and connect more meaningfully with mathematical concepts. And don’t hesitate to roll your sleeves up and play along, they can get challenging.

We hope you’re able to find resources that support your classroom needs and love them as much as we do. If there’s a resource you’d like to see available in the Kiddom Library, let us know by tweeting at us or emailing us directly. Happy Teaching and Learning!

Written By: Jessica H.

4 Ways to Differentiate Instruction

4 Ways to Differentiate Instruction

Planning curriculum is a complex, ongoing project — teachers arrange their learning targets for the year into a scope and sequence, write daily lessons to scaffold instruction, and find content resources that align to the various levels and interests of all students. That’s a lot of heavy lifting.

Finding the right teaching resources online can be particularly challenging. There’s an endless supply of content and curriculum providers, and teachers have little time to comb through it all. That’s why we’ve been researching, vetting, and adding thousands of new resources to our library: to save teachers time. You already know teachers using Kiddom can access a comprehensive library of free resources and assign them instantly to students. Today, we tripled the size of that library, adding more content for more subjects across more grade levels. Yippee! 🤓

As an added bonus to teachers, resources assigned from select partners automatically transfer scores to your reports in Kiddom. That means more teachers will spend less time with data entry. Student progress will be imported into Kiddom, and your reports will be up-to-date.

Our library of teaching resources now includes a wider range of standards-aligned multimedia content and lesson plans. We’ve added a plethora of resources from new providers (IXL, LearnZillion, PBS LearningMedia, Newsela, and Desmos to name a few), and we’ve also added more resources from legacy providers (CK-12, Khan Academy, and CommonLit).

Of course, what good are resources if they aren’t supplemented with implementation strategies? Here are four ways to use these resources.

1. Remediate or Extend 🚀

Content providers like IXL, Khan Academy, and Desmos offer excellent practice videos, problem sets, and challenge problems for math skills across grade levels. Create a playlist of instructional videos from Khan Academy or practice sets from IXL for students who are struggling with a specific skill-set. Send challenge activities from Desmos to students who are ready to apply new skills to real-life problem sets and move them up Bloom’s taxonomy to higher levels of thinking.

2. Offer Multimedia Perspectives 🎧

With Listenwise, you can support literacy instruction and listening comprehension through audio resources. Listenwise has a library of podcasts that cover current events with depth and a range of perspectives to help students draw connections between themselves and the world. Pair these podcasts with articles on the same topic from Newsela to meet multiple learning styles. Newsela’s articles are available at multiple reading levels to ensure all students have access to the same information. Create rotating stations and have students read articles from Newsela, listen from Listenwise at each one ahead of a class discussion, or have students choose their own station based on learning preferences.

3. Integrate Social Emotional Learning 💛

Incorporate Everfi’s Healthy Relationships course into advisory, counseling, or homeroom to support your students in developing positive, appropriate relationships with peers and adults. This course is self-paced and interactive, including authentic videos with diverse perspectives. Use them in an advisory setting to guide discussions about community values and shared norms, or weave them into a literature unit to give students language to discuss interpersonal conflict in the stories they’re reading.

4. Mix and Match 📝💻

Curriculum is rarely one-size fits all — use our content library to find the best of the bunch for your students. Both Zearn and Khan Academy have resources and materials aligned to EngageNY modules. Pick the ones that work best for your students and build out a cohesive sequence of lessons. Search “EngageNY” in Kiddom’s content library to find Khan Academy’s EngageNY-aligned units labeled by module number and topic letter. All of Zearn’s materials are aligned to EngageNY — you can see an overview of their curriculum map, organized in the same way, here.




By: Melissa Giroux, School Success Lead

Kiddom seamlessly connects the most critical aspects of teaching and learning on one platform.

For the first time, educators can share and manage digital curriculum, differentiate instruction, and assess student work in one place. Learners can take assessments online, see student performance data with the click of a button, and teachers have the insight and tools they need to create individual learning paths.

Ready to bring digital curriculum to your school or district?

Connect with us in a 15-minute meeting to learn more about available pre-packaged curriculum, and how the Kiddom education platform can support your learning community.

There is Power in Art

There is Power in Art

I wake up and it is quiet

There’s no noises

The sunlight is peeking through the blinds of my bedroom window, where I see the wind ruffle the leaves of our magnolia tree.

I hear the wind, now, too.

Two hummingbirds are buzzing at the feeder suction cupped to my window. They rest and drink the sugary water and look at me through the window.

A crow caws as it flies past, and my wife rolls over in her sleep. The sound of her breathing is long and measured.

I wake up like this, everyday. It is extremely peaceful and the most relaxing thing I’ve ever experienced.

Yet, my heart is beating fast, very fast, like wings of the hummingbird outside of my window. There’s a knot of anxiety that refuses to dissipate. Something has a hold on my chest and my breathing is shallow. Why? What is making me feel this way, when I wake up in such an idyllic environment?

I pick up my phone that is next to me on my nightstand, and then I know why. Why I’ve felt this way for months, why I’ve felt uneasy since I moved from Brooklyn, to Seattle.

I feel unsafe. I feel that my life is threatened.

Scratch that.

I know that my life is threatened.

People are being murdered by the police, almost on a daily basis. The rights of gay and transgender people are being stripped away from them. Muslims are being targeted by bigots and denied entry into the “land of the free.” The education system is in shambles and young people are being terrorized by current policy. Teachers are devalued and deemed worthless; there are articles about teachers being replaced by AI. Artistic expression and creativity is shunned, but lies are universally accepted. The gap between the rich and poor is widening, as is the divide between black and white. Canada was on fire, and the smokescreen has made Seattle’s air quality akin to Beijing. White Supremacists are marching in Virginia, burning torches, and spreading vitriol, bolstered by a nation that has chosen hate as its form of expression.

Polar ice caps are melting and it is way too hot. Animals and trees are dying, and I’m laying in bed, and it is quiet and serene.

It’s feels like I’m lying in a coffin.

I know that I’m lucky, but I know my luck will end. Our luck will end. I wake up every day thinking today will be the day. The day that my life will be taken from me.

Then I remember

We are stronger together.

Out of darkness, there is light.

There is power in art.

After the dark ages in Europe, there was the renaissance. Because of da Vinci, we understood Flight.

After years of “let them eat cake,” we had the French Revolution and with it, folk tales from the Brothers Grimm and music from Mozart and Beethoven. Artists turning their fears and desires into children’s stories and complex musical notes.

After the Mexican Revolution, we saw the innovative period of Mexican Muralism, which brought us artists like Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. Out of bloodshed and war, these muralists created images of family life and, of working class people, normally overlooked, in classical art.

During the Great Depression, there was also the Harlem Renaissance, highlighting Black artists of the 20s. From a time when people were grabbing pigeons out of the sky for dinner, Black artists were holding onto life, by reflecting what they saw in the world. There’d be no jazz, rock n roll, or hip hop without the Harlem Renaissance.

I wonder what art will spring forward based on the lives we live in 2017. How will the youth of tomorrow see the youth of today?




Written By: James Miles

Questions: When Narrative is Shaped by Race

Questions: When Narrative is Shaped by Race

Is two better than one?

Last week I saw “Barbecue” at the Intiman theater where one conceit was telling the same story through a lens of whiteness, and through the lens of blackness. “Barbecue” was story of a down on its luck family trying to save their drug addicted sister. The play started with an all white family planning an intervention, and after the blackout, the story continued, but the same characters were now all Black. It was interesting how race shaped the narrative. I won’t ruin the rest of the play, but I began wondering how a paradigm shift would impact other stories and possibly boost empathy, in audiences.

Then I saw Wonder Woman.

It was an enjoyable movie (quite enjoyable actually), and examined feminism through the lens of whiteness. The first time we meet Diana Prince she is being sought after by her black mammy. The next black woman we meet is a brute that speaks no words but is beaten with a large bat, yet feels no pain. That is the extent of women of color in that film.

Wonder Woman fights for humanity, but not all humans. This of course, is fine, but I wonder what would happen if the same story were told with black women. Black heroine chased by her white nanny. Big white woman hit with bat and says no words. Then black Wonder Woman battles the evils of African genocide and saves us from 500 years of oppression.

Or, would she fight alongside the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II? Would we see the character the same way, or would she be too militant? Would the movie get cancelled like ‘Underground,’ on WGN? Would white women be upset because they couldn’t see themselves in the character? Would the actress be chastised for supporting Black Lives Matter? Would it be a feminist movie or a black movie? Would my daughters leave the theater looking proud, instead of confused? Would she fall in love with an abolitionist? Would a love story even exist? Would Ares be the Egyptian god, Set?

Would young people still make art?

Would it matter?

Would there still be educational inequity?

What does representation mean, in 2017?

I guess we will find out next February…

James Miles is the Executive Director of the Seattle- based Arts Corps, an organization whose mission it is to unlock the creative power of youth through arts education and community collaboration. A Master Teaching Artist who has worked in arts education for more than 15 years. He has facilitated workshops and designed curriculum for the New Victory Theater, Roundabout Theatre, Disney Theatrical Group, Theatre for a New Audience, Center of Arts Education, BAX, Brooklyn Arts Council, Opening Act, and (Out)Laws & Justice. He has worked as an actor, an accountant, a comedian, and a model.

Written By: James Miles

Who’s Your Mr. Feeny?

Who’s Your Mr. Feeny?

I failed 9th grade algebra.

I assumed that I needed a photographic memory, or maybe it was because I’m dyslexic. I definitely lacked the stealth necessary to cheat; classmates routinely lifted their shoulders to block my vision of their exams. I could never explain why I tested so poorly, but standardized tests weren’t interested in my excuses. The deeper my grades sunk, the further back in class I’d sit; this also closely tied to the lack of effort teachers invested in me. Teachers forgot me once the back of the classroom became my domain. I stopped attending class after failing math for a third semester; until truancy officers brought me back.

“At this point you’re likely to graduate two years after your peers,” my advisor informed me, never prying her eyes from my transcript.

My advisor suggested attending an alternative high school to accelerate my credit accumulation. I applied for the alternative school, but by the time I was accepted I’d grown jaded, and developed a disdain for school and its administration. My test scores led everyone to turn their backs on me, and I’d now been funneled into my last option. A seed of resentment grew to be my primary motivator. Graduating high school for my own good became almost secondary, I was determined to void test scores and disprove everyone’s opinion of me as a failure.

Refocusing myself in high school was challenging. I applied myself to a degree I was unaware I possessed. My grades caught momentum, and I even passed algebra — thanks to one teacher in particular: Mr. Manjee. I don’t remember exactly what common interest we found, or what gave our relationship footing, but we bonded very quickly. Manjee introduced math in style, and demonstrated its application in everyday life during his lessons. He helped me, and other students with a track record of failing, not only pass algebra, but to see it’s usefulness. Manjee kept a diligent eye over my studies throughout my time at the alternative school. By senior year, I managed to raise my grades tremendously, averaging an A and eventually graduating as class valedictorian. Suddenly, I had high hopes of attending a university. College tours gave me a glimpse of a life in which I could recreate myself. I could forget downtrodden schools in impoverished neighborhoods. I wouldn’t have to share the same fate as my parents or the other kids in my neighborhood.

I recognized the letters of rejection by envelope size. A dream simply doesn’t fit in a letter-sized envelope. I was denied by every university that I applied to. Two years of Fs coupled with two years of As, formulated a cumulative average of Cs. No reputable college wants a C student.

Despite this, I didn’t feel an ounce of discouragement. Ironically, I was inspired. I had proved to myself my goals are always within reach. I was shocked to learn Manjee felt as if he failed me after all his encouragement and help applying to college. Manjee’s success with me lay elsewhere. Manjee viewed me as intelligent, capable, and amusing; although I did not identify with these qualities, it was flattering to have a teacher think of me as a person with qualities rather than a grade or college name. My presence never felt unwarranted, and it never seemed that the scale of my problems was insignificant to him. Most of all, he was patient and allowed me to learn at my own pace. My relationship with teachers renewed, I genuinely believed in the opportunities education could offer me.

I ended up attending community college, eventually transferring to a four-year school. I remained in contact with Manjee over the years. He continued teaching, but often felt deterred by how the school system perpetuated inequality. He went on to join Kiddom, an education technology platform, as their Chief Academic Officer. Manjee had been privately consulting Kiddom’s CEO (and his best friend) while he taught, helping design a way to ease the burden of tedious tasks with technology, and allow teachers to allocate their time where it was needed most: with students. The creation of Kiddom revived in me what originally solidified our relationship; it was that core commonality of resilience. When Manjee told me Kiddom was hiring and that I should apply to support teachers, I saw this as an opportunity to repay someone who’d done so much for me. I began working at Kiddom as a Teacher Advocate. My tasks involve assisting teachers navigate the platform, customizing Kiddom to fit their classrooms, and occasionally, occupational therapy. I listen as teachers express their frustration with the archaic systems in place.

I love math, but I find it pointless if I’m unable to inspire students to use mathematics creatively. I’m merely a robot at this point,” a teacher once told me, “ I love this program. Knowing that there are people out there who believe as educators we are responsible to meet the needs of children not only academically but emotionally, makes me think that maybe I could keep going.

This particular teacher loved Kiddom’s social emotional capacity. He’d taught math for ten years, his spirit diminished because he knew students needed more than a mechanical exchange to truly cultivate their minds. This conversation lead me to reminisce on the many math teachers throughout my education, and my transformative relationship with Manjee. Maybe teachers long for more ‘aha!’ moments with their students? Maybe over-testing leads teachers to grow jaded? I realized teachers yearn for a relationship with their students, but unfortunately bureaucracy often creates discord. I was delighted that this math teacher found a solution in Kiddom, and then it dawned upon me — Kiddom had also just saved a forgotten kid in the back of the classroom.

Thank you teachers, old and new, for continuing to look for innovative ways to connect with your students.

Written By: Kashon

Why I Left Teaching: Tidying Up Your Time and Finding Joy

Why I Left Teaching: Tidying Up Your Time and Finding Joy

My grandma was a teacher. My mom was a teacher. The only thing I can ever remember wanting to be was a teacher. I felt (and still feel) that it runs through my blood as a core piece of my identity. So, it may come as a shock that I am stepping away. I am leaving my job as a classroom teacher.

The realization came as a slow and steady evolution. However, at the end of the path, the decision was ready made. Here is my story.

Last summer I read Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. To summarize, she walks the reader through a process of decluttering belongings by asking a question about each and every object. “Does it spark joy?”

This question bounced around in my head as I began to evaluate my life, growing busier with time clutter by the day. I thought, What if I applied the idea of spark joy… to my time? I began my courageous analysis.

I started journaling about every action I took throughout the day. I kept a diligent log for weeks. Then, I went back and looked at each and every item and asked, “Did it spark joy?” (For my purposes, I define joy as activities that keep me grounded in the present moment and contribute to my long-term wellness. However, this could be an entirely different blog post!)

With that definition of joy, I developed a rating scale.

1 = spark joy

0 = joy neutral

-1 = joy depleting

I determined that after adding up all of my numbers, I could with almost certainty predict the outcome of my day. High number, great day. Negative number, horrible day. It seems so obvious now, but at the time, it was a real revelation.

I set a new life purpose. Create days with a high joy value.

How to begin?

Eliminate the -1

What could I do to completely cross joy depleting actions off my list?Example- The joy depleting errands through big box stores were replaced with Amazon delivery.

Transform -1 into 0

What could I do to change a joy depleting activity into a joy neutral activity?Example- While loading the dishwasher (-1), I started listening to audiobooks (1). In one simple step, I created a 0!

I was starting to make progress on the homefront. I was amazed that with very little effort, my days were increasing more joyful.

However, now I was faced with looking at my professional time.

Taking attendance: 0.

Facilitating Inquiry: 1.

ANYthing involving standardized tests: -1.

I was stunned at the results. A profession I thought I loved left me with more days, than I wanted to admit, in the negatives. I always had considered myself a positive person. I was confused. Had education changed? Had I changed? Were other teachers feeling this way?

Just to humor myself, I started crossing off all of the -1 activities from my list. Is it possible to create a day with mostly spark joy? If it were possible, what would it look like? As fast as my hand could write I began to journal about the vision.

I visualized joy being at the center of education. I visualized feeling full year round with minimal moments of depletion and exhaustion. I wanted to create a life that I didn’t need a vacation from. I extended the vision, not only to myself, but to every other teacher in the profession. What if we could create a system that held teacher and student wellness as the centerpiece for all decisions? What if.


What if…


It was in that moment that my decision came ready made. This school year I committed to take daily action around the things that matter to me most. I began to notice a difference in my energy as I began using my strengths.

It was with a mixture of certainty and trepidation that I applied for my leave of absence. It shocked my family and co-workers. It shocked my students and parents. I wasn’t quite sure how to answer the question, “What will you do?” The best response I could come up with was, “Live my joy”. Because really- what else is there?

I dove in and began doing research. I found organizations and people that had similar missions. To bring wellness to teachers and students. To prioritize joy. To make time and space for personal growth and development. Things have to change in the field of education, or the high rate of burn out will leave our students stranded. I believe I can help bring that change.

So, here I am. My last day of school. I may be leaving the classroom, but I will always consider myself a teacher.


Quote from Deb Fee


I am available for questions or comments at stephanie.kennelly@gmail.com

As I create space for new habits, here are some of the organizations that have inspired me:

1000-Petals is a well-being training and consulting company based on the science and practice of mindfulness and movement.

Kiddom is a team of passionate educators, designers, and developers creating transformative tools to make learning personal, expand access to quality content, and foster community collaboration.

Yellow Barn Wellness is a community based organization that strives to create an environment where the complexities of today are simplified back to the basics that our bodies call for — to build a balance of fitness and nutrition in an environment that encourages both.

Generation Wellness provides innovative solutions to empower educators, counselors and parents to promote the success of each child.

Mad Hatter Wellness is working to enhance the quality of life for children and adults with and without disabilities through empowerment, education, awareness, and movement to globally eliminate sexual violence and promote advocacy for self and others.




Written By: Stephanie Kennelly

Kiddom seamlessly connects the most critical aspects of teaching and learning on one platform.

For the first time, educators can share and manage digital curriculum, differentiate instruction, and assess student work in one place. Learners can take assessments online, see student performance data with the click of a button, and teachers have the insight and tools they need to create individual learning paths.

Ready to bring digital curriculum to your school or district?

Connect with us in a 15-minute meeting to learn more about available pre-packaged curriculum, and how the Kiddom education platform can support your learning community.

Teaching Strategies to Close the Year Based on Student Interests

Teaching Strategies to Close the Year Based on Student Interests

It’s the time of year to help students pinpoint areas of interest and encourage them to explore those further.


As the year comes to a close, student motivation can start to slip. When the weather warms up, it’s okay to admit that some students may be counting down the days until their summer vacations start. Truthfully, you might be too! Teaching is a double-edged sword: it’s rewarding, yet emotionally and physically exhausting.

It can be tempting to become more passive as things wrap up, especially when many of us have been preparing students all year to demonstrate what they’ve learned on cumulative standardized tests or internal exams. However, when I was in the classroom, I took another approach to end the year strong. I used the last weeks of school to encourage students to reflect and dive deeper into a topic from earlier in the year, which sent students into summer feeling empowered by everything they were able accomplish. Students spent the last part of the year working on projects to highlight what they learned and share why it excited them.

An easy way to give students a level of ownership is by using Kiddom’s Planner for curriculum development. The playlist feature in Planner lets you break projects into manageable pieces for students to complete. First, students begin by choosing the format in which they want to showcase what they have learned. Based on student choice, teachers can assign them the most relevant project outline. By using individualized resources and feedback shared through Google Drive and Kiddom’s communication tools, students will be able to produce projects that reflect their own development and passions, and take critical reflection and analysis tools with them onto their next course or grade.


Use Kiddom’s Planner to build personalized playlists for students to explore topics of interest.


In my biology class, there was a broad unit that covered nutrition. I had one student who, in his words, was allergic to vegetables, saying they made his “taste buds sad.” As we approached the final project, he wanted to build a greenhouse to grow flowers for his mom. I took this opportunity to link multiple units together and tied the skills he was passionate about developing to nutrition by supplying him with lettuce and radishes to plant. I had never seen him so excited to learn and build! This student was chronically late throughout the year and yet, for this project, he was coming in after school and at lunch! When his plants began to grow, his eyes lit up. The moment we harvested his first radish, I didn’t even have to ask him if he was going to try it. He rinsed it off and popped it in his mouth; the look of disgust was priceless, and could only have been gained through this personal exploration. While he left for the summer still hating vegetables, he was ecstatic with the knowledge that he could build a structure and grow plants.

As a teacher, shifting ownership of learning to students through final projects gives me time to reflect and learn from my students. I was able to identify which lessons truly “stuck” and which may have missed the mark. Analyzing which topics students choose to focus their projects on helped identify strengths in my curriculum. What does this tell me about the units I have taught? Where do I need to focus more next year and what lessons were particularly effective? I used the students’ interests to help me reflect on lessons that they remembered, and which ones had faded by June. Kiddom’s standards reports, alongside the assignment based reports, lets teachers compare student interest to their mastery of those skills. Not only can we see what our students enjoyed learning but how that engagement affects their mastery of a standard. With these data points I can make notes for next year detailing the most effective lessons for bringing students to mastery. Setting aside time to learn from past experiences is an important part of teaching that can easily get lost in the shuffle.


Standards-based reports allow you to infer interest by performance on specific skills.


We focus on students leaving the school year with something they can take away but we also need to find time for teachers to synthesize what they have learned during each school year. Kiddom gives teachers time to analyze their own development at the end of the year, letting them go into summer ready to take what they have learned and build a stronger foundation for the coming year.

Guest Post by: Liz E.

Say Hello to the New Student Experience

Say Hello to the New Student Experience

Today, we released a redesigned student experience on Kiddom to help 21st century learners access and submit work, track their own progress, and solicit feedback from teachers in real-time, from one place.

Over the past century, education technology has often left students out of the equation. That’s unfortunate, because students today move fast and are incredibly tech-savvy. At Kiddom, we believe students shouldn’t have to wait until progress reports are printed to learn where they stand in class or on specific skills. Students shouldn’t have to wait to see their teachers in person to pose clarifying questions or solicit feedback on an assignment. And from what we’ve gathered, teachers are constantly looking for ways to empower students to take control of their learning. With our redesigned student experience, the possibilities of student ownership are endless.

Timeline — Everything in One Place

For students that struggle to keep track of everything and never use paper planners — we heard you loud and clear.

When students login and click into their class, they’ll be greeted by their Timeline. Timeline allows students to view assignments (past, present, and upcoming) from one place. This not only includes teacher-created assignments, but also all the Khan Academy videos, CK-12 exercises, CommonLit readings, and other resources their teacher might’ve assigned for differentiation purposes via Kiddom’s Library of resources.

Submitting Work and Soliciting Feedback Made Easy

Teachers and learners can now actively communicate on their work in real-time. Sounds lovely.

When students click on an assignment from their Timeline, they’ll be able to see any instructions or attachments their teacher may have included, as well as the standards or skills has appended to the assignment. Students may upload and submit their own work and also engage in a discussion with their teacher regarding the assignment.

Reports — Monitor Progress and Self-Advocate

If students have real-time access to their achievement data, is it time to rethink report card day? We hope so.

When students can actively monitor their progress in class, they’re more likely to advocate for themselves. With our redesigned Reports, students can track their overall class progress, as well as progress on individual standards and skills — all in real-time. This means they finally have the data they need, when they need it.

We’re Just Getting Started

The new student experience has been long overdue. And while we’re incredibly excited about the positive impact it will make in classrooms around the world, there’s still a lot more work to be done. Over the next several months and into the next school year, we’re going to focus on adding community features to accelerate our vision of building a collaborative education platform. In the meantime, let us know what you think of the new student experience with a comment or chat with us directly using the in-app chat tool. Happy teaching and learning!

Sign up for Kiddom’s newsletter!

By: Abbas Manjee, Chief Academic Officer

Editor’s note: We’re still testing the new Kiddom student experience. If your students signed up before Friday, April 21, 2017, they may not experience the new Kiddom just yet. We plan to conclude testing on Friday, April 28, 2017, at which time all students will be on the redesigned student experience. For more information, contact our support team.

Teaching and Learning Made Beautiful: Introducing the New Kiddom

Teaching and Learning Made Beautiful: Introducing the New Kiddom

Abbas Manjee

Abbas Manjee

Chief Academic Officer, Kiddom

Abbas Manjee is Chief Academic Officer at Kiddom. Before Kiddom, Abbas taught high school math serving at-risk youth in New York City. 

We’re building Kiddom to be a collaborative platform to allow teachers and learners to work together effortlessly, no matter where they are. To that end, today we released a completely redesigned platform, one which will help teachers plan, assess, and analyze learning in one cohesive system.

Why redesign Kiddom? Well, we’ve been doing our homework. And we’ve learned that teachers are often set up for failure from the start of the school year. They’re expected to plan a year’s worth of curriculum without knowing much about their incoming students. Once the year gets underway, they’re expected to keep up with the ever-changing needs of each student. Yet the tools teachers have access to don’t allow for the flexibility required to focus on individuals. By the end of the school year, this becomes a source of frustration and teachers reflect on how they might minimize this sense of powerlessness next year. The school year is effectively an emotional roller coaster ride for teachers. But with this version of Kiddom, we hope to change that.


What is Timeline?

Keeping track of class work, including late submissions, can get cumbersome. With Timeline, you can add, view, and grade class and individual student assignments all from one place.

How Timeline works:

  • Press the blue + button to start building an assignment. Add details and feel free to attach a file or a document from Google Drive.
  • If you don’t want to reinvent the wheel or need resources fast, use Kiddom’s content library and search for standards-aligned content.
  • You can assign to everyone, a group, or an individual student. You can even sort by mastery level to assign by performance level.
  • To get the most out of Kiddom’s reporting, append standards to assignments.
  • Once you’ve shared an assignment, you’ll come back to your Timeline. Click the assignment created to start grading. From here, you’ll be able to see who completed their work and who hasn’t. Click on a student to grade and leave feedback.

Once you’ve created an assignment, you can always come back and edit it. So don’t worry about making mistakes.

What is Planner?

Curriculum design is fundamentally emotional work, representing the journey educators plan for students to make meaningful connections. With Kiddom’s Planner, teachers can finally design curriculum for a class and modify pathways for groups or individual students.

How Planner works:

  • Open Planner from the right side of your Timeline. Create a new unit and add a title and description.
  • Add content to units by clicking the blue + button in the Planner. Add a single assignment or a playlist, which is a group of assignments. Playlists are great for grouping resources like videos, readings, and quizzes on the same topic.
  • To assign, simply drag the assignment or playlist into your Timeline. To assign content to an individual, simply filter your Timeline to reflect the student you’d like to assign directly.

We have a sneaking suspicion you’ll be geeking out with Planner. Don’t hold back.



With Kiddom’s new beautiful, actionable reports, it’s never been easier to analyze performance and pivot instruction. Reports help monitor student progress over time, track growth by mastery level, and analyze both class and student performance on individual standards.

How Reports work:

  • Once you’ve added and graded assignments, your reports will spring to life. Select weekly or monthly reports to view mastery data for the desired time frame.
  • The first reporting metric, Class Grade Average, depicts your overall class mastery. This is the class average on all graded assignments.
  • Scroll down to view mastery groups as a stacked line graph. This graph groups students by mastery level over time. Clicking on the number of students in a group reveals the students while clicking on a data point reveals where students lie at the end of any given week or month.
  • Next, your Class Standards Mastery tracks every standard assessed in your class. The lines depict the progress made on each standard. A single dot with dotted lines indicates there is only one assignment aligned to that standard.
  • To obtain reports for individual students, use the drop down menu on the left to choose the student you’d like to analyze. To download and print your reports, click on the “download reports” button.

Personalized learning doesn’t happen magically. Teachers must effectively use student achievement data to adjust their practice in real-time. With these reports, that’s now possible. Hooray!



We recognize every classroom is unique. That’s why we redesigned settings as your personal command center: to manage the finer details of your class.

How Settings work:

  • Access your settings by clicking on your avatar. Clicking on a class will let you manage the finer details of your classes.
  • Edit the subjects and grade levels of your class from the “info” tab. Don’t forget, you’re allowed to have multiple grades and subjects for each class. You can also manage the standards appended to your class. Add custom standards from here.
  • Manage your students from the “students” tab and click “manage students.” You can add students manually, import from another class, import from Google, or invite them to join on their own via your class code.
  • The grading tab allows you to modify grading methodology and calculation. Adjust your reports to show percentages, mastery, letter grades, or grade points. You can also adjust how your grades are calculated here (weighted, unweighted, or max value). Add additional assignment types to reflect the assignments types of your classroom.
  • Add or edit rubrics from the final tab, “Rubrics.” Add your own rubrics or add rubrics from Kiddom’s bank of preset rubrics.

There’s a lot of power in being able to modify Kiddom to meet your needs, as well as your students’. If you love to customize your tools, you’re going to love your new settings.


What’s Next

While we’re incredibly excited about the new Kiddom, we know there’s more work to be done. Over the next several months, we’re going to focus on building additional feature sets to accelerate our vision of building a collaborative education platform. In the meantime, let us know what you think in the comments, or chat with us directly using the in-app support chat tool. Kiddom’s mission is to unlock potential for all teachers and learners. With today’s redesigned platform launch, we’re excited to get one step closer to a world where more teachers have time to connect with and inspire students.

Kiddom seamlessly connects the most critical aspects of teaching and learning on one platform.

For the first time, educators can share and manage digital curriculum, differentiate instruction, and assess student work in one place. Learners can take assessments online, see student performance data with the click of a button, and teachers have the insight and tools they need to create individual learning paths.

Ready to bring digital curriculum to your school or district?

Connect with us in a 15-minute meeting to learn more about available pre-packaged curriculum, and how the Kiddom education platform can support your learning community.