Lace To The Top
Ask Anthony Griffin Ed. D. how he met Kevin Glynn, and he’ll regale you with a story about how they stood next to each other on the soccer field watching their kids play. About how Anthony dropped a Star Wars reference that Kevin quickly got. And how the discovery that they were both teachers passionate about their students led to a friendship born over morning runs and long, long bike rides.
It sounds like a marriage. And it is, of sorts. They are wedded to a cause.
Lace to the Top is their baby. Named by Kevin’s wife Taryn, their advocacy group has now grown to include more than 13,000 supporters across the state who all display bright green shoelaces to convey their message that kids are more than test scores.
Anthony, 40, who teaches English at Central Islip High School, believes that making kids fit into the standardized tests fostered by the Common Core curriculum reduces their potential.
“If that’s the goal: that you can make them do well on a test that you could prep anyone for, then we’ve lost so much,” he explains.
“Love,” he says with conviction. “That’s the word that is always left out of the rhetoric coming from the other side. It doesn’t replace the love that comes from your family, but isn’t it nice to know that if you’re sending your kid to their second home, that you know that your kid is loved there? He’s not just a data point that’s going to reflect a school district’s effectiveness.”
Glynn, 36, a third grade teacher at Brookhaven Elementary School in South Country School District, came into education via business: the testing business. He worked for Pearson, the company that creates the standardized tests for New York State for five years, starting his second year of teaching. His resistance to the disproportionate importance the Common Core education reform put on testing began in 2012, when it came down from on high that before the children ever put pencil to bubble sheet, only 30 percent of them would pass.
“I made the state tests,” says Kevin. “What changed it, at least for me, and what got me involved in this process was a month before the test was given, they said, ‘We’re going to have a 70 percent failure rate.’ With my math background, I thought that just doesn’t make any sense mathematically. How could you possibly do this? How could you know that 70 percent of these kids are going to fail this test? I knew what was on the test beforehand and I didn’t see any way, shape, or form that these kids were going to fail it.”
What followed that year is what education experts described as a manipulation of the cut scores—the grade decided on after the tests were evaluated to determine what constituted passing and failing.
For Kevin, this was “the defining moment of it’s time to speak up. We can’t allow this to happen.”
And so Lace to the Top, a cause independent of politics, which refuses to accept money for appearances and will never endorse a candidate, remains focused on a single subject: the kids.
As fathers, educators, and community members, they saw the Common Core education reforms, which depended on standardized test scores to function, as fundamentally failing the children they cared about. In June 2013, they joined more than 10,000 teachers on buses bound for Albany to make their voices heard, but discovered that the empowering feeling of making a lasting difference wore off by the time they got home, people who’d advocated so strongly distracted by other things.
Lace to the Top was a way to create a symbol that would stay constant in people’s minds. With their sensible shoes and suits, they wore bright green, impossible-to-ignore shoelaces. When people asked them why, they would answer quite simply, “Because I love my kids. They mean more to me than a score.”
A simple message. A powerful message. And one Lace to the Top supporters hope will convey to the children in New York that they are valued far beyond the manipulated test scores of Common Core.
“Leading up to [the creation of Lace to the Top] were just frustrations with the whole system and the overwhelming challenge of changing a system that was like a juggernaut that was not going to be stopped, yet was so wrong and so destructive to the kids,” Anthony tells Milieu. “And it just has to be stopped because it’s so bad. And what we’re talking about is so good—and the good has to win.”
Their cause has taken them all across the state, cheered on by their wives Taryn and Gosia, as they’ve spoken at rallies and forums, spreading the word that children deserve a quality education, and that teachers who put their very hearts and souls into nurturing environments where students are inspired to love learning—a maligned idea whose time is due—merit respect.
Shortly after these dads met, Anthony and Kevin began coaching their sons’ pee wee soccer league together—and lost almost every single game.
“But the kids loved it. They all wanted to be on our team,” Kevin says. “They all still love soccer.”
“And they’re all great soccer players now,” Anthony chimes in.
Which is precisely the point. To the younger ones, they didn’t emphasize drills, strategy, or discipline. They fostered a love of the sport, from which the skill the players would need later to win could be refined over time, in step with the kids’ growth.
A love of the sport. A love of learning. Love. This is their vision.
This is what the green laces you might notice around town on Long Island signify.
If you know a Guy Who “Gets It” and would like to nominate him for a future profile, email Beverly@MilieuLI.com.