+
upworthy
Family

A 9-year-old goes in on standardized tests and ends with the best mic drop of all time.

When 9-year-old Sydney Smoot stood up at her local school board meeting, I doubt they expected this kind of talking to.

A 9-year-old goes in on standardized tests and ends with the best mic drop of all time.



If you need proof standardized testing is setting students up for failure, just ask the students.

Sydney Smoot has a bone to pick with the Hernando County School Board. The issue? The Florida Standards Assessment Test, or FSA for short. On March 17, 2015, Sydney bravely stood up at her local school board meeting to share how she felt about the test and why she believes it's failing students and teachers.


"This testing looks at me as a number. One test defines me as either a failure or a success through a numbered rubric. One test at the end of the year that the teacher or myself will not even see the grade until after the school year is already over. I do not feel that all this FSA testing is accurate to tell how successful I am. It doesn't take in account all of my knowledge and abilities, just a small percentage." — Sydney Smoot

Can we give this little girl a medal? She was speaking right to my soul with that speech!

I reached out to Sydney and her mom, Jennifer, via email to find out more about what prompted this passionate speech.

What inspired you to write your letter?

"What inspired me to speak all started one day when I came home. My mom asked me how the testing went, and I told her I was told not to speak about the test to anyone. I had not felt comfortable signing something in the test. I had concerns about this test because there was a lot of stress put on students and myself. I was a little nervous before the speech, but when I was called up to the podium, I did not feel nervous because I knew this speech was going to help a lot of people."

Have you ever thought about running for president? Cause I'd vote for you!

"I've thought about running for president because if I'm president, I will be considerate about the people in this state."

You gotta admit, she looks pretty good up there, right?

Parents have a right to be concerned about standardize testing regulations.

One thing that really stuck out to me in Sydney's speech was that the FSA prohibits students from talking to their parents about the test. So I was anxious to hear what Sydney's mom thought about the stipulation. She had this to say:

"When my daughter came home telling me she had to sign a form stating she couldn't talk to anyone including her parents, I got concerned. Not only that I didn't like the fact that the last four of her Social Security number was on the test labels along with other personal information. In today's world of identity theft, it doesn't take much for people to get a hold of these things and use them.

I would like to tell other parents to learn more before these tests start in your children's school and know what they are testing. They have options, you can opt out so to speak, and the child can complete alternative testing if they are in the retention grades; or, if the child wants to take the test, support them and let them know that no matter how they do, it does not define them as a person.

It's a test and a poorly designed one at best."

Standardized tests are changing the classroom. And not for the better.

As Sydney shared in her speech, she and her classmates are feeling the pressure when it comes to preparing for the FSA. But they aren't the only ones. Teachers are also struggling to get students ready and are often forced to cut corners as a result.

What standardized tests also fail to take into account is that in many ways, test-taking is a skill, one that not every student is ready for. When I was in school, we spent months gearing up for the dreaded FCAT, the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. And if months of test prep wasn't bad enough, if you didn't pass the FCAT, you couldn't graduate high school. Talk about stressful! The pressure of your high school career rides on one test, combined with the fact that standardized tests don't accurately measure what students have learned. Plenty of capable students fail these tests due to increased anxiety and stress. If high school students are struggling to handle the pressure of standardized testing, imagine how difficult it must be for elementary school students like Sydney!

Young Sydney is a testament to how important it is that we listen to students and create curriculum that challenges and educates them, rather than scaring them into "learning." I think Sydney's suggestion of three comprehensive tests throughout the year makes way more sense than one big statewide test that interferes with teachers' schedules and stresses students out. And let's be real, when's the last time you heard a kid ask for MORE tests?! Clearly standardized tests aren't the answer or at least need some serious work. Hopefully Sydney's message will make an impact and get her school board and schools across the nation to rethink how we measure students' success.

This article originally appeared on 03.27.15

Sponsored

3 organic recipes that feed a family of 4 for under $7 a serving

O Organics is the rare brand that provides high-quality food at affordable prices.

A woman cooking up a nice pot of pasta.

Over the past few years, rising supermarket prices have forced many families to make compromises on ingredient quality when shopping for meals. A recent study published by Supermarket News found that 41% of families with children were more likely to switch to lower-quality groceries to deal with inflation.

By comparison, 29% of people without children have switched to lower-quality groceries to cope with rising prices.

Despite the current rising costs of groceries, O Organics has enabled families to consistently enjoy high-quality, organic meals at affordable prices for nearly two decades. With a focus on great taste and health, O Organics offers an extensive range of options for budget-conscious consumers.

O Organics launched in 2005 with 150 USDA Certified Organic products but now offers over 1,500 items, from organic fresh fruits and vegetables to organic dairy and meats, organic cage-free certified eggs, organic snacks, organic baby food and more. This gives families the ability to make a broader range of recipes featuring organic ingredients than ever before.


“We believe every customer should have access to affordable, organic options that support healthy lifestyles and diverse shopping preferences,” shared Jennifer Saenz, EVP and Chief Merchandising Officer at Albertsons, one of many stores where you can find O Organics products. “Over the years, we have made organic foods more accessible by expanding O Organics to every aisle across our stores, making it possible for health and budget-conscious families to incorporate organic food into every meal.”

With some help from our friends at O Organics, Upworthy looked at the vast array of products available at our local store and created some tasty, affordable and healthy meals.

Here are 3 meals for a family of 4 that cost $7 and under, per serving. (Note: prices may vary by location and are calculated before sales tax.)

O Organic’s Tacos and Refried Beans ($6.41 Per Serving)

Few dishes can make a family rush to the dinner table quite like tacos. Here’s a healthy and affordable way to spice up your family’s Taco Tuesdays.

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Total time: 22 minutes

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 packet O Organics Taco Seasoning ($2.29)

O Organics Mexican-Style Cheese Blend Cheese ($4.79)

O Organics Chunky Salsa ($3.99)

O Organics Taco Shells ($4.29)

1 can of O Organics Refried Beans ($2.29)

Instructions:

1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

2. Add 1 packet of taco seasoning to beef along with water [and cook as directed].

3. Add taco meat to the shell, top with cheese and salsa as desired.

4. Heat refried beans in a saucepan until cooked through, serve alongside tacos, top with cheese.

tacos, o organics, family recipesO Organics Mexican-style blend cheese.via O Organics

O Organics Hamburger Stew ($4.53 Per Serving)

Busy parents will love this recipe that allows them to prep in the morning and then serve a delicious, slow-cooked stew after work.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 7 hours

Total time: 7 hours 15 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 ½ lbs O Organics Gold Potatoes ($4.49)

3 O Organics Carrots ($2.89)

1 tsp onion powder

I can O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

2 cups water

1 yellow onion diced ($1.00)

1 clove garlic ($.50)

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

2 tsp Italian seasoning or oregano

Instructions:

1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

2. Transfer the cooked beef to a slow cooker with the potatoes, onions, carrots and garlic.

3. Mix the tomato paste, water, salt, pepper, onion powder and Italian seasoning in a separate bowl.

4. Drizzle the mixed sauce over the ingredients in the slow cooker and mix thoroughly.

5. Cover the slow cooker with its lid and set it on low for 7 to 8 hours, or until the potatoes are soft. Dish out into bowls and enjoy!

potatoes, o organics, hamburger stewO Organics baby gold potatoes.via O Organics


O Organics Ground Beef and Pasta Skillet ($4.32 Per Serving)

This one-pan dish is for all Italian lovers who are looking for a saucy, cheesy, and full-flavored comfort dish that takes less than 30 minutes to prepare.

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Total time: 27 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 tbsp. olive oil

2 tsp dried basil

1 tsp garlic powder

1 can O Organics Diced Tomatoes ($2.00)

1 can O Organics Tomato Sauce ($2.29)

1 tbsp O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

2 1/4 cups water

2 cups O Organics Rotini Pasta ($3.29)

1 cup O Organics Mozzarella cheese ($4.79)

Instructions:

1. Brown ground beef in a skillet, breaking it up as it cooks.

2. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder

3. Add tomato paste, sauce and diced tomatoes to the skillet. Stir in water and bring to a light boil.

4. Add pasta to the skillet, ensuring it is well coated. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Remove the lid, sprinkle with cheese and allow it to cool.

o organics, tomato basil pasta sauce, olive oilO Organics tomato basil pasta sauce and extra virgin olive oil.via O Organics

Taryn Charles blew everyone away with her BGT audition.

For nearly two decades, people have been enjoying "Got Talent" competitions all over the world, inspired by the first "America's Got Talent" in 2006. And thanks to social media and YouTube, we can enjoy the most memorable auditions over and over again.

For instance, this one from Taryn Charles on the 2024 season of "Britain's Got Talent."

Charles is a music teacher who works with special needs kids. She even brought one of her students and her parent to be part of the audience during her audition. When the judges asked why she wanted to be on "Britain's Got Talent," Charles said, "I love to make people smile and I think my voice is alright."

Talk about an understatement.


As she stands waiting for the music to start, she shakes her hand by her side a few times, clearly getting some nerves out. But as soon as she starts to sing the first line, "Looking out on the morning rain, I used to feel so uninspired…" it's clear from her rich, raspy voice and easy stage presence that she's got something special.

And it only gets better from there. "(You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman" was written by singer-songwriter Carole King, then famously covered by Aretha Franklin, which is a hard act to follow. But Charles knocked it out of the park, blowing away the audience and judges alike. In fact, the performance earned her not one but two standing ovations and inspired judge Bruno Tonioli to smash the Golden Buzzer button before the judges even began to offer their feedback.

Watch:

What makes this performance especially memorable is how humble and unassuming Charles is before and after her knock-out performance. If you didn't watch til the very end, you may have missed her hilariously real, "I think I've wet myself," which only makes her even more endearing.

"WOW I was blown away with her angelic and powerful voice," wrote one commenter. "And yet she is so humble and has a beautiful soul. Plus, I have never in my life seen a double standing ovation, she so deserves a golden buzzer, wishing her the best success."

"This is how you do an audition, stunning tone to her voice.....if anyone deserves a chance it's this lady......BOOM!!" wrote another.

"This was so inspirational. Taryn I am in tears," shared another. "I know what it feels like to struggle with self-worth. You are a mirror to show me that that those people are not always right. You are phenomenally gifted and you have an amazing career as a professional singer ahead of you! Blessings!"

Talent competition judges often warn contestants about the challenge of singing songs done by big vocal divas, and we've seen singers attempt to sing the likes of Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey and fall flat. It's not easy to sing an iconic song most people associate with Aretha Franklin—the Queen of Soul and Rolling Stone's #1 singer of all time—and have any hope of impressing people. And yet, Taryn Charles managed to make the song her own and wow everyone in the process with her unique voice.

We'll definitely be keeping an eye on this humble music teacher as she makes her way through the "Britain's Got Talent" gauntlet. Heck of a way to kick it off.

Photo by Hafit on Unsplash

Guy teaches little brother 'duties as a man' in sweet video.

Families often have different ages that they teach children about a big life topics. Some conversations are bigger than others, but generally speaking they're had with the best of intentions. Anish Bhagatt felt like the time was finally right to teach his younger brother, Dhruva, his "duties as a man." The little boy had just turned 12, so certain talks needed to be had and Bhagatt felt he was best suited for the job.

The older brother picked Dhruva up from school to take him on his journey to manhood. From the look on the little boy's face, he knew he was in for a treat hanging out with his older brother. This may not have been the chat he was expecting, but the boy soaked up the knowledge eagerly.

Bhagatt started the video by saying, "So Dhruva, you're a big man now," before the little boy happily interjects stating, "Yes, I'm 12!"


Immediately the conversation shifted into a direction that surprised commenters. Instead of launching into a talk about the birds and the bees, Bhagatt asked if his younger brother knows about periods, which did not come with any of the stereotypical middle school boy disgust. Dhruva was engaged as his brother explained what periods were and why women have menstrual cycles. He even showed the preteen how to purchase sanitary products. People were impressed.

"This is healing generations of silence and toxicity. Well done, gentlemen," one woman says.

"The fact that it was his BROTHER that took him to go buy sanitary pads. Not his mom, not a sister. His brother. This is what good male role models are like," another writes.

"Ok guys, this is what people mean when they say healthy masculinity! Big bro is a Saint, and little bro is so sweet and compassionate! I am amazed and thrilled that people like this exist," someone else gushes.

"I am literally CRYING right now! Oh my gracious… these young folks will save us," a commenter cries.

The video is beyond wholesome and may serve as an example of what it looks like to educate young boys on what half the population goes through. In the end the boy declares, "I promise that I will make all the girls around me feel safe," and if he keeps having these kinds of chats, there's no doubt that he will do just that.

@letsgoripley/TikTok, used with permission

What a smart doggo.

Speech-language pathologist Christina Hunger and her dog Stella were the first to experiment with talking buttons in 2019. Since then there has been a surge of online content showing other pet parents using similar kits to communicate with their own pups.

The most fascinating aspect of this phenomenon is the question of whether or not canines are able to understand full-blown complicated sentences beyond “treat” and “outside.”

While the overall jury is still out on that, scientifically speaking, dogs like Ripley seem to make an incredibly compelling case for believing the hype.


The Australian Shepherd has an entire TikTok account documenting his impressive talk button journey, but a video posted on March 28, 2024, feels next-level.

In the clip, Ripley presses the “smell” button as his parents eat lunch. When that doesn’t get their attention, he begins to bark.

“What do you smell?” a voice finally asks. To which Ripley replies “outside,” followed by “gardens.”

Confused, someone asks, “It smells like the gardens outside?”

Ripley’s parents had apparently just started a load of laundry before making lunch, and the detergent had been spilling all over the floor from the washing machine. Ripley had been smelling the detergent, which was reminiscent of the gardens outside.

Unfortunately, they didn’t put two and two together until after they went back to the laundry room. Hence the moral of the story: “You should always listen to your dog.”

@letsgoripley He’s so freakin’ smart! #Talkingdog #letsgoripley #ripleytalks #fluentpet #australianshepherd #dogs ♬ original sound - Ripley the Australian Shepherd

Ripley’s amazing feat prompted lots of praise from viewers.

“All of the treats,” one person wrote.

Another added, “I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, he is brilliant.”

Others were quick to compliment the breed. And rightfully so, as Australian Shepherds are known for their remarkable intelligence, as well as their strong drive and exuberance, according to the American Kennel Club. They thrive when they have a job, and the way Ripley jumped into action is a pretty great example of this characteristic.

So, while we might not have definite evidence for the efficiency of talk buttons, one thing remains abundantly clear—our dogs are trying to communicate with us in whatever way they can. All we need to do is listen.

Check out even more of Ripley's talk button shenanigans on TikTok.

via Pexels

What's the most relaxing song in the world?

Stressed? Of course you are. Luckily for you, and the entire U.S. population, scientists believe they may have identified the most relaxing song in the world.

Music has forever been associated with bringing about relaxation, happiness, and serenity — whether it's a Gregorian chant or some Enya accompanied by a glass of merlot.

Neuroscientists in the United Kingdom think they have found the one song that relieves stress and soothes our souls more than any other.


Mindlab International, a market research firm, conducted a study a few years ago in which participants completed difficult (and possibly stressful) puzzles while their brain activity was monitored. To study its effect, music was played while they completed the puzzles.

One song stood out above the rest. "Weightless" by Marconi Union (listen below), an English ambient music band, induced a 65% reduction in stress among participants, according to Inc. And DailyMail.com reported that the song was 11% more effective than most other songs — by such musicians as Adele and Coldplay — in reducing blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing speed.

The 2011 song was created by the band, along with the British Academy of Sound Therapy, to do just that — relax listeners.

If you prefer something with lyrics, try Enya's "Watermark" or "Pure Shores" by All Saints, which were also proven to be relaxing,

Music therapy is considered to be a natural therapy important in alleviating stress. Because stress is an important cause of other deadly illness, fighting it is key to maintaining good health. Numerous studies have shown how damaging stress can be to our bodies and our brain. So don't let it get out of control. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the music.

This article originally appeared on 11.03.16

Science

A study found 4 different categories of couples. Where do you belong?

What if I told you someone did find a way to "categorize" your love style but with actual real science?

This movie couple definitely could have used some healthy therapy.

Ever fallen into one of those Internet dating quizzes? You know, the ones that promise to categorize you? Like "what your astrological sign says about your relationship style."

They can be fun, but we all know they're mostly fluff.

What if I told you someone did find a way to "categorize" your love style but with actual real science?


Three relationship scientists asked about 400 couples to track how they felt about their relationship and how committed they felt to marrying their partner. They followed each of the couples for nine months. Not, like, literally followed them — that would be creepy. Instead, they just asked them a few questions and asked them to keep track of how committed they were feeling over time.

At the end of the nine months, the scientists collected all the couple's responses and delved deep into the data. They found that couples did indeed tend to fall into one of four categories.

Prepare yourself for some soul searching because you might just be:

1. The Conflicted, but Passionate

celebrity, relationships, commitment

Scarlett and Rhett from "Gone with the Wind."

Image from Insomnia Cured Here/Flickr.

This is the couple Facebook made the "It's Complicated" relationship status for. Their levels of commitment tend to go up and down over time, especially after arguments. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. These folks use those conflicts to help them make decisions about the relationship, and in fact, they didn't appear to be any more destined for a breakup than any of the other groups.

Also, as a bonus, they tend to follow those turbulent downs with passionate ups. "These couples operate in a tension between conflict that pushes them apart and passionate attraction that pulls them back together," said study author Brian Ogolsky.

2. The Partner-Focused

dating, hobbies, leisure activities

A nice night to have a couples walk.

Image from Yiannis Theologos Michellis/Flickr.

If your idea of a perfect date night is a long walk followed by eight hours of binge-watching "House of Cards" together, you might fall into this category.

Partner-focused couples tend to spend a lot of time together and share hobbies or leisure activities, and it's that shared time that tends to propel them forward. They tended to be more careful and thoughtful about their relationship decisions — more likely to build from the inside out — and tended to be the most satisfied overall.

3. The Social Butterflies

On the other hand, if your perfect evening with your partner involves grabbing all your friends and hitting the bars or breaking out Settlers of Catan for the hundredth time, this might be the category that best describes you. Social couples usually share a friend group and use that time spent with friends to inform and build their relationship as a couple.

"Having mutual friends makes people in these couples feel closer and more committed," said Ogolsky. They also tended to be pretty stable and have higher levels of love based on feelings of friendship toward each other, which can be a good indicator for long-term happiness.

4. The Dramatic

drama, community, therapy, social norms

A little Renaissance kissing with oil

Image from Sofi/Flickr.

Unfortunately, not every couple's path is easy. Things may start out good, but tend not to stay that way for dramatic couples. This type of couple tends to make decisions based on negative experiences or stuff from outside the relationship.

"These couples have a lot of ups and downs, and their commitment swings wildly," said Ogolsky. "You begin to see little things eroding, and you start to see the relationship in a negative light, and soon you give up," said Ogolsky.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, dramatic couples tended to break up the most, twice as much as other couples.

So what's best? Well, here's where this article differs from a lot of those Internet quizzes. Because the answer is that there isn't a "best" kind of relationship.

couples therapy, love, marriage, biology

What do healthy relationships start and end with?

Image from Maryam Mgonja/Wikimedia Commons.

Different couples work and grow differently. These are different pathways and it'd be a mistake to assume there's a "correct" way to love someone. Or even that you're forever locked into a certain style of relationships. "These are not predefined, for-life patterns," said Ogolsky.

And even in a single relationship, these patterns aren't predictors of destiny — a dramatic couple may, in fact, outlast a social one, and a partner-driven couple may be as passionate as anyone you could ever meet.

And the researchers willingly admit in their paper that their study doesn't cover all relationships. Many very happy couples have no desire to marry, for instance. And, it should be noted, that it wasn't too long ago that the U.S. didn't even allow all couples to get married!

Wait, you're not going to tell me how to find the perfect, golden, eternally-happy relationship?! Why even study this then?

Because, in our hearts, humans are social creatures, Ogolsky explained. Love, friendship, passion, and commitment are part of the human experience. Understanding relationships can be as important to understanding ourselves as studying chemistry or biology. They can even affect your health!

As for what you can learn from all this, the important takeaway is that what you use to make decisions — whether from conflict, from the inside, from the outside, or from friendship — can influence your level of commitment. It might be useful for couples to think not just about their choices but how they make their choices.

So ... what's your category?


This article originally appeared on 02.15.16