(First in a Series of Interviews with  Leaders in Education)

Featuring Dr. Kurt Landgraf

Note from Chuck Cascio: Given the difficult issues facing educators today in the USA, I am presenting a series in which I contact established educators and request their insights, in their own words, on a number of vitally important education issues. Readers who would like to comment on the views expressed may email me at My Twitter handle is @ChuckCascio. Not all comments will be responded to by me and/or the individuals interviewed but all will be read and, if appropriate, forwarded to others engaged in meaningful education reform. I am pleased to present as the first interview in this series of “Transforming Education Today” the views of Dr. Kurt Landgraf, whose profile follows:

Dr. Kurt Landgraf is a retired President of Washington College in Chestertown, MD. Kurt was also President of Educational Testing Service for 14 years, and President and CEO of DuPont Merck Pharmaceuticals. His personal academic career includes a BS in Economics from Wagner College, a MS in Economics from Pennsylvania State University, a MEd from Rutgers University, an AMP from Harvard University, and five honorary doctorates. 




>>>Recalling your own life as a student, going back as far as you would like, what do you remember as the most positive and most negative educational influences for you personally? I went to a lower socioeconomic city school  system in New Jersey. High school was actually on triple sessions because the town would not pass an  educational bond issue. Not much was expected of students. Very few went on to college. I was lucky because I  was recruited by Wagner College on Staten Island, New York, to play baseball there.


>>>Can you identify an educator (or educators) who provided you with uniquely positive insights into subject matter as well as teaching style? If so, please explain what made them unique. Professor William Maher, my Economics professor at Wagner, changed my life. He saw potential in me that no one else ever did. He encouraged me to start taking college seriously and to go for an advanced degree in Economics. 


>>>What do you see as the major challenges in education today? In K-12 education the major challenge is the differential funding by economic area. Often referred to as the Zip Code Differential, it impacts students in lifelong ways. That differential and the growth of non-public schools are increasingly disadvantageous to K-12 public education. In higher education, the costs associated with attending college are soaring and with it student debt. This reality is changing who wants to go--and/or who can go--to college. Every higher education sector, except select “elite “ institutions, is seeing enrollment declines, increased dropout rates, etc. Many colleges are facing serious financial pressure, with some even facing liquidation.  The community college group of schools is increasingly moving to a more technical education curriculum, but they are still struggling. 


>>>What do you consider to be the appropriate line between politics and education--including the role of Federal, state,and local governments as well as school boards--in establishing standards, content, and policy, particularly in K-12 public education?  I strongly believe in national standards for K-12 education, as is done in most of the developed countries of the world. The National Governors Association tried to implement basic standards but, after establishing them, they were undermined at the state and local levels. The United States Constitution does not mandate education but unless national standards with return on investment criteria are implemented, the US will continue to fall behind the rest of the world in student achievement. I would also argue that establishing a state board of education would be a positive influence as compared to the current environment of many local-based school boards.


>>>What can be done to encourage people to go into teaching or other areas of education? Pay a meaningful salary!!! Current compensation is still based upon the model where teachers were second family-income earners, primarily from women. By increasing pay, you will get more really good people attracted to teaching and staying in education for their careers.

Should high school and college students be encouraged to participate  in internships to help enrich their learning? If so, what can be done to stimulate this participation?   I think internships at every level, high school through Doctorates make a huge difference!!! These internships require partnerships with government, corporate, and other private sector organizations.


>>>What would you consider to be the single most important key to positive transformation of education in the US?  For me, the single most important thing is to reduce the role of socio-economic standing in determining resource allocation to education providers. Equal opportunity needs to become reality, not just a stated, well meaning goal. 

Copyright: Chuck Cascio and Kurt Landgraf; all rights reserved.

Starting Points and Destinations

Xi Chen & Ben Waxman

(NOTE: This piece originally appeared in the Recruiting and Intelligence Blog of, a company specializing in global and local academic branding. It is reprinted here with permission from, a company that specializes in "Strategic Marketing to Attract, Recruit, Orient & Retain Students.")

     People always say your destination matters more than your starting point because what you have started might end up being a completely different path. It's more important that you focus on the destination. But to me, the starting point is as important as the destination, even though I'm still far away from my destination.

     Eight years ago, as a fresh graduate, I was so excited to accept an offer as my first full-time job that I almost ignored the exact position—a digital marketing associate at an education consulting company. At that time, I didn't know this offer meant I had knocked on the door of education, and it was the starting point of my following years in a career in the education industry. 

From Northeastern China to Northeastern U.S.

     Born and raised in northeastern China, I grew up with ice and snow. The snow from October to May at Syracuse University wasn't that hard for me. But my study life, on the other hand, was not easy. I was trying to keep up with my studies while getting used to college life in the U.S., and at the same time worrying about finding a job after graduation. Majoring in new media management, 2012 to 2013 was a good time, with the robust development of Google, Facebook, and all kinds of rising social media platforms. Without hesitation, right after my graduation, I moved to NYC (technically NJ). 


From Upstate NY to NYC

     My first month in NYC I was doing only one thing every day: editing cover letters and sending resumes. Though I had graduated with a master's degree in New Media Management, it was not easy for an international student holding OPT to find a legit job in the new media area. I kept taking interviews: SEO specialist, marketing specialist, or digital marketing coordinator.

     One day in August, I got a phone call. It was a phone interview, followed by a face-to-face conversation at a Starbucks in NYC. That was the first time I got to know Intead, an education marketing consulting agency, focusing on international education and global student recruitment marketing. With the international student population growing rapidly at the time, Intead was a relatively new marketing agency and also growing rapidly. The team was putting a tremendous effort into doing the client work and getting known in the industry.

     I worked for Intead during my whole OPT period and grew from having very little idea about digital marketing for global recruitment to having hands-on experiences managing the company's integrated marketing platform, practicing SEO, SEM, and paid search that I learned from my Newhouse classes at Syracuse. It was thrilling meeting with clients and participating in strategy-making processes, and so much more. 

     During the 12 months, I had the opportunity to do online marketing, email campaigns, SEO, learn a new marketing automation platform (Hubspot), and participate in app development. I was joining client visits and developing training workshops. I helped coordinate Intead's first-ever Global Marketing Workshop for Academic Leaders held at the sparkling, new SUNY Global Center at 116 East 55th Street in Manhattan!

Even now I still feel the year passed too fast. That I really wanted to learn more and do more with Intead.

     This first job helped me transition from campus to the workplace and practice what I had learned while expanding my knowledge and abilities, and most importantly, officially introduced me to the education industry. After I returned home to China at the end of OPT, my first job in Beijing came to me instead of me looking for it.

From NYC to Beijing

     After reunion with my family, I came to Beijing to start looking for a job. Unbeknownst to me, Michael, CEO of Intead at that time, recommended me at an education conference to a start-up founder who was looking for a marketing specialist. Thus began my three-and-a-half-years of work at an extracurricular activity education company in China.

     During this time, I had the privilege to witness and participate in the growth of a startup company, which went from 7 people to over 50, and I grew from a marketing specialist to the leader of a team of 15 people.

     Following that job, I found exciting opportunities with international publishers, international schools, and the world's leading STEM product company. Since my graduation from Syracuse, I have been deeply involved in the education industry, gaining experience in both B2B and B2C marketing.

     Looking back, I am most grateful for my experience at Intead. I can say that it laid the foundation for all my development so far, and I couldn't have developed and done everything in the workplace without the starting point and the knowledge and skills I learned at the beginning.

From Beijing to?

     I was lucky to meet a good company, a responsible leader, a strong team, and an industry that inspires my passion. I'm also happy to have used this time to get down to business and improve myself, gaining transferable experience that has helped me get to where I am today. I may not know where I'll go next, but with this great start, I can work confidently toward wherever I go.

     So often, the starting point defines the destination, and you can’t see it until you get there.

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Football Returns To Washington!



Chuck Cascio


      There is a football team again in Washington! 

     Yeah, it does not have a nickname or an official mascot. 

     Yeah, it seems to be an underdog no matter where or when it plays. 

     Yeah, the franchise management’s reputation has recently been soiled by accusations of various unacceptable activities. 

     Yeah, the team's record from 2013-2020 was a dismal 48-79-1.

     Yeah, the team "won" its division in 2020 with a record of 7 wins and 9 losses (thanks to the absurdly weak Giants, Cowboys, and Eagles!) and had a four-game winning streak after losing 7 of its first 9 games.

     And, yeah, this could all turn around and go down the slide by the time you read this. 

     But let's put all of that aside for a couple of minutes and go back to that first statement: There is a football team again in Washington! 


Logo by SportsLogos.Net 

     Four wins in a row, winning against some teams that most fans thought would solidify Washington in the loss column and guarantee another season of frustration, weakness, and just plain poor play. Instead, the Washington Football Team seems to have found something. 

     Call it determination--they never seem to quit anymore. 

     Call it physicality--they hit hard, run fast, jump high, and treat each play as a personal challenge. 

     Call it coaching--Ron Rivera and his assistants have clearly studied opponents deeply, identified opponents' weaknesses, and conveyed to their players how to capitalize on them. 

     Call it execution--the offense runs its plays with confidence, maintaining possession of the ball long enough to frustrate opponents into making errors; the defense reads opponents' plays with a mixture of intelligence and brutality; and the special teams know what they are expected to do and how to do it...such as, yeah, making extra points and field goals again! 

     Yeah, they have still given up 51 points more than they have scored and 80 more yards than gained versus opponents, but those deficits are largely rooted in games earlier in the season. 

     Progress is progress, so look at quarterback Taylor Heinicke, who was released by four other teams before signing with Washington in what was supposed to be a backup position to Ryan Fitzpatrick. Heinicke now has more than 2,800 yards passing, shows guts when running, and displays increasing smarts when having to throw the ball away. 

     Look at running back Antonio Gibson, who has 800 rushing yards and over 200 more receiving.

     Look at receiver Terry McLaurin with over 800 yards receiving. 

     Look at a defense that is improving in rushing opposing quarterbacks, racking up key tackles, and mixing up coverage enough to consistently confuse opponents. 

     All of this with some key players--Landon Collins, Brandon Scherff, Chase Roulier, Jonathan Bostic, and others--dealing with injuries. 

     Room for improvement? Always.

     Is the WFT the best team in the NFL? Probably not. 

     Will they go to the Super Bowl? Not likely. 

     But the point is the quality of play is noticeably improving almost every week. The players are supporting one another during on-field action and on the sidelines. And, yeah, the team is fun to watch again! 

     So, let the future of the WFT bring what it will bring! 

     Maybe some frustrating losses? 

     Maybe a new, appropriate nickname? 

     Maybe an intelligent culture within the management ranks? 

     And maybe, just maybe...even more of that on-field determination, more of the positive team attitude, and, YEAH, more of those wins! 

     And, yeah, all of that makes WFT=Washington's Fun Team (again)!

Readers’ thoughts always welcome: Write to

Copyright: Chuck Cascio; all rights reserved.



By Chuck Cascio

President Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy
descend the stairs from Air Force One at Love Field, Dallas, Texas,
November 22, 1963
Episode #21

     On that Friday in November 1963, the final high school football game of the season was canceled.

     On that Friday, Ginny wept out loud as she sat next to me on the bus ride home from school; except for her cries and a few other kids sniffling or whispering, the bus was silent.

     On that Friday, my mother and I watched the nonstop news from Dallas in disbelief, in quiet, in fear, wondering what it meant for our country, our president shot, reaching for his throat, gasping for life, his wife standing in the accelerating convertible groping for something—her husband? her safety? her future?

     On that Friday, my father called from work to say that he did not know when he would be home again, that we should be careful but strong, that we should pray, that we should know that he was thinking about us, loving us, even as he did whatever his job demanded to help deal with the situation, to help settle the country, to help provide some degree of sanity to a world suddenly gone mad....

      I looked out at the back yard blanketed in darkness. A small light shone on Ginny’s porch, so I went outside to see what it was. Someone moved in the narrow stream of light. “Ginny?” I called softly across the yard.

     “Yes, Mike, it’s me,” she said, shining a flashlight toward me. “Meet me.”

     We met where our yards touched.

     “You okay?” I asked. 

     She had been holding the flashlight toward the ground, but now she turned it to her face, revealing a bruised, swollen eye. “He did it,” she said. “Randy. He said I was a ‘queer’ for cryin over a dead president....  When I didn’t stop cryin, he punched me. I got one good scratch on his face ’fore Paw grabbed him and threw him out the house. Maw, she started cryin and put ice on my eye. She tol’ Paw he’s gonna have to do somethin ’bout Randy, else she’s gonna take me and move out.” Ginny looked at me, the flashlight’s beam illuminating the colors of her bruise like a flashing pinwheel. “I don’t want to move, but I jest can’t keep gettin punched. I don’t want to fight like a scared animal ’most every day. And I don’t want the president to be dead, Mike. It’s jest not right that he’s dead.”...

     The Thursday following that Friday in November was Thanksgiving. My father still had not been home, so my mother and I rode a quiet train from DC to New York and then took the subway to Brooklyn. In the small tenement apartment with Uncle Sal, Capricia, and Sally-Boy, we ate turkey and sweet potatoes, none of the Italian fare we normally consumed. Nor was there the usual noise and loud talk that went along with our dinners together. The world was still somber, contemplating what it had witnessed, the assassination, the swearing in, the arrest, the murder of the president’s assassin on live television while in police custody, the new president, the unanswered questions. 

     Still, during the Thanksgiving dinner, an occasional laugh slipped in, a warm gesture, a kiss.  My father called in the middle of dinner to say that he would be home when we returned to Virginia that weekend. He had my mother give the phone to each person individually, and he told everyone, including Sally-Boy, that he loved them and gave assurances that things would be okay.

     On the fire escape after dinner, Sally-Boy and I each nibbled a piece of Thanksgiving pumpkin pie....

     “I don’t get it,” he said. “He’s up in a building. He sticks a rifle outta the window. He spots the president’s car comin. He makes three shots. Boom! Boom! Boom! President’s head blows apart. That guy was a hulluva shot. I don’t get it. Wish I could shoot like that.”

     “Why? What are you going to shoot?”

     “I don’t know. Not the president. Some bad guys. There’s always some bad guys to fight.”

     “Did you like the president, Sally?”

     “Yeah, sure, I guess. I mean, I don’t really give a shit ’cause the stuff the president does, it don’t really matter to me. Tomorrow it’ll be a week since he got blown away. It’s too bad, sure, but, hey, I’m still here, and I got stuff to do.”

     “We all do,” I said, wondering if that Friday in November actually changed the world at all...

...the Friday that I thought affected everyone...

...the Friday that brought daily life to a halt...

...the Friday that channeled horror directly into our homes...

...the Friday that would eventually merge into a lifetime of other Fridays.

     That Friday.

Copyright: Chuck Cascio; all rights reserved.

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Coffee-Shop Kids...and Hope



Chuck Cascio

     Kids. All ages. They wander into the coffee shop daily after school. They meet sometimes to sip a beverage but often just to interact informally with one another. 

     Mostly, they laugh. They occasionally talk about a project--from school or something to do at home or an idea blossoming from their fertile imagination, the latter prompting infectious chatter among them.

     Yes, they are often loud, but their energy is inspiring. It provides me with some much-needed hope. Hope that the disruption our society is currently experiencing will be addressed by the youth of today in their own way. 

     Will that way be different from, say, the ways of previous generations?  Of course. Because that is how change occurs. That is why my music-loving parents had a hard time understanding the appeal of the raucous rock-and-roll of my youth as compared with the melodious songs of Sinatra and Dino and the opera arias that wafted throughout our home. They came to realize, perhaps reluctantly, that what they were hearing was not “wrong.” It was just what fit a new generation.

     After all, the appeal of what affects life morphs from one generation to the next. The coffee-shop kids look different from the kids of my youth, just as the long-haired males and mini-skirted females of my generation looked different from the "more appropriately" attired youths of my parents' generation. But that does not mean the kids of today are inherently “wrong.”istockphoto-825154518-612x612.jpg


     The coffee-shop kids exhibit their intelligence and creativity without even being fully aware that they are doing so. 

     So what if they burst out laughing at some image on a mobile device that one of them shares with the others? 

     So what if they actually talk with their in-person group while simultaneously texting other friends who are elsewhere? 

     It is their energy, creative conversation, and commitment to one another in the informal, after-school, coffee-shop setting that impresses me. 

     But...why do I need hope? Why do I need to wish that what I am seeing is evidence of the reality in which they think...and love...and live? 

     I do not pretend to have answers to those questions, but there are restrictive elements that surround kids today that I find disturbing.  Sure, kids have to understand that there are limits to what is--and should be--considered acceptable. That has been true with every generation, but those things change over time. 

     There is harm in not just letting kids meet and interact and play…as kids. Those informal freedoms result in their own internal guidance and decisions that will lead our society in the future. Suppressing those freedoms will only suppress the creativity that leads to positive changes.

     If in today's world it takes a coffee shop to provide that free, creative environment, then, by all means, I welcome it. Bring on the coffee. Bring on the change. But bring it on freely by letting the coffee-shop kids be, and think, and create with some degree of trust and independence.

Reader response is always welcome. Send to

Copyright: Chuck Cascio; all rights reserved.