How Testing Bolsters Learning

Second Rail Education pic

Second Rail Education

A former assistant superintendent and chief legal officer with Niles Township High School District 219 in Skokie, Illinois, John Heintz is a co-founder of Lydian, a management consulting firm headquartered in Chicago. John Heintz also writes content for Second Rail Education, a blog he founded as a way to explore key educational issues in Chicago and beyond.

Critics have railed against increased standardized testing demands ever since the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act in the early 2000s. While standardized testing can detract from nuanced, individualized education, it is important to understand the importance of frequent testing, regardless of whether it is standardized or not.

Research has demonstrated that taking a test greatly improves the learner’s ability to retain material in the long term. According to a study performed by researchers at Washington University, the so-called “testing effect” on learning holds true even when students perform poorly on a test or receive no feedback on missed information. In the same vein, Harvard psychology professor William James famously postulated that attempts to retrieve information from memory improve retention far more than simply looking for the answer in a textbook.

One major criticism of standardized testing centers on the fact that it tests the sum total of students’ knowledge, meaning that little to no learning actually takes place. “Formative assessments,” on the other hand, are designed to expose gaps in knowledge and ultimately contribute to the learning process.


Using Technology as an Educational Tool


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Chicago education professional John Heintz has worked in a range of roles during his career, serving as a classroom teacher, legal consultant, and education entrepreneur. Before becoming chief legal officer and assistant superintendent at Niles Township High School District 219, near Chicago, John Heintz spent more than 15 years as a language and writing educator.

In the classroom setting, technology plays an increasingly prominent role, such that the teachers of the future will likely rely on technology as an indispensable component of classroom instruction. Considering that teachers have used videos for decades, it should come as no surprise that video streaming has become a ubiquitous activity in the classroom. Educational video developers such as Khan Academy and free video lectures from Stanford University make learning more accessible than ever before. Streaming video does not have to replace classroom teaching, but it can be used to supplement important lessons.

Although social media has been well documented as an in-class distractor, it can have merit if used in the right way. Teachers can post topics for discussion and solicit responses from students, keeping them engaged in the learning process long after the bell rings. Social media also gives students an opportunity to share resources and learning strategies with each other.

Local School Funding – a Barrier to Equality in Urban Areas

John Heintz Chicago

John Heintz, Chicago

As a senior legal consultant for Chicago firm Lydian, Inc., John Heintz offers high-end management consulting services to corporate leaders. John Heintz comes from a background in education, and previously served as the assistant superintendent for operations in Niles Township High School District 219 outside Chicago. He also continues to operate Second Rail, an organization working toward success and reform in public education.

Cities such as Chicago are overflowing with talent and human capital. Their selective enrollment schools produce some of the best students in the country, but their public schools are consistently outperformed by schools in nearby suburban areas.

Funding is one key problem. The public school funding system is based on property taxes, which means that wealthy areas tend to receive the most money for education. This creates large disparities. In Illinois’ wealthier districts, schools are spending $30,000 per student per year. In less wealthy areas, that figure is closer to $8,000.

A fleeing middle class can compound this problem. When big city schools do not meet expectations, many middle-class families move to the suburbs. They take their political capital with them, leaving families who are unable to move away with even less political clout.

Some experts suggest that changing funding structures may be the best way to foster equality between urban and suburban students. Local funding and control creates major disparities, so schools in and around urban areas may be best able to flourish under a more centralized funding system.

The Shirley Ryan AbilityLab Melds Research and Patient Care

Shirley Ryan AbilityLab pic

Shirley Ryan AbilityLab

After serving as the chief legal officer and assistant superintendent of operations for Niles Township High School District 219 near Chicago, John Heintz launched Lydian, Inc., a Chicago-based consulting firm that offers consultation on sustainability, economic development and human rights-related leadership matters. Throughout his career, John Heintz has balanced his professional pursuits with work supporting nonprofit groups such as the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, which recently received a new name and celebrated the opening of a brand new facility.

Located on Chicago’s Erie Street, the $550 million Shirley Ryan AbilityLab officially opened its doors on March 25, 2017. A cutting-edge research hospital, the 1.2-million-square-foot facility features an open design that enables clinicians, researchers, and technologists to work side-by-side surrounded by the patients they are trying to help. By melding research and patient care, hospital leaders believe the facility will lead to new research that can be applied in real time.

At the heart of the AbilityLab are five Innovation Centers, each of which focuses on a specific area of biomedical science, and five working labs, where teams of researchers will focus on achieving better outcomes for patients with issues related to brain function, locomotion, hand and arm movement, stamina, and child development. The state-of-the-art research and rehabilitation space also includes 242 patient rooms as well as on-site MRI and CT facilities.

ASCD Launches New Video Streaming Service for Educators

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Currently the senior consultant at Lydian, Inc., in Chicago, John Heintz previously served as chief legal officer and assistant superintendent at Niles Township High School District 219 for over six years. In his efforts to stay current with the latest developments in education, Chicago’s John Heintz has relationships with professional organizations such as the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD).

In a recently released statement, ASCD announced the launch of a new streaming platform that will give educators instant access to its catalog of professional learning videos. A cloud-based service, ASCD Streaming features carefully organized digital content that can be accessed anywhere and at any time via a computer, smartphone, or tablet.

The streaming platform includes award-winning videos on a variety of topics, including school diversity, education policy, teacher leadership, and student success. Currently, the on-demand service features 40 videos, but ASCD will continually add more titles to the list.

Teachers and other education professionals interested in using the service can view the content with individual rentals or full-year subscriptions. Package pricing ranges from $14.95 to $995. For more information, visit

The Enduring Nature of The Great Gatsby’s Closing Lines

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Great Gatsby

John Marshall Law School graduate John Heintz has worked in a variety of positions throughout the state of Illinois, including chief legal officer with Niles Township High School District 219 in Skokie, and as an attorney with Chicago education law firms such as Scariano, Himes and Petrarca, Chtd. When he is not working with school districts in and around Chicago, John Heintz enjoys reading classic literature such as The Great Gatsby and To Kill a Mockingbird.

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, has long been considered one of the finest novels in the American literary canon. In particular, the book has been remembered for its elegant, affecting closing lines, the last of which reads: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” One could argue the line is Fitzgerald’s single most revered piece of writing, as the sentence has been inscribed on the author’s headstone in Rockville, Maryland, and has been praised by countless critics, organizations, and writers.

The line, which was named the third best closing line to a novel by the American Book Review, is specifically praised for its beauty, complexity, and effortless ability to unify the novel’s various subjects and themes. Specific interpretations of Fitzgerald’s ending vary, but many cite the closing line’s evocation of both limitless optimism for the future and melancholic reflection of the past. According to the American Book Review, the ending of The Great Gatsby edged out that of the likes of Ulysses by James Joyce and Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, falling only behind Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and Samuel Beckett’s The Unnamable.

Unequal School Funding, Student Poverty Result in Inadequate Education


Second Rail Education  pic

Second Rail Education

John Heintz, the founder of Chicago-based management consulting firm Lydian, Inc., is an attorney and educator with wide-ranging interests in education and the law. John Heintz, a Chicago resident, applies his 25 years of experience to advocacy for educational transformation through Second Rail Education, an organization he founded to mitigate inequalities in education funding, particularly as they affect students in low-income school districts.

Second Rail Education seeks to improve education across geographic, demographic, national, and political boundaries. The organization plans to do this by disseminating information relevant to educators and lawmakers, and linking entrepreneurs, educators, and other leaders to comprehensive solutions devised by the Second Rail Education team, which includes educators, attorneys, economists, and other experts from both for-profit and nonprofit sectors.

Second Rail and other education organizations may play an important role in the changing face of public education resulting from the recent appointment of Betsy DeVos as head of the US Department of Education. Mrs. DeVos has said she favors school choice for parents and students. School choice would allow parents to enroll their children in charter schools, possibly outside of their school districts.

Arguments for and against this anticipated change center on the effectiveness of public education, addressed in the past two presidential administrations’ “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top” initiatives. An article recently published in the Nonprofit Quarterly (NPQ), “School Transformation Hasn’t Worked – Isn’t That Reason Enough to Stop?” says that these initiatives were informed by the belief that schools failed because they were poorly run or poorly staffed. NPQ says that the proven impact of poverty on learning has been ignored.