Barb Laughlin Karon, Parent, Barrington High School

When Barb Karon noticed that her children were stressed she didn’t just accept it, she wanted to change it.

“With kids today, it’s go, go, go, so you can reach the goal of the perfect college, or whatever … my girlfriends were feeling the same stress,” she says.

So Barb, a former social worker and keen school volunteer, became part of a small group of stakeholders that traveled to Stanford University’s School of Education in the fall of 2008, to learn about the Challenge Success (CS) project. Using the new knowledge, Barb became part of a committee dedicated to developing a new definition of student success for Barrington School District 220—one that’s much broader than grades, college acceptances or trophies—as part of the school district’s strategic planning process.

Led by education experts, including Madeline Levine, Ph.D., author of the acclaimed book “The Price of Privilege,” CS develops new school curricula, conferences and other programs for parents, schools and youth who are looking for a healthier and more effective path to success.

Barb and her committee put together a survey that went out to all the parents in the district, asking them to choose which characteristics demonstrate student success. “It needs to reflect the opinion of the entire community, so there’s buy-in,” Barb recalls thinking.

And the most valued characteristics were the same ones CS values—here’s the definition:

A successful Barrington 220 student demonstrates strong character, independence and resiliency, thinks critically and creatively, solves problems and collaborates effectively throughout society.

Barb and her group commissioned an artist and teacher in the district, Tom Root, to illustrate the new definition so it can be prominently displayed around schools, and the vibrant pink, blue and yellow flyers seem to evoke the spirit of the change. Barb says, “I feel like we’ve made some real progress.”

Read tips to help reduce your child’s stress level from Stanford’s Challenge Success project as well as Barb Karon’s education book list. To learn more about Challenge Success, visit