Thursday, January 31, 2008

Opening Keynote

Opening Keynote

Eastman Elementary School
Success by Design, the 2008 America’s Choice conference, officially opened with a presentation by Eastman Elementary School’s (California) 5th grade students. The students presented a strong musical representation of the book, Anasi, the Spider, one of the school’s Books of the Month. The production included dance, costumes, props and inspirational music. It reminded me of how retelling and reenactments have become such an important part of retelling favorite stories in Kindergarten. This was a representation of how important arts infusion is, not only for our youngest learners, but for all of our students.
Dr. Judy Codding
After a standing ovation, the mike was turned over to Dr. Judy Codding, one of the founders and current President of America’s Choice. Welcoming delegations from across the country, she commented on the outstanding student work that is posted throughout the halls of the convention center and the “standing room only” virtual tours from the morning. It was easy for her to connect public education with politics as the Democratic political supporters for tonight’s debate were cheering right outside the door. She reminded us of the global society that is connecting us so quickly and how this is affecting the workforce and education’s mission. If we cannot deliver in public education, we face a financial and ethical dilemma. We owe it to our children to make a difference with every single child. Dr. Codding reminded us of our high drop out rates and its consequences. We are breaking our commitment to our children by not making quality education available to every single child and will continue the cycle of poverty. Only a fraction of our kids are getting a high quality education and that is the America’s Choice mission– to make a difference with every child. Every child should be able to achieve. Failure is not and cannot be an option. We must NEVER GIVE UP. Education is the great equalizer. We know that the more educated you are, the more likely you are to support your family. Currently that dream is out of reach for 50% of many of our minority students. We must not underestimate the power of our teachers for it is teachers that are at the heart of education. The work has a moral purpose – no one has a more important calling!

Dr. Marc Tucker
Dr. Tucker introduced the keynote speaker, William “Bill” Wiggenhorn, an acknowledged expert in the fields of training and development, leadership development, e-learning, marketing, and global business strategy and one of his co-authors of “Tough Choices in Tough Times.”

Bill Wiggenhorn, Keynote Speaker
Dr. Wiggenhorn who has worked in 60 countries in the last 30 years brings a global perspective to education. He reminded us of the urgency of education because work will go to the best prepared in the global market.

Technology was one of Bill’s many focuses. He suggested that if you didn’t have an 11 year old- you should rent one to keep up with the technology! Bill told a story about Skyping and how it was used to connect a teacher with students - for pennies. He also talked about using technology within the cultures of different people who want to be engaged, regardless of poverty.

Some of the learning projects that he talked about on the global front were low income housing in India, water filtration in China, organic cosmetics in Brazil, coating and sealers in Russia, personal care projects for the elderly in Japan and Korea, etc. We must prepare a generation of students who are adaptable and problem solvers in this global market who can think through problems, like the ones above - students who can think outside of the box – students who know how to play the global game!

Time for change!

  • Change the organizational model in the educational system.

  • Recruit and develop talent.

  • Provide benefit plans.

  • Reward performance in difficult environments.

  • Use assessment to implement a speed based model for passage through the grades.

  • Assess for success.

  • Competencies in English, mathematics, technology, Science.

  • Support creativity, innovation and self-dsiscipline.

What is the future for 2020? Is it going to be bright or depressing? Are we willing to make the changes and take the pain to move forward?

Introducing Literacy Navigator

This first session ended with America's Choice's unveiling of their new Literacy Navigator product. This is the intervention that is currently being piloted by Chets Creek and Twin Lakes Academy along with several of the other model schools. The film that was made just last week was shown on the jumbotron to the 8,000+ participants. Melanie Holtsman and many of our children from Chets were featured in this film. This is certainly a project to watch!

Standard-Based Bulletin Boards

Virtual Tour - Chets Creek Elementary
Standard-Based Bulletin Boards

WOW! What a busy day. We began this morning by watching the virtual tour of our school. What a great job Melanie and Susan did with this project. It was so rewarding to sit in the audience and hear the postive reactions. I also loved watching Maria in Jacksonville teach her lesson live. The students were so precious.

After a short break it was Debby and my turn. We presented on taking Standard-Based Bulletin Boards to the next level. We shared our struggle and process we went through to get to where we are. It's all about think outside of the box and knowing who your audience is. Will it just be the students learning from your board, your fellow teachers, or your parents. Our best boards include all three purposes. We also try to present our boards in a new way. We use recordings to let our audience hear the students. We sometimes use just pictures along with our commentary to show the student's results. The most important idea is not to settle for the same old board. Produce a board you are proud of and want to share with everyone!

After our presentation Susan shared her excellent work with Book of the Month. Followed by Suzanne and Melanie sharing about this great blog site. For all of you out there scared to start your own blog, Debby and I just started one. It is not great yet, but the ideas are there and we can't wait to learn as we go. Again, don't be afraid, just jump in and try. Isn't that what we tell our children to do every day?

We are looking forward to relaxing tonight. We are having dinner at the Chart House, it is on the Pacific Coast. It's a great change for us. While at dinner I am going to plan my day for tomorrow. I am going to have a hard time deciding which session to attend. They all look great.

Book of the Month - Building Professional Book Studies

Virtual Tour - Book of the Month
Chets Creek Elementary School, Jacksonville, FL

Here is the PowerPoint from my mini session on Book of the Month from our second virtual tour this morning.

Wednesday Night

After our model school meetings we left the Renaissance Hotel to walk back to the Roosevelt and were surprised there were barricades. They had roped off Grauman's Chinese Theatre with red carpets and velvet ropes for a movie premiere! We found out they were hosting the premiere for "Fool's Gold" with Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson.

We headed out for dinner at the Beverly Wilshire hotel (where Pretty Woman was filmed). We ate dinner at The Blvd. inside the hotel. The food was almost too pretty to eat!

Maria's Lesson

Maria and Haley did an outstanding job. They made proud to be part of our school. As a math coach, I was "thrilled" (vocabulary word) to see the number line include negative numbers in the Kindergarten classroom.

LIVE Lesson from the East Coast

Virtual Tour - LIVE lesson
Chets Creek Elementary, Jacksonville, FL

WOW! Just minutes ago, Chets Creek Elementary presented a LIVE lesson, as part of the school's virtual tour, from their school on the East Coast. It's still hard to believe that we could actually "drop in" on a class 3,000 miles aways and actually ask the teachers questions about the lesson that was taught! The Lesson Plan presented by kindergarten teacher, Maria Mallon, is below.

Unit of Study – Narrative
Writing Standard #2 – Narrative Writing
Title of Mini Lesson: Utilizing a Rubric to Enhance Student Writing


  • For kindergarten students to be familiar with a rubric as a tool to enhance and revise narrative writing.

  • For kindergarten students to be able to recognize a piece of writing that may be a one, two, or three on the class-made rubric.


  • Connection: We have been creating our rubric for the past week and using it to make our writing better. We talked about the three sections of our rubric: “Ingredients Writing #1” – "Plain Cake Writing #2" - and the “Happy Birthday Cake Writing #3.” If we feel we are a #1 writer, we try to improve to a #2, and #2 writers try to improve to a #3. In this way, we can become the best writers we can be.

  • Teaching: Today, I am going to show you some student writing. I’m going to use the rubric to help me decide if the piece is a 1, 2, or 3. In this way, we can help the writer with some suggestions on how to make it better, because, remember, we want to be the best writers we can be. (I’ll show one or two writing samples) and talk about where on the rubric I think the writing should be.)

  • Active Engagement: I have another piece of writing to show you. (I will read the piece.) Now, I would like you to turn and talk to discuss what number/numbers on the rubric you think this piece of writing is and why. (Invite writers to share their discussion.)

  • Link: Writers, remember that the rubric is a tool that will help to make your good writing even better.

Work session: Conference with individual students, allowing each one to practice using the rubric with their own writing.

Share: Some writers that have utilized the rubric to enhance their narrative pieces will share their writing and discuss where on the rubric they feel their writing is.

While Maria was involved in conferring with her students in the Work Session, Kindergarten teacher, Haley Alvarado did a tour of Maria's room to show the artifacts that support the Writers' Workshop. After the lesson, the participants in Hollywood were able to ask questions of Maria and Halley. We are so proud of these teachers who were willing to take this risk and open their practice to such a large audience! What pros!

These type of live "drop in" lessons are done weekly at Chets Creek in both Literacy and Math. The lessons are sent to the Schultz Center, which is our county's Professional Development sight, so that teachers from all over our county (who are at the Center for professional development)can watch quality lessons and then ask the teacher about some of the choices that were made. We thank the Schultz Center For Teaching and Leadership for this partnership that allowed us to bring a live lesson across the United States today!!

Virtual Tour...Take One

A large audience, about 100 participants, are settled into the Virtual Tour of CCE. Part I of the Virtual Tour is the movie Imagineer Melanie put together where Tink and the Fairy Godmother guide us through the school.

The Virtual Tour started in the front office with Mrs. Phillips introducing our vision and mission. Then, the participants Turn and Talked about our school's Data Story while the CCE Imagineers mingling with the participants answering questions.

The front lobby was the next destination where Principal Phillips spoke about our Rituals & Routines. Participants got to Turn and Talk and ask questions about particular Rituals and Routines.

Next, participants got to visit the conference room with a detailed description of our Professional Development including Teacher Meetings and Working on the Work (WOW) Days. Principal Phillips explained the coaching roles the school supports.
Afterward, we got a real treat. Videoconferencing technology allowed us to take the tour LIVE back to Jacksonville for a visit to Maria Mallon's kindergarten writers' workshop. Students were learning to use their classroom rubric to improve their writing. Haley Alvarado gracefully took our visitors on a tour of classroom artifacts while Maria conferenced with students during the work session. The live session wrapped with a debrief between Maria and the conference participants. How incredible it is that technology can support the sharing of live work from across the nation.
A special thanks to Maria and Haley, as well as the technical teams from Jacksonville, Florida and Hollywood, California for making this dream a reality.

Part II is now getting ready to begin... Standards-Based Bulletin Boards, Book of the Month, and Blogging...Take Two.

Start of the Conference

We arrrived last night and had a great dinner at the "Pretty Women" hotel. Ran into a few Steeler fans. L.A. is just like you see on TV. We drove past the oil fields I saw on Shark Sunday night. Of course the ladies knew exactly where Rodeo Drive was but had no clue where Dodger Stadium or the Staples Center might be. Looking forward to a great conference.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Social Networking with Model Schools

Today our Model School meeting closed with a round table discussion on the possibility of social networking among the National Model schools. We are trying to develop a forum online for connecting to be able to easily see: model lessons, student work, professional book recommendations, team building ideas, virtual school tours, new products available, school website and blog links, technology ideas, videoclips of rituals/routines and assessments. We want something that provides a RSS feed to notify us of changes and an easy to navigate, visual platform.
We're hoping to access some new features to Blackboard or develop something new. The main thing being --- let's strike while the iron's hot! We'd love to hear your thoughts about using Blackboard as a social network and what you would like to see accessible on the site.

Live from the Creek

Tomorrow during our Virtual Tour, we will be live videostreaming a Kindergarten lesson from Chets Creek Elementary in Jacksonville, Florida into the America's Choice National Conference in Hollywood, California. This unprecedented live conferencing has taken planning and technical expertise from the The Schultz Center for Teaching and Leadership and America's Choice. Tonight, these dedicated individuals are testing the equipment to make sure that this event goes off without a hitch.

Stay tuned as the audience watches a mini-lesson taught by Maria Mallon, gets a tour of a model school kindergarten classroom by Haley Alvarado, and debriefs with the teachers.

Literacy Navigator - Will it work?

Literacy Navigator is an America's Choice intervention program that is meant to work with 4th- 8th grade students who need a little push to meet the standard. The program is meant to be taught for 27 days, 4-5 days a week and is basically a daily guided reading lesson plan for a small group of students who really need to break down and grapple with text. Schools that are piloting the program are using it before and after school and also during the Work Session of the Readers' Workshop. Each session is meant to be about 50 minutes.

Teachers seem to be excited about the lessons that are all based on non-fiction text, which in Florida, is a large portion of our state test. There is no question that the text in this intervention is challenging, but it is meant to be scaffolded. Students should be able to grapple with the text so they have to use their reading strategies to comprehend. The lessons are not the the ones that our general education teachers are teaching which makes the lessons that much more applealing.
This intervention program consisting of Levels A, B, C, D is targeted at students that are almost at grade level. Level A and B are designed for 4th and 5th grade, Level C for 7th or 8th graders, and Level D for 9th and 10th graders, although, this is flexible based on the reading levels of the targeted students.

Literacy Navigator seems to be a preventative intervention, one that will accelerate student learning so these students will not need intervention programs later. This is a program to watch as the research comes in.

Does a Teacher's Personal Professional Development Effect Learning for Students?

Advance Look: American Institute for Research Mathematics Professional Development Impact Study
America's Choice created a professional development program designed to enhance the mathematical content knowledge of middle and high school teachers during a course of study commissioned by the US Department of Education. In collaboration with the American Institute for Research the study was piloted in two different school districts. One district's Math curriculum was more traditional (Glencoe) in its approach and the other was more non-tradional (CMP). The program involved a 3 day summer institute and a 5 day "during the year" seminar for all seventh grade math teachers in both districts. This professional development focused on rational number (fractions, decimals, ratios and percents) and includes activities and problems that are designed to provide a content foundation for new teachers and to stretch the learning for veteran Math teachers. The trainers also serve as in classroom coaches and peers complete observations designed to provide feedback on what the students are doing. The study is in its first year of full implementation in six counties across the nation. Data is being collected throughout this year on how this type of enhancement of teacher knowledge effects the performance of students.

stp - dreamleader

Grauman's and Walk of Stars

Walking across the street this morning to get to our conference we walked down the walk of stars and Grauman's Chinese Theatre. Looking out the window of the hotel we are meeting in you can see the Hollywood sign in the hills. Totally cool!

National Model School Meeting

America's Choice National Model Schools
Pre-Conference Agenda

Agenda Overview

Advance Look: American Institutes for Research Mathematics Professional Development Impact Study

Advance Look: Cluster Leader Tools

Sharing: Navigator and ELL Pilot Studies
  • How are students responding?
  • How are staff members responding?
  • How can we improve the piloting process?

Sharing: Learning Walks

  • How are they the same among our schools?
  • How aer they different?
  • Are they making a difference?
  • How do we know?

The Model School Portfolio Rubric: What does it mean to be a National Model School?

  • Does it help schools self-select?
  • Does it distinguish between models and candidates?
  • Does it promote growth?
  • It is embedded?
  • How do we measure impact?

Technology: How can we improve our sense of community?

Chalk Talk: What's next for our model school community?

Model School Pre-Conference

After a great lunch. We had the opportunity to find out where the other participants come from. There were representatives from New York, Washington DC and Florida.

We began our day listening to Blair Dunivan from America's Choice. He was sharing a study that he is a part of that tracks effective professional development for middle and high school math teachers. He focused on its link to student achievement. Teachers participate in summer seminars that continue throughout the year. It pushes teachers and their thinking in math with rational numbers. He will be giving a full break out session on Saturday. Susan was thinking this would be a good opportunity for elementary teachers to help broaden their mathematical understanding. Especially since elementary teachers are usually not math content specialist but "jacks of all trades".
Next our conversation moved into the pilot program of Literacy Navigator. Different schools were sharing how they are using it in their schools. When to use it (before, after or during school), and how to select students who are to participate in the intervention. Everyone is interested in seeing the student growth after the state tests.

The next speaker at the session Bob(didn't catch his last name), his focus was on the America's Choice School Design in High Schools. There are currently 25 schools who are implementing the school design. It was interesting to hear this former High School Principal share the need for High Schools to implement a professional learning community.

Watch Melanie Squirm

Last week America's Choice came to Chets Creek to film their pilot program, Literacy Navigator. Chets has two pilot groups of fourth graders, taught by Melanie Holtsman and Suzanne Shall. The program reaches those student who we sometimes call "bubble children", who are just on the cusp of meeting the standard. America's Choice came to film a lesson and to interview the children participating in the intervention at Chets Creek and also at Twin Lakes Elementary, also in Jacksonville. Just a few minutes ago, Melanie was handed the completed video which will be shown to the entire conference tomorrow in the large session!! In other words she will be on the BIG screen tomorrow in Hollywood!

Now you would think anyone that has such an privilege would just be so honored, but from watching this over the years, teachers mostly worry about what they were wearing on the day the filming was done, how their hair looked, and if their look was faltering! After they get over that, they are usually able to look at the content and the big picture. Melanie had the same reaction, and I do love to see her squirm, because she's always so professional and on top of things! Can't wait until she gets over how she looks on the big screen, so she can appreciate how terrific she sounds! We are so proud!!

LA Ink

Okay, I know I live in a different generation from many of the teachers that I coach (who are the ages of my grown children) and am far, far, far removed from the generation of my grandchild. That was never more apparent to me than last night as I am traveling around Los Angeles with the teachers that are with me at the conference (all my children’s ages). As we are going down a somewhat “seedy street” (my description, probably not theirs), the principal and a teacher recognized LA Ink which is a tattoo shop! I was a little appalled at the sight of all those tattooed leather-bound guys and gals but even more appalled to learn that my principal and good teacher pal wanted to get out, peek in and have their picture made! They actually watch the reality show that features this tattoo shop!

Why is this even important (except that it makes me feel so old!)? It is important because these next generation teachers and the children that I am teaching are living in a world that I know little about. They are growing up with technology that I am struggling to understand and use in my educational practice, but I am committed to learn how to incorporate it as a tool. This is a first step - maybe a baby step - but a first step none the less.

Live From Hollywood

Debby C, Suzanne, dayle, Melanie, Susan and I are currently sitting in the Whitley Heights room in the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel. We are waiting for our pre-conference session to begin for the America's Choice Model Schools.

A Day of Travel for Team 1

Hello friends in the blogosphere!

Team 1 (Susan, dayle, Debby, Michelle, Melanie and Suzanne) headed out early for almost an entire day of travel. We arrived in LA at 3:15pm west coast time (6:15 our time) to weather a little colder than Jacksonville.

I have never been to California, so it was fun for me to see the Hollywood Hills for the first time.

Our hotel is the Hollywood Roosevelt hotel on Hollywood Blvd. We are across the street from the Kodak Theatre where the Oscars are held. And Grumann's Chinese Theatre with the walk of stars along the sidewalk. It was really too late by the time we got here to do much investigating more to come.

After an entire day of airport food (fast food in the layover and crackers, cookies and peanuts on the plane) we were anxious to throw our bags down and get a real meal. Susan was able to get a reservation for Spago. It was absolutely delicious. The big surprise of the meal was when Wolfgang Puck actually came out and shook hands with us all. We almost choked on our food! Then we were kicking ourselves because we were too shocked to get out the camera fast enough!

Today we head out across the street where the conference is being held to attend the National Model School meeting which will last all afternoon. We pick up team 2 (Debbie, Melissa, Angela and Rick) at the airport at 6pm.

Introducing Susan T. Phillips

I am the principal of Chets Creek Elementary in Jacksonville, Florida. We are a dynamic learning community dedicated to preparing students for the global workplace. CCE is a National Model School for the America's Choice School Design. I am in my fifth year of principalship at Chets but have actually been a part of the school since our opening in 1998. I started my tenure there as a Kindergarten teacher in one of the first model classrooms implementing Writers Workshop. I hope you learn as much from our experiences at the National Conference as we do! This "team" blog is sure to be fun and informative. You could also check out my own blog each week to my awesome faculty.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Introducing Suzanne

Welcome to our first co-authored conference blog, Live from the Creek! I am Suzanne Shall, the instructional coach at Chets Creek Elementary.

I have the unique opportunity to work with many of our learning leaders in a
coaching role as a classroom supporter, resource provider, data coach, instructional/curriculum specialist, and professional development facilitator.

This is my tenth year at Chets Creek where I’ve taught 5th grade and 3rd grade, coached in literacy and math, and lead as a mentor for new learning leaders.

I am elated to be part of this dynamic learning community that focuses on Relationships, Risks, and Results, and I’m delighted to have you join us for this new learning journey.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Introducing Melanie

Hello out there in the blogosphere! I'm Melanie Holtsman and I teach Gifted students part time and coach third and fifth grade language arts at the fabulous CCE. Here at the Creek we are so excited to roll out our new group blog that will bring the America's Choice conference back to our colleagues here and around the globe. Sign up to get our updates and tweet to us in California if you are so inclined. We've all gone twitter-crazy! We're looking forward to your comments.

Introducing Debby

My name is Debby Cothern and I have been teaching for nineteen years. This is my ninth year at Chets Creek where I am a K-! looping teacher. I team teach with Michelle Ellis. We have 33 students in our first-grade class. I am the first-grade ELA coach at Chets Creek.

Introducing the Queen

I am dayle timmons, a Special Education teacher at Chets Creek. I spend half my day in a kindergarten inclusion class and half my day as the Kindergarten Literacy Coach. I have the GREATEST job! I have been teaching for over 30 years and have been at the Creek for the past 8 years. I coach what has been referred to as the "Dream Team" because so many of my teachers loop kindergarten to first grade and then back again. They are young, talented and are willing to do "whatever it takes" to make sure that the children in their classrooms are successful. I have been archiving their work this year on my blog, With Great Expectations!

I have been referred to as "the Queen" since I was named the 2004 Florida Teacher of the Year. While I would like to think they call me that because of my experience and expertise, it is probably because I am the oldest teacher at the Creek!

Introducing Michelle Ellis


I am a 1st grade teacher. I team teach with Debby Cothern. We have 33 students in our room. We have "looped" with our students from Kindergarten. We are currently coaching our 1st grade teachers in ELA and Math. Debby and I visited the conference two years ago and we learned so much. We learned more about vocabulary and Math Navigator. I can't wait to see what we will learn this year.

Introducing Angela Phillips

I have been a 4th and 5th grade learning leader at Chets Creek Elementary for eight years. In addition to teaching children, I have also had the opportunity to serve as an academic coach of mathematics and science in third, fourth, and fifth grade during the last six years. As an instructional coach, I offer professional development through weekly teacher meetings, periodic book studies, hosting demonstration lessons, and offering feedback to teachers on instructional practices while observing and co-teaching with them in their classrooms.

Who is Debbie Harbour ?

My name is Debbie Harbour and I have been a teacher here for 9 years. I am a K/1 looping teacher who is currently teaching Kindergarten this year. I am also a K/1 Science Coach. I have been a Nationally Board Certified teacher for 3 years. I look forward to blogging our experiences from the conference. Please feel free to visit my personal blog at harbourhighlights and my students' blog at hkidshighlights.

Introducing Rick Pinchot

My name is Rick Pinchot. I am currently a fifth grade math teacher and 3 -5 grade math coach at Chets Creek Elementary school in Jacksonville, FL. I 've held a number of positions during my eight years at the school. I started out as an ESE teacher, worked with the gifted students, taught third through fifth grade math and science and coached K - 5 mathematics. Check out our fifth grade site.

Introducing Melissa Ross...


Welcome to our newest joint blogging project. My name is Melissa Ross. I am a second grade math/science/social studies teacher and coach. I love exploring new avenues of technology for my classroom and getting my students excited about learning. I currently author a homework help blog for my students.

Monday, January 21, 2008

A Blog is Born

Since this school year has ushered in our first cohort of classroom and coaching blogs, it's time for another first. Our first LIVE conference blog. We wish we could take everyone on our faculty with us to our America's Choice conference in Hollywood, CA, but since we can't ---the next best thing will be this blog we will keep while we are learning. Our teachers can participate in our learning by asking questions or adding comments. We encourage all readers of this blog to do the same. So, pack your bags and get ready for a virtual trip to this conference.