- More instructional time;
- high-dosage tutoring;
- investing in human capital (an emphasis on recruiting and developing a high quality instructional and administrative staff);
- and developing and maintaining a high expectations and “no excuses” culture.
Friday, August 26, 2011
Bright and cheery senior, Christina, greeted me at the doors of Travis High School this morning. Mr. Davidson was next to say hello and eager to escort me to Teacher of the Year, David Bellesen's Audio/Video production class. AISD is so grateful to our teachers, and it's always a joy to see them in person at work with students. A fun fact about Mr. Bellesen is that he's not only Travis HS Teacher of the Year, but he was also one of the top three finalists for AISD Teacher of the Year.
As I entered the class, I could hear students buzzing about their favorite movies. They were discussing movie genres and Top 5 lists. What I soon learned is the purpose of the lesson was to help students recognize we are more similar than we are different. So many of us share interests and favorite movies, and it is sometimes these interests that quickly bring people together as a group. Most importantly, the lesson taught the students that if you're going to make a good movie, which they plan to do this year, then it takes the whole group working as a team.
I had the chance to pop into an Electronic Media class right before the bell rang dismissing students. I checked out some cool photography the class was working on. The halls filled with students rushing to get to their next class. I was rushing to get to class too! Next up, I visited Allison Mote's Earth Space Science class, where we reviewed what makes a good scientific theory. I also checked in to see who had already sent in their college applications. Time's running out; get those applications in!
A significant investment this year at Travis HS is the implementation of the five tenets, which is best-practice research to strengthen the academic foundation at two vertical teams.
The five tents are:
These elements are among the key factors in most studies of best educational practice and will be implemented this year at Travis. One thing I'd like to point out about this program particularly is high-dosage tutoring. Classroom instruction is supplemented by individualized tutoring provided during the regular school day. At the secondary level, 6th & 9th grade students will receive high-dosage tutoring. And at the elementary level, 3rd grade students will receive high-dosage tutoring. This investment will help better prepare our students for college and career.
Thanks for a great visit Travis Rebels! My week of school visits will end with my next trip to Travis Heights Elementary.
I ended my week of school visits at Travis Heights Elementary, home of the Thunderbirds. Principal Lisa Robertson welcomed me to the school and almost immediately (and proudly) began to describe what makes Travis Heights so unique.
In preparation for my visit, Mrs. Robertson took the time to ask staff and parents this very question, what makes Travis Heights so unique? It turns out, several key elements stood out. The teachers and staff really know their students, the relationships being built between home and school continue to get even stronger, and Travis Heights is the very center of their warm community. It's sometimes hard to measure these answers, so the school narrowed down three areas to highlight in my visit today: dual language, technology and fine arts.
On my way to the first classroom, I decided to step into the lunchroom where I couldn't help but admire a giant mural the size of the entire wall. This living piece of artwork will grow with each new year of students as they continue to add tiles of art to the mural as a whole.
The tech team at Travis Heights developed a better plan to teach the technology TEKS as well as integrate those skills into core content. They began the program last year with a 3rd grade Science technology class and are expanding it to 4th graders this year. Way to go!
Travis Heights' has finally received their renovated stage floor. They also worked with the community to replace their stage and light system. The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees provided all the light components for free. And they included a disco ball! Last year, the student's videotaped a school wide program called The Michael Jackson Spectacular directed by Brandon "B. Liggy" Ligon and I walked away with my very own DVD of the program. The classes it took to create this production align with programs at Fulmore Middle School and at Travis High, now that's what I call preparing our students for the next level.
I was thrilled to cap off my school visits with students and staff at Travis Heights Elementary, they truly are a very unique school that supports a comparably unique and diverse community.
As I entered the halls of Galindo Elementary, one of the first happy faces I saw was that of custodian OD Haywood. Mr. Haywood has been working for AISD for 48 years! Now that is what I call dedication.
Our first stop was to Bernadette McBride’s class, where second graders were learning about the big job of learning how to respect each other, which is part of our social emotional learning curriculum. Social emotional learning helps children and even adults, develop the fundamental skills for life effectiveness. SEL teaches the skills we all need to handle ourselves, our relationships, and our work, effectively and ethically.
Students recited the mantra, “being respectful helps you learn.” We sat on the floor in partners, my partner was Dr. Ramona Trevino, our Chief Academic Officer. We discussed the best way to ask how to borrow a pencil and how to ask a question during class. Next, we heard a song about the skills that learners need to be respectful. Every time students heard the word “respect” or “respectful” in the song lyrics, they raised their hands and waved them in the air. Doing a little dance is always a great mid-morning exercise to stay alert.
Next up, I was welcomed to the shaded outdoor learning classroom of Jacque Wolman & Terri Wood, where students in Life Skills were practicing the art of meeting and greeting. We looked each other in the eyes and said “hello.” I had the pleasure of meeting three new friends today, Nathan, Andrew, and Alejandro. I taught all three of them how to pronounce my last name: Car-Star-Fin. They passed with flying colors!
On my way out I peeked into the library. Posted in the hallway entrance to the library was a poster from NEA’s Read Across America where the Reader's Oath was the main feature. It always makes me smile to see students reading.
I enjoyed my time with Galindo Elementary, but now let’s head over to see the Travis High Rebels!
Our second stop of the day was to the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders. We were greeted by the star mascot and a big hug. Principal Jeane Goka announced the school had a special presentation for me. Only created for special occasions, the girls created a "star walk" for me and my guest, philanthropist Ross Moody. To roaring claps, screams and many “high fives” we ran through the crowd carrying the TEA Exemplary flag we brought to present to the school that they earned for their outstanding performance.
Once our star walk ended, we gathered in the cafeteria for the middle school assembly. In support of our district's convocation, students sat down in the form of a wave. What a great way to start an assembly! I enjoyed the all-girl drum line performance too.
I was happy to present the school with their flag. Great things are happening at the Ann Richards School, and this year, we added 11th grade to the campus.
I recognized Mr. Moody and The Moody Foundation for their generous donation of $4.6 million to help AISD establish a School for Young Men. We believe we can duplicate the success of the Ann Richards High School with a school for young men — and I'm proud that the Moody Foundation believes so as well. Many thanks to our young women for modeling a quality school environment that inspires investors!
Our classroom guide today was Paige, a senior. The first stop was sophomore Human Body Systems, a class under the Biomedical Science umbrella. The vocabulary work in the class was possibly college-led. I certainly wasn't learning these words in 10th grade!
Next stop was to see the Media Technology Pathway. Teacher Roger Soden and his student Lareesa talked to me about the program and their Distinguished Achievement Project. Most recently Powerhouse Animation offered to take students from the high school to be interns at their office. What a great opportunity!
Today was a great experience. Thank you Ann Richards Stars!
First thing in the morning, I visited Maplewood Elementary, a new addition to our Recognized schools! Congratulations Maplewood!!!
We arrived just as students were finishing their morning assembly and being escorted to class. While waiting for students to complete dismissal to class, I walked around the halls to read student work and inspect the building, which is one of our older elementary schools, having been built in the 1950s with portables just as old too. I look forward to helping find ways to improve the building and grounds this school year. I’ll also put into our facility planning the need for more parking spaces for staff.
We were greeted in the cafeteria by Principal Vickie Jacobson who led our tour around the campus. Our first classroom visit was to Bina Felsens, 2nd grade math class. Several students shared that they were reading a lot. Natalia told me they had been reading Wayside School is Falling Down by Louis Sachar, and Genevieve shared that she was practicing her writing. Outside of the class was a wall full of handwritten postcards the students had created about what they had done over the summer. It is clear that these students are already having a great start with reading and writing.
Then we visited Elizabeth Gutierrez’ 1st grade two-way dual language classroom. Sleepy students started to wake as they recited their numbers in Spanish...uno, dos, tres…days of the week and the months. I also joined in and got to practice my Spanish.
Two-Way Dual Language supports "two language" groups of students to become bilingual, bicultural, and biliterate. For example, equal number of Spanish-speaking and English-speaking students would learn in both languages. We are moving quickly to expand Dual Language education in AISD. In fact, this year we will reach 8,024 students across the district, which is nearly seven times the number we had last year. Off to 4th grade science!
On our way to the portable buildings to visit Kristina Muehling's 4th grade science class, I saw a 100 year-old tree with a historical marker in the courtyard of the school. When we arrived, Ms. Muehling’s students were learning about the nature of science tools used to collect date and do a variety of investigations. The students were excited about using tools for collecting data and making observations.
Ms. Muehling was very encouraging, and I was delighted to see that even this early in the morning, there were many students with their hands up enthusiastically ready to answer questions about microscopes, calculators, and balances.
I then met Lauren Kelsey, a 5th grade teacher who was preparing for class. She shared that last year her students were doing a lot of reading. This was music to my ears!
On our way out, we met Richard Levy, who teaches 5th grade math/science. Mr. Levy uses many unique teaching strategies and focuses on a lot of vocabulary with his students.
Thank you Maplewood Mustangs! We are now off to see the stars at Ann Richards High School.