Friday, August 14, 2015

Au Revoir

In the fall of 2000 I interviewed with Linda Ferguson, Marie Kernodle and others for a position with the AIG program for Asheville City Schools.

To my delight, I was hired and began my assignment at Claxton Elementary.

It has been an absolute delight. "Has been" because it is time to move on.

Many of you may have noticed the hectic nature of my time last year.  I was constantly in motion, travelling every day and juggling the demands of two large populations. In an attempt to more equitably serve gifted students, I will be at Jones Elementary with additional duties at AHS/SILSA in the 15-16 season.

As I have hopefully mentioned many times, it has been my honor to work with so many cool kids and supportive families at Claxton. Thanks to all of them (many now in college and beyond!) and the parents, administrators,  and teachers who so supported me! I am also indebted to ACS - a system that has allowed me such great opportunity!

I leave knowing that Claxton will remain in the good hands of Marti Sullivan and Shannon Hunt.

I wish you all the very best!

Friday, June 12, 2015

AIG Update

Here’s a couple of highlights from our year’s end:

Hopefully you’ve talked with your kids about our CSG group’s thinking games. These ThinkFun games were helpful in helping students understand the perseverance needed not only in these tasks, but so many aspects of their lives.  We will continue with such activities (and many others!) at the first of next year.
ESG students hopefully made it home with geometry review sheets (lots of Pentomino work) as well as the famous “Fat Cat” decoding activity. Check them out. These groups, too, will be up-and-running early in the school year!

Other groups plumbed a hands-on approach to algebra, worked with Think Fun games, and read a couple of great novels. Our readers also had some great discussions about short stories. I learned from these students every day!
Looking forward to fifth grade!

Quite a range of activities for our Claxton ‘seniors’ as well. The math simulation Adrift brought about some great discussions.  I also can’t forget the ESG work with Great Ocean Rescue. Our reading of Freak the Mighty led to some fascinating student dictionaries!  A couple of online thinking resources seemed to resonate with students, as well. Ask them if they ever played Trap the Mouse or The Warehouse. 
We’ll kick off student services for 4th and 5th graders at the first of next year. They may be some re-assessments of services in the new school year, but those folks will hear from me then.
As always, it has been my honor to work with the wonderful teachers, families, and students at Claxton.

Thank you all for your kindness and support! Have a great summer!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Brother Wolf

Here's a snap of some of our student government and their service project for Brother Wolf.


Our third grade CSG students got a chance to use their art skills in a direction-following activity. Students had to draw specific things in specific places in a fairly short period of time. Here are some examples of their work!

5th Grade Math Video

This video is from earlier in the year. Just chanced upon it and thought I'd share.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Bridge and Golf Camp

The fine folks at Blue Ridge Youth Bridge are offering the following camp for this summer. It comes highly recommended from staff at Asheville Middle School.
If you've never played bridge, it's a fascinating game that would be challenging for students in fifth grade or higher. Throw in some golf and a country club lunch, and you've got a winner. Check it out!

WEEKS OF JUNE 15 and JUNE 22, 2015
The 2015 Blue Ridge Youth Bridge summer day camp program will combine two great learning experiences, duplicate bridge and golf. Campers should be in grades 5 and higher.

*  In the morning campers will learn how to play Duplicate Bridge.
*   Following a lunch break, the group will receive instruction and practice in golf by professionals at the well-known area golf center, Broadmoor Links.

      * After one and a half hours of golf,  campers will return to the bridge area for an hour of instruction
          and review. Closed toed shoes are required for golfing.

     *Lunches, snacks and the use of golf clubs and golf balls are included in the registration fee.
          (campers may bring their own clubs if they wish)

Campers must arrive at Broadmoor Links clubhouse by 8:50 AM. They will be ready for pickup at the same location at 3:00 PM. Broadmoor Links is located next to the WNC AG center on Airport Road across from the airport.

Camp Fees:  $90 per camper, per week. ($80 per week if attending both weeks}, and an additional
$5 per week discount for families with more than one child.  A limited number of financial aid
scholarships are available. (please contact Linda for more information -828-658-9398)
Registration deadline is June 1 . Refunds for cancellation are $60.00. There will be no refunds after the registration deadline. Campers are encouraged to attend both weeks. Sign up now, space is limited.
Camp Registration: Please complete a registration form for each camper along with your check made out to BLUE RIDGE YOUTH BRIDGE and mail to Linda Brown, 205 Forest Knoll Ct., Weaverville, NC 28787.  Questions? Call Dan and Linda Brown (828) 658-9398.
Parent/Guardian name: (First) ________________ (MI) ____ (Last) ______________________
Your contact info: (number and street) _______________(City) ________________ ZIP_____
Phone ___ - _______ -_________           Email address:  _____________________
Camper(s) Name: (First) _____________ (MI) _____ (Last) ______________________ Camper’s age ______Grade in School ____ ,                 Attending:     Week 1 ____  , Week 2_____ , Both _____Limited meal selections are available.  If your campers have special dietary restrictions we suggest  they bring their own lunch.  Please lists any allergies that we should be aware of:

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

AIG Transition to Middle School

Today Ms. Jo Landreth and Mr. Keith Buff, AIG specialists at Asheville Middle School, visited with Claxton's AIG students today. These teachers shared lots of information about AMS and what the AIG program looks like there.
It was an extremely interesting conversation! AMS is packed with challenging and fascinating programming for gifted students!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Fifth Grade Writing

Throughout this year our Advanced Subject Group in Reading has been working with stories from Junior Great Books. One such story, by the celebrated Richard Peck, was about a child who only seemed to have special powers. Students in this group were asked to write a story in a similar vein. Here's one to consider:

The Special Powers of Agatha*

Everyone thought Agatha was a weird kid. She was quiet and came out of nowhere to the school of Claxton Elementary. She got really bad grades one day, and another, the best in the class. Whatever grade she wanted, she got, good or bad. Everyone wanted to know how or why she didn’t and believed she had special powers. As for Agatha, she didn’t know whether she had special powers or not.
                One day the students were learning about something Agatha did not understand at all, and she failed the test soon after. Then they did a re-do and she got a perfect grade. People were scared of weird and odd Agatha, who was so quiet
                One day, someone was finally brave enough o go to Agatha and ask her, once and for all, whether she had powers or not.  The young man charmed Agatha, and she told him, “Whatever grades I want, I work for.”  The young man was frustrated that he didn’t get a complete answer. Or that’s what he thought!

*name changed for anonymity

So, I confess I only glanced these over until finding this gem. I thought it worth sharing for a bunch of reasons, not the least of which is the subtle lesson about gifted kids and grades. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Rising 6th Graders

Here is a copy of a letter sent home today for all rising 6th grade AIG students. Please contact me with any questions.

May, 2015
Parents of Rising AIG 6th Graders:
As we start looking toward the end of the school year, it is time to look ahead to what gifted services will look like next year at Asheville Middle School.  We are beginning now to collect data on each AIG student in order to determine the very best service match for your student.  This process will continue in the fall.  While this data is being collected and services are being determined, all sixth grade AIG students will be served through a weekly enrichment opportunity called Transition Study Group.  In Transition Study Group, the AIG Specialists work with the students to consider the nature of giftedness, offer enrichment opportunities, and help the students to transition academically to the sixth grade.
Here is the process that will be used to match appropriate services to student’s determined needs:
  1. All current AIG students will have a new Gifted Rating Scale completed for them by their 5th grade teachers this spring. The Gifted Rating Scale (GRS) measures motivation and five areas of gifted characteristics: Intellectual, Academic, Creativity, Artistic, and Leadership. It provides nationally-normed percentiles in each area.
  2. ALL 6th grade students, including those identified as AIG, will take the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) in the fall of 2015. The CogAT consists of three sections: Quantitative, Nonverbal, and Verbal. It measures a child’s thinking and reasoning, as well as their potential for learning.
  3. Also in the fall, AIG students will take the Iowa Assessment. This test provides a comprehensive picture of student progress in three areas: reading, written expression, and mathematics.
  4. Once all the data is collected, the AIG Services Committee will meet to determine an appropriate service match based on determined needs as described in the Asheville City Schools AIG plan. The AIG plan is available on the AIG district website. Descriptions of services are included with this correspondence.
If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact the AIG specialist serving your school. You may also contact our middle school specialists, Jo Landreth ( and Keith Buff (

Kristin Doe, Vance Elementary and AHS/SILSA (
Julie Griffith, Hall Fletcher Elementary (
John Pruett, Claxton Elementary and Jones Elementary (

Marti Sullivan, Dickson Elementary and AHS/SILSA (

Monday, April 27, 2015


About half of our fourth grade ESG students have completed some work with paleontology. These students researched and discussed phosphate - a key North Carolina resource. We then got to use sediment from the PCS Phosphate Company in Aurora, NC to find fossils.
I mentioned half . . . the other half can look forward to this work in the coming weeks. My schedule can be crazy at times, but I promise all ESG students will get the opportunity!
Here's some snaps of our scientists at work:

Claxton Theatre

I know, I know . . . it's a terrible photo! Think of it as an impressionistic view of the play!
I did want to shout out to all the many folks who made Claxton's production ANOTHER resounding success. Chief among these shareholders are Mrs. Baldwin and Mr. Butler whose work cannot be underestimated. It's hard to imagine the hard work that goes into such a glorious production. Way to go, Claxton!

Monday, April 6, 2015

A Message from Dr. Baldwin

Strategic Planning Sessions

The public is invited to attend one of two strategic planning sessions that will be hosted in the ACS Board room at 85 Mountain Street on Thursday, April 9th and on Thursday, April 16th. Each of these interactive events will last from 6 until 7 PM.

We will provide a 15-minute update on our plans and progress to date as we create a new strategic plan to guide our district over the next couple of years. We will then divide into small working groups to help facilitate the capture of your input and ideas.  Your feedback is valued!

Please join us on either April 9th or April 16th and donate an hour of your time to share your hopes and dreams for Asheville City Schools and the 4,300+ children we serve.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Third Grade

So, as you know, there are a number of different services now in place for third grade AIG. One of these groups, the Enrichment Study Group, read Megan McDonals's Insects Are My Life.  In the story a young girl has an all-encompassing interest - insects. After reading, students discussed their own interests. They re-wrote the title of the book and illustrated their sentence. Here are some samples of their work. There are a bunch, so keep scrolling! I tried to cover names, so guess the student!  Our ESG will move on to new work (think, dimensions!) after the break.

Have an awesome Spring Break!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Student Government

Here's a snap of student government officers working on April's service project. What is it? You'll have to wait for kickoff next week!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Third Grade!

I have enjoyed working with initial third grade groups! Here's a snap of our CSG. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

AIG Update

Here are some notes about the comings and goings of our AIG groups at Claxton. The big news is the addition of AIG services for third graders - implementation of which has been challenged by continued inclement weather.

I include third grade parents who have thoughtfully returned the 'permission to serve' forms. Rest assured, there will be third-specific info soon to come!

Advanced Subject Group in Reading

Both fourth and fifth graders participated in a letter writing contest (Letters About Literature) from the Library of Congress and North Carolina. In addition:

4:  Fourth graders completed our initial book study of Neil Gaiman's Coraline.  We have moved on to Junior Great Books stories. These materials are excellent literature with insightful questions for student discussion. We recently finished Thank You, Ma'am by Langston Hughes. Students are expected to participate in learned discussion and reflect on the work. Notes from JGB have been included in the blog.

5:  Fifth graders have also engaged in Junior Great Books reading and discussion. Earlier in the year we read The Mushroom Man, and more recently we completed Shirley Jackson's Charles. We are still working on positive ways to contribute in these discussions, however, the content is always at the very least interesting.

Advance Subject Group in Math

4:  These students have been working with an introduction to algebraic thinking called Hands On Equations. Students spend time familiarizing themselves with expressions and equations before moving into work with math tools. The tools involved help make concrete the abstract concepts of algebra. I'll release pictures soon to help illustrate this fine work.

5:  Fifth graders have been working with a simulation (Adrift!) where they must coordinate efforts  to save a lost sailor. This work involves video clues, partner work, and whole group decisions. A lot of math, including ordered pairs on maps, is included. They are currently about half way through the work. BTW, have you seen any of the homework from this assignment?

Comprehensive Study Group

4:  Fourth graders have completed their personal profiles, presented them for recording, and reflected on their work with a rubric for self-assessment. These presentations have been available via the blog for your perusal.

5:  Fifth graders have completed some direction-following activities (more challenging than you may think!) and are moving on to:

4/5:  Both CSG groups will work with ThinkFun games to shore up perseverance and reasoning skills. These sets of six different games were funded by the generosity of Claxton's PTO granting. The games allow students to use a variety of mental skills for problem solving and reasoning. Students will have logs to record their time and effort in an attempt to also shore up perseverance. Look for this work to expand into classrooms - supported by an NCAGT grant wonderfully co-written by our own Melissa Cole-Essig. Many, many thanks to Claxton's PTO and Mrs. Cole-Essig!!

Enrichment Study Group
4:  Our simulation work with The Great Solar System Rescue continues. As of this, these students have located and saved the first of four lost space probes. To do this, they have had to understand a specific science through reading, process a ton of information from video transmissions and more reading, and, most importantly, share and work with each other to form consensus decisions. There are three teams overall, so we’ll see how they rate at the end of our work!

5:  These students completed an interest inventory to help drive independent projects. Everyone is engaged in this work which varies from animal husbandry (from outside work at Claxton, I'll hastily add!)  to original works of fiction. Although drafts are certainly in the process, we won’t be sharing out until the spring.

Thanks for your continued support of our AIG program!!
John Pruett

Monday, February 16, 2015

Something Different

Here's a great video of Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks. Nothing to do with school but well worth watching!!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Thinking Games

CSG groups in fourth and fifth can look forward to some new thinking games to hone their reasoning skills. Claxton's PTO generously funded two sets of five games from ThinkFun - a company noted for it's challenging, brainy games. Thinkfun came to my attention from the work of educational researcher Carol Dweck, whose book Mindset sets forth that folks' aptitude or reasoning is NOT set in stone but can develop and grow.

My favorite quote from the day: "It's hard!" Of course it is, the better to grow your brain!!

Thanks PTO!

But, wait, there's more! Your friend and neighbor, Melissa Cole Essig, co-wrote an even bigger grant to get even more of these materials percolating through Claxton. Look for more to come!

Thanks, Melissa! You rock!

I'd be remiss if I didn't add that the second grant was from the North Carolina Association for Gifted and Talented, one of the strongest sources for gifted education and advocacy in these United States.

Here are some snaps of brains growing:

Tuesday, February 3, 2015


So here's a release from Asheville City Schools in regard to the new state School Performance Grades - due for release this week. Please read!

State Issuing School Performance Grades (SPGs) this Thursday, Feb 5th

The North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation requiring our state to issue A-F grades for nearly all schools in North Carolina. The grades are coming out this week.

While that may sound simple, it really isn’t. We don’t think the way the grades are computed reflects the quality of education our schools are providing. In fact, the Asheville City Board of Education passed a resolution calling for the development of an alternative grading system that would provide a more accurate reflection of true school performance.

The grades are calculated using just a few numbers: 80% is based on proficiency on state tests (high school grades include a few other measures, such as graduation rates and ACT scores) and 20% is based on growth.
Asheville City Schools is concerned about this because any fair evaluation of the quality of a school requires looking at multiple measures of performance, not just one or two numbers. 
Imagine if your child took a couple of quizzes over the course of a year and received a letter grade based solely on those few numbers? That’s not a complete picture, yet that’s what our schools are facing.
In addition, good evaluation systems don’t change how high the goal post is every year – which is currently the case in North Carolina – especially in light of all the other changes that have recently occurred, with more still to come.
Here’s a more concrete example. This year, the A-F grades are being calculated on a 15-point scale. That means a score of 55-69 would be a C, 70-84 a B and 85-100 an A.
But next year, the letter grades will be on a 10-point scale, so a school could score a 71 this year and receive a B, and improve to a 79 next year and receive a C. That just doesn’t make sense.
Our district has a clear roadmap to ensure student success in character, academics and all that we do. It’s outlined in a two-page document posted on the district web site and adapted at each school and available on their sites.  Also, this month we are launching a new strategic planning process that will guide Asheville City Schools for the next two years.

Our current district priorities include:
· Excellence with Equity
· Progression in Literacy
· Affirmative School Cultures
· Invested Leaders and Staff
· Engaged Parents and Community
We are proud of our schools!  Despite both new standards and new tests this past year, Asheville City Schools’ students outpaced the state average in reading, math and science.  Our 86.5% graduation rate was the highest in history. For the seventeenth year in a row, Asheville High and SILSA seniors far outpaced the state and national averages on the 2014 SAT exam.

Please share this information with your friends and family. We need your help to tell our story and let the Asheville community know about the good things happening in our small, family-friendly, safe and academically sound public school district.

4th Grade Profiles Continued

Set Champions

Here are some shots of students recently completing Set challenge.
Check out!