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!