Study Tours

Study tours offer participants the chance to investigate the organizational structure, learning environment, and curriculum of a school; meet with school/district leaders, teachers, and students; observe rigorous and relevant instructional practices; see examples of challenging student work; and identify replicable successful practices. A minimum cost is involved to cover the school's expenses. Contact Ashley Terwilliger at for more information.

GSL of the Month

Teacher: Wes Williams

School: Chaminade Middle School, Chatsworth, California

Title: Google Sketchup and Lateral Area

Subject: Math

Grade Level: 7-9

Instructional Focus: Tools and technology, writing, listening, speaking, number operations and concept, geometry, measurement

Instructional Strategies: Project design, research, cooperative learning, presentations/exhibitions 

Performance Task: Students design their dream home using Google Sketchup tools. Students calculate lateral area to determine how much paint is needed for the interior of their dream house. Google Sketchup is similar to an Auto CAD program which engineers use to design products.

Knowledge Taxonomy Level: 4 - Analysis

Application Model Level: 4 - Apply to real-world predictable situations

To download the entire lesson, click here. You may also contact Wes Williams at

Resource of the Month

This month, we are featuring: Shifting Instruction to Meet Fewer, Clearer and Higher Expectations: Common Core State Standards

The wide acceptance of the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and their demand for high levels of performance from students has forced teachers throughout the country to deal with overwhelming and fundamental changes in the way they teach and students learn. This handbook provides crucial and timely information, strategies, and best practices designed to help schools create a successful plan for implementing CCSS.

Topics covered in this handbook include:

To order the above resource or any others please visit

Successful Practices

Share your feedback on this month’s successful practices by going to

Kirk Adams Elementary School
Empowerment Philosophy

By the Numbers
568 students
Grades K–5

Kirk Adams Elementary School in Las Vegas, Nev., is one of 30 Empowerment Schools in the Clark County School District. The Empowerment School philosophy is grounded in the belief that critical decisions affecting instruction should be made at the school level by those most closely involved with the students. Additionally, if schools are to be held accountable for student achievement, they should be given the flexibility to determine how best to accomplish their goals and to deploy the resources that they have been allocated to implement their choices.

Adams was one of four original Empowerment Schools selected by the school district in 2006. Since that time, it has used its autonomies to make critical changes in the way it does business. Some of the "out‐of‐the‐box" changes are to: extend the student day, increase the number of staff working directly with students, remove typical letter grades from the report card, increase students' ownership of their learning through data notebooks, and create a schoolwide intervention program with a focused intervention/extension period daily. The empowerment philosophy is embedded in the culture of the school at every level. Teachers, parents, and students have a voice in school decisions, and every decision is filtered through the school's vision and mission. The teachers and staff members are dedicated to meeting the diverse needs of all the students.

For more information, contact Principal Rebecca Johnson

Ravenswood Middle School
If you can Imagine it, you can Dream it and you can Become it!

By the Numbers
343 students
Grades 6–8

Ravenswood Middle School in Ravenswood, W.V., is an inviting learning community where “the best get better.” In 2009, the West Virginia Department of Education introduced a new statewide testing instrument, known as WESTEST II. Emphasis was placed on higher-level thinking and problem-based questioning. Before the test was administered to students, the state superintendent of schools sent letters home to all their parents warning them that the state was predicting a significant drop in the end of the year test scores. Administrators, teachers, and students at Ravenswood took this as a challenge to attack head-on by emphasizing vocabulary and problem-based learning. WESTEST Wisdom Words posters were displayed in the hallway. Daily announcements included five wisdom words of the day. Teachers covered the definitions and usage of the words in their classrooms daily. If students had a clear understanding of what was being asked, they had a better chance of scoring higher on the test. The theme became 212°.

Schoolwide the challenge was to take efforts to the next level. Despite a drop in scores from the previous year, Ravenswood’s scores were much higher than the state average. The school was one of only four middle schools in the state to be recognized for its test scores during the 2008‐09 school year. These scores are reflective of the commitment of highly qualified teachers making a collaborative effort to review a variety of assessment data and to develop learning programs, lessons, and activities to address curriculum weaknesses and individual academic needs of underachieving students.

During the 2009‐10 school year, Ravenswood was awarded the NASSP–MetLife Breakthrough School Award, one of only ten schools in the nation to receive this honor. The award recognized schools with a high percentage of low income families who exhibit high collaborative leadership, high-quality instruction, a personalized and caring environment, and high academic achievement.

The Five Year Strategic Plan 2010‐2015 identifies the West Virginia state goal of having 100% mastery or above in reading/language arts by 2013‐14. Time, resources, and practices are dedicated to reaching this goal. The school mission and vision statements reflect this dedication. The mission: “Ravenswood Middle School, in partnership with home and community, while serving emerging adolescents with their unique needs, will provide all students with opportunities to become socially responsible, respectful, productive, and competent life‐long learners.” The vision: “Ravenswood Middle School is an inviting learning community where the best get better.”

For more information, contact Principal Gary Higginbotham at

Truman High School
Spring Enrollment Conferences

By the Numbers
1,646 students
Grades 9–12

Every student at Truman High School in Independence, Mo., is assigned an advisor for all four years of high school. Part of the responsibilities of the advisor is to get to know each of their 18-20 students and their families well.

Each January, advisors set up 15-20 minute appointments with their students and parents to discuss and select courses for the following year. Advisors are given professional development on department course offerings as well as flow charts showing progression and choices in different departments. There is also professional development on running an enrollment conference, facilitating discussions during conferences, and technical responsibilities (enrollment is now done online through a computer).

Each student takes a Career Connections semester course in the 9th grade, which ultimately leads to the choice of a career pathway and the development of a four-year plan. This decision helps drive future enrollment choices. Advisors meet 30 minutes weekly with their 18-20 students for four years. The curriculum during this time includes review and possible adjustments to each career pathway and four-year plan.

Truman consistently has very high participation by students and parents during enrollment conferences. This is also a great opportunity to conduct quick surveys in order to obtain data from parents and students.

For more information, contact Bill Brooks at