Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Best Model in Literacy

Teaching and Learning Associate Superintendent Patti Pace (left) awards Principal Lynn Austin (right) with one of the district’s new “I Am SBISD” honors.
Teachers and administrators from a New Mexico school district visited Thornwood Elementary School this month after a foundation and educational consultant group picked the Spring Branch ISD elementary as a model of best practices in important areas of literacy. These model areas include Reader’s and Writer’s Workshops and an initiative called Consume, Critique and Produce, or CCP.

A Look at Consume, Critique, Produce in SBISD - View the video >>

The New Mexico-based J.F. Maddox Foundation and Smarter Learning Group, a national consulting firm, helped bring a group of educators from Hobbs Municipal Schools to Thornwood Elementary on a two-day “learning visit” on Dec. 8-9.

Maddox Foundation and consulting group representatives visited several districts and public schools in the Houston region before selecting Thornwood, a Title 1 public school, as a model campus in meeting the literacy needs of students, especially those with lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

Thornwood is one of several SBISD campuses to adopt a Teaching and Learning Dept. initiative known as Consume, Critique and Produce (CCP), which has been modeled in district schools by the University of Maryland reading professor, Dr. John O’Flahavan, and Kelly Edwards, who is a district literacy specialist.

At a kick-off dinner held Dec. 8 in the Thornwood Elementary library, Principal Lynn Austin was surprised by Teaching and Learning Associate Superintendent Patti Pace, who awarded Austin one of the district’s new “I Am SBISD” honors, which includes a specially made medallion.

“What makes Thornwood so special is that the school’s leadership team, and the teachers, truly embrace the CCP literacy model, and they have adopted and now use it in their classrooms. The fidelity that they have shown in using this literacy model is very important,” Associate Superintendent Pace said.

Principal Austin noted during dinner remarks that Thornwood has both a diverse and highly mobile student population. Student mobility is about 25 percent, and that is down somewhat from previous years. Thornwood’s students and families speak more than a dozen languages. They hail from 28 separate countries.

“I surround myself with good people. We have great teachers and staff working here, and they bring to me other great people and great community resources,” Austin said. CCP and the Balanced Literacy Model helped greatly, she added.

Visiting from Hobbs, N.M., were Schools Superintendent T.J. Parks, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction, Debbie Cooper, and group of language arts and reading specialists and instructors.

Judy Wallis, a national-level consultant who worked in SBISD for many years, spoke during the first-evening dinner about the importance of teacher modeling across many key literacy areas. She also spoke about three key “wins,” or goals, for all language arts and other classrooms:

  • Increasing students access to books and periodicals, as well as volume of reading for all students
  • Increasing the quality of explicit teaching: modeling and demonstrating
  • Increasing student discussion and talk about thinking and learning
Thornwood Elementary School is located at 14400 Fern. School Principal Lynn Austin has led this campus for five years.


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