Arizona or Bust

I was one of 7 lucky people in my school district to be selected to attend the 30th annual Effective School Conference.  Last Monday we all woke up super early (3:30am) to get ready and we met and headed to the airport at 5:45am.  We had a 6 hour flight from Dulles to Los Angeles, and then a mini flight from Los Angeles to Phoenix.  The Scottsdale Plaza, where we were staying was a short 20 minute ride from there!

Once their we were bombarded with amazing sites!  Unofficially we learned 1) not to touch cacti… it’s painful, and getting hundreds of tiny prickles out of your hand is tedious, not fun, and hurts like heck! 

 2) the Arizona scenery is constantly changing!  As we traveled north to Sedona ever 10 or 15 minutes / miles, the color palette would change!  Tans, then purples, then greens, then browns, then RED!  Omgosh, the red rocks on Sedona are amazingly beautiful
Sunset in Sedona!
One of the many beautiful “red rocks” of Sedona

(Before you read on… I must warn you this is a very long, but very worth it– at least in my opinion– post)

After a day of sight seeing we were able to attend the conference.  Larry Lezotte was the opening keynote speaker.  Dr. Lezotte was one of the original researchers of the 7 Correlates of Highly Effective schools.  

7 Correlates of Highly Effective Schools

  1. High Expectations for Success – “In the effective school there is a climate of expectation in which the staff believe and demonstration that all students can attain mastery of the essential school skills, and the staff also believes that they have the capability to help all students achieve that mastery.”
  2.  Strong Instructional Leadership – “In the effective school the principal acts as an instructional leader and effectively and persistently communicates that mission to the staff, parents and students.  The principal understands and applies that characteristics of instructional effectiveness in the management of the instructional program.”
  3. Clear and focused mission – “In the effective school there is a clearly articulated school missions through which the staff shares an understanding of and commitment to the instructional goals, priorities, assessment procedures, and accountability.  Staff accepts responsibility for students’ learning of the school’s essential curricular goals.”
  4. Opportunity to Learn/ Time on Task – “In the effective school teachers allocate a significant amount of classroom time to instruction on the essential skills.  For a high percentage of time students are engaged in whole class or large group, teacher-directed, planned learning activities.”
  5. Frequent monitoring of pupil progress – “In the effective school student academic progress in measured frequently through a variety of assessment procedures.  The results of those assessments are used to improve student performance and also to improve the instructional program.”
  6. Safe and Orderly environment – “In the effective school there is an orderly, purposeful, business like atmosphere which is free from the threat of physical harm.  The school climate is not oppressive and conducive to teaching and learning.”
  7. Positive Home/School relationships – “In the effective school parents understand and support the school’s basic mission and are given the opportunity to play an important role in helping the school to achieve the mission.”
Dr. Larry Lezotte in the red shirt

Dr. Lezotte spoke about the need for all 7 correlates to be STRONG and PRESENT in your school in order for your school to be operating at to it’s highest potential. 

After hearing Dr. Lezotte, we had a breakout session with Joe Whelan.  Mr. Whelan spoke to the Correlate of High expectations, time on task and frequent monitoring to differentiate instruction.  Something I had seen before, but that I really liked was the idea of a Parking Lot.

If you’ve never seen a parking lot before, it’s to help the teacher with questions.  Have you ever had a kiddo ask a completely bizarre question that has little to nothing to do with the lesson? Well this technique helps ALL questions be valued.  Just have your kiddo write their question on a sticky note and place the note on the parking lot.  Then, before the day is done, and at a more appropriate time, help the student with the answer – or better, teach them how to look for relevant answers on the internet.

 Mr. Whelan also taught us that “You have to do something 25 times before it becomes a tool in your toolbox.”  This is important for both teachers and students.  Have you ever tried something two or three times and then stopped?  Keep going, repetition up to 25 times will make it stick!

The next day we saw the most amazing speaker ever, Ian Jukes.  I enjoyed his keynote so much that I stuck around for breakout and then even took a picture with him!  His keynote address was entitled “Education in the Age of Disruptive Innovation.”  His big message was kids have changed, the world has changed, so why aren’t we changing the way we teach?  He spoke about how in the last 25 years there has been a large disappearance (not decline… disappearance!) of factory jobs. As a nation we outsource any job that is not location specific.  The technology we use on a daily basis makes working globally as easy as working on an office building.  Frightening, but true fact – in the next few years people who need managing will not only be unemployed… they will be unemployable!  So, what does this have to do with schools?

Schools were designed when 75% of the population was working in agriculture and blue collar jobs. Currently 75% of our population is working in the service industry and creative jobs.  Schools are stuck in the “traditional way” of doing things.  Our economy is eliminating standardized jobs while we are still forcing standardized testing and curriculum.  80-85% of our classroom is based off of routine cognitive work… the same type of work we are out-sourcing. According to Mr. Jukes, “no generation in history has ever been so prepared for the industrial revolution as the current generation!”  And here’s another stunning fact – by 2015, 70% of today’s current jobs will be replaced with automation!

So, what are the critical skills that Mr. Jukes tells us that we need to be successful beyond school?

  1. Problem solving!  Students need to consistently solve complex, real-time problems.
  2. Creativity! Students need  to think divergently and creatively in both digital and non-digital settings
  3. Analytical thinking! Students need to analyze higher Blooms’ levels without supervision
  4. Collaboration!  Students need to work collaboratively together to reach common goals.  Everyone needs to be accountable.
  5. Communication! Students need to learn how to communicate verbally AND in multimedia formats with both peers and superiors.
  6. Ethics, Actions, and Accountability! Students need balance a sense of risk-taking, diversity, humanitarianism AND responsibility.

According to Mr. Jukes, “Education today CANNOT just be about the traditional literacies.  Education must be about cultivating the 21st centuries fluencies that are being defined [above].”

So, need an example? Here you go. Geometric Real World Challenge.
First, don’t write all the specs on a sheet of paper.  Pretend you are a client and you are having a tele-conference (even record a different voice using  if you want!) Tell the students the following information

“Hello and good morning!  My company has just finished making a granola that we want to package and sell.  Your graphics design firm had the winning bid and you are contracted to finish your mock up design in ____(insert timeline here).  Your graphic design firm needs to have 2 mock designs from you.  Both size granola containers should hold the same amount of cereal but they should be 2 different sizes.  You are also in charge of marketing and nutritional value information. We look forward from hearing from you soon. Oh, and by the way, we’re going to need you to pitch the idea to our firm.  Be prepared to do a full scale presentation, including the actual boxes and all marketing ideas you have”

Play the voice mail over if necessary(esp if this is the first time doing an activity like this.  So, what is expected of the students?  Holy cow… what an awesome project – I can list tons of problem solving and thinking involved with this one.  Volume, surface area, percentages, nutritional facts, graphic design, scale factor… the list continues.  What will the 2 boxes look like (no two groups will be the same!)? What will the outside look like? What will the name be? What other information needs to be provided? Let their creativity run wild… supply them with card stock, posters, computers, markers… etc.  Let them be the ones in charge – step back and facilitate.  What a powerful lesson that will last at least a week!  SOOO many things they will get out of this one!

The BIG concept that Mr. Jukes wanted us to get out of his keynote…  “If the kids forget the content will anything else remain behind that is relevant?  YES! The 21st century fluencies!”  If kiddos can be flexible in their thinking, and I strongly feel they can be, then knowing how to be a problem solver is even stronger than knowing the content.  They will not panic when they don’t know how to do something… they will problem solve and get the task done.   Currently Mr. Jukes is creating a FREE website .  This website will include FREE unit plans that revolve around the 21st century fluencies.  This site is still in beta, but is having solid lessons and units added to it every day!  Also on this site is a way to share your units and collaborate with other teachers – think international, educational, Facebook of units.

I just realized this post has gotten super long!  SOOOOO… I’ll make and Arizona or Bust part 2 in the coming days!  I still have more amazing speakers to talk about!  (Even a breakout session from Mr. Jukes that I didn’t talk about yet!!  So much goodness in one conference!!  
So, anything that I said (or really that the speakers said) that stir up some thoughts?  I’d love to chat… let’s start a dialogue!

Categories: Uncategorized.


  1. Hey, you visited my state! I cringed when I saw the first photo! Don’t touch the cacti!

    The conference sounds amazing! I wish that there was money in our school’s budget to send us to some, it’s been years since I had the opportunity to attend one.

    I love the Geometry Real World Challenge! I may just have to tweak that for my 5th grade intervention class. I look forward to hearing more about what you learned!

    • Don’t cringe! (or do, but for different reasons!) This cactus had be “de-prickled” … weird? wrong? I’m not sure which but we definitely have many pictures of us hugging it! It totally freaked out our students!!

      Our school’s motto is based on the 7 Correlates. They try to send a group of people every other year. Apparently no one had gone in 4 years due to budget. They’ve been saving! I was so incredibly lucky to be able to go – it was TRULY amazing!

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