This weekend I attended the California Social Studies Leadership Conference, put on by McDougal Littell. It was kind of a cross between staff development and sales pitch, but an overall great conference.
Here's how it went: Friday afternoon I drove up to Marina del Rey (part of the LA megalopolis, right on the coast, for you non-CA folks) and checked into the hotel, then headed down to the first session, School Funding issues. Bottom line: not great, but not currently getting worse. Then it was adult beverage/networking time, and off to dinner. The keynote speaker was Tim Kanold, who gave a great talk on "leaving the harbor" leadership (don't sit back and enjoy your successes too long... go out and find new challenges. Ask, "Why not?") After dinner was more networking/adult beverages, and off to bed.
Next day started with breakfast and a great presentation on Standards and Assessment (read that as "high-stakes testing issues"). We then had some breakout sessions focusing on our concerns in areas of standards and assessment, readability and accessability of texts, and technology, followed by a ELL session. Lunch was a highligh: Holocaust survivor Gerda Weissman Klein spoke about her experiences and the possibilities available in this country.
The last two sessions were "curriculum solutions" (this was the sales pitch) and a very cool presentation by Bill McBride on brain-based and gender-based learning.
I had a great time at the conference. It was great to meet teachers and administrators (site and district level) from around the state. I usually only get to interact with teachers from my own county, so this was cool.
And McDougal Littell paid for it all. Conference registration, the hotel, parking, meals and adult beverages.
Certainly this is an important marketing event for them, building goodwill among schools for their own products, and also a market research opportunity (that "concerns" breakout I mentioned earlier). But I was very impressed with the overall quality of the conference. The speakers were excellent and avoided excessive reference to McDougal materials. The sales pitch was more of a showcase of the program they are offering (which looks good) than a "So, how many can we put you down for?" kind of thing.
Kudos to McDougal, and thanks for the opportunity.
And the food.