Ying Ying Chen


Ying Ying Chen currently serves as the Executive Director of Learning Services in the College Community School District since 2006. She begins her career as an educator in 1974 after graduating from National Taiwan Normal University with a degree in Social Science. She earned her master's degree in special education from the University of Akron in Ohio. She completed her School Administrative study from the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee.

Mrs. Chen started her career as an ESL teacher in Taiwan. She later served as a secondary special education teacher and a Title I curriculum and instructional supervisor. She was an elementary principal from 1992 - 2006 with three years in Oshkosh, Wisconsin and eleven years in the College Community School District.

In addition to her district responsibilities, she is an active member on various state level leadership initiatives, which include Iowa Leadership Partnership Committee and Iowa Leadership Academy. She served on the Board of Educational Examiners between 2001 - 2009. Mrs. Chen is the recipient of the National Milken Family Educational Foundation Award in year 2002.

Ying is married with two grown sons. In her spare time, she enjoys relaxing with a good book, biking and working out. She is happiest when she sees teachers and students succeeding, and when that perfect living room adornment finally reveals itself after hours of bargain hunting.

Recent Posts

Encourge Teacher Collaboration

10/16/2011 9:41:16 PM ...

 Click the link below to see the most updated blog.


Agility and Adaptibility - Survival Skills for 21st Century

10/2/2011 9:10:23 PM ...

 Please click the link to see my recent post.


How does it affect my classroom?

9/17/2011 11:41:57 AM ...

 Click the link for my blog post.


Preparing Students For the Future

9/6/2011 12:37:03 AM Click the link to see my recent blog post....


Growth Mindset and Digital Learning

8/21/2011 11:09:49 AM ...

 Here is my most recent Blogger post.

More Questions Than Answers Again

5/20/2011 1:55:00 PM After visiting High Tech High, our team has more questions......

In preparation of implementing the innovative program called Prairie G2, we recently sent a team of ten to visit High Tech High (HTH).  After a team debriefing, we found the following patterns at High Tech High:

  • A strong culture of student driven, inquiry-based learning
  • A culture that all students will go to college and students receive personalized support from all adults
  • Problem and project based learning was evident
  • Real audience, real world connections
  • Plenty opportunities for team collaboration, peer sharing and critiquing

While we were not surprised at the above observations, we were surprised that the students were not necessarily highly engaged in all classrooms.  Some students were simply off task.  Some of us even commented, "It is a little bit too loose!"  When we had a chance to ask questions about their success and challenges, the leader pointed out that they are struggling with "college readiness" because not all colleagues offer personalized and problem based learning.  College freshmen from HTH expressed the concern of making transitions from high school to college.

Yet, 80% of the students that graduate from HTH finish college in four years compared to the average rate of 30% in Iowa.  Why?  After some discussion, one teacher member on the team made an interesting hypothesis - "Maybe by developing 21st century skills, such as problem solving, team work, time management, self-assessment and goal setting, students have a better chance of pursuing and completing college."  The HTH leader commented, "While it was painful to hear our students experiencing transitional challenges, they do feel comfortable in seeking tutorial support, taking advantage of professors' office hours and providing evidence based learning (speaking, reading, writing, etc.)."  In short, students learned self advocacy and know how to persist through tough times.

This really made me think!  As a curriculum director, I have been working very hard on "best practice implementation" at the classroom level.  Now, I am beginning to question - how do we create a structure to expand the system impact on teaching and learning?  It is truly an interesting time to be an educator.  Once again, I have more questions than answers, and I am very intrigued!

CCSD Administrators, here is the most updated Leadership Circle.

The Role of External Experts

5/10/2011 2:03:00 PM This post is about our learning and reflection after a national conference......

About a week ago, we took a team to an assessment conference hosted by Solution Tree.  This is the first time we participated in a focused conference where all participants share a common experience of all keynote speakers with opportunities for breakout sessions.  Our school teams also spent about one hour at the end of each day to debrief, reflect and synthesize learning.  It was an outstanding professional development experience!  Here is what I observed:

  1. Teacher comments - Many teachers commented, "This crystallized my vision", "I can see why we have been working so hard in the past few years on concept-based learning and AFL", "I have new ideas for my classroom tomorrow" and "We need to have a team plan!"
  2. Inspired to learn more - Many of us could not stop reading Elements of Grading, the book we received at the conference, on our flight back home
  3. Individual actions - One teacher developed a unit plan at the airport using what she learned from the conference.  Her urge to put learning into practice was so strong that she could not wait.  Many said they would do the same as soon as they return.
  4. Team actions - Both school teams formulated a plan to work on power standards, performance tasks and standard-based grading

As a staff developer, I have always been cautious about using outside experts.  Cost is one main concern, but most importantly, conference and workshop learning often does not result in changed classroom practice unless we work hard on building background information, generating motivation, cultivating learning community, establishing goals, structures and action plans for long-term implementation.

I believe our consistent PD on concept-based unit design, assessment for learning and standard-based writing has paved a strong foundation for best practice.  Our teachers walked out of the conference feeling reaffirmed.  They also realized that unless we change our assessment and grading practice, our impact on student learning is going to be limited.  We have more work to do, and they are motivated to pursue the next level work! 

It was interesting that our teachers did not just focus on "practical ideas".  They were fully intrigued by the keynote speakers' message on courage to change, system impact, professional learning community and deep implementation.  Given the opportunity, they were motivated to be teacher leaders.  It is also heart-warming to witness effective principals in action.  They set learning goals prior to the conference, listened to teachers, facilitated discussions and helped the team set structures for follow up work.

At the conclusion of the conference, I couldn't help but feel, "How lucky we are to be excited about life-long learning and that we are confident and hopeful about preparing our students' future!"  This experience makes me think, "What is the right balance between job-embedded professional learning and the appropriate use of external expertise."  Your insight?

CCSD Administrators, here is the most updated Leadership Circle for May 9-20.

The Future is Now

4/16/2011 7:10:03 AM This post is about the Prairie High School initiative....

Only about six months ago, we initiated the conversation about redesigning Prairie High School to better prepare students for the future. The models we have been studying are High Tech High in San Diego and Global Generation in Muscatine, IA.  We vigorously researched on line, contacted educators from those schools and began to involve the school board and community partners in the process.  In short, these models involve corss discipline, problem/project- based learning in a highly collaborative and student centered environment.  As I am writing this blog post, I am reminded about a very interesting phenomenon in today's world - the pace of change. 

Six months? How could any major initiative happen within such a short amount of time. However, it seems to be such a right direction.  Why? As I reflect, I come up with the following reasons:

  1. Sense of urgency - If we know the future is now, how can we wait any longer?
  2. Efficacy - if other schools and teachers can successfully prepare the students for the future, so can we!
  3. Information - We are able to access a plethora of information from blogs, websites and personal contacts in our community and around the nation.
  4. Collaboration - Thanks to great educators in HTH and Muscatine, their willingness to share is inspiring.
  5. Passion - Yes, we have loads of questions, but many teachers claim, "Count me in! I want to be part of the program to make a difference in student learning!"
  6. Agility - Even though we feel a monumental load on our shoulders, we are willing to say, "Bring it on and we will problem solve as we go!"
  7. Community - Our Board took time to listen, research, question and dialogue. The are 100% behind us!
What an interesting time in education? 

This week, about 30 teachers and administrators from our district participated in the 1:1 Iowa Institute.  This follow up blog post is written by a student.  What a great example of purposeful writing.  This young boy, with no doubt, is bright and motivated.  What if, with a different structure and approach, that many more students can be just as motivated becuase learning is relevant, intriguing and with a worthy purpose?  The future is now!

While the "Just do it" mentality will get us started, we are not naive about the challanges ahead of us.  We have to work tirelessly, collabortively and thoughtfully along the way.  This resource, Planning On Becoming a School of The Future,  came to my Reader feed just in time. It looks like a great guide for our future work. 

CCSD Administrators, here is the most updated Leadership Circle for April 25 - May 6.

Are we on the right track?

4/3/2011 12:42:00 AM Linking district learning with Common Core Assessment...

As a district, we have been working very hard on designing quality units to develop deep learning.  In addition, we have been focusing on pedagogy related to "Assessment for Learning" to motivate and engage students for rigorous learning.

What about the national level?  Are we aligned with best practice?  Are we on the right track?  In the following article, you will see the most updated discussion about common standards and assessment. I am not particularly interested in the decade old debate about "local control", but the following highlighted words and phrases (in red) caught my eye:

Leaders of both state assessment consortia—the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium, or SBAC, and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC—told Education Week that their array of instructional resources will be available for review, feedback, and revision while they are being written.

Michael Cohen, the president of Achieve, the Washington-based group formed by governors and business leaders that serves as PARCC’s managing partner, noted that the content frameworks, model instructional units, and other products are being created not by private staff members “in a cubbyhole,” but by the states themselves. Joe Willhoft, the executive director of the SBAC, said that consortium exemplar curriculum units, prototype formative assessments, and other tools will undergo a process of creation, use, feedback, and revision.

While these resources are not available yet,  ETS's web site provides some useful information about the two consortia:
The SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium
The Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers

A close analysis of the two above graphic documents, I gathered the following ideas:
  • The future assessment system will provide guidelines, resources and models to help states build their assessment system
  • Assessment of and for Learning are in both samples
  • Writing, speaking and various forms of interaction are used in formative assessments
  • Common formative/Course like/Benchmark Assessments are part of the system
  • Performance tasks will be used
  • End of Year Assessment (Assessment of Learning) is part of the system
Our effort in standard-based unit design, Assessment for Learning, Writing to Learn and Performance Tasks seem to be very much aligned with the national consortium initiatives.  We do, however, need to strengthen the work on Common Formative Assessment and the quality of performance-based tasks.  I am interested in teachers and school leaders' insights.  Please write your comments or insights about the future trend.

CCSD admin, here is the the most updated Leader Circle


3/20/2011 7:25:00 AM This post is my reflection about the book Focus and the connection I made about our district's improvement process....

During spring break, I finished the book Focus, by Mike Schmoker.  The main message of the book is that education leaders should insist on the following main focus:

  • A sound curriculum
  • Effective instruction and
  • Authentic literacy
According to the author, we should be obsessed with these "core" foci and communicate these goals simply, clearly and persistently.  We should also recognize and celebrate success based on the results derived from common assessments.  It is especially interesting to read the comments written by two researchers that I admire:
  • Mike Schmoker takes a wide array of complex concepts and initiatives and weaves them into a framework that is not only easily understood but translates into immediate action - by Robert Marzano
  • Mike Schmoker comforts the afflicted - teachers, administrators, and students straining under the weight of multiple initiatives-and afflicts the comfortable-education reformers more enamored with flashy process than meaningful results.  This book will help new teachers focus on the essentials of curriculum and lessons, and will help veterans, weary of the perpetual hail of silver bullets, to rediscover the joy of teaching with purpose. - by Douglas Reeves
I underlined some words as they reminded me about our recent discussions on "multiple initiatives" and strains we felt as a system.  As I continue to dialogue with colleagues, we discovered a need to clarify the term "initiatives".  Initiatives are new learnings with the goal to improve practice and student results.  They are not routine job responsibilities we perform as professionals.  In the past five years, our new learning focused on:
  • K-12 Writing practice and writing to learn strategies (Authentic literacy)
  • Curriculum alignment and unit design (What we teach-standards, big ideas and clear targets)
  • Assessment for Learning (Use effective feedback to help students learn)
In a way, I found comfort that our initiatives are very much aligned with the message from the book Focus.  Thanks to all the great school and teacher leaders for their tremendous hard work.  In the meantime, I also realize that our strain is a natural course of new learning, especially if we want "meaningful results" from all classrooms and all students.  Reading this book made me realize how important it is to put our core focus in the forefront, help staff make connections and communicate progress along the way.

Another new insight I gained is from reviewing the Iowa Professional Development Model Technical Guide.  This document was updated in 2009 with new information about Iowa Core.  One common question is, "Should a district identify the curriculum alignment work of Iowa Core as their professional development goal?  The answer is, "Curriculum management work should not replace professional development that is explicitly aimed at learning new teaching strategies and skills.  A school that has a goal to study an academic content domain (literacy, math....) should continue to commit the majority of professional development time and resources to studying instructional content and pedagogy, while attending to curriculum work."  This guidance is fully aligned with the message from Focus and Elmore's theory about "Instructional Core". 

I know many leaders are reading or have read this book, Focus.  What is your insight?

CCSD Admin, here is the most recent Leadership Circle for 3/2/11 - 4/1/11.

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