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Posted December 8, 2017

Deep Diving

In her weekly message, Supt. Reedy looks at ways the district is helping schools to improve including instructional rounds.

Emerson Principal Antonio Medina observes a class at Hawthorne during instructional rounds.

It breaks my heart when a school is identified as failing. It’s no different than calling a child a failure, something a good educator would never do. Poor grades, even on a consistent basis, don’t define a student, nor do they define a school. Instead, they are indicators of problems that need to be identified and addressed.

Long before the state Public Education Department came out with its list of schools in need of rigorous intervention, we were doing just that – identifying and addressing problems at our struggling schools, everything from attendance and student mobility to language barriers and poverty to mentoring and training.

One way we’ve been doing this is through instructional rounds. Similar to hospital rounds made by doctors, instructional rounds involve colleagues – in this case, associate superintendents and neighboring principals – making regular visits to provide feedback based on school-developed problems of practice.

At Hawthorne Elementary School, for example, the staff identified guided reading as a problem of practice, so principals from other Zone 1 schools have visited classrooms during rounds to see how this reading strategy is being implemented. These experienced professionals chat with students, look at samples of work on the walls and instructions on the board, observe large and small group interactions, peer over shoulders to check student work, listen in on discussions, jot down notes.

The school leaders then regroup and debrief, providing feedback to the Hawthorne administrative team. They celebrate “wows,” address “wonders,” and come up with next steps for improvement.

Principal Penelope Buschardt shares the feedback with her staff, which meets weekly to analyze student performance and data and to work on teacher action plans that chart standards that aren’t being mastered and outline strategies for helping struggling students.

It’s a deep dive into instruction, a chance to identify problems of learning and address them.  

Instructional rounds are among the tools we are using to make our schools more successful. The four geographic Learning Zones also are providing support. Over the past few weeks you’ve heard from LZ4 and LZ3 principals about how this more personalized, pre-K to graduation approach to education is helping schools improve. Today, we hear from Principal Shawn Morris of Van Buren Middle School, which is in LZ1.

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