OXFORD — How does a school district know if its teachers are engaging their students? How does a school district know if its teachers are employing professional methods of instruction?
These and other questions are the driving force behind a pilot program underway in the Clear Creek Amana (CCA) School District.
District Superintendent Dr. Paula Vincent reported on the project at the December meeting of the board of directors.
“We are piloting a rubric (rule of conduct or procedure) this fall that is helping us be clear or clear-er, with ourselves and with our staff,” Vincent said. Among the goals of the program developed by Charlotte Danielson (http://charlottedanielson.com ) is to determine what it means to have “high quality instruction.”
“We are trying to visit multiple classrooms at least on a weekly basis,” Vincent told the board. The purposes for the visits are to observe the teachers at work, compare their behavior and performance to the rubric, and then “offer feedback based on our observations.” Vincent noted the feedback is offered as a conversation rather than as an evaluation.
Vincent said staff has been invited to go along during the walk-through process.
“And that has been extremely helpful to us (administration) to hear their feedback. She also said the teachers have found it beneficial to have the opportunity to visit other classrooms, and see what their peers are doing.
“The scheduling is a little bit crazy, but when we can do it our teachers really appreciate the chance to observe what might be going on at other sites.”
Board Vice President Betsy Momany asked if any data was being recorded at this point. Dr. Vincent replied they were mostly looking at observations.
“We haven’t really settled-in on what’s going to be the most helpful to us over time,” Vincent replied. She added in January, CCA administration will start focusing on the instructional rubric. Four rubrics make up the process: planning, professional practices, student engagement, and instructional. Vincent feels the student engagement and instructional areas “may have some value” for them.
“I’m excited about it, I have to say, this is really cool to me that you’re doing this,” Momany said. She added this may address concerns about teachers not “getting the kind of feedback they need to get better or to do their job better.” Momany complimented the process for its “here’s what we see, here’s what you could do” nature.
Board President Tim Hennes asked about the mechanics of the walk-through.
“Does the principal go into the room? Or does a team go in? How does it work?” he asked. Amana Elementary Interim Principal Ben Macumber explained generally it is an administrator, or two, plus a teacher going into the classroom.
“I think the teachers really like this,” Macumber said. “Actually being in the classroom, and then the feedback from us, it’s very, very helpful.”
“It’s also very helpful to be able to have the conversation, to be able to sit down and to use the information from other people,” North Bend Elementary Principal Brenda Parker added.
“We usually try to hit two different classrooms, however many teams we have, for a half-hour each,” Parker added. “Then we come back together as a whole team and talk about whatever it was we saw. That includes principals, that includes Dr. Vincent, that includes the teachers.” Parker noted she is receiving a lot of valuable feedback from the walk-through process. She added teachers have expressed to her their appreciation for the opportunity to observe their peers.
“They come out going ‘ooh, I have all these ideas that I want to try’ because they don’t get to see each other very often,” Parker said. Parker also emphasized the value of observations made by others with a different perspective.
Dr. Vincent added the observations could be incorporated into personal development, and stressed the point of the walk-through.
“Our focus isn’t on how we can offer each other feedback,” she said. Vincent pointed out there is typically “a little fear” anytime something new is tried.
“Is this a new form of evaluation?” Vincent asked rhetorically. “Well, it probably is, of all of us. But it’s not an evaluation for the process of judgment.”
“It’s an evaluation of where are we in the practice of our craft.”