‘Instructional rounds’ approach flips classroom evaluations

From staff and wire reports
June 23rd, 2011

“Generally, when you are working with teachers to improve instruction, you’re focused on the teacher. ... This approach is really just the opposite,” said Keyes Union School District Superintendent Karen Poppen.

As school leaders work to improve classroom teaching, a new way of evaluating instruction—one that shifts the focus from the teacher to the students—is emerging.

Called “instructional rounds,” the practice is based on the way doctors make their rounds in a teaching hospital, using facts rather than value judgments to determine the effectiveness of instruction.

Because it looks at how well kids are learning rather than how well the teacher is teaching, and because it includes fellow teachers on the evaluation team, this collaborative approach to classroom evaluation is less likely to meet with objections from educators, its advocates say.

Among the adopters of instructional rounds are the superintendents of five small, rural school districts in the California’s Central Valley. Those districts are the Keyes Union School District (KUSD), Livingston Union School District (LUSD), Corning Union Elementary School District, Corcoran Joint Unified School District, and Pleasant View School District.

“Generally, when you are working with teachers to improve instruction, you’re focused on the teacher—[and] you go into classrooms to observe what the teacher does. This approach is really just the opposite,” said KUSD Superintendent Karen Poppen. “We’re really looking at the task the students are asked to do. What’s on the student’s desk is really the focus.”

For more news about improving instruction:

Report: U.S. should model education system after other countries

What the U.S. can learn about improving teacher effectiveness

Should student test scores be used to evaluate teachers?

The superintendents banded together with two county offices of education in November, found a grant for training in December, and recently presented their progress to the California Department of Education.

Grant money sent the five superintendents plus seven others to Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., in December to study the instructional rounds model.