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Principals on Patrol: Michigan Center principals taking time to visit classrooms


By RJ Walters / For the Jackson Citizen Patriot

Students at Keicher Elementary School are getting a regular visitor to their classrooms this fall, as are other students in Michigan Center Public Schools.

Principal Johanna Pscodna is making a point to spend time in  three to four classrooms per day as part of a new initiative that has principals at all the district’s schools stopping by classrooms.

Superintendent Dave Tebo and his administrative staff developed a strategy to record trends in teachers’ instructional practices by getting principals out of their offices and into each classroom in their school once a week. Tebo also is making an effort to visit each classroom in the district once every nine-week marking period.

Principals will then fill out observation sheets that were created this summer by Tebo and the principals, scan them into a computer and send digital copies of the analysis to the teacher, as well as Tebo.

Pscodna said being in the classroom more helps build trust, which in turn creates added teaching and mentoring opportunities.

“I’m looking at how the teachers are engaging their students and making sure I’m aware of the atmosphere they create,” she said. “So if there are any resources or professional development I can give them, that’s something we work on together to make our school better.”

Tebo said the buzzwords of education right now are “accountability” and “transparency,” two concepts he’s trying to put into better practice with the initiative.

“The big thing we struggle with is: What does classroom instruction look like in all classrooms?” he said. “We know what our MEAP (Michigan Educational Assessment Plan) scores are, we know what our (Michigan Merit Exam) scores are, we know what our outcomes are at the end — but we don’t do a very good job of tracking the processes that lead to that end result.”

The district’s enrollment continues to grow — the district counted 36 more students than last fall during Wednesday’s unofficial Student Count Day — and Arnold and Keicher elementary schools met Annual Yearly Progress in 2009-10. But the junior/senior high school missed AYP for the second straight year and was given an Education Yes Report Card grade of a C.

Tebo said it is frustrating “that what everybody sees (with test scores) is a two- or three-day snapshot of the district.” But since he can’t change state standards, he said he’ll work at seeing how teaching strategies work out.

“(Things like this) allow me to change the conversation with stakeholders, with parents, with community member to, ‘Yeah, that test score wasn’t great, but that kid doesn’t test well, but look what he’s able to do, look at what they’re able to create,’ ” Tebo said.

Pscodna credited Tebo for “pushing the envelope and being willing to try anything for the benefit of students and the district,” and she said she thinks other districts will adopt similar tactics as they try to meet No Child Left Behind requirements.

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About rjwalters

I am what you think I am — a journalist. Actually when I was hired at my current job, which by the way is Sports Editor of the Hillsdale Daily News in Hillsdale, Mich., I applied for a position titled "Wordsmith", so at my best I'll call myself a writer attempting to be a wordsmith extraordinaire.

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