EVALUATING EDUCATIONAL SUCCESS
THE BREAKTHROUGH COACH: You began your relationship w/TBC over 10 years ago, when you were principal at Dwight Elementary School in the Hartford, Connecticut school district. Can you bring us up to date on your path from there to your current position as Superintendent for the Farmington Public Schools?
KATHLEEN GREIDER: In 2005, I became a Lead Principal with the Hartford district, where I was responsible for supervising and coaching 9 principals. My focus was primarily on promoting all aspects of instructional leadership and continuous improvement Pre-K through 12th grade. From 2007-2009, I was Deputy Superintendent with the Greenwich schools, supervising and coaching 15 principals on all aspects of instructional leadership and improvement. I also supervised curriculum and instruction (including special education). I then served briefly as Interim Superintendent in Greenwich. I’ve been Superintendent in Farmington since May of 2009.
TBC: How many schools are in the Farmington district?
KG: There are a total of 7 schools: 4 elementary (K-4);1 upper elementary (5-6);1 middle school (7-8), and 1 high school (9-12).
TBC: Have you involved TBC in Farmington?
KG: Absolutely! We’ve trained all principals, assistant principals and central office administrators in the TBC Management Methodology™, and when we hire new administrators, they are immediately enrolled in TBC’s 2-Day Program. TBC’s management techniques have been a constant in each of the positions I’ve held. The TBC Management Methodology™ supports a systems approach, ensuring that administrators always have a presence in classrooms monitoring improvement efforts and providing feedback.
Even in my current role, I am in classrooms at least 1 day per week. That informs my decision-making and promotes understanding of both the successes and challenges in our district. It also provides time for collaborative conversations with principals, instructional coaches and teachers.
TBC: One aspect of the success/challenge discussion nation-wide is the need to re-vamp the teacher/administrator evaluation process. What is the status of that effort in Connecticut?
KG: A major reform initiative began in Connecticut in 2011, with the development of guidelines for state-wide accountability measures. The results of those efforts are being fully implemented during the 2013-14 school year. All districts are being asked to align teacher and administrator evaluation to state guidelines, which require more frequent classroom observations and feedback to teachers. Many administrators around the state are challenged with finding enough time to meet these requirements, but that has not been a problem here in Farmington.
TBC: Why is that?
KG: In our district, thanks to our work with TBC, coaching and observation systems are already in place. We spend a significant amount of time on observing instruction, so this is not a big change for us. A strong classroom presence is a part of our administrators’ regular routine as instructional leaders, and teachers are accustomed to frequent observation and feedback. Teachers (and students) are comfortable with the frequent presence of administrators in their classrooms and throughout the school building. Also, teachers engage in collaborative inquiry and regularly visit one another’s classrooms. Furthermore, administrators work continually to develop their skills as instructional leaders, with the goal of improving classroom instruction and promoting instructional innovation.
TBC: How have you used the TBC Management Methodology™ to get to this point?
KG: TBC’s Management Methodology™, encompassing office days and coaching days, has helped me and my administrators tremendously. We’ve been able to develop a systems approach to observing instruction that also includes “instructional rounds”, whereby we go into classrooms, gather information relative to a problem of practice, analyze the evidence, and provide feedback to the school community about the next level of improvement work.
TBC: This work was recognized in a recently-published book, wasn’t it?
KG: Yes, Lee Teitel, in his book, “School-Based Instructional Rounds: Improving Teaching and Learning Across Classrooms” *, devoted a full chapter to what we’re doing in Farmington.
TBC: To what extent are students involved in this process?
KG: Underlying everything is the concept of the student as a consumer and a partner in the improvement work. Farmington is actually involving students in the observation and feedback process by including students in “instructional rounds.” In short, as suggested in TBC’s Management Methodology™, all systems are designed to engage all members of the educational community in improving instruction and student success. I anticipate that districts throughout the state will adopt similar systems to focus on instruction and to also support the implementation of the new teacher evaluation guidelines.
* Harvard Education Press, October 2013