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MASA Leader Winter 2013

MASA Feature School Leaders Adopt Harvard Approach to Improve ‘Instructional Core’ of Education By Karen McPhee, Superintendent, Ottawa Area Intermediate School District Wor experienced it personally improvement at the classroom level.mendations that lead to instructionale’ve all seen the medical roundsprocess portrayed on television while in the hospital. While the “real Intrigued by the concept, school leaders life” version is less dramatic than the in the Ottawa Area Intermediate School televised version, the premise is the District (OAISD), including eleven same: a group of highly trained medical superintendents from traditional K-12 experts gather around a patient, review systems, the superintendent from a non- the facts, discuss their observations, and public K-12 system, the Head of School prescribe a medical “course of action.” for a K-12 charter school, and ISD staff decided to become an Instructional Applying that practice to education was Rounds network for each other. the brainchild of Dr. Richard Elmore and his team of researchers at Harvard Funded through an OAISD Research challenges, these leaders are willingly University. Their book Instructional and Development grant, the 17 leaders opening up their classrooms to their Rounds in Education offers a “network agreed to travel to Harvard for training, colleagues (and competitors) in an effort approach to improving teaching and commit one day per month for two years to improve instruction for all students. learning.” More than “walkthroughs,” to the Instructional Rounds process, Instructional Rounds allow educators to and host a visit within their schools. Overly simplified, each district identifies focus on specific “problems of practice,” a theory of action (for instance: the make observations in classrooms, debrief At a time when many educational leaders introduction of iPads will allow teachers to those observations, and make recom- are hesitant to share their successes or differentiate instruction or a differentiated 90-minute reading block will result in improved proficiency scores), and then allows the network to visit classrooms to observe a specific challenge or “problem of practice” concerning that theory. The focus is intentionally directed to what students are doing, not what teachers are doing. Remember the patient in medical rounds? Armed with an understanding of the district’s theory of action and the specific challenge, the OAISD educational leaders spend a morning visiting class- rooms and recording their observations. The afternoon is spent debriefing their observations, making predictions about student outcomes, and formulating recommendations for next steps. 16 MASA LEADER • January 2013


MASA Leader Winter 2013
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