Superintendent Karen Couch, right, observes small group instruction at H.H. Garnet Elementary School during a Dec. 14 Learning Walk.
ROCK HALL — Superintendent Karen Couch and members of the Kent County Public Schools administrative team spent time last month touring each school, visiting classrooms and meeting with principals and staff.
Dubbed “Learning Walks,” the tours provided administrators with a firsthand view of what is happening in classrooms throughout Kent County Public Schools.
“The Learning Walks were also focused on reviewing the challenges and successes at each school, the foundation for system-wide academic improvement,” Dr. Couch said.
The tour schedule started Dec. 1 at Galena Elementary School. Over the following weeks leading up to the winter break, the administrative team visited Rock Hall Elementary School, Kent County Middle School, H.H. Garnet Elementary School and Kent County High School.
Each day featured team meetings that saw administrators hearing from the school principal before pairing up and going out on their Learning Walks.
“These observations and walkthroughs are an important process,” Dr. Couch said. “They allow us to capture best practices that are happening in our schools and provide opportunities to suggest improving instruction and to identify job-embedded professional development.”
Gina Jachimowicz, director of teaching and learning for Kent County Public Schools, served as facilitator of the Learning Walks.
Jachimowicz spoke about the purposes the Learning Walks served for the schools and for the broader Kent County community.
The Learning Walks provided an opportunity to identify great practices incorporated into classroom lessons that could be shared throughout the schools.
Kent County Public Schools provides continuous support and training opportunities for its educators through Professional Development Days, those days when students stay home and teachers come to school to build their classroom skills through programs and seminars.
The Learning Walks also were a chance for administrators to identify professional development needs that they can then incorporate into such training sessions.
Jachimowicz said the school system aims to be flexible. If administrators see practices that are not working, they are willing to make the necessary shift.
The Learning Walks also are part of Kent County Public Schools’ commitment to the public and to accountability.
As Jachimowicz put it, “This is a chance for us to see what’s working well.”
Gillian Spero was named principal of Rock Hall Elementary School in the fall. Before that, she was based in the Kent County Public Schools Central Office.
So she has now been a part of these observations on both sides.
“I believe the Learning Walks are truly in the spirit of highlighting the success of teachers, students and schools,” Spero said. “They help provide an objective outlook into our practice as teachers.“
In the morning meetings at the schools, the principals were joined by other members of the school-level administrative team for discussions.
They would review school data and highlights, from the Sound Partners tutoring program for reading in elementary schools to how the class schedule at the middle school is organized around the optimal times of day for age-level learning.
Then the administrators broke into pairs and proceeded out into the school for their Learning Walks. They completed anywhere from four to seven classrooms visits depending on the school and the day’s schedule.
Some examples included early morning classroom warmups for pre-kindergarten students at Rock Hall Elementary School, students learning percentages in a math class at Kent County Middle School and Kent County High School students reviewing the stages of development in AP psychology. The Learning Walks also included specials like art and music classes.
Through the use of documents shared among the administration online, team members offered their observations and thoughts about the classrooms they visited that day on their Learning Walk.
Those observations were then used to prepare a letter to school staff.
“These Learning Walks offer opportunities to celebrate the hard work and success in our classrooms and the feedback allows us to reflect and make meaningful adjustments and enhancements,” Spero said.
Superintendent Karen Couch observes a math activity at Rock Hall Elementary School during a Learning Walk for administrators Dec. 8.