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Letter from the Superintendent-10.31.16

posted Oct 31, 2016, 11:43 AM by Kari Osborne

October 31, 2016

Dear Princeton Community,

Today I am going to share my plan for classroom visits.  First, you need to know why I am visiting classrooms.  Teaching and learning is the core business of schools.  It is why we are in existence.  Everything that happens in our district should support the learning that happens in the classroom.  This includes my work.

The first goal in our Strategic Plan is about personalized instruction.  This involves identifying clear and measurable goals for student performance.  We call these Learning Goals in our district.  Everyday, teachers articulate the learning goals for student learning.  Our teachers have spent significant time and energy to develop learning progressions to reach the learning goals.  They teach this progression to students, which helps our students to focus their learning.  Teachers monitor students’ learning by checking in with them as they are learning.

Last year I pledged to do 200 classroom visits, and I was able to complete these.  I was so inspired by this time in the classrooms, watching our fabulous teachers in their element!  This is how my visits went:

I visited classrooms randomly for 15 minutes per classroom--no prior notice.  I collected evidence of whether I saw learning goals, learning progressions, monitoring of these, and students using them.  If I saw any of these, I simply recorded Yes.  If I didn’t, I recorded No.  As a district, in 66% of my visits, I saw evidence of any of the above instructional practices.  

I was very pleased with the results and the work of teachers in general.  Incorporating the expected instructional practices takes intentional practice and effort on the part of teachers.  As a superintendent, delivery of quality teaching, which promotes consistent student learning, is the challenge.  Our performance as a system, looking and acting upon our strengths and needs, is one of my responsibilities.  As I have written before, teaching and learning is rocket science.  It takes the science of learning and the art of teaching, together, to help students to learn and remember what they have learned.  

My plan for classroom visits for this year?  I will again visit 200 classrooms, looking for any of the above instructional strategies.  In addition, I will be looking for these high impact strategies from our teaching map:

  • Identifying Critical Content

  • Previewing New Content

  • Organizing Students to Interact with Content

  • Helping Students Process Content

  • Helping Students Elaborate on Content

  • Helping Students Record and Represent Knowledge

  • Managing Response Rates with Question Sequence Techniques

  • Reviewing Content

  • Helping Students Practice Skills, Strategies, and Processes

  • Helping Students Examine Similarities and Differences

  • Helping Students Examine Their Reasoning

  • Helping Students Revise Knowledge

  • Helping Students Engage in Cognitively Complex Tasks

I am looking forward to the visits again this year.  I love to watch the adults, as well as the students, as we all learn to be even better than the year before!  Please take a moment to thank our teachers for being role models of lifelong learning.


Julia Espe, Superintendent of Princeton Public Schools