Classroom walkthroughs at two suburban high schools: gathering data to improve instructional practice
With changes in federal legislation and the proposed reauthorization of The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, school administrators are held to high standards in an attempt to improve achievement for all students. They no longer just manage their schools but must now be instructional leaders charged with observing and conferencing with teachers, leading professional development aligned to data, and measuring results. Classroom walkthroughs have become a way of assisting with these tasks while supporting the mission of each school. The purpose of this research was to describe how walkthroughs operate in practice and how they were experienced by school administration, teacher leaders, and teachers at two schools within the same suburban district. Interviews illustrated that experiences were varied using the classroom walkthrough protocol. Continued professional development needed to occur with administrators and teachers. Participants shared their thoughts on implementation and usage, as well as made recommendations to schools and/or districts considering implementing classroom walkthroughs. Results also indicated a great deal of attention paid to the collection of data within the schools but there was less consensus on the analysis and use of the collected data. There was also confusion with teachers as to the vision, purpose, and goals of using classroom walkthroughs. Changes in leadership during the five years since implementation and young administrators, who were relatively new in their positions, helped shape school experiences. Recommendations to schools and/or districts considering implementation focused on support from the district office, a need for help with data collection and analysis, and a clear vision for the use of the protocol. Interviewees mentioned it would benefit districts and schools to develop a shared vocabulary for instructional engagement, alignment, and rigor, as well as a focus for professional development. They also shared the view that calibration conferences and conversations, centered on instruction, provided a focus for teaching and learning within a school and/or district.