Common Sense

Thomas Jefferson Feeder Pattern News - October 12, 2015

About the Title

Common Sense was a pamphlet authored by Thomas Paine in 1775-76. It was written to inspire American colonists to declare independence from British Rule at the beginning of The Revolution. This weekly, modern, online relative of that pamphlet documents the news, events, updates, and celebrations of the TJ Revolution - the educational sensation sweeping through northwest Dallas.

TJ Feeder Pattern News in Brief

Junior League & Northpark Partner to Revitalize Tom Field ES Library

Fifty Years of Giving: Junior League
NorthPark Center is pleased to partner with Junior League in support of their new member project at DISD’s Tom Field Elementary. The gift will enable JLD new members to redesign the school library into a literacy center to better facilitate “on level” learning for students. JLD’s new members will be hosting a Literacy Night for students and parents this fall. Meredith Mosley, President, Junior League explains, “Each year the Junior League trains 400 new members to be leaders in our community through hands-on volunteer work. This generous gift benefits the members working on the project and the entire community of Tom Field Elementary!”

Executive Director's Message

Team TJ,

This is an exciting week as campuses welcome very important stakeholders into the building. Fall parent conferences at all of our campuses are scheduled throughout the upcoming week. This is a great opportunity to showcase student achievements as well as opportunities for growth that have been revealed during the first 7 weeks of the school year.

In addition, numerous campuses will welcome esteemed community members as the district's annual "Principal for a Day" event takes place this Tuesday. Business and civic leaders from throughout Dallas will get a small glimpse of what its like to lead an urban school in our city by shadowing our principals for a day.

I am excited for what our parents and community members will see and hear as they visit schools throughout the TJ Feeder Pattern. There is so much to showcase and so much to be proud of.

Have a great week with students!

Timothy J. Hise

Executive Director, Thomas Jefferson Feeder Pattern

Hundreds Flock to Home Tour Benefiting Walnut Hill ES

Hundreds flock to home tour, benefits Walnut Hill Elementary School
Modern Mile Dallas is a celebration of modern architecture in one square mile. Hundreds flocked to the inaugural home tour. Walnut Hill Elementary School is the beneficiary of the tour's proceeds. The school plans to use the funds to improve the interior courtyard and front landscaping. Plans include revamping the courtyard to create a sensory butterfly garden to provide outdoor learning spaces for all the students and to be used with the school's Autism program.

Tips for Effective Parent-Teacher Conferences

District-Created Interim Assessments Available

Looking for district-made interim assessments aligned to the rigor and content of the TEKS and correlated with the district's 6-weeks blueprints? Look no further! Check these assessments out, made for ACE schools, but available to anyone. Not planning to use them for your assessment? What about administering individual questions as DOL's!? Thanks, T&L, for this great resource!

Dallas ISD Bond Community Meeting

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Bond Community Meeting

Wednesday, Oct. 14th, 6pm

9815 Brockbank Drive

Dallas, TX

Should Supervisors Get Involved While Observing Teachers?

from Marshall Memo #606

In this Kappan article, Kim Marshall explores the appropriateness of supervisors jumping in during short, informal classroom visits (versus just observing). Here’s why some administrators, especially in charter schools, might decide to interject during a lesson:

  • To contribute an idea in a discussion;
  • To draw attention to something particularly praiseworthy;
  • If the teacher is missing an opportunity to make an important point;
  • If some students seem confused and the teacher isn’t noticing;
  • If the teacher makes a consequential error (like mixing up perimeter and area);
  • If a student’s behavior is seriously disrupting instruction.

An example: A history teacher finishes explaining a point and asks, “Is everyone with me?” A student says, “Yes” and the teacher starts to move on, but the principal at the back of the room senses that many students don’t understand and asks, “Do you mind if I ask your students a couple of questions?” The teacher nods, the principal interacts with students for a couple of minutes, and when the teacher proceeds, student mastery is much improved – and she does a better job teaching the remaining classes that day.

Proponents of “real-time coaching” believe it’s one of the best ways to get coaching suggestions to stick in teachers’ minds, especially with rookies struggling with pedagogy and classroom management. A district in Arizona took the idea to another level: three administrators visited classrooms together, observing for 5-7 minutes; two of them took the teacher out into the corridor for immediate feedback; they all returned to the classroom, and the third administrator demonstrated with students how the lesson segment should have been taught.

Marshall says that when he describes these practices, educators often worry that real-time coaching will undermine teachers’ authority with students; throw teachers off their stride; distract students from curriculum content as they tune into intriguing adult interactions; change what’s being observed, resulting in a less-accurate picture of the teacher’s work (physicists call this the observer effect); and encourage teachers to game the system by nimbly showcasing what observers are looking for (e.g. checking for understanding) but not changing their practices the rest of the time. One former administrator had this reaction: “Improving adult practice is complex and requires lots of trust, time, and care. I fear advocates of real-time coaching are looking for a silver bullet, an easy way.”

Those who believe in during-class intervention disagree. Seize the moment! they say. Waiting for the post-observation conference risks losing the immediacy of the classroom context and won’t have nearly the same impact. Besides, supervisor/teacher conferences are often bogged down in compliance checklists and rubrics, and people are so busy that they often don’t get around to having them. One New York City educator said that critics of in-class interventions should be less concerned with teachers’ feelings and more concerned with students whose education is being compromised by mediocre and ineffective practices.

There are kinder and gentler ways for supervisors to intervene during a lesson – for example, whispering in the teacher’s ear while students are doing group work, texting or slipping the teacher a note, gesturing toward a student who seems confused, or giving a misbehaving student “the look.” In some schools and teacher-training programs, supervisors equip teachers with a Bluetooth earpiece and use a cell phone to talk quietly into their ear from the back of the room.

Marshall hears the arguments in favor of real-time coaching and wonders what the research will ultimately find about its effectiveness. For the present, he recommends starting with some basic questions: What is the ultimate goal of teacher supervision and evaluation? Getting effective and highly effective teaching in more classrooms more of the time. What is the best way to accomplish that? “Since even the most energetic supervisors observe teachers only about 0.1% of teaching time,” says Marshall, “we need to create intrinsic motivation in teachers to use effective practices the other 99.9% of the time.” And how can school leaders optimize day-to-day instruction and instill a continuous-improvement mindset in teachers who don’t already have it? Here are some practices, in descending order of impact:

  • Hiring and retaining teachers with an inner drive to get results, a growth mindset, and a willingness to constantly reflect;
  • Orchestrating teacher teamwork to plan units and lessons and engage in ongoing reflection on content and process;
  • Supporting teacher teams and instructional coaches as they regularly look at assessments and student work, identify best practices, and constantly improve instruction;
  • Creating a professional culture in which teachers visit each others’ classes and engage in non-defensive discussions about what’s working and what isn’t.
  • Providing helpful professional development;
  • Conducting formal evaluations.

“Why is teacher evaluation ranked last?” Marshall asks. “Because research tells us that, with a few exceptions, traditional evaluations have not played an important role in improving teaching and learning. Alas, administrators’ time is often consumed by documentation, evaluation, and compliance – and the myriad other things they need to do to keep their schools running smoothly. Real-time coaching is a well-intentioned attempt to improve this dismal record.” And because of the crushing time-management challenges school administrators face, it’s very appealing to be able to take care of coaching during an observation.

However, is it possible that real-time coaching is a false efficiency? asks Marshall. Here are some reasons to doubt its effectiveness as a supervisory tool:

  • Difficulty level – “Scoping out what’s going on in a classroom during a short visit is complex and demanding work,” he says, “and coming up with wise and helpful feedback on the spot is a high bar.” Supervisors enter with background knowledge about the teacher and the curriculum but need to watch and listen carefully, look over students’ shoulders at the instructional task, check in with one or two students (“What are you working on today?”), see what’s on the board or screen, and listen to the teacher. “Shooting from the hip during the class seriously risks getting it wrong and undermining the kind of trust that’s essential for teachers to be receptive to the input,” says Marshall.
  • Superficiality – The tendency with during-class interventions is to focus on classroom management and teachers’ tactical moves rather than deeper curriculum and pedagogical issues, he says: “During short classroom observations, visitors can only guess at what occurred before and after the visit and may not understand the broad curriculum goals or a teacher’s on-the-fly adaptations.” The best way to get that information is talking to the teacher, but that’s not possible during the lesson.
  • Power trip – Teachers might hear this implicit message: “Not only can I walk into your classroom any time, but I will interrupt your teaching when I feel like it.” To many teachers, this may come across as disrespectful – and 99 percent about administrative convenience. One educator said that if a supervisor had acted this way early in his teaching career, it would have driven him out of the profession.
  • Stress – If there’s always the possibility of being interrupted, teachers may find supervisory visits much more stressful. “Administrators are never going to be invisible during classroom visits,” says Marshall; “– students and teachers are well aware of their presence – but the dynamic is heightened if supervisors frequently jump in.”
  • Competence – “Finally,” he says, “let’s be frank, some principals, assistant principals, and department heads don’t have a good eye for instruction, lack an understanding of the essentials of good pedagogy, are opinionated about one best way to teach, and lack the skill set needed to have helpful feedback conversations with teachers. In the hands of supervisors like these, real-time coaching can do serious damage to teaching and learning, not to mention faculty morale.” Of course it’s the job of superintendents and their designees to deal with competence issues, and that’s best done by co-observing lessons with their building administrators on a regular basis, improving ineffective practices, and removing those who can’t or won’t get better.

Proponents of real-time coaching push back. These problems can be solved, they say, if administrators are competent, teachers know the process up front, there are trusting relationships, and students see all adults in the school as learners. With all this in place, they contend, on-the-spot feedback is much more powerful than traditional teacher supervision and evaluation. Marshall agrees that the old four-hour process (pre-observation conference, full-lesson observation, analysis and write-up, and post-conference) is largely a waste of time, but argues that short classroom visits followed promptly by 5-10-minute feedback chats will have significant impact. “Coaching suggestions are much more likely to be heard and acted on if the teacher has a chance to explain the context and the bigger picture in a face-to-face conversation,” he says. “These conversations may include strong redirection (I didn’t hear a single higher-order thinking question while I was in there), and supervisors can learn a great deal from how teachers react to criticisms and reflect on their work. In short, high-quality debriefs are golden opportunities to get inside teachers’ heads and strengthen instruction.” Key factors, of course, are a manageable caseload of teachers – and being liberated from the discredited traditional evaluation process. Then supervisors can focus on 2-3 short observations and conversations a day, followed by brief narrative documentation.

Some successful charter schools say real-time coaching is an important contributor to their students’ achievement. “I’m skeptical,” says Marshall. “Isn’t it possible that successful schools using real-time coaching are getting high test scores in spite of this practice, not because of it? That in their impatience to fix problems in the moment, practitioners of real-time coaching are turning teachers off, undermining trust, and missing out on post-lesson coaching that can have much greater effect? That real-time coaching is contributing to teacher attrition, one of the biggest problems of struggling high-poverty schools?”

Marshall concludes with how he would handle teacher feedback if he were still a principal:

  • Visit all classrooms at least once a month so teachers get frequent, timely feedback;
  • During visits, observe carefully, check in with students, and jot a few notes;
  • Interrupt instruction only if safety is an issue and avoid undermining teachers with students;
  • Very occasionally, communicate with a teacher via a note or whispered suggestion;
  • Have brief face-to-face conversations soon after each visit, preferably in the teacher’s classroom when students aren’t there;
  • Avoid checklists, rubrics, and evaluative scoring as part of the supervisory process;
  • With the teacher’s permission, sometimes take videos and review them with the teacher afterwards;
  • Encourage invitations to take part in lessons and make a substantive contribution, but don’t count these as observations;
  • Dovetail classroom visits with teacher teams’ work on curriculum unit planning and analysis of assessments and student work.
  • Sit with teachers to review what students have to say in anonymous twice-a-year surveys.
  • Use the teacher-evaluation rubric at three points: beginning-of-year teacher self-assessment and goal-setting; a mid-year check-in to compare the supervisor’s tentative scores with the teacher’s current self-assessment and debate disagreements; and then repeat the mid-year process at the end of the year, including consideration of the teacher’s interactions with parents and colleagues and other activities in the school.

“When it comes to affirming and improving teaching,” Marshall concludes, “there are no shortcuts. With real-time coaching, the skill threshold is too demanding, the risks of being superficial or getting it wrong too high, the probability of upsetting and alienating teachers too great, and the chances of not having deeper conversations about teaching and learning too real. The good news is that supervisors can avoid these pitfalls by taking a little more time, reflecting a little more carefully, and engaging teachers in face-to-face coaching after each observation. Fitting in these conversations is challenging, and they are sometimes stressful on both sides, but this is the core work of school leaders. Doing it well will result in more effective teaching in more classrooms more of the time.”

“Should Supervisors Intervene During Classroom Visits?” by Kim Marshall in Phi Delta Kappan, October 2015 (Vol. 97, #2, p. 8-13),

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ACP Fall Film Festival Registration is Open! Please Register!

Please encourage your teachers to attend the ACP viewings in the coming weeks. Elementary viewings will take place at Adamson HS and secondary viewings are offered at Buckner.

Registration is required!

Leadership Quote of the Week

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Week At-a-Glance

Monday, October 12
  • Campus Visits (TJH)
  • AP Focus Group @ Haskell (4-6pm)
  • HS Parent Conference Night (4:30-8pm)

Tuesday, October 13

  • Principal for a Day
  • Campus Visits (TJH)
  • PFAD Reception
  • MS Parent Conference Night (4-8pm)

Wednesday, October 14

  • Campus Visits (TJH)
  • PSAT (Grade 10)
  • Dallas ISD Bond Community Meeting @ Medrano MS (6-7:30pm)

Thursday, October 15

  • Campus Visits (TJH)
  • ES Parent Conference Night (4-8pm)

Friday, October 16

  • Secondary Fair Day
  • Boss's Day
  • Campus Visits (TJH)

On The Horizon

Oct 19 - Professional Development (Student Holiday)

Oct 21 - Districtwide Principals' Meeting & Data Meeting

Oct 23-31 - Red Ribbon Week

Oct 28 - Districtwide Assistant Principals' Meeting

Nov 4 - TJ Feeder Principals' Meeting @ Foster ES

Nov 4 - Principal Focus Group

Nov 9 - Professional Development (Student Holiday)

Nov 9 - Assistant Principal Focus Group

Nov 10 - 3rd Six Weeks Begins

Nov 10 - TEI Expert Meeting @ Foster ES

Nov 18 - Districtwide Principals' Meeting

Action Items