Guest Post: Three People, One Year, and 1000 Observations

Abby Arriaga is the Assistant Principal of Pioneer Charter School in Denver, CO. In this post, she describes how their team of three conducts nearly 1000 observations in a school year! PCS-Web-Logo-007Pioneer Charter School is the second oldest charter school in Denver, Colorado. We opened our doors in 1997 and have done our best to provide education in a hard-to-serve neighborhood. Our school is made up of 99% minority students and 95% free and reduced lunch. Pioneer Charter School is fully committed to helping students master core academic disciplines and develop a strong moral character in preparation for high school, college and life. We have a dedicated staff of 23 classroom and elective teachers who understand that in order to provide our students with the best education possible, we ourselves must be willing to grow our teaching craft and take feedback with an open mind.

Our instructional team consists of our Principal, Assistant Principal (myself) and a Director of Curriculum and Instruction. It is our goal at Pioneer to observe and provide feedback for all 23 teachers at least once a week. The DCI and I split our coaching load with me primarily coaching pre-kindergarten through third grade and her coaching fourth grade through eighth grade. We rotate electives teachers based on the electives our grade levels are in that quarter. The principal observes all teachers at least twice a month. Last year we observed each teacher at least 50 times in the year. That is over one-thousand observations!

With this many observations occurring, it can become overwhelming for teachers if not managed in an efficient way. Whetstone has provided us with a way to manage our observations as to not overwhelm our teachers by assigning too many action steps or points of improvement by different observers. Whetstone allows us to house our observations in one central area where all three of us can see the teacher’s previous action step, as well as the notes that were taken during that observation.We then use those action steps and notes to guide our feedback during the next observation regardless of the instructional leader performing the observation. It also helps our principal support our efforts by holding teachers accountable to the action steps set by coaches earlier in the year.

Whetstone has not only helped eliminate the frustration of a lot of different, unorganized ways of providing feedback to teachers, but it has also allowed us, as instructional leaders, to provide our teachers with consistent feedback and growth.