CPS administration to investigate classroom function


BE OUR GUEST: SEveral Swedish teachers tour RBHS Oct. 25 and sit in a conference room learning about the school. RBHS will see visitors again from administration today, who will look at how classes function and what could be improved in the classroom. Photo by Cassidy Viox

Ji-Ho Lee

Packed with students, teachers, administrators and visitors, RBHS is no stranger to crowded hallways. This morning, during first period, however, a couple new faces will be joining the school.
Accompanied by RBHS principal Dr. Jennifer Rukstad, Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education Dr. Kevin Brown and the district’s Director of Data Services Dr. David Wilson will be roaming the school in the midst of a newly implemented Deep Dive investigation. Rukstad also explained that an assistant principal and two teachers would be making observations with the group.
“A Deep Dive is simply what the name ‘deep dives’ implies,” Dr. Brown said. “We dive deep into the school’s data, which covers referrals, attendance, ACT scores, EOC scores. These various data sets let us know how we are doing as a district and as individual schools.”
Dr. Brown explained that this type of in-depth investigation, commonly referred to as “progress monitoring,” is fairly common around the country in different institutions. Different organizations and districts may have unique ways of executing these inspections, and Columbia Public Schools (CPS) has its own formula.  
“During the Deep Dives, we ask questions, collaborate, problem solve, and we agree upon solutions,” Dr. Brown said. “This process is a very friendly process designed to provide administrators feedback, but more importantly it allows for coaching.”
Along with Dr. Brown, Dr. Rukstad and Dr. Wilson, two teachers and an assistant principal will join the investigation. Dr. Rukstad said the six will split into groups of three and observe a classroom for around 10 minutes.
“The idea is to get a very broad snapshot . . . of data and classroom observations in a short period of time to give a sense of how things are going with teaching and learning in the school at that time,” Dr. Rukstad said. “We are going to see how we are doing by school subgroup, and find out if things in a classroom are going well, and [if] we are seeing indicators of the use of learning targets and high rigor strategies.”
Freshman Chase Hulett said these sit-ins can be valuable for both students and teachers, and fulfill the goals outlined by Dr. Rukstad.
“Some teachers don’t change anything, but other teachers teach a bit differently, and it seems like they’ll explain stuff in greater detail,” Hulett said. “The administrators could see if the students are doing a good job or if they are focused on what’s being taught.”
While the presence of administrators may be intimidating, Dr. Brown said the goal of the Deep Dive is to improve the district.
“Deep Dives are not designed to be punitive or evaluative,” Dr. Brown said. “However, [Deep Dives] are designed to improve the culture and climate of the school and to make sure that each school has students at the core of all decisions and practices. Why? Our job as a district is to provide students with the very best education CPS has to offer.”