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Newton schools begin focus walks

COVINGTON - School officials are taking a closer look into classrooms in Newton County public schools.

The school system conducted its first middle school Focus Walk in September and plans to make it an ongoing event in the future.

"Focus walks are a way of providing quality assurance that (the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) expectations are met for effective classroom teaching," said Linda Hayden, associate superintendent for curriculum, instruction and technology at the Newton County School System. "Focus walks were begun first in our county to gauge whether or not we were meeting those expectations."

She said the walks also give administrators a chance to look at specialized teacher training; all middle school administrators, school system directors and other central office personnel also attend the walks.

Adria Griffin, director of middle school curriculum for NCSS, said she wanted to start these walks after Elementary School Curriculum Director Ken Proctor told her that the elementary school administrators enjoyed them.

"This was started last year when the elementary principals decided to hold their regular monthly meetings at a different school each month," Griffin said, adding that elementary schools plan to continue these this year. "They spent the first 30 minutes of each meeting conducting Focus Walks through the classrooms as a way to learn more about the good things going on in each building."

It also allows school administrators to share ideas with each other, she said.

"They've shared ideas regarding school-wide scheduling, implementing standards-based classrooms, how technology is being used," Griffin said. "Basically, if something isn't taking place in their schools and they see it and like it at another middle school, they spend time discussing it with the host principal to learn more about how to implement it in their schools."

She said time is scheduled to allow each administrator to visit at least five classrooms during the visit.

So far this school year, the administrators have visited Veterans Memorial Middle School, in which they made about 50 classroom visits and left a feedback form about standards, instruction and classroom environment. Griffin said they visited all types of classrooms that were chosen at random.

The middle school administrators plan to visit Cousins in November, Clements in January, Indian Creek in March and Sharp Learning Center in May. Teachers may or may not know when these visits will take place.

"Since middle school administrator meetings are held every other month, there is only time to visit each school once per year," Griffin said. "We plan to continue this every year. It serves as an excellent way to learn from each other. ... All principals and assistant principals are expected to conduct Focus Walk Throughs in their own school buildings on a daily basis."

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.