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Administrators to observe classes

COVINGTON -- Starting next week, Newton County administrators will get an even closer look into classrooms.

Newton County School System Superintendent Gary Mathews said that he asked administrators from the central office staff to begin observing classrooms for at least 30 minutes of instruction, and preferably an entire lesson, every two-week period unless otherwise noted.

Mathews said in his monthly end-of-month notes e-mail to staff this week that these observations, called Lesson Looks, will provide more administrator presence and informal observations for teachers.

"I believe it is important for central office administrators, who are in decision-making roles especially, to see NCSS classrooms as they are on any normal, regular school day," Mathews said on Thursday. "Whether you are the business manager or the associate superintendent for curriculum, one is able to discern whether a classroom provides a good climate for instruction, an orderly or logical sequence of events, the extent to which students are truly engaged in the learning, etc. Over time, and as we learn more together as an organization, observers will certainly be able to look for the presence of research-based instructional strategies, building background knowledge and technology integration."

He said the observations will further acquaint central administrative officers with the main work of the organization -- teaching for learning for all students -- to put them in a better position when it comes to decision making. They also are meant to diminish any buffer that may exist between the schools and the central office.

"This is not a formal teacher evaluation. We already have a process for that," Mathews said.

In Newton County, school-based administrators use the Georgia Teacher Evaluation Program/Instrument to conduct their formal evaluations. This state instrument covers such areas as providing instruction, assessing and encouraging student progress and managing the learning environment.

The Lesson Looks will be unannounced and include visits from Mathews; Deputy Superintendent for Operations Dennis Carpenter; Dr. Linda Hayden, associate superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction & Technology; Dr. Ken Proctor, director of Elementary Education; Samantha Fuhrey, director of Secondary Education; Dr. Sheila Thomas, director of Federal Programs; Dr. Sarah West, director of Special Education, and special education coordinators; James Woodard, director of Career, Technology and Agricultural Education; Nyree Sanders, director of Human Resources; and several others. The administrators will observe classrooms one at a time.

Mathews said that each administrator participating in these Lesson Looks will provide oral, informal feedback only if the teacher asks for it.

"The administrator is certainly free to share whatever their observations may be, especially as they may relate to classroom climate, a logical sequence of events and student engagement in learning," Mathews said.