Principals should be out of their offices 60-70 percent of the time, Houston ISD Superintendent Terry Grier stated at a media roundtable this morning.
Grier was discussing the district's plans to change how it evaluates teachers and principals, and to Grier's way of thinking, a principal isn't doing the job if he or she can't walk the halls and get into the classrooms.
In recent days, the district has trained 17 three-member teams who'll start sitting down with principals and start talking about the quality of teachers they have, Grier said. He repeated his theme of putting teachers in buckets, working first to keep the top-bucket teachers with the district and then looking at ways to move the bottom-bucket teachers on up.
He said he got some "push back" from union members and some principals, but for the most part everyone involved in the project was very enthused.
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Principals won't, of course, be able to make these assessments if they don't have the information, Grier said. When he was a principal, he said, "I would want to get into every teacher's classroom every day." Grier said the visits should be brief, can be done without interrupting a class and can accomplish a lot if the principal knows what to look for (his "for instance" was kids in the back row with their heads down on their desks.)
Sam Sarabia, the district's new Chief School Officer over elementary schools, sat in on the meeting. He said, for instance, that instead of just noting a teacher needs "classroom management" improvement, the team working with principals will seek to detail what is going wrong exactly. Is it that the teacher interrupts her lesson to tell students to settle down? Is it someone who has been a good teacher but is just going through a rough patch? Is it poor lesson design?
Grier also acknowledged the overuse of the public address system in some schools, calling this another interruption that they are working with HISD principals to rethink.
As superintendent, Grier said he's gotten in the habit of making unannounced visits to schools. During his strolls through the classrooms and hallways, he said, he can assess how often the principal is getting out and actually observing teachers. And they will have a conversation if he thinks it's not enough.