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Quality Instruction Builds Student Success

By focusing on quality instruction, Elmont Memorial Junior-Senior High School has helped its diverse student body make impressive gains. Administrators are required to observe teachers regularly and make suggestions for improving lessons and techniques. Included: A look at a teacher observation program.

Courtesy of The Achievement Alliance

Unlike many other schools the New York State Education Department identifies as "similar," Elmont Memorial Junior-Senior High School posts very high achievement, with very small achievement gaps among groups of students. It also holds onto its students in much higher proportions than schools with similar demographics -- its senior class is 83 percent the size of its freshman class -- and 100 percent of its seniors graduate, 97 percent of whom go on to college.

Throughout the school, the emphasis is on instruction -- instruction by teachers of students and by administrators of teachers.

Department chairs and assistant principals are responsible for observing lessons and making detailed suggestions for improvement in presentations, questioning techniques, how to engage students in the lesson, and more. A lesson that has very little to improve is often identified as needing to be taught to another teacher.

Assistant principal John Capozzi calls observation the "tool" for instructional growth. Before observing a teacher, for example, the observer is supposed to look at the previous observation to see what the recommendation for improvement was. "Next time, you want to see an improvement in that area." A common "action plan" for new teachers is to observe other teachers teach a lesson in order to learn new techniques or strategies.

And the administrators themselves are expected to improve their observation techniques -- periodically, lessons are videotaped and administrators all watch the lesson together, then write up their observations at home overnight. They then meet the next day to discuss their observations. This way they develop insight into other ways to observe as well as other things to recommend.


The Achievement Alliance

To read the full story, see It's Being Done: Elmont Memorial Junior-Senior High School

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