Friday, April 27, 2012

“Looping” and “Rounding” at Kennedy Elementary

I would like to express my appreciation towards Kennedy Building Coordinator Allison DeGraff for assisting me with this evening’s blog. 

A couple weeks ago Kennedy Elementary Building Coordinator Allison DeGraff presented to the School District of Janesville’s Board of Education; I had the pleasure of talking with Principal DeGraaf this week about the presentation to ask her a few questions about “looping” and “rounding” at her school.
To begin, Principal DeGraaf shared that Kennedy Elementary is the newest school in the School District of Janesville. The building layout was developed and the teachers selected based on educational and teaching strategies that would ground the culture at Kennedy. One such strategy was “Looping,” a process where students stay with teachers for a two-year cycle from first to second grade and then third to fourth grade.

Now in its thirteenth year, “looping” is unique to Kennedy Elementary within the school district, and according to Principal DeGraff it plays an important role in student achievement and school culture:

Teachers build strong relationships with each student and his/her family

Seamless transition from year 1 to year 2 (1st to 2nd grade; 3rd to 4th grade) because the teacher and classmates are all familiar with each other

Increases instructional time, especially at the beginning of year 2 of the cycle

Teachers have a more in-depth knowledge of students and what skills need developed to increase student achievement; that is, teachers have more knowledge of each student’s strengths/deficits in learning

Teachers review their students’ achievement data from year 1 and move directly to developing instructional strategies for them in year 2

I asked whether there are drawbacks to “looping” such as losing the teacher-student connection when moving from 2nd to 3rd grade. “It’s not so much the teacher-student relationship, but it’s the students who grow together—almost like siblings—and miss that connection when moving to the next grade.”  
One initiative in the School District of Janesville focuses on underachieving Hispanic and Black students. “This is where ‘Diversity Rounding’ comes in at Kennedy,” said Principal DeGraaf, “as the key to learning is for each student to feel they have a relationship with teachers, they connect with the environment, and they feel secure.” Rounding, based on a technique doctors have practiced for years with their patients, helps teachers be attentive and show that they care about the issues students are facing in the classroom both personally and academically.

Kennedy Elementary uses four questions in Diversity Rounding:

How do you feel about school?

What is working well?

Who cares about you at school?

How do you learn best or what strategies help you learn?

The Studer Group has found that leaders who round on employees and employees who round on patients produce more efficient systems that yield a maximum return on investment. Rounding yields similar positive results in school environments. That is, rounding for outcomes on teachers provides school leaders with a way to establish genuine relationships with them; similarly rounding for outcomes on students provide teachers with a way to establish genuine relationships with their students. At Kennedy, rounding allows the teachers to gain insight on what strategies are working for students, which teachers and staff deserve to be recognized, and what strategies or methods might be options to help students learn in the best way possible.

Building Coordinator DeGraaf shared 2012 math and reading scores just released for Kennedy’s Hispanic and Black students:

                               Percent Proficient in WKCE Reading and Math by Grade
Third Grade
Fourth Grade
Fifth Grade

The main purpose of rounding for outcomes on students is to develop relationships with them. When teachers round on their students, they gain an opportunity to learn what is occurring in their students’ lives.

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