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April 26, 2017

How Tangipahoa Parish SD is improving Classroom Walkthroughs


Tre Gonzalez

Director of Growth at OnCourse

In Southeast Louisiana lies the 11th largest parish by population, with a sprawling school district composed of 32 schools, 1,400 teachers, and just under 20,000 students. Tangipahoa Parish School District, which overcame catastrophic flooding in August 2016, has shown incredible dedication to keeping school processes moving efficiently despite intense economic pressure.

In the face of these challenges, Tangipahoa school leaders never lost sight of their ongoing goal to develop highly-effective teaching practices. To that end, the school district adopted a new teacher evaluation software that amplifies the ability of administrators to identify strong practices and nurture areas of need. OnCourse Evaluate, the software chosen by the district, provides principals and facilitators the ability to give teachers high-quality feedback frequently throughout the year.

“Our previous provider wasn’t able to give us the level of specificity of feedback that we wanted, and OnCourse is able to do that for us.” ~ Theresa Hamilton, CAO

Tangipahoa uses this new teacher evaluation software primarily to perform customized classroom walkthroughs. During the summer of 2016, the administrative team identified the targeted observation forms that they wanted to implement through OnCourse, then jumped right into training observers and planning classroom visits. For year one, they’ve chosen an evaluation rubric by the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET).

Theresa Hamilton, the district’s Chief Academic Officer, explains that this new process is a crucial instrument in improving student achievement. “Having an app with walkthrough templates that are aligned with providing teachers high-quality feedback with their lesson planning, classroom instruction, alignment to rigorous common core standards, and assessments is a high-leverage strategy for improving outcomes for students,” she said. “Our previous provider wasn’t able to give us the level of specificity of feedback that we wanted, and OnCourse is able to do that for us.”

Ms. Hamilton points to the district-wide implementation as a requisite for uncovering skills that are in systemic need of improvement. Her aim was to “give [our district] a way to analyze and categorize specific feedback on key indicators in…observations we make in the classroom. We are able to see all that information in a report, that we can analyze then provide next steps, coaching, and professional development to follow up what we do with teachers.”

How are Schools Using the Walkthrough App?

Dina Spears, an Instructional Technology Facilitator explains that they, “have six unique forms in OnCourse Evaluate that our whole network team of district level people use to perform walkthroughs in all the schools. They use those forms to do all their walkthroughs, and it is very user friendly. It has been the best walkthrough tool we’ve used in a while. It just works!” Theresa Hamilton adds, “We wanted something that would be customizable but would also give us rich reports in order to use to inform our PD and instructional support at the school level.”

Watch a quick video on OnCourse Evaluate. 

Dina and her team worked closely with OnCourse Project Management to tailor the system to meet each school’s configuration. Now, each administrator and coach gets exactly the right amount of information. Dina explains, “It’s extremely important. We want to grow our teachers, so this is a tool where we can go in and do a 5-minute snapshot more frequently than formal evaluations and see what’s going on in the classroom.”

Evidence and insights are entered into OnCourse during the classroom visit, then administrators can inject personalized feedback after having a chance to reflect. “Principals can look back at those walkthroughs that he (and others) have done to get an idea of some areas where teachers can improve… and in the long run help the students.”

Would You Recommend this Teacher Evaluation Software?

Amy Ard, districtwide Instructional Technology Facilitator answers, “The number one reason we would recommend any and all [OnCourse] applications is the Support. Any time we have a question or an issue we have someone on the phone within minutes walking us through and helping us.”

Her answer points to a broader trend in K-12 purchasing. School districts are beginning to prioritize partnership and support almost as highly as software functionality.

“The Support is probably the best that we have dealt with, with any of the programs we have used,” says Ard.

To learn more about OnCourse Evaluate and how it can encourage a positive environment for building teacher practice, watch a short video below. Or if you’re ready to know more about what it is like to work with the OnCourse team, you can schedule a demo here!

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