It’s not uncommon to see small groups of parents or teachers popping in and out of classrooms during the day at Anaheim Union High School District (AUHSD) schools. Classroom guests visit each classroom for just a few minutes and then gather in small groups to discuss what they observed.
Unlike many classroom observations, the focus here isn’t on the teachers, but rather on the students. Even with just brief glimpses into working classrooms, parents and fellow educators can reflect on what students are doing. Teachers can take effective techniques back into their own classrooms, and parents can take home tools and knowledge to reinforce student learning.
Over the past 15 years, AUHSD has implemented these classroom visits as part of a comprehensive parent engagement program. In May 2016, the independent research firm Hanover Research analyzed the effectiveness of the AUHSD’s program. Hanover found that more than 90% of parent participants agreed that the program increased their involvement in their child’s education, among other positive outcomes. And a majority of teachers surveyed believed the learning walks positively impacted their classroom instruction and enhanced teacher collaboration.
In Fall 2017, the Attallah College of Educational Studies’ inaugural ePrize (Education Prize) was awarded to AUHSD, Santa Ana Unified School District (SAUSD), and El Sol Science and Arts Academy, an independent charter school in Santa Ana. Their award-winning ePrize project is a parent engagement initiative (PEI). The mixed-team partnership will transfer AUHSD’s program to new school settings in Orange County, across districts and grade levels and into a local public charter school.
ePrize and PEI Project Overview
The Attallah College ePrize is the result of a collaboration with the Pamela and Andrew Horowitz Family and a part of the Attallah College’s Orange County Excellent Public Schools (OCEPS) Initiative. The ePrize seeks to foster collaboration between Orange County district and charter public schools around innovation in order to improve educational outcomes for underserved students.
“The idea behind the ePrize and OCEPS is to ensure that every student receives the best education possible, regardless of the setting,” said Attallah College’s Dean Margaret Grogan.
AUHSD’s parent engagement program has two components: Teacher Reflective Learning Walks (TRLWs) and Parent Learning Walks (PLWs). The PEI project partners are working to share, implement, and customize AUHSD’s model for TRLWs and PLWs at two new elementary schools: El Sol and Manuel Esqueda K-8 School, both in Santa Ana.
Ultimately, funded by a $100,000 per year grant for three years, the ePrize project will strive to improve student achievement by strengthening collaboration among educators, across districts and grade levels, and expanding the breadth and depth of parent engagement.
It’s no small feat for AUHSD, SAUSD, and El Sol to work together to implement the comprehensive parent engagement programs. AUHSD serves 7th through 12th grades, SAUSD serves pre-kindergarten (PK) through 12th grades, and El Sol is a single public charter school that serves PK through 8th grades.
Monique Daviss, Executive Director of El Sol Academy of Arts and Science, explained why they project has been a success: “There are things about us that are very different but together we serve 100,000 students, many of whom have similar challenges. We all have the same goal of providing an excellent education to students in Orange County. We use that as the base for our relationship.”
Beginning last spring, SAUSD and El Sol have worked extensively with AUHSD to implement the TRLWs and PLWs at their respective school sites. Visitors from SAUSD, El Sol, and Attallah College — educators and administrators — began training with AUHSD’s administrators. They also joined both teacher and parent learning walks to see the AUHSD model in practice.
Teacher Reflective Learning Walks
The challenge then is to transfer and customize that model when implementing the program at each school site. To encourage broad participation, AUHSD recommended an incremental, teacher-led rollout. Each site’s teachers lead and facilitate the walks for their peers. As teachers share with one another their positive experiences with the TRLWs, more teachers are interested in joining. Later on, these teachers then lead and facilitate PLWs.
With AUHSD staff assistance, this fall both El Sol and Esqueda began running their own TRLWs.
Mariano Reyes, Esqueda’s special education teacher for 7th and 8th grade students, served as the facilitator for the most recent TRLW at Esqueda. In a brief introduction before the walk, he explained the TRLW allows teachers to reflect on their instruction and think about how they can refine their skills, with a focus on the students.
“We are observing how the students are being engaged in the classroom, what they are doing, how they are doing it, how they are learning,” he said.
Susie Lopéz-Guerra, the Director of Community Relations at Santa Ana Unified School District, joined Esqueda’s TRLW that morning.
“I’ve had the opportunity to walk at different sites, different grade levels, and different levels of schools at AUHSD,” she said. “I was really impressed with the group doing their learning walk at Esqueda today and seeing how reflective they were. They are well established in understanding the purpose of the learning walk and the impact it has on teaching.”
Parent Learning Walks
Now that they’ve been able to implement school-site TRLWs, both El Sol and Esqueda are set to run their first PLWs in early November 2018.
“The really exciting result of the Attallah ePrize project is seeing SAUSD, AUHSD, and El Sol partner and transfer best practices across districts and across learning environments. It’s been wonderful to see their progress and dedication to improving student outcomes. Their dedication to building such a collaborative partnership can only strengthen our communities,” said Attallah’s Dean Grogan.
Display Image at Top: AUHSD’s Curriculum Specialists Diana Fujimoto and Reuben Patino training El Sol teachers in spring 2018.