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A couple weeks ago Kennedy Elementary principal Allison DeGraaf 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 two items highlighted in it, “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 DeGraaf 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. Looping also supports student achievement because it allows teachers to understand the scope and sequence of curriculum across two grade levels

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

Student achievement scores are excellent and Kennedy was recognized as a Blue Ribbon Award winning school. 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.” Of course, as the students enter the 3rd and 4th grade two-year loop they develop new relationships with students, staff, and teachers. Principal DeGraaf notes that “As these new relationships grow strong they enhance a culture of high expectations and increased student achievement.”

The second item highlighted in her presentation to the Board was “rounding.” Principal DeGraaf connected the importance of “rounding” to the School District of Janesville’s initiative that focuses on underachieving Hispanic and Black students. Under the direction of Superintendent Dr. Karen Schulte and Director of At-Risk and Multicultural Education Dr. Yolanda Cargile the school district has seen increased student achievement for this population of students. Kennedy Elementary uses specific skills and strategies that support student achievement of 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?

Studer Group (2008) 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 into what strategies are working for students, which teachers and staff deserve recognition, and what strategies or methods might be options to help students learn in the best way possible.

Principal 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

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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Special thanks to Principal Allison DeGraaf of Kennedy Elementary School for providing content for and assisting with this post.

Kennedy Elementary School in the School District of Janesville (SDJ), Wisconsin, is a Blue Ribbon Award Winning School. In the last 30 years approximately 6,500 schools have earned this award. The Kennedy Rockets are committed to Respect, Opportunity, Character, Knowledge, Expectations, Teamwork, and Success. Check out Kennedy’s website here.

Studer, Q. 2008. Results that Last: Hardwiring Behaviors that Will Take Your Company to the Top. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Our mission at Studer Education is to provide students with a great place to learn, teachers with a great place to teach, and parents with confidence that their children are getting a great education. To do this we teach teachers and leaders how to get the best student learning results and create results-oriented school cultures. Visit us online at http://studereducation.com to learn more about Studer Education Teacher Development Institutes (TDIs), Leader Development Institutes (LDIs), and Evidence-Based Leadership.