A Special School Visit from the U.S. Department of Education

Guest post by Shawn DeRose

On Tuesday, October 27th, I had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Jean Yan, education research analyst at the U.S. Department of Education, at my school in honor of National Principals Month. Prior to her visit, I asked about her experience in education and what she hoped to see while shadowing me as the principal of Glasgow Middle School.

The day began before sunrise with the monitoring of Kiss-N-Ride (parent/student drop off) at the front of the building. Dr. Yan served as a “greeter” alongside another staff member welcoming students as they entered the school. This provided Dr. Yan an opportunity to see the diverse student population at Glasgow Middle School, which is 47 percent Hispanic, 25 percent white, 15 percent Asian, and 10 percent black/African American.

Photo courtesy of Shawn DeRose.

Photo courtesy of Shawn DeRose.

Once students were settled in their first class of the day, Dr. Yan and I met with the admin team for our weekly planning meeting. As a new principal in Virginia’s largest middle school, these weekly meetings provide me the opportunity to set our team’s priorities, discuss pressing issues, and ensure we are working together to meet the needs of our staff and students. In the middle of our meeting, the bells rang for a class transition, so the team broke to help monitor the hallways and move students toward the second class of the day.

After a brief check-in with my finance technician, we had the opportunity to visit classrooms. Knowing Dr. Yan’s past experience working with English Language Learners (ELL) and students with disabilities, I first brought her to one of our Level 1 ELL math classes. There, Dr. Yan and I observed a blended learning classroom, where students worked on self-paced computer assignments while the teacher monitored their progress and conducted small group instruction. Next, we visited a special education self-contained class, followed by a visit to a special education team-taught Math 6 class.

With standardized testing driving much of education policy, it was great to have the opportunity to share the complex realities of leading a large, diverse middle school with a representative of the U.S. Department of Education.

Shawn DeRose is principal of Glasgow Middle School in Alexandria, VA. View photos and tweets from the Department of Education’s various school shadowing visits by checking out #ShadowAPrincipal and #PrincipalsatED on Twitter.

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