From content expert to facilitator of student-centered teacher teams — coaches take on many different roles in districts. Regardless of the role, the research is clear: coaches have a powerful impact on teacher practice, and professional development greatly helps them maximize their role.
Creating a plan for the year to support teachers can be daunting. School leaders need to answer many important questions: What are specific ways to support teachers? How can they provide professional learning opportunities that go beyond ratings and checklists? What's the best way to set up an environment that is supportive and conducive to performance improvement?
Strong literacy skills are a key factor for a student's educational achievement and career. But while the debate around higher academic standards has sharpened national focus on the reading of complex, discipline-specific informational texts, educators have been grappling with how to help content-area teachers support student literacy for decades.
Traditionally, content-area focused teachers, particularly in middle or high school, have not been trained to teach students how to access rigorous texts, including which disciplinary-specific strategies to use, how to break down and think about disciplinary text, or how to grapple with difficult questions while reading closely.
To address this challenge, Wyoming's Uinta County School District #1 is engaging in long-term, comprehensive literacy-focused professional learning in social studies, science, and vocational education.
In education policy — as in life — there are few second chances. So it’s exciting to see that as a result of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), teacher evaluation seems to have gotten one of these rare opportunities to reassess and change course.
ESSA hands more policymaking power to states and districts. States will have complete control over teacher evaluations and more power over how test scores and other factors figure into accountability. In fact, state legislatures have already started to change assessment and accountability requirements.
So how should we use this second chance to design a teacher evaluation system with the right priorities that helps both students and teachers reach higher levels?
The short answer is: with a focus on growth.
Strong instructional practitioners are constantly reflecting on their practice, grounding their practice in research, and working to improve and streamline their practice to be more effective in their impact on student learning. Following this spirit of instructional innovation and learning, the University of Washington Center for Educational Leadership (CEL) has released an updated version of the 5D+ Rubric for Instructional Growth and Teacher Evaluation.
As a research institution, CEL learns from district partners and revises its work based upon that learning. While version 2 of the 5D+ Rubric is a sound and complete evaluation and growth tool, the new version 3 is clearer, more concise and easier to use for teachers and principals.
I recently visited two elementary school instructional coaches in a district where we are providing support to all K-12 coaches. Rebecca used to be a teacher at the school and is now in her first year as a full-time coach. Cheryl is in her second year as a district-based coach and spends a week a month at the school.
"I work here all the time and I know these teachers so well, I think I am overly casual sometimes," Rebecca described her main challenge. "I don’t want to be too pushy but I do want to do more coaching. How do I strike that balance?"
All teachers come to schools with specific strengths, but they need additional supports to truly meet the diverse needs of their students. Effective principals know this and focus their instructional leadership on teacher growth rather than evaluation system compliance.
Helping teachers improve their practice can take many forms but one essential skill principals need to succeed is to know how to give teachers effective feedback. It's not enough to step into a classroom once a year for 45 minutes and offer feedback like, “Great lesson!” “Your students seemed engaged.” “Keep up the great instructional work.” Today’s principals carve out time for frequent classroom observation and need to learn how to provide meaningful feedback.
Over the years, I have worked with a lot of principals and their supervisors with the goal of improving the principals' instructional leadership practice. There is one issue that comes up often: Supervisors are not specific enough in telling principals what they should do to get better.
For example, a coach, supervisor or consultant might say, "You're doing a really good job with collecting evidence of classroom instruction, but an area you might focus on is the way you give feedback to teachers." And that's all they say.
As a principal getting this feedback, I don't necessarily know what I should do next. I just know I'm not doing it right.
The work of the instructional leader is to ensure that every day, in every classroom, every student has a powerful learning experience. To do this, leaders need to know the most essential aspects of instructional leadership as described in the Center for Educational Leadership's 4 Dimensions of Instructional Leadership™. Now, CEL is introducing a companion resource to the 4D™ framework — the 4D Instructional Leadership Growth Continuum.
This new tool describes growth in leadership behavior at various levels of expertise ranging from novice to expert. It can be used for self-assessment, personal reflection, goal setting, leadership coaching, and professional learning.
You might have noticed that that there is an election going on. So far, it has been surprising, convention-defying, outrageous, at times downright mean — but above all, it has been a spectacle full of dubious declarations and light on real world compatible policy proposals.
I’m a lifelong political observer and I think I have a good grasp of the state of education in this country.
After hearing so many patently false statements on the campaign trail, I wonder if we, as citizens, are able to evaluate the credibility of claims so that we can make an informed decision at the ballot box. And, do we even care to?