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Study Shows Coaching Helps PDF E-mail
Tuesday, 13 July 2010 10:25

This article appeared in the May 2010 edition of Education Week and the last paragraph of the article is MOST "telling".

Coaching of Teachers Found to Boost Student Reading

Scholars examining the Literacy Collaborative approach to reading.

An innovative study of 17 schools across the country suggests that putting literacy coaches in schools can help boost students’ reading skills by as much as 32 percent over three years.

The study, which was presented here on May 1 during the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, is as notable for its methods as for its results. It’s among the first of what many scholars hope will be a new generation of studies that offer solid clues not only to what works but also when, under what conditions, and to some extent, why.

The study finds that reading gains are greatest in schools where teachers receive a larger amount of coaching. It also finds that the amount of coaching that teachers receive varies widely and is influenced by an array of factors, including relationships among staff members and how teachers envision their roles.

“This shows that this initiative can build networks and build social capacity in schools, and you can actually measure these things,” said Anthony S. Bryk, who led the four-year study with current and former Stanford University graduate students. He is currently the president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, which is located on the university’s campus in California.

The study, which was paid for by the federal Institute of Education Sciences, focused on the Literacy Collaborative, a program jointly developed by researchers at Ohio State University in Columbus and Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass., with assistance from researchers from the University of Chicago.

Value-Added Approach

Used in more than 700 schools nationwide, the program trains teachers to become literacy coaches, who then work one-on-one with their colleagues on a half-time basis to spread a set of teaching routines drawn from principles of cognitive science.

Teachers in Literacy Collaborative classrooms might, for example, help walk students through decoding processes as they read aloud or lead children in groups as they read progressively more-difficult texts.

The researchers tracked the implementation of the program in K-2 classroom in 17 schools. The total number of 8,520 students included in the study represented a mix of social and economic characteristics. For example, even though 45 percent of the students in the total sample came from low-income families, the percentages of students in each school who qualified for federally subsidized school meals—a commonly used indicator of family poverty—ranged from a low of 19 percent to a high of 86 percent.

To calculate the program’s learning impact, the researchers used value-added techniques to compare students’ progress on various reading-related tests and tasks with how much students would have been expected to gain on those measures with more-typical instruction.

They found that students’ reading skills grew 16 percent beyond predicted levels the first year, 28 percent more than expected by the second year, and 32 percent more than predicted by the third year.

But, as with many school improvement measures, the results varied widely from school to school, and even more from teacher to teacher within the same schools, said Gina Biancarosa, an assistant professor of education at the University of Oregon, in Eugene, who co-authored the study with Mr. Bryk, along with Allison C. Atteberry and Heather J. Hough, both doctoral students at Stanford University.

One explanation for that variation, the researchers learned, was coaching. Teachers and schools that experienced more coaching sessions tended to spur bigger learning gains in their students. Some teachers received no coaching over the course of the study, while others had as many as 43 sessions.

The teachers who got the most coaching were new teachers, teachers committed to the school and the reform model, and those who were found, through baseline surveys, to be more likely to initiate work-related interactions with other teachers. “So in some ways, coaching is a voluntary activity,” Ms. Atteberry said.

Faster Teacher Learning?

The schools where the most coaching took place were smaller, possibly because coaches were stretched more thinly in larger schools. They were also places where teachers felt they had a voice in what went on in their building and where professional networks among teachers were already strong. (Those network connections also grew over the course of the study, one of the papers found.)

And, likewise, teachers who had had more coaching were using the targeted teaching routines more often in their classes by the end of the study. The rate at which teachers picked up the new practices was highest for new teachers and those who came to their schools in the later years of the study, which spanned from the 2004-05 school year to 2007-08.


Becoming a Culturally Responsive Teacher PDF E-mail
Friday, 09 July 2010 10:26

Last week, I posted the Standards and Promising Practices for Schools Educating Boys of Color Tool developed by The Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color (COSEBOC).  Below is an interview from Teacher Magazine conducted with the executive director of COSEBOC, Ron Walker. Well worth the read.

Why did you and your organization decide to write this report?

If you notice how it's titled, it says "Standards for Schools Educating Boys of Color." Because of the great disparity, relative to the achievement gap, the intention of our organization is to develop means, strategies, and tools that will help contribute to eliminating the gap.

This document is meant to complement, not to replace the existing. It's meant to really fill the spaces in areas that may not be touched upon in the general approaches to teaching kids every day. It speaks to certain dimensions such as culturally relevant pedagogy, culturally relevant practice—things that bring children of color in greater touch with their culture. That requirement is so they really have the opportunity to understand their identity, their roots, and so forth. It also presents a great opportunity for the instructor and the school to have a full appreciation for the many cultures that represent the school.

How can teachers shape their curricula to better fit the needs of students of color?

You've got to know who's in front of you. It's a conscious act to get to know kids. Every kid has a story—I bet when you went to school, you had a story. And I'd bet that the teachers you either gravitated towards or got the best out of you knew something about you, which speaks to the power of relationships. One of my mentors, Ted Sizer, used to say, "You can't teach somebody you don't know." How true, how true.

Being a former teacher and former principal, I'm fully aware that today is even more challenging than ever before. But, I think that step of getting to know these kids, building a relationship is critical. And let me also suggest,—because teachers have stories, too—that they have to get to know themselves, as well.

Also as a former teacher, I know there were some things that I didn't want to do or I didn't really do well. But I had to know that about myself and I had to acknowledge that.

The willingness of teachers to be reflective professionals helps because you start to see your weaknesses or what bothers you. You're more likely to either find ways to adjust or adapt, or to share that responsibility with someone else on your team who can do it a little bit better.

Stay Passionate About Teaching! PDF E-mail
Tuesday, 06 July 2010 13:34

Here are some GREAT suggestions for how to stay passionate about teaching:

Teaching Secrets: Hang on to the Magic

Here are my favorite two suggestions of the eight offered:

Don't take it personally. This lesson is especially important for high school teachers. When we pour our time, energy, and hearts into planning lessons for students, and then they grouse and complain and aren't engaged, we get our feelings hurt. Let go of that. The students' lack of interest and snarky attitudes are not about you as a person. The flip side of this, of course, is to spend the time and energy to create the most engaging lessons possible, but we have to understand that we can't reach every kid every day.

Be in balance. Remember that your job is not your life. Your life is your life. When you leave the building, leave everything in it: the kids you can't reach, the kids who are hurting, the Eeyorish colleagues, the insane demands, all the negative stuff. Do not burden your spirit with it. After all, it will all still be there when you come back. Work out, be quiet, worship, sleep, read, laugh. You'll be suicidal by Thanksgiving if you don't.

You can read all eight of the suggestions by clicking here.

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