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Greenfield schools take steps to improved education with teachers coaching teachers

Aug. 26, 2014

Greenfield — Officials say the Greenfield schools will take a major step toward better teaching when school reconvenes next week after summer vacation.

It's teachers coaching teachers, a voluntary program that was piloted last year and is now ready to go districtwide.

Research suggests that coaching is far more likely to result in actual change in the classroom than other forms of inservices, according to information presented by directors of curriculum and instruction Patrice Ball and Charity Eich.

Only five to 10 percent of teachers who hear presentations of teaching theory actually put those theories into practice, even if they see them modeled, they said.

But coaching has resulted in 80 to 90 percent of teachers putting theory into practice, they said.

"I think this is the right direction," said Greenfield School Board President Cathy Walsh after Monday's board meeting where an update on the new coaching program was presented. "The emphasis is to be on the teachers because good teachers matter and great teaching makes a difference."

Offering individualized coaching will be more effective than having teachers listen to speakers who might or might not talk about something that applies to them, Walsh said.

The instructional coaching program will be voluntary, although school officials will monitor participation.

Still, teachers seem optimistic, said School Board member Rick Moze who attended many sessions where teachers were told about the program.

"It definitely will be a positive and most of the teachers are impressed," Moze said.

Just as in the pilot program, teachers will ask for coaching for a specific concern.

"That's key," Eich said. They might want to control obstreperous students better or present material in a more interesting manner.

The coach will help the teacher come up with ideas for how to improve, Eich said. The ideas will come from the teacher, she said. Then the coach will help figure out what to look for as evidence that improvement has taken place, she said.

The coaches even will do video recordings of the teachers in action, if they want, so the teachers can see how they come across and can pinpoint how they want to improve, Eich said. Coaches also could help with that. Tablets will be used so the recording will be subtle.

The coaches won't have anything to do with teacher evaluations, they are simply there to assist, she said. Administrators do evaluations.

The pilot year racked up success stories for both veteran and new teachers, Eich said.

The district's four full-time coaches attended training at the University of Kansas. A professor from there came to Greenfield this summer to teach all 25 teachers who will be teacher-coaches or who will use coaching skills as departmental leaders.

Each of the district's four elementary schools will have a full-time coach. Teacher-coaches will be available at the middle and high schools to assist in the core subjects of math, English, social studies and science, Eich said.

These instructional coaches are seen as the most powerful force toward improvement. But the schools also will have new effectiveness coaches this fall who will help teachers formulate goals to fulfill a new statewide teacher effectiveness requirement. Effectiveness coaching will be more informal and less intense than the individual instructional coaching.

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