Each quarter this newsletter will highlight a success story of one district or school in their implementation of coaching. A variety of regions, district sizes, types of coaching and grade levels will be showcased. The articles may reference specific programs and models, but this does not denote an endorsement from myself or the state. Rather, by sharing the many methods of coaching, your school or district may be better informed on what works best for you.
This summer I had the opportunity to speak with Keri Heusdens, Professional Learning Teacher Consultant and Jennifer Navarro, Coordinator of Professional Learning, both part of Kenosha’s Professional Learning Team. They shared the history of how the district worked to develop a robust coaching system. The Kenosha Unified School District may be considered early prescribers to the work around educational coaching. Nearly seven years ago, the district created positions for coaching and began to build capacity by focusing on the work of Jim Knight. In the beginning, teachers were reluctant to engage in coaching cycles. At the time, many teachers felt that working with an instructional coach meant they had some kind of deficit, an area that needed “fixing.” Then a group of coaches attended a conference with Diane Sweeney and her Student-Centered coaching model. The coaches believed this model would work with their teachers so they presented the new model to the Professional Learning Coordinator. After researching and working with Diane Sweeney the district created a Student Centered Coaching Implementation Plan.
KUSD will be entering into their fourth year of coaching following this model, and each year the team of about 40 coaches (an average of one per building) have focused on a different program goal in order to continually grow the program. Much of the first year was about building the capacity of coaches, as well as administrators and other staff, about moving from teacher-centric coaching to student-centered. A second goal for coaches was to complete a targeted number of coaching cycles that year. The team realized that, at times, coaches would need to wear other hats, but establishing a student-centered goal would hold both coaches and leaders accountable to the coaching role.
After year one, the district further refined the program’s planning process . A Student Centered Coaching Design team was formed to help develop the program and establish a goal for year two. The design team, composed of the professional learning coordinator, the district instructional coach teacher consultant and eight coaches representing PK-12 guides the work of the program throughout the year. Also, the team maintains an open chair for other coaches to engage in the meetings so the process remains collaborative and transparent. Membership may shift from year to year so that each coach may have an opportunity to engage in this leadership opportunity.
The design team built onto the work from the first year by taking time to better define what could be considered an actual coaching cycle. In the third year, coaches focused on fidelity to the four defining elements(Student-Centered Goal, Collaborative Planning, Classroom Partnership & Data Analysis) of the coaching cycle. This upcoming year the design team anticipates developing a goal around the use of formative assessment.
Annually, as part of the program’s communication plan and evaluation system, the professional learning coordinator and instructional coach teacher consultant meets with each building-level principal and instructional coach twice during the year in order to maximize the coaching impact at each building. The first meeting conducted during quarter ones focuses on sharing the program’s action plan including the program’s goals along with discussing coaching expectations at the building. At the end of each school year a similar meeting is conducted in order to review building coaching data to determine strengths and areas of growth for coaching at the building.
Besides using student data, which is key to student-centered coaching, the design team collects other sources of data in order to inform their own professional learning. This information is used in order to plan monthly instructional coach meetings. Instructional coaches meet monthly for three hours at the district level. The first hour centers around topics outlined in the annual program work plan, a document which states the program’s goal and how impact will be measured. During the remaining two hours, coaches partake in inquiry groups. The topics are self-selected and give coaches an opportunity to work with colleagues who have similar interests. Topics range from data analysis with student portfolios, providing strengths-based feedback, co-teaching and collaborative planning. Over six months they engage in research and learning. When asked how the process was working, Jennifer Navaro, the professional learning coordinator stated, “This system of professional learning inquiry allows coaches to engage in professional reflection and learning that impacts their roles within their own buildings while increasing the collective knowledge and skills of the group. The key to this job-embedded professional learning is the implementation of new learning; instead of just learning new content, instructional coaches are engaging in collaborative research, applying new knowledge within their practice, gathering feedback and data about the implementation, and then debriefing the implementation data with their inquiry group.”
As with any system, the design team continues to engage in cycles of planning, learning, implementing and assessing (Plan, Do, Study, Act). This process helps to identify the program’s successes and areas of growth that need to be addressed. An area of celebration for Kenosha Unified School District is the shifting of the coaching culture. In the beginning staff eyed the coaching model with skepticism; now, educators are enrolling in the coaching partnership and seeking multiple opportunities to engage in coaching cycles. With the motto of “coaching is for all,” Kenosha strives towards their KUSD Instructional Coaching Program vision which is to ensure that every student reaches high learning expectations by having an effective teacher for every class, every day and that the teachers have the support they need to continue growing professionally through coaching.