The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

Where is Last Year’s Coaching Program Now?

In searching  for topics to write about at this quiet time for public education I forgot a few topics I had put aside last spring because they were more than I could handle at that time. But because I think there is value in knowing some of what was happening then–and where it stands in many school districts now– I write today about the coaching of teachers, which became popular last year for the purpose of helping teachers improve their teaching and comply with recent changes in school curricula.

Early last spring 60 studies of the effectiveness of having coaches observe and advise in school classrooms determined that positive results were minimal. What they showed was that large programs with coaches who had little training and no experience produced poor results.

As I read through the reports on the various types and sizes of programs, I felt that the data I looked at did not get to the heart of the problems or ways to overcome them.Why were many coaches in large programs not as well trained or dedicated as the ones in smaller programs? In addition, why were many teachers who recently received coaching to help them improve their teaching not pleased by the help they received, and why did they not feel a personal attachment to their coaches who had devoted so much time and effort in teaching them?

I chose to describe this particular article because I saw some problems locked into the situations but not explained. Why were so many coaches being appointed in the first place? Were they given special training for this job? If so, why weren’t more coaches successful? And  why did so many new teachers not appreciate the efforts of their coaches or feel close to them?

The answers to those questions were not apparent in any of the studies I have looked at. One significant reason not mentioned in most studies is that the majority of the new “coaches” were former teachers who resigned their jobs because they feared the changes that were happening in all schools at that time. They also felt dishonored by the new  requirements which seemed appropriate only for beginning teachers. Although many  resigned from their jobs rather than endure the new situations, others stayed on as coaches because they needed the salaries they were still entitled to and the time that would carry them to point where they were able to retire with a pension.

Another reality was that many of the current schools needed experienced teachers to help the newly hired people who were taking the jobs from them. Young teachers were not familiar with many of the recent changes in teaching methods and the importance of students earning decent yearly test scores.

Many long career teachers sensed that the failure of new programs to solve school problems was at hand. School districts were feeling the heat of many problems all at once: large student absenteeism, inexperienced new teachers, stagnant test scores, high expectations for test scores, and increasing numbers of emotional problems among students. Neither today’s school leaders or their teachers have the resources to handle so many of them.

What I see in this huge project begun in the previous school year is an unnamed number of schools in unnamed states. It seems to me that all those questions should be answered for the people involved and the rest of us who will be paying the bills.



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