3. Offer personalized coaching sessions from designated lead and mentor teachers.
Lead teachers are full-time release. Their primary responsibilities including coaching and running PD meetings. Mentor teachers have a classroom of their own, and also do some coaching. These two roles work together to run PLC meetings and PD sessions.

Our coaches begin the year by coaching every teacher regularly, then differentiating their efforts based on teacher need. Coaching takes a variety of forms, including:

  • Discussing PD strategies that we’ve been working on
  • Providing instruction on specific teaching practices
  • Examining challenges and seeking to find their causes
  • Offering feedback on classroom observations
  • Co-teaching or model teaching opportunities

Our coaching system is based on documenting results so that we can account for effectiveness.

Creating culture and systems
For districts looking to implement a similar program to ours, I recommend starting with culture, making sure that everyone knows the mission is improving student learning. Research is clear that schools with a negative culture will struggle with implementing coaching and other collaborative approaches to improvement. Matthew A. Kraft, assistant professor of education and economics at Brown University, sums it up well: “Teachers do not work in a vacuum; their school’s climate can either enhance or undermine their ability to succeed with students.” If a school culture is based on doing whatever it takes to meet the students’ needs, then teachers will view coaching and other initiatives as another tool to help do what is best for students.

Once a positive school culture is in place, ensure that your district has a systems approach to identifying and implementing best practices. Systems are essential for several reasons.

3 ways small districts can go big on #PD

1) Systems lead to consistency, and consistency leads to improvement in an area of focus.

2) Systems reduce variability, which can be a school or district killer. If nine or 10 schools in a district are all acting differently, then identifying challenges or best practices becomes very difficult.

3) A systems approach allows you to say that a problem might be due to a necessary change in PD, or coaching, or assessments, or data-analysis approach.

With a student-centric culture supported by a systems approach to PD across your district, you can bring an initiative to your teachers knowing that everyone understands the mission and trusts the process for getting there.

About the Author:

Dr. Danny Mendez is the director of secondary education in the Metropolitan School District of Decatur Township (IN). He tweets at @dmendez2378.