Coaching of teachers to achieve literacy and math goals

Written by  Matthew Liebenberg
Coaching of teachers to achieve literacy and math goals

The Chinook School Division (CSD) is placing an emphasis on the professional development of teachers and support from coaches to achieve the goals for student literacy and math proficiency.

Status reports for the literacy and math programs were presented at a Chinook School Division meeting, Dec. 14.
Both reports highlighted the support provided to teachers through professional development sessions and the use of literacy and math coaches for intervention visits to schools.
The CSD’s Balanced Literacy goal is that 90 per cent of students will be meeting or exceeding expectations in reading by June 2017.
Last year a provincial reading team developed a provincial framework called Saskatchewan Reads to achieve literacy and reading targets.
The CSD is focusing on coaching of teachers to achieve literacy and math goals as well as literacy coaching for new teachers and Grade 3 to 6 teachers to achieve the Saskatchewan Reads objectives.
Three literacy coaches are doing coaching visits to schools in the division. According to CSD Level 1 Co-ordinator Kathy Robson the coaches play an essential role.
“Our coaches are so important to the literacy initiative,” she said after the meeting. “They are the ones that go out into the classrooms.”
Initially teachers will attend professional development days to learn more about the different instructional practices in reading. The coaches will then provide the necessary support in a classroom setting.
“Then it’s really the coaches that go into their classrooms and show them with their students how to do certain reading strategies, and then the teachers try it out and they do it back for the coach,” she said. “They have a lot of discussion around what’s working, what’s not working and a lot of problem solving too around what they can do to improve their teaching within their classroom, which is good for student learning.”
There are also professional development sessions about the literacy program for principals and vice-principals.
“There is a lot of research around the importance of the principal knowing about the teaching within the school, knowing about students and their learning,” she said. “So if the principal is aware of what good instructional practice looks like, they can talk to teachers about what’s happening within their classrooms, they can support them and buy in resources that they might need. … The more they know about the literacy initiative, the better able they are to support the teachers and the students.”
During the past four years the CSD was focused on the implementation of the Math Momentum plan. That focus has now shifted to implementing the provincial Saskatchewan Reads objectives.
“We haven’t been focusing on literacy, so now that we’re back into focusing on the reading and writing, our schools have really been excited,” she said. “They’ve been doing lots of things. You see lots of changes within their schools and within the classrooms that show that they’re excited and they’re refocusing back on the reading and the writing.”
Grade 3 and 6 teachers are specifically targeted for professional development and literacy coaching support.
“When we had our literacy initiative prior to the math, we focused on Kindergarten to Grade 5,” she said. “So because Grade 6 was going to be a new focus in terms of literacy, we wanted the coaching to go there. We wanted those teachers to be supported as they tried a lot of the new things.”
Grade 3 is considered to be an intermediate grade level that will benefit from additional support.
“They’re not necessarily in the emergent reading but they’re kind of the in-between grades,” Robson said. “So we wanted to go back and refocus on that grade as well and try just to revisit a lot of the instructional practice that we haven’t really focused on the last four years.”
In addition to implementing Saskatchewan Reads the CSD is continuing the Levelled Literacy Intervention (LLI) program. LLI training has been provided for grades 1 to 5 in all schools while a LLI coach is providing support to 30 LLI teachers in grades 1 and 2 and to 15 LLI teachers in grades 3 to 5.
A pilot project for early years literacy for Kindergarten to Grade 1 has been implemented in five schools — Central, Fairview, Centennial, Gull Lake and Sidney Street. The early learning team includes educational psychologist, speech and language pathologist and occupational therapist. The team will develop a process in response to the Early Years Evaluation results.
The Chinook School Division’s math intervention program is now focused on the implementation of a Math Momentum maintenance plan with two math maintenance coaches to provide ongoing support for teachers.
“Our previous four years we were targeting general math instruction,” Curriculum Co-ordinator Ed Varjassy said. “That required a lot of the division’s resources. … Now that division focus for all teachers K-8 is more on the literacy side of things and we are fine-tuning the math. We have a focus on implementing some math intervention programs. So that is only targeting a small portion of the teaching staff.”
The math intervention activities are focused on Kindergarten to Grade 2 and grades 6 to 9. There are professional development training days for teachers as well as principals, and the two full-time math coaches play an important role to provide structured in-school support for all math intervention teachers.
“I think they are critical,” he said about the coaches. “They are the frontline contact. They go right into the classrooms and work with the teachers and model what we are expecting. They have observations and conversations with the teachers, giving suggestions on what they could do to improve.”
The two math coaches are providing support to 28 schools. All schools have established intervention teachers and they have started to work with students.
According to Varjassy the schools in Chinook School Division collect a lot of data through assessments and they are using that information effectively.
“So if they see that the calculations part of their assessments are dropping, then in their professional learning community time they will get together and identify areas to target and come up with strategies and plans for focusing on that and improving that. Then they may call in outside help. I might get called in too to give them some advice or some coaching around how might we do things different to improve this.”
A challenge for the coaches is the long distances they need to drive to provide onsite support for teachers.
Varjassy also noted the math intervention is only a tier two intervention to assist students who need some extra help to catch up and build skills, but is not really effective for students with greater needs. Another challenge is the scheduling and staffing for the programs have to be done without additional resources, but schools have been creative and able to stretch their existing resources.

via SW Sask News – Prairie Post – Prairie Post

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