District 911 learns about benefits of having instructional coaches

By Rachel Kytonen

Instructional coaching has benefited all the schools in the Cambridge-Isanti School District and Susan Burris wants to keep the momentum going.

Burris, director of teaching and learning for District 911, gave a presentation to the school board on instructional coaching during the board meeting Thursday, Jan. 19.

Burris explained that school improvement research pointed to coaching models as the most successful intervention. The program was implemented in the district last year after JOBS money became available.

Each school building in the district has one instructional coach with the exception of the high school that has two, due to the number of students.

Burris explained principals developed the job descriptions that focused on district and school improvement plans, math focus, reading/literacy focus, data driven decision making and teacher support to improve instruction.

The positions were offered as temporary positions for 18 months, and teachers are on special assignments (flexible calendar of teaching days).

The goals with the instructional coaches is to provide more support for the principals to carry through with instructional leadership, focus on success for the district and school improvement plans and give a consistent message of support and encouragement to all teachers through change.

Burris said the instructional coaches have provided trusted and supportive positions in every building adapting to change; the data driven decision making has exploded in all the buildings; has provided instructional consistency in classrooms and departments; has provided a right-hand for the administrators in planning and follow-through on improvement plans; and there is a start of clear, organized and articulated curriculum communicated to all teachers.

Burris said she has received over 100 emails from teachers explaining how the instructional coaches have benefitted their respective schools.

Burris said the next step for the district is to provide funding for the positions in 2012-13 and beyond, and she will explore ideas with the finance committee and the administrative team on how to fund the positions.

In his presentation to the board, Scott Peterson, principal at Cambridge Intermediate School, echoed Burris’ thoughts.

“Our instructional coach has been incredible this year,” Peterson said.

He also said CIS is focusing on the future, and has made changes to make the building the best it can be. He mentioned the implementation of such measures as Responsive Classroom, Guided Math approach and Reading Street curriculum has had many positive impacts in the classrooms.

Peterson thanked the board for their dedication and support to CIS.

In other action the board:

• Approved James Woodbury and students to attend the United Nations Conference at the University of Chicago Feb. 1-5.

• Approved the custodial seniority list.

• Approved a trip for students and chaperones to Costa Rica from March 3-11. The students will pay for their own expenses.

• Approved the administrative assistant contracts.

• Held a closed door session to discuss teacher mediation.