At a Glance
In order to improve instruction and raise student achievement levels, Dauphin County Technical School employs three, full-time instructional coaches who support teachers by modeling instructional strategies, providing direct classroom support, and offering regular professional development opportunities.
Dauphin County Technical School (DCTS) is a full-time, comprehensive public career and technical school serving Harrisburg and surrounding areas. DCTS currently employs three teachers with expertise in mathematics, reading, and technology integration to serve as full-time instructional coaches.
At DCTS, instructional coaching is a school-embedded, ongoing professional development position, which focuses on improving instruction and raising the level of student achievement. Coaches support teachers through analyzing data, sharing research, modeling effective strategies, and providing non-evaluative, structured feedback. They also serve as members of a building leadership team, working to create an effective school-wide professional development plan by aligning with school goals and evaluating current data. In addition, the instructional coaches participate in professional development and professional learning communities to expand their instructional leadership practice.
Specifically, coaches are responsible for leading the implementation of the school’s professional development plan by providing or assisting with large teacher group sessions that focus on modeling instructional strategies. Additionally, they provide daily opportunities for small groups or individual support such as “Lunch and Learn” sessions which involves teachers joining coaches for lunch to discuss strategies and resources, and “Tweak of the Week,” a quick conversation and a postcard-sized reminder of the best practice teachers are to implement in class.
Coaches also support teachers through use of a “Coaching Cycle” which begins during a pre-meeting with an individual teacher to identify an instructional focus and is followed by a classroom visit. During the visit, the coach could be modeling an activity or strategy for the teacher, co-teaching with the teacher, or collecting data for the teacher. The two then conduct a post-meeting to discuss findings and ways the coach can provide additional assistance. Ideally, this post-meeting leads to a revised instructional focus and the cycle begins again. All findings from a Coaching Cycle are confidential and not used for evaluation.
To determine if the professional development plan initiatives have been successfully implemented school-wide, coaches complete “Data Walks” in all programs and classes to collect information. During a data walk, a coach and/or another teacher enters a classroom and looks for evidence of the implementation of instructional strategies which have been emphasized during professional development. These professionals remain in the classroom for about 10 minutes and record information from the visit. The data from all visits is compiled and reported out for reflection of all teachers. Teacher names are never collected within these walks, and so this data is never used for individual teacher evaluation.
Origin / Implementation
After Pennsylvania Value Added Assessment System (PVAAS) student growth data indicated that students were making significantly less than the necessary annual growth, DCTS administrators realized a need for a strong literacy focus and determined the Pennsylvania Institute for Instructional Coaching (PIIC) provided the best solution.
In the 2009-2010 school year, two DCTS instructional coaches and the principal took a course from the University of Pennsylvania and PIIC. While teacher supports had been in place prior to 2010, the role of each instructional coach expanded significantly after attending this course. Currently three coaches are employed to plan and implement staff development focused on individual staff member needs.
Results / Impact
Since implementing this initiative in 2010, PVAAS scores for reading and literature have increased each year. In the 2009-2010 school year, the PVAAS score for reading at DCTS was -21.0, but by 2011-2012, PVAAS scores increased to a positive 0.3 point. Similarly, the school has seen a steady increase in literature scores.
**NOTE** PVAAS scores are based on the difference between expected scores and actual scores. If most scores on state assessment are near the expected outcome, a school will receive a score of zero. Assessment scores lower than expected result in a negative PVAAS score, and those above expected result in a positive PVAAS score.
Dauphin County Technical School
Sandy Traynor, Assistant Director
Sharon Deiling, Instructional Coach
Joanne Custer, Instructional Coach