Are Coaches Expendable?

By Liana Loewus — February 12, 2009 1 min read
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In Curriculum Matters, Kathleen Kennedy Manzo points out that reading coaches, many of whom were hired with now-depleted Reading First funds, are being dropped from school budgets.

It’s hard to say exactly how big a role coaches play in increasing student achievement, but they’re given much credit in places like Warren County, Ky., where reading scores have shot up. Teachers there receive “spot training” on a daily basis, during which coaches observe small-group reading instruction and jump in when help is needed. As noted in this Herald-Tribune story, coaches assist instruction in a variety of other ways, too: by demonstrating model lessons, helping analyze assessment data, and finding ways to target struggling students.

However, the impact of coaches is contingent on how effectively they are being utilized. In the Arizona district where I used to teach, which was under-resourced and often understaffed, reading coaches spent most of their time filling in as substitutes and performing administrative duties. Teachers rarely saw face-time with them, though the coaches were hired for ongoing teacher training and support. Even so, pink slips produce an unavoidable ripple effect. And how do you prioritize layoffs when the end result necessarily affects students?

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.