I intended to wake up this morning and flesh out a “Grand Unification Theory” of how to reallocate administrative positions at public schools in a way that allows each administrator to do the job for which they are best suited, maximizes the ability of schools to teach, counsel and discipline students, and allows principals the chance to observe classroom teachers as part of a system that allows principals to fire bad teachers in an informed, empowered way.
But then the Great Attention-Diverting Satan that is Politics reared its ugly Hydra heads and I ended up writing some pointless comment to a stupid online newspaper editorial. I am to politics what Chet Baker was to heroin, I swear.
Anyway, I do want to spend a minute or two introducing a little known position at many of your APS public schools: The “Instructional Coach”.
I don’t know the whole story behind APS and “Instructional Coaches”. I’d love to know more about it. All I know is that somewhere around 1997, my middle school hired one of these things, and nobody on staff knew anything about the position other than somewhat resenting the fact we had just spent an allocation to have someone NOT be in the classroom. It was also unclear as to just what authority this new position had in terms of interacting with teachers, whether teachers could be evaluated by these “Instructional Coaches”, what “coaching” meant exactly and just what the Hell these people were supposed to do other than drink coffee, eat doughnuts and walk around the building looking busy.
Quite honestly, we teachers pretty much felt that the “Instructional Coach” position was designed to give burned-out teachers a desk job while they tried to overcome their desire to kill children after having suffered years and years of classroom abuse.
Well, it’s 2008 now. I work at a different school, a better, shinier place with Lake Woebegone kids and water fountains that spout ambrosial liquids into our high-achieving mouths. But, just like my school back in ’97, we still have an “Instructional Coach” and we teachers still have no idea just what the Hell these “coaches” are supposed to do and why the Hell we have one.
Now in saying this I am in no way denigrating the “Instructional Coach” my school has. She is a very smart person who by every appearance seems to work at least as hard as I do. She is always skittering around with standardized test scores to show teachers, sets up “professional development” days, and evidently sorta-kinda leads our Instructional Council. On this last point I have to admit I wouldn’t know, as I treat “Instructional Councils” the same way I treat poisonous snakes and hand grenades. I stay far away. Far, far away.
So I admit I could probably do more research and find out exactly what it is “Instructional Coaches” do. I have done a little research on the subject, namely finding a job description for the position attached to one of the many openings for “Instructional Coach” on the APS website. It says:
|Requires a Bachelor’s degree (in Education preferred); valid New Mexico Education License; 7 years teaching experience with experience in support of peers; and demonstrated knowledge in core academic subject matter, preferably literacy (reading and math); and knowledge of State and District language and math standards and benchmarks, performance and assessment. Must be currently highly qualified according the No Child Left Behind Act at the level of the position (elementary, mid, or high school).Prefer Master’s degree in Education; ability to communicate and interact effectively and productively, both verbal and written, with all school and district staff; ability to demonstrate effective lesson planning and delivery for English learners and students with other special needs per Frameworks for Teaching, Effective Sheltered Instruction or Differentiated Instruction; 3 years experience teaching bilingual/multicultural and/or special needs students; 1 endorsement (preferably reading, ESL, language arts, early childhood or math) and/or Special Education License; and knowledge of technology as an integrated, instructional component, implementation of staff development standards, and implementation of continuous improvement methodology. Essential functions include: Must achieve the following outcomes with or without reasonable accommodation: Mentors and/or coaches new and experienced teachers to deepen knowledge in core academic subjects and instructional strategies; supports standards implementation in all disciplines; plans and implements staff development; procures and provides resources and instructional support to principal and teachers; facilitates study groups and other collaborative efforts that develop teacher knowledge of content and students cultures, and examines student work and learning development; and acts a growth agent in the school to build a collaborative culture of learning among adults (including the principal) and students.|
No, I have no real idea what any of the above means either. It’s so broad, it’s like a ratatouille of every education buzzword one could cook up. And my more cynical side still thinks the blob o’ text above could be translated as “Requires teacher who doesn’t want to become an ex-teacher, but is currently about a single five day waiting period away from shooting every student they come into contact with. Position demands knowledge of how to drink coffee and appear busy at all times.”
More importantly, what is seriously not clear to me is exactly what powers and responsibilities these “Instructional Coaches” have. For purposes of our discussion on bad teachers, can these people indirectly “fire” the teachers? Can they conduct “intensive evaluations” and other steps on the tortuous road to APS teacher firing? Can they suggest such steps be undertaken by principals?
I guess one way to put it is this: are “Instructional Coaches” real coaches who can cut underperforming players, or simply cheerleaders who lead pep-rally “professional development” days with coffee for pom-poms? Or does it depend on the school?
Lots of questions, and I’d love to get some teacher/administrative feedback on this before I start performing invasive surgery on the whole administrative structure, as I promise I will do next week, whether I know what I’m talking about or not. I mean, why should this topic be different than any other discussed here?
Have a good weekend, everybody.