This model sounded promising so we reached out to the district's Curriculum Director to learn more:
Currently the district employs a coach for every three schools in the twelve-school district, though coaches may at times work in pairs. The district identifies where to send coaches by looking at school performance data and determining where there are clear challenges. Each coach usually works with a small team of teachers from the same grade level or subject area. What they do in those six weeks sounds like the traditional coaching approach but the longer time period purportedly makes observation, feedback and one-on-one work more effective (and coaches continue to provide guidance as needed after the 6 weeks ends). If a coach lacks specialization in a given area, they may team up with a coach who actually does specialize in that area. Additionally, coaches meet weekly to go over challenges or lessons learned through coaching and offer each other advice.
For all this, the model is only slightly more expensive than what the district used to do. Five years ago the district, with over 9,000 students and nearly 400 teachers, had been spending about half a million dollars annually on professional development; this new model costs an average of $602,000 annually. Not a whole lot more for what amounts to much deeper focus on skills and a steady stream of support for teachers eager to harness those skills.
The district believes the model is paying off, as evidenced by steady increases on state test scores as well as increasing numbers of students successfully scoring proficient in 8th grade Algebra.
The district also smartly compiled all of the training materials and lesson plans developed over the past three years into an electronic library, which is shared with administrators and teachers throughout the district. So, although physically reaching fewer teachers than their previous traditional PD model, this program is still able to leave its mark across the entire district.
Many thanks to Curriculum Director Cindy Woods for providing us with valuable insight into this innovative program.