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Taking steps to improve
School district implements teacher coaching
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Three years ago the Turlock Unified School District was placed in “program improvement” after failing to meet federal student testing standards. Since that time the district has been implementing a Sheltered Intervention Observation Protocol (SIOP), which is essentially a way for school administrators and district personnel to evaluate teachers’ instructional methods, with follow up discussion and coaching.

Administrators and district personnel use SIOP to make frequent class visits, as many as 12-20 visits a week, a drastic increase from past years. Observation teams also consist of teachers specifically trained on coaching fellow teachers.

Coaching consists of discussing with teachers how to adapt teaching styles to reach all students in the classrooms.

“It’s all about continuously giving feedback and support to teachers. The vast majority of teachers are eager to learn about ways in which they can reach more kids,” said Lacrisha Ferriera, TUSD educational services assistant superintendent.

One of the biggest challenges for TUSD to pull out of program improvement is English-language learners and disabled children. State and federal testing standards do not take into account how many children come from English speaking homes. Under SIOP teachers learn how to reach these students as well and ensure they are learning content. Combined with SIOP, TUSD uses a “push in” program, in which disabled students receive additional instruction during class from a special education teacher trained to give them further instruction and help.

When training teams enter classrooms they evaluate the teacher for about 10-15 minutes. Following the evaluation the team discusses scores and the teacher’s strengths or weaknesses. They then “grade” the teacher on a 1-5 scale in 30 content areas. The content areas are varied, but include topics such as if the teacher is providing clearly defined objectives or adaptation of content for all levels of student proficiency.

Alane Vaughn, Stanislaus County of Education director of secondary education, was impressed with the SIOP model.

“It’s moving teachers from good to great. Administrators can have the courage to say things and change some things. I can tell you that a few years ago I would come in some classes and kids used to pack up 10-15 minutes early and talk the rest of the period. Now the culture of teachers in this district is changing,” Vaughn said.

“This is about moving from efficiency to effectiveness. The teachers need to believe it in their hearts that their job is not to assign but to teach. There are lots of great assigners but we want teachers,” said Ferriera.

To contact Jonathan McCorkell, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.