FAQ on ISA Coaching for Content Area Teachers

By Scott Noon

Executive Director for Strategic Business Development at ISA.


Q: How are ISA coaches selected?
A:  Dr. Jacqueline Ancess, co-director of the National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools and  Teaching (NCREST) at Teachers College, Columbia University, ISA’s strategic partner, recruits all coaches, reviews their resumes, and with Sylvia Rabiner, senior ISA coach, conducts live or SKYPE interviews. When a coach is a match with ISA, they make a recommendation for the coaching candidate to interview live or by SKYPE with Vincent Brevetti and Gerry House. Gerry House and Vincent Brevetti then determine the fit of the candidate for ISA coaching.

Q: What knowledge, skills, and experience does the coach interview process screen for?
A:  The coaching interview process screens coaching candidates for the following:

  • Knowledge of inquiry/higher order thinking skills, state standards, discipline expertise, pedagogical content knowledge, scaffolding, classroom management.
  • Skills: ability to: accurately analyze what a particular teacher needs to know in order to successfully achieve the outcomes the teacher has set for the students; identify strategies the teacher might use to achieve those outcomes; and identify entry points specific to the teacher.
  • Capacity to help teachers learn particular pedagogical skills—what Atul Gawande calls “deliberate practice” rather than the generic lesson improvement, which does not improve pedagogical content knowledge and performance.
  • Understanding how to use his/her relationship with the teacher to foster change.
  • Experience in and capacity for engaging teachers in a conversation so that the coach and teacher are talking about what is working and what they noticed with regard to students’ achievement of lesson outcomes so that they are able to engage in what Don Schoen refers to as “reflection in action” and to make changes in their practice.

Q: How are coaches assigned to schools?
AISA matches both leadership and content coaches to schools based on a coach’s areas of strength and a school’s needs and the outcomes it wants to achieve.  ISA submits the resume of a coach that it thinks is a strong match to the principal. The principal and coach meet and discuss the outcomes the school wants to achieve and how the principal sees coaching helping to achieve the outcomes. After the meeting, both the coach and the principal must inform ISA in writing whether there is a match and whether each feels they can work together productively to achieve the school’s outcomes. Where both the principal and coach feel there is a match, ISA assigns the coach to the school. If there isn’t a match, ISA selects another coach candidate for the principal to interview. This process continues until both the coach and the principal agree that they are a strong match.

Q: What guides ISA content coaches’ work?
A:  ISA content coaches meet with the principal and/or other leaders to identify the outcomes the school wants to achieve in the content area, particularly regarding college readiness. The principal identifies outcomes that are a priority and together with the coach, they select those outcomes that can be addressed through coaching in the number of days allocated for the coach. Once the outcomes are selected, coaches develop a customized action plan to address those outcomes and then review the plan with the principal. This plan is the blueprint for coaches’ work.

Q: What do content coaches actually do?
A:  Content coaches meet with targeted content area teachers and administrators to help them develop/adapt and implement instructional plans, activities, tools, assessments, and strategies that will result in the achievement of the outcomes agreed upon with the principal and in the coaches’ action plan. Content coaches meet with teachers on strategies to assess how effectively their instruction is getting students to achieve the desired learning and outcomes. Content coaches observe teachers’ classes and engage teachers in feedback on how effective the instruction is in achieving the outcomes.

Q: How does the principal know what the content coach worked on during any given visit?
A:  After each visit, content coaches email the principal about the work that has been done. At the end of each month, ISA sends a copy of the coaching log of each coach to the principal. The coaching logs states the outcomes the coach is working on, the coaching activities the coach engaged in, and the expected implementation actions by teachers/counselors/ administrators as a result of the coaching activities

Q: Do coaches monitor or supervise the teachers they work with?
A:  No. Coaches do not monitor or supervise teachers. Monitoring and supervision of teachers are done by the principal and/or other school supervisor.

Q: What role do principals and supervisors play with regard to content coaching?
A:  The principal and/or supervisor play the following roles to ensure that the coaching achieves the intended goals:

  1. They discuss with the teachers the outcomes that they expect students to achieve in the content area
  2. They inform the teachers that they have asked the coach to work with them to support them to develop the plans, activities, strategies, tools, assessments, etc. that will result in students achieving the outcomes
  3. They monitor and actively encourage teachers’ implementation of the practices the teachers have worked on with the coaches
  4. They assess the progress teachers and students are making toward achieving the outcomes by doing observations, walk-throughs with the coach and reviewing student artifacts and performance data.

 Q: Whom do principals contact if they have questions or issues or problems regarding coaching?
APrincipals contact Jacqueline Ancess ja127@columbia.edu, or Vincent Brevetti vbrevetti@isa-ed.ets.org, or Gerry House ghouse@isa-ed.ets.org with any concerns regarding coaching or coaches.

Q: How does ISA monitor coaching work?
A:  Jacqueline Ancess at NCREST and Sylvia Rabiner, senior ISA coach, review coaching logs monthly to review coaching activities and their alignment with the action plan outcomes and expectations for teachers/counselors/administrators being coached. Ancess and Rabiner give coaches feedback monthly on their logs and follow up if there are concerns. Vincent Brevetti routinely contacts principals to discuss how the coaching is achieving the expected outcomes.