Four Key Factors for Leadership and Instructional Coaching
By Abner Oakes
ISA's National Director of Outreach and Engagement
Coaching is a key resource that ISA offers its schools. Each ISA school is matched with an external school development coach, who collaborates with the leadership to guide the school through the process of implementing the ISA principles. Each school also has access to content coaches, who support teachers and teams in the major content areas (literacy, math, science, and social studies), English language learning and Distributed Counseling as well as leadership development. ISA coaching exemplifies a dynamic model, where an individual who is experienced in the journey of school development and teaching and learning engages teachers and school leaders in ongoing collaboration that generates new knowledge and more effective practice. 1 According to a recent study of ISA coaching, several factors that distinguish the ISA coaching model are:
Great Coaching is Responsive and Principle-driven: While ISA coaches are continuously responsive to changing circumstances of practice and lessons of research, they are also always guided by their deep understanding of the ISA principles. The ISA model recognizes that effective coaching proceeds from deeply held shared beliefs about schooling. For ISA, such beliefs are expressed through the ISA principles, which provide a blueprint of the kinds of practices that will produce college-ready graduates, as well as the processes that help schools adapt such practices within their own context.
Great Coaching is Rooted in Expertise: ISA coaches are aware of the shifting conditions in which schools operate, largely because they themselves have had experiences as principals and leaders of, or content specialists within, effective small schools. ISA deliberately recruits such individuals — people who have actually “done the work” — for their expertise, including their deep knowledge of instruction and their shared belief in the ISA principles.
Great Coaching is Framed as Advocacy: The ISA coaches are employed by ISA, not by the district or school. Consequently, ISA coaches can cultivate transparent and trusting relationships with the principal and teachers, connections that are not compromised by an overlapping supervisory relationship. Trusting relationships are a keystone in the coaches’ ability to be advocates for the schools and ISA, and thus to facilitate improvement in the schools.
Great Coaching is Oriented toward Continuing Development: The seventh and final ISA principle is continuous organizational improvement. ISA’s relentless focus on capacity building means that, with the coach’s support, teachers and leaders in a school develop the knowledge and skills to implement ISA practices and structures that equip them to move forward on their own. As a result, educators and principals in ISA schools are prepared to build a school that can graduate students who are prepared to succeed in college.
Download our informational flyer to learn how coaching fits into ISA’s seven ISA principles.
1 “The ISA Coaching Model: How the Institute for Student Achievement Uses Coaching to Support High Performance Small High Schools.” by Bethany Rogers, Jacqueline Ancess, with support from Patrice Nichols and G. Faith Little (2014)