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Letter from the Secretary
SD Department of Education Nov. 2015  

Instructional Coaching v. 2.0: Now with more teachers and the “Six Ts”

The Department of Education’s instructional reading coaching program for K-3 teachers, which began in 2014-15, continues and has expanded to include teachers who are new to a number of districts that participated last year.

Smarter Balanced English language arts reading claim data for all assessed students. Note that district report card data is based on students who meet the requirements for Full Academic Year (FAY).

Kelly Neill is the Elkton School District’s K-12 principal. When asked how instructional coaching impacted her district last year, she said, “Growth occurred not only for our students, but our teachers as well. They began to look at things differently and explored new techniques and strategies in their classrooms to help students find success as readers. Many teachers thought they knew their students, but by digging into the data, they gained a whole new insight on students and their abilities.”

“Our reading scores showed improvement and teachers felt more confident in the classroom,” says Angie Thunker, principal at McLaughlin Elementary School. “Teachers crave support and feedback. Having a coach that comes in for these specific purposes lets teachers know what they do is important and gives them the support they want.”

Teachers who participated in the coaching program last year are receiving additional training this year, based on the "six Ts" discussed in the article by Richard Allington entitled “The Six Ts of Effective Elementary Literacy Instruction.”

Coaching continues with new teachers

Sally Crowser with TIE is leading trainings for those teachers who are new to districts that started receiving coaching last year.

“I wish I would’ve had this material when I was teaching high school English, because we had struggling readers, with not a lot of strategies to fill in the gaps in the regular classroom,” Crowser says. “I recently met someone who described kindergarten and 1st grade as ‘preventative reading,’ like preventative health. If we don’t get students to benchmark reading levels early, then it becomes remedial reading and a struggle.”

This new group gathered for a training recently in Pierre. We spoke with several of them about how the program is helping them in the classroom:

Rachel Schaefer has prior experience teaching preschool and junior kindergarten. This is her first year teaching kindergarten in the Elkton School District. “There’s so much research on literacy,” she says. “I don’t think I ever fully understood the difference between phonics and phonemic awareness and the building blocks. Coming away from here, I get it, and I’m teaching differently because of it.”

Marissa Schmidt is a first-year teacher, teaching 1st grade in the McLaughlin School District. “I was never taught a lot of this stuff. Some of these topics are just hard to grasp and here it’s taught so clearly,” Schmidt says. “It’s great having these trainings but then also having a coach who’s following up with you and who’s in your classroom, understanding the way your classroom functions and learns.”

Michelle Martin, a 4th and 5th grade teacher in the Stanley County School District, has been teaching for 25 years and was energized by the ideas flowing around the room. “The diversity of this group is really impactful—not only teachers from different grade levels, but also those just entering the field as well as veteran teachers,” she says. “I’m learning from students coming straight out of college, because they’ve had new training that I haven’t yet.”

Martin believes one of the most powerful aspects of the coaching program is how it guides teachers in using data to drive instruction. Participants perform data digs in the fall and spring. “This is helping teachers see assessment not just as something the kids do and then it’s over,” she says. “We’re learning to use that data to guide our next steps. Then with the next assessment, we see where we’re at and what our next steps need to be.”

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