Content-Focused Coaching for High Quality Reading Instruction

LPC Faculty: Lindsay Clare Matsumura
Funding Agency: Institute of Education Sciences

Districts across the country have responded to the challenge of meeting high standards for student learning by hiring instructional coaches. To date, however, only very limited evidence exists that coaching improves instruction and there is no sound evidence that coaching improves student learning.

The goal of this research project is to investigate the effectiveness of a model for instructional coaching (Content-Focused CoachingSM; CFC) for improving reading comprehension instruction and learning in the upper elementary grades. Elementary schools that serve a high percentage of minority and English language learning students from low-income families were randomly assigned to intervention (CFC) and comparison (standard district practice) groups. The coaching (CFC) intervention is applied to approximately 100 teachers within the intervention schools. Teacher-level outcomes (instructional quality) and student-level outcomes (student achievement) are compared to assess the impact of CFC on each, using appropriate statistical controls for the additional dependence between outcomes due to the group-randomized design. Although the design is randomized, we also look at relations between outcomes and various school, teacher and student covariates, as a check on the randomization and to explore for hypotheses about relationships that might be examined more carefully in future work.

Fourth and fifth grade teachers in the intervention schools receive intensive coaching focused on reading comprehension instruction. Coaching in these schools include weekly small-group meetings and individual conferences between the CFC coach and teachers. The teachers in the comparison group schools have an equivalent amount of time freed during the regular work week to engage in common planning and the professional development activities that are standard practice for the district. CFC coaches participate in group professional development sessions three days a month and one-on-one on-site coaching led by fellows from the Institute for Learning (Donna DiPrima Bickel and Kathleen McCarthy Young). The principals in the intervention schools and district leaders also participate in training to develop their understanding and support of the intervention. The quality of instruction is assessed for the teachers in both the treatment and comparison groups, using surveys, observations, and collections of classroom assignments with student work. The quality of the implementation of the coaching intervention also is assessed using surveys and coach logs. Student learning is assessed at each study year using the state achievement test (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, TAKS) administered annually, and the Degrees of Reading Power (DRP) assessment administered twice a year. Students’ achievement on the TAKS will be tracked longitudinally into middle school.