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Peer coaching counts in Common Core prep

Teacher coaches are leading colleagues in transition to the new standards
At the Fresno USD, which uses coaches to help their peers, math teachers at Tenaya Middle School take content they learned and develop lessons together.

As school district leaders prepare teachers for the Common Core state standards, peer coaching has emerged as a powerful tool.

“In order for change to reach the classroom level, teachers really need to be the leaders for the Common Core,” says the Tennessee DOE’s Tiffany McDole.

The TNC Core program, which she directs and which has provided Common Core training in math and ELA to 30,000 teachers over the past two summers, is designed around teachers coaching their colleagues. The 700 coaches were chosen for success demonstrated in the classroom.

These coaches—who have received a week of training—work with groups of 30 teachers who are often from the same part of the state where they themselves teach. “We felt that our training would be most effective when delivered by peers from the same regions who have already tried strategies in their own classroom,” McDole explains.

The coaches continue their work during the school year, in both their own and in neighboring districts. Some districts ask coaches to lead PD days or to generate curriculum. The coaches also observe and co-teach classes, and work one-one-one with teachers, McDole says.

So far, more than 300 teachers from the Johnson City Public Schools, which implemented the Common Core during the past school year, have attended the TN Core training sessions. Johnson City’s 10 coaches have kept busy.

“They continue to train teachers through department meetings and grade-level meetings in which teachers collaborate on teaching strategies to meet the standards,” says Debra Bentley, the supervisor of instruction and communications for the Johnson City district.

Coaching has also become the underpinning of Common Core training in the Fresno USD, which employs 70 full-time coaches. “I don’t think there’s another way to do well unless we have these embedded coaches,” says Fresno Superintendent Michael Hanson.

Bentley agrees. “If you talk to the teachers,” she says, “they would say that the best professional development occurs with a colleague.”