News from NOrleans

From New Schools for New Orleans:

We are thrilled to announce the early results of NSNO’s investment in MATCH Teacher Coaching (MTC).


Compared to control group teachers who applied but were not randomly selected to participate in MTC, recipients of coaching scored 0.68 standard deviations higher on a summary index of teacher effectiveness composed of observation scores, principal evaluations, and student surveys.


Why is MTC effective? Unlike most teacher training programs, which emphasize theory rather than practice, MTC’s high-dosage coaching provides early-tenure teachers with intense, repetitive cycles of feedback in in-class lesson execution and out-of-class productivity and relationship building – the areas of practice that research suggests drive increases in teacher effectiveness.


As Match wraps up this year of coaching and prepares for the 2013-14 school year, NSNO remains excited about the implications of these promising results for teacher development across the city.

Five Reactions:

1. One of the biggest leaps for Match-coached teachers was students themselves noticed big improvements in teachers who received the Match coaching.  This was measured using a sophisticated methodology developed by Harvard's Ron Ferguson, and described in this Atlantic story by Amanda Ripley. 

MTC: students will like and respect you more! 

2. Props to Erica, Ashlei, and Michelle, and to Max and Katherine.  BTW, small world: just got an email from Katherine, now in Chicago as a BES Fellow, that she'll know soon about her charter proposal there.  All you Chicago readers feel free to reach out if you'd like to help her. 

More from Erica below.

3. We're lucky to have a real partner in this with New Schools For New Orleans and Neerav.  When he and I first started talking, the conversation went something like this.

Neerav: Mike would Match consider coaching teachers in NOLA, particularly those in their 2nd or 3rd year?

Me: Neerav, while we think our approach is quite good, we've only done it with true rookie teachers at a very small scale.  When we look at other teacher coaching that has gone on around the USA, the data is really scary.

Neerav: What do you mean?

Me: There's a number of organizations and school districts that have made big investments in 1:1 teacher coaching.  Their unpublished, internal data shows no benefit for the students.  Now one thing I've always wanted...

Neerav: Yes?

Me: Well could we coach teachers for you, but set it up as a randomized trial, and hire an outside evaluator? 

I realize that drives up the cost per teacher coached.  But we'd really be able to learn something over time.  And given how many failures there have been in the field, it's entirely possible we'll fail too. 

Neerav: What is this, the negative sell?

Me: I can promise you professionalism, and I'm 95% sure the teachers themselves will like the coaching.  But it's quite possible we'd have happy teachers but no gains from the student point of view, either the wrong teacher change or not enough of it.  That's why we need the RCT. 

Neerav: Let's work towards a vision like that....NSNO is a pretty research-driven place anyway. 

So thank you NSNO.

4. Our evaluators, Matt and David, have done a great job of helping us understand what's really going on.  That is, my belief is that "good teacher coaching" is actually the enemy here.  Let me explain what I mean.  

There is such a thing as bad teacher coaching.  Coaches who are simply wrong in the advice they give.  Or teachers who resist good feedback.  In any case, it doesn't go well.  We think it's silly to force-feed teacher coaching on anyone.  It just won't work.  Coaching has a chance to succeed if and only if there's some genuine permission going on.

But here's where it gets interesting.  A frequent reality is: coach observes, meets with teacher, good exchange of ideas, lots of nodding and notes and thank you....but then very little teacher behavior change.  So the evaluation of input is "Went well.  I learned something.  I appreciate the coaching."  But in terms of output, not much.  Kids don't perceive much difference.  Learning does not rise. 

Our evaluators dispassionately examine what's really happening.  And if Matt landed a job as a professor at Brown University partly by doing this study for us, it just means he owes us latte next time we're in Providence.  Which is never.  But maybe Pawtucket. 

5. Caution.

We're still early on in the process.  While the average teacher made big strides, with some we failed to move the needle.  Our evaluation is rigorous, but the sample is small.  We have a lot to learn, and stay tuned as we do. 

* * *

And now more from NSNO's newsletter:

In the 2011-12 academic year, Match Education launched an innovative teacher coaching program in New Orleans. We interviewed Erica Winston, director of Match Teacher Coaching in New Orleans and here's what she had to say.

Q: How is MATCH Teacher Coaching different from traditional professional development for teachers?

MTC-NOLA is different from traditional professional development in several ways:

We work one-on-one with teachers, every day for an entire week at least three times a year. Every day in a coaching week, an MTC teacher receives an observation and individual coaching session with an MTC coach.

MTC is INTENSE! Teachers are held accountable by the MTC coach to implement the action steps consistently throughout the coaching week and beyond. 

We observe teachers in their classrooms and develop individualized, customized plans for each teacher to focus on the targeted skills s/he needs to improve in both the short-term and long-term.

Our goals are broken down into clear, actionable steps that tell teachers specifically what to say or do given the specific context and issue.

We give teachers the opportunity to practice their action steps with their coach before using them in the classroom.

We are a permission-based program. Teachers must choose to receive coaching from an MTC coach and can choose to exit the program at anytime.

We study our program to see if it works. We're evaluating MTC by randomly placing early-tenure teachers who are interested in the program into either the control or treatment group.  This gives us an objective view of the progress we are making and helps us to improve along the way.

Q: What are you most proud of so far with the work you have done in New Orleans?

We are most proud of the hard work and dedication that our teachers put in every day so that they can have a transformational, breakthrough year. The teachers that opt-in to receive MTC coaching are passionate, relentless, and take and implement feedback from their coaches with one goal in mind: demonstrable gains in student achievement!
Q: What are you most excited about as you continue your work in New Orleans into the next school year?

We are excited by the results of the study which show that former MTC teachers and their students made real transformations in their classrooms.  BUT, we are most excited about implementing the feedback  from our study results, teachers, principals, CMO leaders, and partner organizations on how to make our program even better for next year.