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What is an Instructional Coach?

The instructional coach.

In the last decade, school districts have invested a lot of money, time, and energy into building instructional coaching programs. Districts may have reading coaches, math coaches, turnaround coaches, classroom management coaches, gifted specialists, or general instructional coaches. Sometimes coaching positions are tailored to grant-funded priorities, focused on specific implementation efforts, or aimed at student-level needs.

Too often, instructional coaches are used in ways that do not directly support the instructional goals of the school. Sometimes, coaches are tasked with administrative tasks that directly detract from their core duties and, subsequently, their effectiveness. Other times, their schedules are filled with lunch duties and student management crisis instead of teacher coaching cycles. When coaches en up as a dumping ground for unfinished tasks, the work quality often suffers in all areas.

To best meet the needs of a school, leaders must be clear on the instructional coach role and fiercely protect the time of these individuals to squarely focus on their various aspects of their defined role.

How does an instructional coach truly define their job?

As with an instructional leadership team, there are 4 core functions of an instructional coach:

Schools invest in what they care about.

Here is a sample job description of an instructional coach adapted from Bryan Independent School District Job Description:

1. Serve as a member of the campus leadership team.

2. Work with content coordinator and campus administration to design and provide professional development focused on improving alignment and delivery of the written, taught, and tested curriculum to increase student success and close performance gaps.

3. Work with teachers and campus administration to analyze student data, diagnose instructional needs and identify research-based instructional strategies to close achievement gaps.

4. Provide job-embedded professional development for teachers through modeling engaging, standards-based teaching as needed.

5. Collaborate with content coordinator, campus administration, and teachers to review and develop aligned curriculum components including assessments.

6. Provide individual and/or group instructional coaching and mentoring to teachers to improve classroom instruction for all learners.

7. Conduct teacher observations and/or walk-throughs and provide feedback that facilitates teacher reflection and growth.

8. Work with content coordinators, campus administration, and team and/or grade level teachers in planning standards-based lessons and assessments aligned to the district curriculum.

9. Manage and distribute instructional resources to teachers and provide training on the use of those resources.

Notice that this job description does not include “other duties as assigned.” The goal is to narrow in on the core work of an instructional coach so the bulk of a coach’s time is spent improving the instructional capacity of the district.

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