Three months into its second year of implementation, the peer-coaching program in the Le Sueur-Henderson school district is receiving nothing but positive feedback from teachers.
Peer-coaching is a major component of the district’s instructional curriculum where veteran teachers are removed from their classrooms during the school day to help other teachers on educational techniques and methods. It is a way for teachers to receive constructive criticism and share ideas.
During the School Board meeting Monday, April Rosendale and LaRae Ludwig – both teachers on special assignment to coordinate the program – said the mission is to help teachers grow professionally in their practice. And that mission is on the right track, according to the teachers.
In a recent survey, Ludwig said 54 percent of the teachers in the district see the program as beneficial, while the remaining 46 percent see it as very beneficial. No negative feedback has been received about the program from teachers.
Rosendale said peer-coaching is not only beneficial to the teachers, but also to the coaches. And it serves as a way for teachers to stay sharp in their practice.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re teaching in year one or year 31, we have a lot to learn,” Rosendale said. “We are learning from each other and growing with one another.”
Currently, there are 19 teachers trained in peer-coaching while all teachers in the district are being coached. The program is in its second year, but this is the first year all teachers in the district are being coached. Coaches are chosen in collaboration with principals and based on experience.
Although the program is widely respected amongst teachers, administrators and program coordinators are concerned with the times in which the teachers are receiving the peer-coaching. Teachers are currently pulled out of their classes to receive coaching.
“What we would like our district to think about are ways we could provide this coaching experience as embedded professional development so that we could avoid the idea of releasing teachers from classroom time,” Rosendale said. “I’m not sure what it would look like, but we would like to have an arrangement whereby teachers could still receive this valuable coaching, but it would be offered at a time that does not require them being pulled out of their classrooms.”
One suggestion, which was made at the last School Board work session, is to increase the amount of time teachers spend in Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), which allow teachers to work collaboratively and share ideas. They currently spend half an hour in PLCs each week and one suggestion is to increase that time to an hour every day.
Peer-coaching will become a mandated evaluation process by the Minnesota Department of Education starting next year and Superintendent Rich Hanson is happy the school district is ahead of the curve.
“A lot of districts are struggling because they haven’t laid this groundwork,” Hanson said of the peer-coaching program. “So we are ready to go with that evaluation part of it and we are ahead of the game.”
Ludwig agreed that the district is ahead of many other school districts in the state, but it ultimately comes down to student achievement and that needs to remain as the main focus.
“When our teachers grow, our students grow,” Ludwig said.
Reach reporter CJ Siewert at 507-931-8576 or follow him on Twitter @LNHcj