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Oct. 05, 2012
CONTACT: K. E. Schwab

SRU starts instructional coach program

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - The Pennsylvania Department of Education has approved the Slippery Rock University College of Education's plan to provide an instructional coach endorsement.

The 12-credit program includes course work in such elementary education and early childhood classes as "Foundations of Instructional Coaching," "Teacher Leadership and School Change for Instructional Coaches," "Literacy Assessment Analysis and Instructional Decision Making" and "Advanced Literacy Coaching Practicum."

"Instructional coaching is one method of professional development that has shown potential to improve the knowledge, skills and practices of teachers, thus enhancing student achievement," said Keith Dils, dean of SRU's College of Education. "We saw the benefits of such instruction and developed the appropriate courses that would enable our students to earn the endorsement."

"We have been working on this project for several months, and we think a number of our students will quickly see the benefits and elect to add the state-approved endorsement," he said. A start date for the program is expected to be set next week.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education has pointed to a 2004 study by the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning, showing instructional coaching was found to significantly increase the implementation rate of newly learned practices. The study indicated that without support and follow-up, teacher implementation of new instructional methods is about 10 percent, but with follow-up support and coaching the percentage increases to 85 percent.

Instructional coaching as a professional development activity involves a highly skilled professional [the coach] working with other professionals [the teachers] in a collegial manner to raise instructional practice to the highest possible level, Dils said.

According to the DOE, "Coaching promotes teacher growth and problem-solving. It is ongoing, classroom-based and personalized for each teacher. Instructional coaching should provide consistent support to teachers as they work to improve practice based on collaboration, inquiry and consultative feedback from the coach. It represents sound, job-embedded professional development that has the potential to improve instructional practice and ultimately student achievement. As effective facilitators of adult learning, coaches lead teachers in reflective and inquiry-based professional development that advances collective leadership, continuous improvement of instructional practices and improved student achievement."

SRU's courses that are part of the program will allow students to study the causes and methods of correcting reading disabilities by familiarizing the prospective reading specialist/literacy coach with the various kinds of assessments used in the diagnosis and remediation of reading difficulties and the interpretation and use of assessment data to inform instructional decisions.

Other courses are designed to develop the understandings and skills of teachers as leaders in school change, offer a practicum designed to support reading specialist candidates' development of literacy coaching skills, strategies and dispositions through hands-on activities with in-service teachers, administrators, allied support staff and parents, and focus on introducing participants to best practices for K-12 instructional coaches.

The DOE requires an instructional coach at the Pre K-12 level to be an effective content teacher at the Pre K-4, 4-8 or secondary level, hold an Instructional I or II certificate and have a minimum of three years of effective teaching experience on their certificate. Those involved must also complete an approved Instructional Coaching program such as the one now being implemented at SRU.

Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.