Hall County school officials ended part of a new instructional coach program almost before it began.
The school system implemented a version of the eight-week Boston Collaborative Coaching Lab Site Model for instructional coaches in August, but the negatives outweighed the positives and it wasn't working very well, Superintendent Will Schofield said at a Nov. 28 board meeting.
The model calls for teachers to meet with their instructional coach weekly to discuss upcoming lessons, watch a demonstration of the lesson and provide feedback, according to documents from the school system.
"What we were trying to do was implement the Boston model in an abbreviated pilot," said Eloise Barron, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning for Hall County Schools. "We took one coach and tried to divide her up between three schools. The schools liked the model; they liked what she did and the demonstrating and intensive follow-up."
The problem, Barron said, was the one coach was being stretched too thin for the model to work effectively. It was difficult for her to equally meet with, demonstrate to and get feedback from teachers at Flowery Branch Elementary School, Spout Springs School of Enrichment and Chestnut Mountain Elementary School.
"The struggle was not with the model. We loved it," said Sabrina May, principal at Chestnut Mountain Elementary. "The struggle was only having (the coach) one day a week in the building."
This was an issue the Boston system had as well, said Patty Robinson, director of early literacy and school improvement for the county.
"The part that we're discontinuing is the clustering with so many schools, because the teachers are saying this isn't very valuable. The principals are saying we want to keep this model of professional learning, but we want more of it," Robinson said. "The collaborative piece and the lab pilot we are keeping."
Things were going downhill with the pilot by the Sept. 12 board meeting.
"This is early along, we're only a few weeks into school, but these are things they've realized by not having a person in their school every day," Barron said at the meeting.
Schofield said then he wanted to "give it the old college try" to see if this was a better way of using the system's resources.
"We thought we might be able to not have to hire as many coaches. It would have been a cost-saving measure had it worked," Barron said. "But that's not how the model is done to start with, that's just how we were trying to make the staff smaller and implement the model at the same time."
Shasta Gundlach, who was the cluster coach at the three schools, said she received very positive feedback about the pilot program.
"Almost all (teachers) unanimously said it was the best professional learning they've done, because of the model getting to work with kids," Gundlach said.
Heather Wall, who oversees instructional coaches at all Hall County schools, said quite a few coaches at other schools are interested in the Boston model.
For the remainder of the school year, the system will have a half-time coach at the non-Title I schools and full-time coaches at the Title I schools, Barron said.
"What we'd like to do with the half-time folks we have is to implement as many of the strategies as we can," she said.
Barron said Gundlach has since gone back to working at Flowery Branch Elementary and Chestnut Mountain Elementary, splitting her time between two schools instead of three.
Schofield said the school system would be more than willing to try the Boston model again.
"This doesn't mean it's a failure, it just means we gathered more information," he said.