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iteach Now Offers Content-Specific Instructional Coaches for Texas Candidates

iteach is thrilled to announce an exclusive benefit to Texas teacher candidates. Beginning this Fall, iteach will match all candidates in Texas on an intern or probationary certification with a content-specific instructional coach to support and guide candidates through their first year in the classroom. 

According to research by The EdResearch for Recovery Project, content-specific coaching has greater effects on teaching and learning than coaching focused on general teaching practices.

At iteach, content-specific support will be a vital addition for new teachers to successfully transfer their knowledge of the content to their students in the classroom. In all states where the organization operates, iteach prides itself on matching candidates to esteemed supervisors to support first-year teachers with general pedagogy. The addition of content-specific support through dedicated coaches and content-specific cohorts will take the organization’s ability to help candidates feel more confident in their first year to a new level.

“iteach decided to provide instructional coaches because we wanted to create a space for candidates to receive content-specific coaching and also participate in a community of learners like themselves,” said Amy Anderson, Ph.D., Director of Curriculum and Instruction at iteach.

“We know that online learning provides opportunities that in-seat learning can limit. As an online, alternative certification provider, how can we leverage the digital learning environment to benefit candidates and be an online certification program that levels up in spaces that haven’t been done before? So we thought, ‘We can have Zoom Huddle sessions where, regardless of where you are, you can gather with cohort members to learn about each other, deepen content knowledge, share engaging teaching strategies, and make connections.’ All this is facilitated by an instructional coach who is active in the K-12 setting doing the same thing. ‘Let’s do that! Let’s provide an extra level of support.’”

Why Coaching Works For Teachers & Students

iteach teacher candidates have already demonstrated content knowledge by passing the state exam before hire. Developing content-specific pedagogy in such a way that all students learn is a skill that needs time and support to evolve.  Research shows that coaching in a variety of forms helps this process. A study from the International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education concluded that having a content-focused coach strongly correlates with a reduced turnover of novice teachers. 

Additionally, by providing instructional coaching in a training program, students benefit. The EdResearch for Recovery Project states, “The students of teachers prepared through these programs show greater achievement gains than students of teachers prepared in other ways.”

Researchers Matthew Kraft and David Blazar examined 60 studies about the efficacy of coaching for strengthening teachers and lifting student achievement. Their studies concluded that coaching improves the quality of an educator’s practice as much as a decade of experience in teaching. They estimate that coaching has a more positive effect on improving teachers’ abilities to deliver content and concepts than traditional professional development methods.

Multiple studies have found that virtual coaching is just as successful as in-person. With widely available virtual tools, it is more important than ever to start providing teachers with this vital support to enhance student achievement.

How does this benefit first-year teachers in the iteach program?

Outside of a content-specific instructional coach, candidates will receive access to an online community of educators teaching a similar content area. These benefits include: 

  • Huddles for Content-Specific Community and Collaboration: The coach will host two synchronous Zoom sessions within Canvas per semester. In these Zoom Huddle sessions, candidates will gather with other cohort members to collaborate, give and get support, and learn from shared experiences. 
  • Discussion Boards: Candidates in similar subject areas can interact at any time through online discussion boards put together by the iteach team. Candidates can post questions and give answers throughout the semester to support one another and collaborate. Discussion posts will focus on upcoming deadlines and/or the upcoming Huddle. Others will be open forums to support one another at will. 
  • Reflections: Each assigned content-specific instructional coach will provide feedback on the two required reflection assignments that candidates submit in course 5700. Having content-specific coaches provide feedback on these assignments will enhance their ability to transfer and grow their content knowledge into meaningful learning experiences to support student achievement.
  • One-on-One: Candidates are welcome to reach out to their coach for one-on-one support as needed.

How does this benefit iteach’s school partners? 

“As a former administrator, I know how difficult it is to support new teachers in the classroom; it seems like you never have enough people or time to support the teachers, especially if the content area is outside the expertise of the administrator,” said Anderson. 

“Districts hiring an iteach candidate will know that they have a team of people ready to help their new-hire start and finish their first year in the classroom well. We also believe if a new teacher is well-supported and has a safe space to learn and grow, they will feel and be successful. When teachers learn, students learn. When students learn, teachers feel a sense of being ‘good’ at what they do. Teachers that feel this way tend to stick around.”

A study on the Cost-Effectiveness of Instructional Coaching found that although instructional coaching is more of an investment than short-term professional development, the impact is much more significant, and coaching programs become more cost-effective for districts over time. 

Fortunately, districts hiring iteach candidates do not need to take on this cost burden since candidates hired will already have an embedded content-specific coach through their alternative teacher certification program. 

“We are thrilled to give candidates that extra level of content support with an instructional coach and cohort that may say, ‘Here is a great way to teach this difficult standard, or this is an excellent curriculum resource that is going to help you deliver the content to your students in an engaging and culturally responsive way so that everyone in your classroom can access, relate, and learn the content,’” said Anderson. 

What comes next? 

“The sky is the limit,” said Anderson. 

“We are excited about this. We hope our candidates feel like, ‘I know I am new at this, and it’s probably going to be tough being a first-year teacher, but I have so much support, and I know so many places I can go to get help, ideas, community, and encouragement when I need it, I feel good, and am going to have a great year.’ At the end of the year, we want them to feel successful and do it again and again, year after year.”

The iteach team reached out to many program alumni to ask if they would like to join the cause and become instructional coaches. Every single one of them that the team met concurred that they wished they had an iteach instructional coach when they went through the program years ago and were thrilled to help new teachers and be an iteach instructional coach this year.

“These are the experts in the field doing the work, who know there is a need and step up to help,” said Anderson. “That is what we hope this will provide to our candidates. This is the pattern we want to repeat.”

After rolling out the instructional coaching program in Texas this Fall, iteach hopes to expand this benefit to all states where the organization operates.

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