The Coach/Principal Team

I am currently facilitating leadership teams at the central office and building level in several districts. As I researched for this work the critical importance of school based leaders was reinforced. Consider the following statements regarding the principal’s role:

On average, a principal accounts for 25 percent of a school’s total impact on student achievement—significant for a single individual. Indeed, the difference between having an average and an above-average principal can impact school-level student achievement by as much as 20 percentage points. Principals can have a stronger effect on all students in a school than teachers do because teachers affect only their particular students. Researchers have also documented the actions and practices that differentiate the most effective principals, in particular, the way that they develop great teachers and create school culture and working conditions that keep great teachers in the field. (Taken from Great Principals at Scale )

I often stress that the teamwork of principal and instructional coach(es) is vital in order to maximize their impact on building ever increasing instructional effectiveness throughout the school. That teamwork requires conversations that align their thinking and actions.

The summer schedule may provide the perfect opportunity for the instructional coach and principal to arrange a coffee hour to establish a plan for the start of the new year. Here are some questions that coaches might ask in such dialogues. (Mix and match as appropriate.)

Coach and principal both returning, having worked together last year

What do you identify as our greatest success last year in student learning?

What did you notice in classroom observations that would have led you to predict the success?

What do you see as our focus for student growth this year?

What changes will teachers need to make to gain the student behaviors we need?

What would you see and hear students doing that would tell you the teacher changes are in place?

How would my work support the changes we need?

What do you believe you will need to do?

How should we plan to communicate the plan to the staff?

Principal returning and coach is new to the school

What are some of the strongest student achievement results the school is getting?

What do you believe are the staff efforts that are getting those results?

Where are you envisioning the next desired increase in student achievement?

What will you need to get students to do to reach that result?

What will that require teachers to do?

How should I begin my work to support those efforts?

Coach returning and the principal is new

What have your experiences been coaching, being coached and working with school based coaches?

How does the role of a coach fit into promoting the school culture you will want to develop?

What questions do you have for me?

How can my work assist you as you begin knowing and guiding student achievement success?

Coach and principal are new to the school

What have your experiences been coaching, being coached and working with school based coaches?

How does the role of a coach fit into promoting the school culture you will want to develop?

What do you know about the school that will focus our beginning work? What do we need to find out?

What are some of the initial impressions and messages you want the staff to receive?

How can I best support the start of that work?

Coaches asking these questions (and listening intently) should generate questions from principals to deepen the dialogue and understanding.

I’d love to hear the experiences of anyone working with these questions. Good luck building your partnerships.

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Steve Barkley

For the past 30 years, Steve has served as a consultant to school districts, teacher organizations, state departments of education, and colleges and universities nationally and internationally, facilitating the changes necessary for them to reach students and successfully prepare them for the 21st century. Read more…

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