August 28, 2010

At-risk students to get extra help

By Paris Achen, Mail Tribune, originally published on 6/28/10

Instructional coaches in Medford district will split time with pupils, keep staff-development duties

The Medford School District’s cadre of instructional coaches will spend half of their time next year tutoring at-risk students, district officials said.

The creation of instructional coach positions two years ago angered some parents and teachers because the coaches were moved from jobs working directly with students to positions that concentrated solely on staff development and student-data analysis.

Opponents felt the instructional coaches, all seasoned experts in best instructional practices, should be kept in the classroom where they could directly benefit kids and reduce class sizes.

Next fall, instructional coaches still won’t serve as classroom teachers. However, they will spend about half of their time providing small-group instruction for students who are struggling in academics. The rest of their time will continue to be spent on staff development, introducing new curriculum, modeling new instructional practices and coordinating academic assessments. Their title will change to “teachers on special assignment,” or TOSA.

Todd Bloomquist, human resources director, said the change reflects the need for more student interventions in a school environment where class sizes can balloon to about 40 students at times. The primary goal of the shift is to help certain students who are struggling in classes but do not qualify for special education.

“We have a group of students who are not in special education, and they are not being successful,” said Medford schools Superintendent Phil Long. “They need intervention to be successful, and that’s what this calibration does.”

Officials hope instructional coaches also will have time to work with academically advanced pupils who may need customized activities in order to feel challenged.

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Filed under: Tutoring Practices

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