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Kyrene Academic Coaches focus on enhancing teaching

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Posted: Friday, January 17, 2014 5:34 pm

With the standards of learning being an ever-changing occurrence, some institutions have devised different ways to have their instructors prepared for the subject they’ll be teaching.

One of the ways the Kyrene School District (KSD) has been assuring their teachers have all the assistance they need is by working alongside academic coaches.

The Kyrene Academic Coaches assist instructors in two key areas of learning: math and literacy.

There’s more than 15 Kyrene Academic Coaches covering the 19 elementary schools in KSD.

Lorah Neville, executive director for curriculum and learning services, said modeling is one of the most important parts of math instructing.

Modeling furthers the students understanding of math by using different hands-on activities from drawing pictures to using cubic figures to work out problems.

“We have kids have a more complex understanding, instead of a basic understanding,” Neville said.

Coaches consist of instructors who are masters in their fields, and have spent many hours immersed in the material they’re coaching.

“In our program each of our math coaches work with three schools. What they do is they help the teachers and the administrators at the school with focus on gaining math-content knowledge, or instructional strategies that help improve math instruction that are happening all over our classrooms,” Neville said. “It’s very much like a basketball coach, or a hockey coach.”

The coaches also assist the improvement quality of a teacher’s instruction model by giving feedback from the types of questions a teacher asks their students to the different activities being conducted in the classroom.

Each Kyrene Academic Coach follows an eight-key task agenda, some involving data analysis to gather multiple sources to identify information that can be utilized to improve instruction and learning, observing classrooms to learn about classroom environment in order to support daily instructions, modeling lessons to a specific instructional practice including rigor and content while a teacher observes with a focused purpose on which to reflect, and co-teaching where to coach and classroom the teacher share responsibilities for delivering lessons and reflecting on the lesson’s effectiveness.

One reason Neville feels coaches add onto the teaching experience is because the standards of what students are required to know are higher expected.

“The amount of math knowledge teachers need to have now is much higher than it has ever been before. That’s why we know we need math experts in the buildings helping teachers to understand math and teach math in a way that kids really get a deep understanding,” Neville said.

Some expectations the Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards (AZCCRS) have students do when speaking about math is not only know how to solve mathematical problems through sets of algorithms, but understand the reasoning of using the formula and when it should be applied.

“It’s a very different world mathematical for kids, and that’s why we feel it’s important for teachers to continuing to improve with their practice,” Neville said. “To me that’s the biggest difference between previous standards of the state and the Arizona College and Career Ready Standards. We’re no longer saying here’s the sort of bare minimum you need to get out of high school, but we’re saying here’s what you need by 12th grade to be ready to go into an entry-level job, go to college and not need remedial instruction in English and math.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or dochoa@ahwatukee.com.

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