Coaching Matters

By Robert J. Harris

May 8, 2017

Over the last two decades, school districts hired an increasing number of academic coaches to work with elementary teachers to improve the quality of literacy and math instruction. In this role, instructional coaches share their expertise in curriculum and instruction by observing classroom teachers, modeling best practices for them, and by giving them meaningful feedback. Although coaching is an important form of professional learning that can lead to improved teacher performance, it is not the only form.  Others include: mentoring and induction programs, workshops, seminars, graduate coursework, staff meetings, and professional collaboration.

In the school system in which I work, our six elementary schools were all recently rated within the top-ten elementary schools in the state. Given this reputation as a high-performing organization, and because comparisons between public and private sector enterprises usually produce interesting findings; I compared our school organization with other high-performing organizations based solely on the number of coaches they hire per employee. For this exercise, I selected the crème-de-la-creme:  last year’s NBA champions the Cleveland Cavaliers, last year’s World Series winners, the Chicago Cubs, and last year’s Super Bowl champions, the New England Patriots. These three teams are unquestionably the highest performing organizations in their industries.

Here’s what I learned. The Cleveland Cavaliers (Cavs) have 15 players on their active roster with a total of six coaches – a ratio of 2.5 players per coach. The Chicago Cubs (Cubbies) have 26 players on their roster and ten coaches – a ratio of 2.6 players per coach, and lastly the New England Patriots (Pats) have 62 players and 16 coaches – a ratio of 3.875 players per coach. In the school system in which I work, there are a total of 26 literacy and math coaches for 143 educators in grades k-5, or 5.5 classroom teachers (players) per coach.

Upon review, the Cavs and Cubbies have more than twice the coaches per player than my school system, and the Pats have 30% more. Whether in sports or academia one thing is clear. Successful organizations recognize that, in order to maintain a sustainable competitive advantage, an investment in coaching can really make a huge difference in achieving their performance goals.

Robert J. Harris (@edudexterous) is an Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources.


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