A classroom coaching tool is one of the most effective ways to monitor and improve an instructional coaching program. To facilitate a successful teacher coaching program, school leaders must accurately assess areas that need growth. School leaders must also be able to monitor the progress of their coaching program in order to make adjustments that will ensure favorable student outcomes. Mastering a classroom coaching tool like Whetstone is the best way to make that happen.
Since June 2015, New Orleans educator Krista Patrick Brown has served as principal at ARISE Academy, where she has established a strong educational environment powered by data-driven instruction. Under her leadership, 80% of ARISE Academy teachers have achieved or exceeded their mid-year targets for growth in the classroom. This progress is due in large part to Principal Brown’s coaching model, which uses classroom data to design goals and professional development opportunities that targeted specific areas of growth for teachers.
Classroom coaching tools are a major driver of student success at ARISE Academy. We sat down with Principal Brown to learn more about how she mastered Whetstone’s classroom coaching tool in order to build a coaching program that has enabled both teachers and students to excel.
Implementing A Data-Driven Classroom Coaching Tool
School leaders often find themselves at a crossroads when it comes to selecting and implementing instructional coaching systems. With so many options to choose from, it’s important to understand how the needs of your coaching program compare to the capabilities of your classroom coaching tools. As Principal Brown noted, taking stock of her school’s needs enabled her to design and implement a coaching model that worked. During our chat, we discussed what motivated her decision to build a coaching program around data, and why that program has been a success.
When and why did your school decide to try teacher coaching?
Principal Brown: While our school has always had informal coaching structures, our school started to officially coach teachers through a normed structure about 6 years ago when we partnered with Match Education to pilot a leadership coaching program to support leaders in their development of strong coaching systems and structures. We made this switch because we felt our coaching and support could be more streamlined and our teachers and students were not making the gains that we wanted to see.
What system did you use before this tracking software?
Principal Brown: At the time of our coaching program launch, we used Google sheets with one tab per teacher and one document per coach. It was a nightmare!
What was Whetstone’s tracking software able to do that you couldn’t before?
Principal Brown: Almost everything! The gist of our Google sheets was recording a touchpoint for weekly coaching, but beyond that, it was not helpful to inform larger school practices. We piloted Whetstone back then and found the forms, systems, and data analysis components to be unbelievably helpful. Whetstone transformed our coaching work at ARISE!
What management tactics did you use to smooth the transition from your previous system to using this new tool?
Principal Brown: Change can be hard, but we found that as soon as our coaches began to use Whetstone and had their feedback incorporated into the system, the rest is history. We named a clear purpose and why for the switch to Whetstone and did a lot of one-on-one implementation support as well.
It’s crucial to use observational software that has the capacity to foster the gains you’re aiming for in the classroom. Formalized coaching programs supported by systems that gather and analyze data are better equipped to deliver positive results. When feedback is substantiated by both quantitative and qualitative data, school leaders and teachers are set up for growth.
Getting Acclimated to New Classroom Coaching Tools
Choosing the right coaching tools is only half the battle. To create a successful coaching program, these tools must be integrated into everyday life at school. Transitions can be challenging, but Principal Brown gave us some insight into how to streamline the process.
Were there any growing pains in implementing the tool? How did you navigate those?
Principal Brown: Everyone on my team is unique in their coaching and working style. Not all coaching forms and systems worked for each of these styles when we first started using the platform. Co-observations to identify ways to effectively use the tools as well as feedback to the team helped greatly. I cannot say enough about the team at Whetstone. They are adamant about ensuring that the platform meets the needs of each individual school!
What did you do on a daily basis to make the most of the tool?
Principal Brown: Quick feedback! This is the easiest and most underused tool. As a leader, the homepage also does not get enough love! That high level snapshot is always helpful.
How did the data affect your practices as the coaching program progressed?
Principal Brown: Having easy access to a plethora of data affected our practices in a number of ways. Specifically, we were able to implement an evaluation analysis meeting as a team to reflect on whole-school trends following each round of evaluations throughout the year. This helped to inform professional support plans and identify teachers who were excelling as exemplars in the building.
What did using this tool push you to do differently?
Principal Brown: Monitor frequency! Our coaches have busy schedules but observation and feedback has to stay a priority. By utilizing the tool to monitor frequency I can assess our support touchpoints by coach and teacher to see where there are potential gaps on a weekly basis. This allows me to have follow up conversations with leaders about where their time is being spent away from our stated priority of coaching. Additionally, teachers on instructional support plans may need additional touchpoints, so by analyzing the data, I am able to evaluate the need for more support.
Prioritizing feedback is a helpful way to stay on track. It’s important to customize your observation software to make sure your school’s unique needs are being met. Once you’re able to collect and interpret the data you need, you’ll be able to design effective support plans based on feedback.
Seeing Results From Whetstone’s Classroom Coaching Tools
Observational software can dramatically change your approach to coaching in the way that your school needs. This, in turn, can positively affect student outcomes. Having found success through a coaching model that centers data collected with Whetstone’s tracking software, Krista Patrick Brown reflected on how the tool facilitated the success of her coaching program.
How did the tool shift your approach to coaching?
Principal Brown: Differentiation is key. Utilizing Whetstone to differentiate the needs of teachers has been an asset to identifying and following through the necessary support for all teachers. Whetstone allows us to document our array of support through things like weekly observation and feedback, quick feedback, action plan practice, etc. There isn't a one size fits all coaching model, and so there shouldn't be a one size fits all platform. Whetstone fits our needs by adapting to what those needs are.
How did tracking and measuring data impact coaching practices?
Principal Brown: As a school leader, I cannot be in all classrooms every day coaching and providing feedback to the team. I use weekly, monthly, and quarterly data to gauge progress towards our goals and assess our frequency of support using the many tools available in the platform.
In turn, how did that affect student outcomes?
Principal Brown: The teachers with the most frequent support documented in Whetstone often show the most gains with their students. While this isn't 100% the case every time, coaches tailor their support and therefore the available feedback in Whetstone to provide additional touchpoints to the team.
Whetstone’s software enables school leaders and coaches to tailor support for each teacher. The platform’s many diverse, adaptable features enable ARISE school leaders to conduct comprehensive progress analyses that address multiple touchpoints, leading to greater gains in the classroom.
Piloting Whetstone’s Classroom Coaching Platform
Effective tools are a cornerstone of all successful teacher coaching programs. If you want to learn more about how to improve student outcomes and build a coaching program that works, contact Whetstone today to schedule a free demo or test out our free pilot program.