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Volume 23, Number 5
September/October 2007

Is Coaching the Best Use of Resources?

For some schools, other investments should come first


I arrived for my first day of coaching at a Boston school with energy, ideas, and a batch of homemade blueberry muffins. A teacher on the Instructional Leadership Team looked at me, looked at the muffins, and said, “I hate you already.” She said it with a smile, but she wasn’t kidding. Later I would come to appreciate her honesty, but at that moment all I could think was, “But you don’t even know me.”

She knew enough. She knew that she had been teaching longer than I had been alive, she knew that I was supposed to help the school “change” and “improve,” and she believed that she didn’t need any changing or improving. I knew that I had learned some things as a teacher and a principal. I knew that most students in the school weren’t performing at a proficient level on the state tests and I believed they were capable of doing better. And I knew my blueberry muffins were good. I offered her a muffin and plunged into the meeting.

In the six years since that experience, I’ve had the opportunity to observe and reflect on the use of coaching in schools as a researcher, consultant, and teacher of aspiring principals. During that time, coaching has continued to swell in popularity as a strategy for improving instruction and, consequently, learning. The strengths of coaching as a professional development strategy are well known, as are some of the challenges of doing it right (see School-Based Coaching, HEL July/August 2004). But even when schools are doing all the right things and coaches have the proper preparation and training, coaching can fall far short of its potential. Instead of trying to resolve all the challenges associated with coaching, schools may need to step back and ask themselves: Is this the best use of my school’s people, time, and money?

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


For Further Information

For Further Information

A.S. Bryk and B. Schneider. Trust in Schools: A Core Resource for Improvement. New York: Russell Sage, 2002.

The Efficacy Institute.

C. Kuykendall. From Rage to Hope: Strategies for Reclaiming Black and Hispanic Students. Bloomington, IN: National Education Service, 2004.

P.B. Sebring, E. Allensworth, A.S. Bryk, J.Q. Easton, and S. Luppescu. The Essential Supports for School Improvement. Chicago: Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago, 2006.