In 2005, the Pennsylvania High School Coaching Initiative (PAHSCI) began working with 26 high schools in 16 high-needs districts. To monitor the progress and effects of the initiative, PAHSCI invested in research and evaluation from the start. Several studies of PAHSCI were conducted in recent years, by research partners Research for Action, MPR Associates, Inc., Success for All, and the Academy for Educational Development.
PAHSCI: From Promise to Practice offers a summary of the research on PAHSCI. Below are some highlights from these studies; the full studies are available on PAHSCI's Research Findings page.
Although PAHSCI is a school reform model focused directly on improving teaching and learning in classrooms, this work was supported by a complex infrastructure that included several partners, a specific literacy framework, content mentors and leadership mentors, professional development, and other components. Some of these components are addressed in the research highlights below.
The Early Studies: Implementation Issues
The first PAHSCI studies looked mainly at the organization and implementation of the instructional coaching program. Studies examined what coaches were learning and doing; how they were viewed and supported in their schools; what kinds of obstacles they encountered; how teachers and administrators were responding to PAHSCI, and other issues.
Teachers. Greater percentages of teachers who were frequently coached one-on-one (compared with teachers coached less frequently or not at all) reported:
They also noted that coaches addressed their needs as teachers and served as a catalyst for learning among school staff.
Instructional Coaches. Coaches were experienced educators, and about 80 percent were women. They had an average of 17.5 years of teaching experience, and their positions prior to coaching were:
The activities coaches most frequently engaged in were:
The Role of PAHSCI. PAHSCI served as a catalyst for organizational and cultural change within schools and supported change in classroom practices.
Instructional Mentors. Mentors play an essential role in instructional coaching in Pennsylvania. They are the “coach’s coach,” and they also have broad responsibility for analyzing instructional needs in districts, promoting collaboration among school staff, and addressing the professional development needs of coaches and teachers.
A survey of PAHSCI mentors found that:
Student Achievement. The ultimate goal of PAHSCI is improved student achievement. Findings from research conducted over three years in PAHSCI schools found that:
The PAHSCI Teacher’ Survey indicated the following:
These findings, while encouraging, must be judged cautiously. Not all teachers in PAHSCI schools participated in coaching. Schools are complex organizations, and other factors also may have contributed to improved student attendance, engagement, and achievement. More research is necessary to document the unique contributions of instructional coaching.
A Continuing Commitment to Evaluation
PIIC continues PAHSCI’s strong commitment to evaluation. Data-based decision making is built into the day-to-day operations of the Institute. External evaluators — MPR Associates, Inc. and the Academy for Educational Development — will help develop and implement a framework for continuous improvement, as well as appropriate strategies for data collection and management. Click here for more information on the Institute’s plans for research and evaluation.