Alamogordo Public Schools Enhances Teaching and Learning with Data-Driven Classroom Coaching

Alamogordo Public Schools, in New Mexico, uses Data-Driven Classroom Coaching to help educators utilize formative data and technology to improve student achievement. Through individualized coaching tailored to teachers’ needs, Alamogordo Public Schools has improved data-driven decision making, enhanced teachers’ and students’ 21st century skills, boosted communication and collaboration, and improved teaching and learning in the classroom.

Alamagordo Public School (APS) serves the communities of Alamogordo, High Rolls, Mountain Park, La Luz, and portions of unincorporated Otero County in New Mexico. The district has a strong working relationship with its military communities including Holloman Air Force Base, which is about 10 miles west of Alamogordo.

In 2010, the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) awarded APS a grant to implement the "Power Up" project at five military-connected schools. The APS Power Up project provides instructional support using technology in schools and additional counseling for military dependent students. To help teachers integrate 21st century technology into their instruction, APS partnered with CTB/McGraw-Hill and implemented the Data-Driven Classroom Coaching (D2C2) model. Previously, APS implemented the D2C2 model in two other schools as part of the New Mexico Building Blocks Project, an Enhancing Education Through Technology grant awarded by the New Mexico Public Education Department.

"Our district leadership has a deep belief in making data-informed decisions, and a deep belief in the power of coaching to create instructional change," said Dr. Jann Hunter, the Director for Curriculum and Instruction for APS. "With the Power Up grant, we wanted to extend the D2C2 model and expand the best practices we had established."

Solution: Data-Driven Classroom Coaching

D2C2 is a highly customizable and collaborative professional development process from CTB/McGraw-Hill. Through this one-on-one coaching model, educators receive coaching focused on the use of student data to improve teaching and learning. As part of the process, educators learn to leverage technology and 21st century skills to effectively address areas of need. From start to finish, formative data is used to inform instruction and improve student achievement.

APS launched the D2C2 model in fall 2010 in the Alamogordo High School Ninth Grade Academy and at Holloman Middle School at the sixth grade level. In fall 2011, it extended the model to the fifth grade level at Holloman, Yucca, and Buena Vista elementary schools.

Pre-inventories

Prior to coaching, teachers completed online pre-inventories created by CTB/McGraw-Hill to help each school make the most of existing resources and identify any pressing needs. Teachers listed existing equipment and tools, as well as related instructional materials and educational technology resources. In addition, teachers completed a survey about their familiarity and comfort in using 21st century skills in the classroom. The results of the inventories assisted in decision-making about resource allocation and in defining the type of coaching teachers would receive.

"This process was very helpful, both at the school level and at the individual level for each teacher," said Lindsley Silagi, DoDEA Implementation Consultant for APS. "It helped us develop strategies for the integration of technology and 21st century skills into teachers’ classroom activities."

Individualized Coaching

Teachers then began receiving individualized coaching, over the course of several visits, on how to better use data to drive decision making and how to infuse technology into their daily instruction.

"Research shows that with a strong data-driven system for monitoring student progress, teachers can improve their instruction to more effectively meet students’ needs and increase student achievement. However, to make informed decisions on an ongoing basis, teachers need support. Therein lies the importance of coaching," said Silagi. "Coaching exposes teachers to new possibilities. If students aren’t making progress with regular instructional practices, it gives teachers the skills to look deeper and determine what else they can do to meet students’ needs. It supports a process of continual improvement."

Teachers, in particular, appreciate the individualized support they receive through the coaching. "One-on-one instructional coaching is very different than sitting in a room with a bunch of people receiving professional development. It’s much more hands-on, which makes it easier to integrate the new skills into my teaching," said Kari Willis, a ninth grade teacher and chair of the Student Assistance Team at Alamogordo High School. "Our coach has wonderful ideas, which have really blossomed in my classroom. This process is opening new doors for me and my students."

Technology Integration

In addition to professional development, the Power Up grant supplies laptops for students to use at school, interactive whiteboards and LCD projectors for each classroom, a document camera, and a laptop for each teacher. Through the D2C2 model, teachers are learning how to integrate these technologies into their instruction to increase student achievement and engagement.

"The Power Up project isn’t just about using more technology in classrooms; it’s about using technology to improve student learning," said Darlene Mellen, the district coach providing technology support for the Power Up project. "Before this grant, many teachers didn’t have much experience with technology, so we started with the basics."

"To be honest, I was nervous when we started because I’m not a computer whiz," said Kathryn Norwood, a fifth grade teacher at Buena Vista Elementary. "But now I feel much more comfortable with technology and I like seeing my students excited about it."

"I was moderately familiar with technology before the coaching, but now I can incorporate many more technology resources into my teaching," said Willis. "The kids love it. We have greater interaction in the classroom and they’re much more interested in the work we’re doing."

For example, through the coaching, teachers have learned to create blogs to communicate with students and parents. "This year, I started a blog where I post lessons, assignments, and links to resources," said Willis. "I also require students to post responses to the activities on the blog. Not only is it helping them become more familiar with technology, but it’s showing me what they’re thinking, which helps inform my instruction." In addition, teachers have learned to integrate tools such as document cameras, LCD projectors, and interactive whiteboards into classroom teaching and learning.

"When we started, many teachers thought technology was simply one more thing to add to their schedule. Little things, like using a projector with a document camera, seemed like a lot of effort. Now those same teachers don’t think twice about it. It’s become part of their way of teaching," said Mellen. "Through this professional development process, we’re building teachers’ and students’ 21st century skills. It’s unbelievable how much we can do with technology to strengthen critical thinking, problem solving, communication, and collaboration. And once technology becomes part of the classroom, it’s seamless. There’s no way you can go back and take the technology out. It becomes part of your teaching."

Data-Driven Decision Making

Through their participation in the D2C2 model, teachers are more effectively using formative data to inform instruction and improve student learning. "For years, teachers have met on a regular basis as a grade level or as a department to conduct strategic planning," said Silagi. "A key benefit of the coaching is that it’s opened up new ways of thinking, so it allows for much deeper reflection on the data."

"We regularly use data in grade level meetings to evaluate how things are going, identify issues, and discuss how to address them," said Norwood. "I frequently look at data from the curriculum programs students use in the computer lab to see where they’re lacking specific skills. In the classroom, I also roam around and look at students’ laptops to see what they’re doing. From there, I can jump forward or back up. If I see that quite a few kids don’t understand something, I can illustrate it using my laptop and the interactive whiteboard, and then ask them to try it on their own laptops. Or, I may group students and ask them to help each other. The data definitely helps drive my instruction."

For example, when Norwood saw students had a difficult time with the concept of probability, she decided to use technology to pique their interest. She invited students to come up to her laptop, spin a computer-based spinner, and then use fractions and percentages to write the probabilities. "I like to use the computer as a way to get students excited about what we’re talking about, rather than just doing a worksheet," she said. "It makes them interested and curious, so they want to learn more. Technology also allows students to be more collaborative. They enjoy working together and helping each other, and that makes my heart smile."

Results

  • Improved data-driven decision making
  • Differentiated lesson planning and classroom practice
  • Improved 21st century skills
  • Increased student participation, communication, and collaboration
  • Sustainability

"The D2C2 model has not only improved our processes, but it’s given us the support we need to apply and expand best practices. It shows teachers they can create instructional change and that it’s not a scary process. They look forward to the work they do with the coaches. We’ve seen some great changes taking place as a result of the coaching and the support that this model provides," said Silagi.

"Having greater access to technology has been wonderful and the coaching has been critical to our success," said Willis. "A key benefit of the coaching is that it’s expanded our ability to move away from traditional methods of instruction. While those skills are still important, the world isn’t like that anymore so we need to work with students in different ways. This program has expanded the ways in which we interact with and engage our students." "The coaching helped me open my eyes and see the usefulness of technology in the classroom," said Norwood. "Seeing the kids working together and learning together makes you realize that an effective classroom isn’t always a quiet one. Students’ knowledge is valuable. Sharing and talking with one another about their learning is very empowering to them."

Mellen also enjoys seeing the teachers using data and infusing technology into their instruction to improve student learning. "It’s become second nature to them," she said. "Students are excited about learning. They’re listening and paying attention because we’re reaching them in new ways. Technology draws students in and increases their participation, which is going to make a big difference in their learning. It’s very rewarding."

Silagi agrees. "We have quality teachers who can now perform at even higher levels because they have this support and these tools available to them," she said. "Teachers are using technology to engage students more deeply in critical thinking, so they’re able to approach the content in a more powerful way. As a result, students’ enthusiasm and participation in the classroom have risen, and that affects their achievement. We see this happening in a number of our classrooms. You really can affect change and improve instruction when you implement this model."

Looking Ahead

Through the D2C2 professional development process, Alamogordo Public Schools aims to create a sustainable model for improvement.

"CTB’s data-driven approach to classroom coaching is about taking teaching and learning to the next level. It’s about implementing and expanding best practices, using data to inform and differentiate instruction, integrating technology and 21st century skills into the classroom, and engaging students more deeply in their learning," Hunter said.

"We’re currently working to bring more teachers on board and to give our technology specialist time to develop additional skills, so we can continue this model once our work with CTB ends," she continued. "A great benefit of the Data-Driven Classroom Coaching model is that it’s further boosted our belief in coaching in the district. We’d like to expand this model to other schools and it’s giving us a process for continuing this work."