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Legislative Support for the REAC3H Coaches

April 4, 2013

The SDE sent out a press release this week titled “State Supt. Barresi Thanks Legislators for Support of Instructional Coaches.” From the release:

The 60 professional educators – each assigned to one of 30 regions throughout the state – have been assisting Oklahoma schools with the implementation of new education reforms such as third-grade reading sufficiency and the transition to Oklahoma C3 Academic Standards.

“We’ve heard from many of our schools that these coaches are providing invaluable resources for classroom teachers who are helping students in early grades learn to read,” Rep. Scott Martin said. “The support of our fellow legislators means these educators can continue providing these important job-embedded resources.”

I have previously described the role that these 60 educators play in implementing all of the state’s education reforms, and I have written that the budget being proposed by the SDE for this program could be better used. Here’s what I said in October:

The request for additional professional development money does not protect school districts from having the SDE determine how best to spend those funds. The proposed budget includes a slight increase in AP funds, $2.5 million in new staff development money for schools, and $5 million for REAC3H coaches. Unfortunately, with the first two items, there is no guarantee that school districts will have any say in how they spend that money. Last year, the SDE took all the AP money and sunk it into the Vision 2020 conference. And the staff development money could be re-routed on behalf of school districts into statewide initiatives. The money for REAC3H coaches could also be better spent. The SDE likes bringing in expensive big name national speakers (such as Bill Daggett). However, schools don’t have the funds to spend on his training and conferences. We all know that focused, sustained professional development makes a difference. We know that opportunities to collaborate create meaningful positive change in schools. Unfortunately, these types of professional development are not prioritized in this budget.

In November, the SDE sent a survey out to superintendents asking for their opinion on the REAC3H Coach program. It had five questions:

  1. District Name
  2. How many times have you met with the REAC3H Coaches this year?
  3. How beneficial are the Coaches to your District?
  4. If beneficial, please tell us about the benefits in your district as a result of the Coaches.
  5. If not beneficial, what could we do to improve?

I would love to know what the survey results showed. I would also like to know whether those results have been shared with legislators. Finally, I wonder what the results of a similar survey would be five months later.

Some REAC3H Coaches are assigned to work with more than 20 school districts. If they are required to spend one week a month in training, exactly how much time are they spending with each school? Also, the SDE has drifted away from the original intent of helping implement the Common Core. REAC3H Coaches have also been asked to review districts’ Reading Sufficiency plans.

Don’t misinterpret me here: I believe the coaches to be a dedicated group of professionals who will do whatever they’re asked to do. I just don’t believe in all cases that (a) their background exceeds the schools to which they’re assigned; and (b) they have enough days in a month to do their job effectively with every school in their coverage area.

These are great people working in a program that is being developed in real time. It was neither well-conceived nor well-executed. Maybe the legislators need to know what the survey results showed.

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  1. FedUP
    April 5, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    I would like to know if the SDE violated the constraints of the federal grant they got to pay the REA3CH coach salaries when they switched the focus of the coaches from providing help with Common Core to providing literacy training.

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  2. Coaches Rock!
    April 15, 2013 at 6:46 pm

    Clearly, you have no idea what you are talking about! Have you been in OK classrooms recently? Our students are failing because our teachers are failing. It is difficult to implement CCSS when they’ve never effectively implemented PASS. The coaches meet the teachers where they are at, just as we do with our students. These coaches are providing a much needed service. We don’t have to get rid of them, but rather we need MORE of them!

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    • April 15, 2013 at 6:59 pm

      1. Yes, I am in Oklahoma classrooms frequently.
      2. I began this blog to dispute the myth that our schools are failing. Perpetuating this myth serves a political agenda, but not children.
      3. The quality of our state’s teachers far exceeds the quality of our state’s education policies.
      4. I have no complaints with the individuals in the coach positions.
      5. The coach program was poorly-conceived and that the role of the coaches has been changing non-stop.
      6. Schools would be better served having professional development money than coaches who are spread way too thin around Oklahoma.

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  3. Coaches Rock!
    April 15, 2013 at 7:46 pm

    Many of our schools have some wonderful teachers, but don’t mistake that for success. It isn’t success when 35-40% of our children cannot read. It isn’t success when our children are dropping out of school at record rates. It isn’t success when districts are not providing appropriate interventions and PD (especially when the coaches are offering it for FREE). And I can assure you it isn’t success when districts spend all their time bad mouthing the state superintendent. It makes us all look ignorant and selfish.

    Let’s be clear, funds utilized for coaches will not be better utilized in the hands of administrators. There are districts in OK that have more money than humanly necessary, yet are still failing. Money, fancy new buildings, and rhetoric don’t make for quality education. Let’s stop forming pointless committees and cashing over-sized paychecks and start doing what’s best for children. This isn’t the fault of the state department, but rather is the fault of abuses of power, lack of knowledge and insufficient enthusiasm for our children. Instead of being a naysayer, perhaps your political blog would be better served supporting our state initiatives and encouraging growth through positive, informed discussion.

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  4. April 15, 2013 at 9:26 pm

    As long as we’re being clear, exactly where are the schools “that have more money than humanly necessary”? I haven’t seen that list. It’s probably next to the list of teachers cashing over-sized paychecks.

    I question your data on the number of children who can’t read. I question your laying the blame for the dropout rate on the schools. And I question the ideas that schools spend all their time badmouthing the state superintendent.

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