Academic journal article The Professional Educator

The Evolving Role of a Mathematics Coach during the Implementation of Performance Standards

Academic journal article The Professional Educator

The Evolving Role of a Mathematics Coach during the Implementation of Performance Standards

Article excerpt

Abstract

The primary goal of this study was to investigate the role of the mathematics coach at Tabaka Middle School during the school's implementation of the Georgia Performance Standards through the utilization of Connected Mathematics Project materials. The study explores the coach's emergent understanding of her role as she provided teachers support through professional development, observation, and feedback in dealing with new content, adapting to new methods of teaching, working in collaborative groups, adapting to new ways of assessing students, and learning how to use new curriculum materials. The study suggests that in regards to teacher beliefs and practices, teachers benefit from a site-based long-term professional development program that targets content and pedagogical knowledge. The study underscores the importance of teamwork, collaboration, and having a mathematics coach on site in bringing to reality a new vision of a school's mathematics program.

Overview

The mathematics achievement of U.S. students is of great concern, as shown by a number of national and international studies (Beaton et al., 1997; Kilpatrick, 1992; 1997; National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 1998; Wu, 1997), and efforts have been made through various professional development programs to provide resources to help teachers improve their instruction. The state of Georgia is in the process of replacing its Quality Core Curriculum with new Georgia Performance Standardsi. In their efforts to successfully make this change, a number of school districts have employed an instructional or mathematics coach to provide in-school professional development (Richard, 2003). This article discusses the role of the mathematics coach at Tabaka Middle Schoolii during the school's implementation of the Georgia Performance Standards in 6th grade through the utilization of materials from the Connected Mathematics Projectiii.

Teachers are faced with a number of challenges when asked to implement a new curriculum. They are often mastering new content as well as adapting to new methods of teaching, assessing students in new ways, and learning how to use new curriculum materials. Site-based professional development coordinators can provide guidance for teachers as they come to grips with a new curriculum or seek to improve the teaching and learning of mathematics under an existing curriculum (Russo, 2004; West et al., 2003). These people are often referred to as "coaches," a term that includes generic instructional support specialists as well as content-specific specialists, such as literacy coaches and mathematics coaches. In some school districts, they teach full-time and work with other teachers after school, during common planning periods, or between lessons. In other districts, their role may be entirely supportive in nature, providing teaching staff with instructional materials, training, and professional development opportunities. Such specialists have similar roles in other areas; for example, the goal of a literacy coach is to increase the instructional capacity of teachers (Hall, 2004). Literacy coaching seems to hold great promise for the improvement of student achievement. As Richard (2003) points out:

Coaching builds on a decade of research suggesting on-site, "job embedded" training is the best way to sharpen teaching skills and raise student achievement.... A primary goal of these on-site coaches is to help educators develop the habit of self-assessment-to learn to examine and improve their own professional work by reflecting on results, searching for more effective strategies, and calling upon their colleagues for ideas, feedback and support. (p. 2)

Mathematics coaches' roles may vary from one school or school district to another. They may serve one school or the whole district depending on the resources the school district has. For the coaches to be effective in their work, the following qualities are important: social leadership skills, content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, knowledge of curriculum, knowledge of gifted and special-needs students, and knowledge of research (Neufeld & Roper, 2003). …

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