Feature Story

Feature Story
Posted on 02/08/2019

Instructional Coaches partner with teachers to support student achievement

Jarrell ISD is projected to experience a staggering 9.4 percent annual growth rate over the next decade. With an enrollment of about 1,900 students, the district is slated to enroll about 200 new students by August 2019.

"Jarrell ISD has almost doubled in size since I started as superintendent here in 2012," Superintendent Bill Chapman said.

To accommodate the growth, there are three active construction sites in the district, with a fourth beginning soon. The district is poised to make history and open its second elementary school in July. Leveraging this important moment, the district is developing and growing its instructional program in order to increase student achievement.

"As our population has grown, we need to provide additional instructional support for staff to make sure we are meeting the academic needs of our students," said Chapman.

Student enrollment has increased in the region, and many neighboring districts have added specialists to provide coaching, professional development and curriculum support. But while JISD sees that the need is there, public school districts" budgets are increasingly tight. All the while, expectations for student outcomes remain high.

So when the team behind the Sonterra Development offered to partner with the district to help fill some staffing gaps, JISD jumped at the opportunity.

Chapman and JISD Director of Teaching and Learning Kathleen Crowe researched best practices and reviewed student data and determined that the district"s greatest needs are in the areas of curriculum and instructional support.

"We used this investment from our community to hire instructional coaches to provide strategic and targeted support to our elementary campuses," Crowe said.

After a rigorous selection process, the district hired Jaclynne Bizzell and Jennifer Williams, both internal candidates.

Once in place, Williams and Bizzell hit the ground running. One of their roles is to support the staff at Jarrell Intermediate School and facilitate collaboration between that campus and Jarrell Elementary School. When the new elementary school opens in the fall of 2019, JES and JIS teachers will merge to form two Pre-K through fifth-grade elementary campuses.

With that level of change on the horizon for JISD, the instructional coaches see building relationships as one of their key duties because new grade-level teams will be established at both campuses.

"This is a cultural shift for Jarrell's teachers -- to have dedicated coaches who are here to give you on-the-job, embedded support," Williams said. "We are all here for the same reason to help students learn."

Another important piece of their work is to align curriculum and instruction across grade levels.

"When our second elementary opens in a few months, it will be really important that teachers across all grade levels at both campuses work toward the same goals," said Bizzell.

At the same time, Crowe, Bizzell and Williams are working closely together to use data and help teachers focus on specific student needs, model research-based instructional practices, implement professional learning communities and facilitate peer observations.

While the instructional coaches have only been in their positions since October, Chapman and Crowe say that Bizzell and Williams have already made an impact on student learning.

"We have so much talent here in Jarrell. The instructional coaches do an amazing job of supporting teachers and classroom instruction to help meet the needs of individual students." said Crowe. "We are grateful to have wonderful community partners to help fund these positions."

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