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City plans to hire “talent coaches” for some struggling schools

City officials are planning to hire “talent coaches” for principals of a handful of struggling schools that received federal grants to improve student performance.

Department of Education officials said they want to hire three or four coaches to observe the city’s 11 “transformation” schools as they begin to pilot a new teacher evaluation system this year.

The job title “talent coach” is something of a misnomer. The coaches will hold principals and administrators’ hands as they try to judge which teachers are effective, but they will not be responsible for actually judging the teachers or helping them get better.”They’ll be silent observers,” said DOE spokesman Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld. “They’ll be providing feedback to the evaluators as opposed to feedback to the teachers.”

The new position is meant in part to lighten principals’ workload at a time when federal grant requirements are forcing them to overhaul how their schools operate. The city has already assigned new principals and “mentor principals” to the transformation schools. The coaches will provide an extra layer of support, overseeing several schools and focusing solely on teacher evaluation.

The new position is also an experiment that the DOE could replicate in other schools next year when the entire city adopts the new teacher evaluation system, Zarin-Rosenfeld said. That system — elements of which still have to be negotiated by the city and teachers union — factors in student test scores and places teachers in one of four categories: highly effective, effective, developing, and ineffective.

For now, the city plans to use federal School Improvement Grants to pay the coaches’ salaries. Recruitment for potential coaches hasn’t started yet, and the coaches won’t start working in schools until January, according to a department spokesman.

Below is the city’s outline of what officials currently imagine that talent coaches will do.

Specific responsibilities include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Create materials, agendas, and talking points to help principals have conversations with probationary and tenured teachers
  • Provide written guidance to principals on using data to assess teacher effectiveness
  • Create tools to help principals diagnose teacher needs and choose appropriate interventions
  • Track teacher development needs and the delivery of interventions to establish school and project level patterns
  • Work with principals to improve use of existing evaluation tool, provide logistical support to ensure principals follow the evaluation process