This new team of instructional coaches . The administrators

This study was carried out by Dr.
Jenny DeMonte, Associate
Director for Education Research at the Center for American Progress, and the results were published in


In 2011, administrators at the
Houston Independent School District, or HISD, to improve human-capital
management strategies in the district, decided to completely revamp HISD’s
professional-development unit and align it directly with its teacher-evaluation
system. In the past, the district-based staff in the professional-development unit
was charged with responding to requests from school principals to conduct
short-term workshops or hire outside consultants to do that work. District
officials decided that professional development needed to be handled
differently and in a way that would be more likely to improve teaching. That
meant dismissing the entire professional-development unit, reorganizing the
unit, and bringing in a new team of instructional coaches

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The administrators interviewed 900
people for 130 spots. The process included a day-long interview for finalists
that required applicants to teach a model lesson, watch an instructional video,
and engage in a feedback and role-playing exercise, as well as meet with several
interviewers. Those hired were deployed as instructional experts in particular
grades and subjects. The new hires spent the summer learning about the district’s
classroom-observation instrument and were trained to deliver coaching and other
forms of professional learning centered on improving teaching practice in the
areas assessed in teacher evaluation.


Data from the district’s first year
of the new evaluation system helped HISD determine if particular schools or
groups of teachers were struggling in a specific aspect of teaching or around a
subject. Armed with this data, HISD sent coaches to those schools to support
teachers’ learning in the specific areas of weakness. The coaching activities either
involved one-on-one time with individual teachers or interaction with groups of
teachers who needed to work with a coach on a particular skill. What
distinguished the new thrust of professional support compared to previous
iterations in HISD was that it was now based in the district rather than coming
from outside consultants. In addition, it was an ongoing effort that allowed
the coaches to develop relationships with teachers; one where everyone had a
shared understanding of the evaluation rubric and the common language for effective
teaching. The professional learning was tied directly to the evaluation rubric
used to evaluate teaching, so teachers could improve on exactly the practices
that were associated with the district’s framework for instruction.


Besides offering coaching, Houston’s
professional-development department has video exemplars and effective practices
on the district website that show what each instructional practice on the
evaluation rubric looks like. The teachers featured in the videos are from the
district and teach in district schools across grade levels and content areas.
Accompanying each video is a set of supporting materials to aid instruction
along with a biography of the featured teacher.