Guiding Instructional Coaching with a Principal Partnership | Steve Barkley

Guiding Instructional Coaching with a Principal Partnership


I worked with a client to design some guiding questions and examples for a coach/principal partnership agreement. Here is an early draft:

Initial Plan

The outcome of an effective instructional coaching program needs to be an increase in student achievement/success. The partnership of the coach and principal is crucial to a program’s effectiveness. Instructional Coaches’ time should be focused on increasing student success. The partnership should reach an agreement on how the coach will invest time in order to gain the desired student outcomes. While this agreement is not a full description of a coach’s responsibility, it should serve as a prioritizing process for scheduling a coaching calendar.

Some guiding questions for forming an agreement:

  • What are two or three areas of student success that should be the initial focus of coaching efforts?
  • Is there a target student audience?
  • What changes need to occur in the teaching and learning process for the desired results to be reached?
  • What do the students need us to learn?
  • What student learning- production behaviors are needed? (What do students need to do and experience?)
  • What teaching actions/changes in practice are needed?
  • Are there focus areas for staff capacity building?
  • What coaching practices are most likely to initiate and support the desired teaching and learning changes?
  • What do the teachers need us to learn?
  • How can the school administrative team best support the implementation of these coaching processes?

Sample agreements:

#1 — Second Ave Elementary School
Coach: Jennifer Schantz
Principal: Martha Brown

Our school goal to substantially raise the reading and writing achievement of our ESL student population should be on the forefront of our plans for increasing teachers’ instructional capacities. Principal Brown will keep attention on this goal at faculty meetings, in articles shared with staff, and in ongoing conversations with teachers. Grade level PLCs will be asked to include a specific goal for ESL growth in their goal setting. Coach Schantz will gather, interpret and share the specific assessment data available regarding ESL students’ current levels and assist teachers in gathering ongoing formative assessment input. Coach Schantz will provide Professional Development opportunities around ESL strategies, create opportunities for teachers to see these strategies modeled and encourage teacher coaching observations and feedback implementing ESL strategies.

Our leadership team has a focus on increasing “coach-ability” among the staff. Principal Brown and Coach Schantz will both create models by requesting coaching frequently and publicly with the staff.

#2 — Washington High School
Coach: Francis Kelly
Principal: Sean Williams

Increasing the reading comprehension and stamina of our graduates has been identified as a key element in preparing them for success in college and career opportunities. Achieving this student progress will require the entire staff. Impacting the entire staff will necessitate the guidance and support of the administrative team and the department leaders. The principal and coach should be seen as facilitators, building and encouraging these leadership roles. Francis will establish a plan for staff development for all the leaders around enhancing reading comprehension and stamina. This will include coaching the department chairs as they explore modifications in their classrooms and coaching administrators as they build the necessary supporting/coaching elements into their supervisory roles. Francis will develop a plan for professional development for the staff and working with the department chairs maintain an ongoing focus on reading strategies within specific content areas.

Throughout the year Sean and Kelly will share evidence of change; including changing teacher behaviors, student behaviors, and indicators of improved comprehension and stamina.

#3 — Memorial Middle School
Coach: Jeff Paris
Principal: Cheryl Denning

Memorial School has been focusing for the past two years on building effective grade-level and content area PLCs to guide teachers  working collaboratively to set goals for continuous student growth. This focus has required a major investment in the coach’s time as he has facilitated a lot of this work. We want to have the team leaders take an increased responsibility for PLC activities allowing Jeff to increase the number of classroom observations and coaching cycles he can conduct. This will be especially important with the five first- year teachers who have joined the staff. Cheryl will communicate this desired switch in PLCs to the teacher leaders. Jeff will create a few short PD sessions on facilitation for PLC leadership and be available to coach them for preparing for sessions and observing and giving feedback from PLC sessions. Cheryl will encourage staff to use Jeff’s coaching to explore questions that arise from student behavior or progress and to implement plans that emerge from their PLC work.

clipboard check list

Monthly Check Ins

There should be a monthly check-in where coach and principal review the previous month’s coaching calendar and consider:

  • Does the calendar reflect the targeted coaching practices? Have priorities changed?
  • What has the coach uncovered regarding the targeted actions?
  • Are there new or modified actions for coach and/or administrators?

Mid-year and Year-End Reflection

  • What evidence exists (Quantitative and Qualitative)?
  • How was the plan implemented and executed?
  • Have changes occurred in teacher practice?
  • Have changes occurred in student learning experiences and learning behaviors?
  • Has student learning increased?

Looking To the Future

Notes from monthly check-ins and midyear reflections should guide this conversation.

  • What did we learn?
  • What are insights or discoveries that will influence our next plan?

I would be interested in your thoughts about coach/principal partnerships and seeing what you are using for these agreements. I’d be happy to respond after reading yours. You can email me at or leave a comment on this post below.

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