On April 16th for the Aspire Wire, I wrote about the possible benefits of creating an Early Educator Coach designation in order to both give new pathways to leadership for early educators and to move away from a professional development system that too often consists of one-size-fits-all one-off trainings. The idea was that coaches would give personalized feedback to teachers on an ongoing basis. Well, it turns out a similar program using modern technology such as video replay is already being piloted.
I found about this new program on a post on The Bessie Tartt Wilson Imitative For Children’s website. The program, called “Peer Assistance and Coaching,” works by videotaping teachers in the classroom; the teachers then get to look at replays of their own work and with the help of “consultant teachers” who are similar to the coaches I discussed in my initial post in order to improve practice. Currently, this program is being piloted on a small scale. It will be interesting to see the results of the pilot version of this program. If it appears to be successful in improving teacher practice and children’s outcomes, it could be revolutionary in how professional development is done in Early Education. However, I do foresee a few potential pitfalls that could derail the expansion of this Peer Assistance and Coaching system even if it does prove to be effective.
As in most programs, the most obvious issue is money. Currently, the pilot program is funded by The Race To The Top Early Learning Challenge Grant which Massachusetts won. Where would the money come from to expand this program should it be successful after the grant money dries up? This question is further complicated by the fact that Massachusetts, like the rest of the nation, has a mixed delivery system of public and private institutions when it comes to ECE. Thus, a mixed system might be the best way to help finance the program. Publically funded early education programs could use money that has been specifically earmarked for the Peer Assistance and Coaching System which could possibly be raised through proposals to fund ECE championed by Gov. Patrick. Private centers would pay for the technology and coaches through their own funds but an incentive could be given for private centers to use the Peer Assistance and Coaching System by tying use of the system to a centers QRIS rating; moreover, private centers could perhaps access some of the public funds if they had a high percentage of families receiving assistance to pay for child care from the state. Particular attention should also be paid to make sure that access to the system was as uniform as possible across all regions of the state.
An ancillary issue to expanding the program would be finding qualified people to act as mentors or coaches in the Peer Assistance and Coaching system. I would argue that the best way to do that would be to create a certification system for coaches similar to the one I describe in my aforementioned post from 2 weeks ago.
The other major potential hazard that must be avoided in implementing this system is the fallacy that technology can act like a panacea. Often, we are told that education outcomes will improve if we use better technology or data analysis. While technology and data can be tools to help teachers and by extension children reach their full potential, we must always remember that effective coaching will be grounded in a mutual trusting relationship between mentor and mentee.
Teddy has worked for over 10 years as a Pre-K Teacher at the non-profit Transportation Children Center in Boston. He also works as an adjunct professor in the Early Childhood Education Departments of Fisher College and Bay State College. He obtained his Master’s in Education from The Harvard Graduate School of Education with a concentration in Language and Literacy, a Bachelor’s degree from UMass Boston in Sociology, and an Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from Bay State College. You most likely will find him biking along the Charles River or watching the Red Sox.
Photos courtesy of usembassykyiv and Brande Jackson, used under Creative Common License.