Cherokee County School District launched multiple new initiatives this year to increase student achievement, and district leaders knew that teachers would need additional support as they integrated these new programs into their daily classroom activities. To help teachers meet the challenge, CCSD created a new position called an Instructional Lead Strategist (ILS) at each elementary school, as well as targeted middle and high schools.
Indian Knoll ES teacher Alyson Counts, left, reviews her lesson plans with ILS Lee Davis, right.
These elite teachers underwent extensive training to prepare for their new roles, and they continue to train throughout the school year. The ILS acts as a coach for teachers, helping guide them in implementing new programs as well as classroom basics, such as creating lesson plans and meeting curriculum standards. The ILS also makes sure that new initiatives, such as the Balanced Literacy approach to reading in the primary grades, are being implemented seamlessly in each classroom.
“The ILS fills a gap we identified in our schools,” said Chief Academic Officer Dr. Nicole Holmes. “The teachers can take what they learn through professional development we provide, go back to the classroom and implement these strategies and activities, and then be provided immediate feedback by the ILS. We had many initiatives happening, but we didn’t have a streamlined accountability process. With this new position, we have that.”
Hickory Flat ES teacher Heather Amos, right, discusses strategies for new curriculum initiatives with ILS Kelli Cook, left.
The ILS is a resource that teachers can go to for insight and advice, as well as hands-on help if they feel they are struggling. The ILS is not tasked with conducting teacher evaluations, which are handled by the principal and assistant principals, so teachers don’t have to be concerned that their requests for assistance will be reflected in a job evaluation.
“To be a non-evaluator in a school means I am a safe place for teachers to come with questions,” said ILS Lee Davis, who is based at Indian Knoll ES. “I am not here to judge their performance; I am here to help our teachers, to meet their needs in the classroom.”
The ILS also serves as a liaison with the central office, providing a communication conduit to relay new curriculum information to the classrooms and also respond back to Curriculum & Instruction Division about what teachers need in the classroom and how new initiatives are going.
“The ultimate goal of any county initiative is to increase student achievement,” said Kelli Cook, ILS at Hickory Flat ES. “Having someone there (in the classroom) who helps guide curriculum decisions, that can only have a positive impact on student achievement.”
Another area where the ILS is making a difference is with data analysis and the support of “Data Teams 4 Learning” training. Student achievement data is being utilized more than ever to guide instructional strategies and ensure students are making the progress they should.
The Curriculum & Instruction Division’s Professional Development department is closely monitoring the ILS positions and soliciting feedback and data regularly on how schools are utilizing the new position. A recent survey of principals included some of the following observations and comments:
- “I can’t stress enough how important this position is for the schools. It provides the training and follow-up that is needed, as well as the coaching.” Jan Adamson, R.M. Moore ES
- “Teachers are requesting visits from the ILS to model and monitor lessons and are open to feedback. This is evidence the position is valued in the school as a resource for teachers.” Izell McGruder, Boston ES
- “The coaching component of this position is key.” Kim Hagood, Free Home ES
- “My ILS goes above and beyond to serve and support teachers.” Kerry Martin, Mill Creek MS
- “I cannot imagine NOT having instructional assistance with the ELA and Math adoptions.” Kim Montalbano, Woodstock ES.
The ILS coaching logs for the district show 1,255 training hours and 1,502 coaching hours in the first quarter of 2017-18. CCSD will also be monitoring pre and post assessment data to measure the impact of the ILS program as well as additional surveys and evaluations throughout the year.
“We are excited to get such positive feedback on the ILS program so quickly from our schools,” said Dr. Holmes. “We are confident the ILS impact on student achievement also will be significant, and we cannot wait to see those results in the coming year.”
To learn more about the ILS initiative, please watch this brief video: http://bit.ly/CCSD-ILS