IDOE launches a coaching program for teachers focused on reading and STEM subjects

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Department of Education is launching a new program this fall that will provide coaching for teachers in reading and STEM.

Under the pilot program, nearly 70 schools will hire coaches to help teachers learn research-based teaching methods, according to IDOE spokeswoman Holly Lawson.

The goal, Lawson said, is to help students in K-8 schools catch up on learning. IREAD test results from the 2020-21 school year showed nearly one in five third-graders at Hoosier were not fluent in reading, she added.

Educators say students are still suffering setbacks after learning on laptops for so long due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We had kids in kindergarten who maybe didn’t have access to preschool education,” said Anna Roth, director of curriculum, instruction and teacher development for Southmont Schools. “We have first-graders who had an unusual kindergarten year.”

To help some of the younger students catch up in reading, Roth said, her district created a position earlier this year to coach teachers on a new research-based, interactive teaching method.

“That might mean working with blocks or cards so you can move things around,” Roth said. “So it’s more than just words on the page.”

Although Roth Elementary Schools already has one of these coaches on staff, they are among nearby schools that will participate in the new IDOE program next year.

“We know that if they continue to struggle with reading past third grade, it impacts a whole other range of their learning,” Lawson said.

Coaches at these schools only work with teachers, not students, Lawson explained. They are school-educated and receive additional training from the state, she added.

Some of the schools chose voluntarily, while others were asked to participate based on test results, Lawson said.

“And it’s also based on the demographics that we see in those schools because we know not all students are impacted equally by COVID,” Lawson said.

The program is expected to last at least the next two school years, Lawson said. At first, it is funded by $20 million in federal COVID aid that has been earmarked for schools, she added.

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