New Research from Center on Culture, Race & Equity Explores Ways to Improve Pre-K Outcomes Through Teacher Coaching

Teacher and student working with LegosOn May 7, the Center on Culture, Race & Equity at Bank Street College and the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) launched a new report titled “New York City Pre-K Leadership Study” to examine how early childhood instructional leaders from both community and school settings work to support teachers’ practices, strengthen program quality, and positively influence learning outcomes for all pre-K children.

Through interviews with pre-K leaders and teaching staff at 36 preschool sites across nine community districts and four boroughs, the study found that pre-K outcomes could be improved by providing leaders with more training on best practices in coaching. The report details the key findings of the study and explores ways to improve leaders’ coaching of teachers.

“We know that quality professional development works for educators and the children they serve,” said Veronica Benavides, former Executive Director, Center on Culture, Race & Equity, co-principal investigator. “The insights provided by this real-time implementation study show us how to improve teacher coaching to build a great NYC pre-K for all children.”

In an analysis of the support that leaders provide teachers through classroom visits, most teachers reported that they received little or no support from leaders for practices across key domains, including promoting social-emotional skills; strengthening literacy, language, and math skills; and helping individualize learning supports. The study also found that classroom observation, a strategy that has traditionally dominated the coaching space, was recorded by leaders as the most frequently used strategy in a typical classroom visit.

Additionally, Culturally Responsive Practice—“a set of practices that is responsive to the cultural identity of children and their families and used to help them feel included in the educational process”—was noted as a weaker area of support by both leaders and teachers, indicating a need for professional development focused on strategies for increasing Culturally Responsive Practice in classrooms and building strengths-based family and community engagement.

“Our research shows leaders would benefit from training grounded in practice-based coaching techniques so they can actively engage teachers by not only providing feedback and guidance, but by encouraging teachers to reflect and plan for future activities and by modeling quality teaching practices,” said Benavides. “Culturally Responsive Practice is an integral piece of the work that will help improve New York City’s diverse schools.”

Taking into account obstacles to effective classrooms visits, results gathered from interviews with leaders showed that unexpected demands that occur at the program site present the biggest challenge. Eighty-six percent reported that these demands limit their time and effectiveness.

The report concludes with three recommendations:

  • The New York City Department of Education, Division of Early Childhood (NYC DOE/DECE) should provide training and support to Early Care and Education (ECE) leaders that will enable them to use effective strategies to support high-quality teaching.
  • Agencies should support ECE leaders’ efforts to conduct regular visits to classrooms to support high-quality teaching.
  • New York City agencies should support ECE leaders through ongoing professional development focused on family/community engagement and Culturally Responsive Practice.

The study was funded by the Foundation for Child DevelopmentView the full report (pdf)