Sharing Roles, Language, and Stories
NTC partners with Texas’ Clint ISD to align instructional culture and practice
Clint ISD covers nearly 400 square miles just east of El Paso, Texas. The district’s 11,800 students fall into two of NTC’s priority communities: English language learners and students experiencing poverty. Clint is overwhelmingly Hispanic, with a high population of English language learners. One-third of Clint’s families have incomes below the poverty level and over 80 percent are identified as economically disadvantaged.
Clint ISD began working with NTC in 2016. Assistant Superintendent James Littlejohn describes Clint ISD as “a heavy coaching district.” In 2019, the district successfully applied for a District of Innovation exemption from the Texas Education Agency, which enabled Clint ISD to apply funds to two new NTC training initiatives: new teacher induction programs; and tailored instructional coaching for veteran teachers who were transitioning to new content and new grade assignments.
- 11,800 students(~95 percent Latinx)
- 700 teachers(~88 percent Latinx)
- 87 percent of students receive Free or Reduced Price Lunch, district wide; 62 percent of students are identified as “at-risk”
- 33 percent of households in the city of Clint have incomes below the poverty level
NTC and Clint ISD co-created and increased coaching resources for both new and established teacher pathways. It soon became clear that Clint ISD also needed professional learning opportunities to:
- clarify and emphasize the role and practice of coaches for leaders and administrators throughout the district
- center on students and advance equity by heightening educator awareness of the critical importance of English-language learning (ELL) in a largely Spanish speaking community
- improve overall teacher retention, which was about 67 percent
Building a coaching culture, elevating ELL
It became clear that the district as a whole needed to work toward clarity and emphasis on the role of coaches generally. Because coaches were natural intermediaries between teachers and administrators, urgent administrative tasks often fell to coaches, pushing their vital work as coaches to the back burner. School leaders and administrators needed a better understanding of the centrality of coaching to Clint ISD’s overall educational culture.
NTC’s thorough study of district performance showed that student achievement gaps were strongly correlated with ELL challenges. Yet many of Clint ISD’s teachers — nearly all native Spanish speakers, like their students — didn’t have the resources to do more than work around the issue of language learning. Years of coping had made some of them less able to connect ELL to in-class learning challenges. Addressing the issue explicitly was necessary.
“The conventional thinking is that because you have a degree and you have a certification from the state, you’re ready to walk into a classroom and teach. What New Teacher Center has done for us is opened our eyes to a holistic approach to coaching a teacher through their first couple of years of the profession and letting them be comfortable in trying things, and then reflecting on it and using the cycle of tools, so that at the end of the school year they’ve truly had support all along.”
– James Littlejohn, Assistant District Superintendent of Secondary Curriculum & Instruction, Clint ISD
With a 67 percent teacher retention rate, Clint ISD experienced a faulty cycle that continuously put the district in the position of resetting and restarting schools’ instructional cultures. Many new teachers came in each year; most weren’t getting the training they needed, and many didn’t stay. More new teachers arrived to take their places, and the cycle repeated. In order to increase teacher retention in Clint ISD, strengthening support for new teachers was essential.
Understanding Clint ISD
A quick round-up of key stats and dynamics impacting teaching and learning:
of students identified as English language learners
new teachers in 2016
Inside the district
“We are a coaching district, and we have a philosophy of coaching: It’s not just about coaching our teachers, but also coaching our administrators,” said Littlejohn. “New Teacher Center has been a big part of that, because as our administrators have learned the tools to work with their teachers, I’ve also heard them using it with custodians, instructional aides, even cafeteria staff. When you get in a coaching mode and you get comfortable with it, you do it all the time. I do it with my own family.”
Building cohesion by sharing roles, language, and stories
NTC implemented new teacher induction support services, as well as coaching strategies for established teachers in role transition. To address issues of role clarity, ELL, and language instruction practices, we collaborated to take the following action steps:
Clint ISD and NTC co-created professional learning sessions in which coaches trained administrators and leaders in the tools of coaching. In essence, they made coaches of all their educators. The effect was to change mindsets about coaching by integrating it into Clint ISD’s entire educational ecosystem. Leaders and administrators understood the critical importance of coaching to the overall success of each campus.
Raise awareness of the importance of ELL to student outcomes
Clint ISD implemented NTC’s professional learning series devoted to language acquisition. By telling and hearing stories, especially about their own childhood ELL experiences, the issue became personal for many teachers. They were able to start looking through the lens of English-language learners and more clearly recognize implicit bias.
Align educators in instructional transition
As the district underwent an instructional shift from bilingual education to a dual-language model, NTC helped Clint ISD’s administration ensure that all educators knew the difference between those two approaches. Previously, not everyone did.
“NTC’s program content speaks to what coaching should be.”
– Nadia Tellez, New Teacher Mentor Coordinator, Clint ISD
About our approach
NTC partners with educators across the country — from Pre K to high school, in districts big and small — to develop localized solutions to their biggest challenges. Our services aren’t one-size-fits-all; they’re collaborative and customized to meet the unique needs of each school and district. Our work starts with listening and leads to a collaborative plan on how to make real change happen for students.
Professional Learning Communities: Supporting teachers, centering students
Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) are a space for teachers to make decisions. Within this collective space they decide as a team HOW they are going to teach a curriculum. These important decisions can either boost a student’s support, or become an unintentional roadblock. We focus on fostering a PLC space where students are placed at the forefront of the conversation, and decisions are based on data, not assumptions.
Future forward plan
- The power of coaching must be both broadly understood and individually experienced by all educators. Ongoing sessions devoted to teaching coaching tools to school administrators and leaders can maintain a strong, shared coaching culture across the district.
- Ongoing understanding of the critical importance of ELL to student achievement should be fostered among all teachers. Continued community-learning sessions devoted to language acquisition can help new teachers gain this understanding early in their careers.
- Making issues personal for educators — whether appreciating what coaching is by learning how to do it, or connecting the issue of language learning to one’s own experience, is critical to building both a strong educational ecosystem and student success in the classroom.