TSR! Coaching Counts

Coaching Counts is a monthly newsletter for TSR coaches and coordinators that offers information on coaching best practices. Throughout the year, the newsletter will focus on important aspects of coaching to continue to help you support early childhood teachers enrolled in TSR.

April Crawford, Ph.D.
April Crawford, Ph.D.
Director, Texas School
Ready! Project

This Month's Playbook

Coaching & Child Progress Monitoring

Remote Control

This one is easy--remote coaches should have the same conversations with their teachers to get buy-in, interpret results, emphasize small groups, and set goals. Third year Texas School Ready remote teachers will be submitting a small group (recommended by CIRCLE PM) instructional video in January.

As highlighted in our recent TSR Connect newsletter, we know from research that early identification of learning needs and grouping children according to those needs is known to maximize instructional impact. In this edition of Coaching Counts, we want to highlight four ways coaches can support teachers in implementing progress monitoring so that it becomes second nature. 

Get Buy-in

We would venture to say that no adult in history has ever felt good about being given a task they saw no benefit to. And progress monitoring isn’t a one-off job like dusting baseboards—it’s an undertaking with multiple steps and thought processes that isn’t effective unless completed start to finish (and repeated over again). Therefore it’s important that coaches spend time cultivating an appreciation for its rationale: that it gives teachers a very good picture of where their instruction should go next.

Teachers may feel understandably that progress monitoring detracts from the time they can spend on instructional activities. As a coach, it’s important to make the connection that time spent doing progress monitoring tasks is given back to the teacher tenfold when they use their limited time in the classroom to target appropriate skills. A teacher may have a great lesson planned around naming letters, but some children in the class seem ready to start writing letters. Is this naming lesson useful instructional time for students? Perhaps not—and one way to know for sure is through progress monitoring.

Part of getting buy-in for progress monitoring is an acceptance that there is so much (really, too much!) involved in preparing one child for kindergarten. State pre-kindergarten guidelines set clear expectations for what skills a child should be gaining in their pre-K years. With so much to do and so little time, the value of progress monitoring becomes clear. 

Make Interpretation Routine

So the teacher is on board with progress monitoring. What next? Interpreting data for the first time can be overwhelming. Spend time with your teachers talking through the different types of progress monitoring reports. Make sure you aren’t just interpreting for them; have them practice explaining to you the different scores and how they compare to benchmarks. Point out subtle differences, for instance when a child is almost reaching the benchmark compared to a child who is significantly behind.

Emphasize Small Groups

We’ve interpreted the results and we know some children are really behind in recognizing shapes. Do we now teach the whole class the differences between circles and squares? No!

Say you signed up for a cooking class. You’ve cooked complicated dishes for years—but others in the class can’t crack an egg without making a mess. Your cooking instructor then asks you to practice cracking eggs and over and over again. Did you learn anything?

Now, what if your cooking instructor first asked everyone to crack an egg, then separated students into groups based on their skills? You leave the class knowing how to make a world-class frittata, and others in your class leave with a solid understanding of how to crack an egg, one step closer to making that frittata.

Teaching basic concepts through whole group instruction may seem important to teachers who are concerned with reaching those students most at-risk—but study after study has shown that small group instruction is far more effective for supporting these students. And children who have progressed beyond the basics can practice more advanced skills, thereby getting more out of their prekindergarten experience. Win-win!

The CIRCLE Progress Monitoring System’s Grouping Tool automatically provides grouping recommendations around learning concepts—the coach’s job is to get buy-in from the teacher and model how small group instructional can be achieved in the ever busy, noisy classroom. 

Set Goals

Unfortunately, progress monitoring results can sometimes be troubling. Teachers are often faced with the enormous task of supporting different children at different levels of skill across different learning domains, while still learning themselves how best to use instructional strategies. This is where goal-setting can provide a clear path through a complicated web of demands. Coaches can help teachers articulate instructional priorities, and more sustainably, provide the framework for teachers to approach goal-setting once the coaching relationship ends.

That’s it for this edition. We hope you have a joyous holiday season, and we’ll see you in January!  



  • Don’t forget to submit your progress monitoring discussion video by Wednesday, December 23, 2015;
  • Collaborative Calls will take place January 4-15, 2016. You should receive a notification from your program manager about the date and time of your call;
  • The next Lunch and Learn call is Friday, January 8 at 1:30 – 2:45 PM, and will cover how to facilitate/participate in a collaborative call;
  • Our office will be closed from December 24, 2015 to January 3, 2016. Any help tickets submitted during the holiday break will be answered when our office reopens on Monday, January 4, 2016. Thank you for your patience and happy holidays!

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