Direct Service Coaching

Direct Service Coaching

NYCLA has provided sustained coaching support for more than 1,700 principals in New York City; NYCLA coaches have also worked directly with school leaders across the states of Rhode Island and Iowa and with first-year principals in Philadelphia.

Our coaches work intensively with school leaders to help them set and meet goals, build strong leadership teams, and influence the culture of their school, all in the service of students and student learning.

Districts may consider targeting coaching services for their most high-need school leaders, such as:

  • First-year or early career principals
  • Principals transitioning into new schools
  • Principals with corrective action goals
  • Principals tasked with turning around underperforming schools

Coaching can also be valuable for all sitting principals in a context where a district is shifting its expectations or launching new initiatives.

“[My NYCLA Coach] helped me to not be as impulsive and to slow down my thinking.  I continue to keep in mind the question - are there any unintended consequences of a particular decision I may make?  As well, how can I make a move in the most strategic way possible?  In terms of leadership, I like to get things accomplished and keep progressing.  Slowing down, understanding teachers’ points of view, and being thoughtful is what has helped me this year.”

–First-year principal, School District of Philadelphia

Coaching Packages

Our standard school-year coaching packages are described below. We customize packages according to the client’s needs.

Coaching for first-year and early career principals

First-year principals have their work cut out for them. In addition to acclimating to their new role, they have often been tasked with improving student outcomes by a large percentage over a very short timeline.

Our experienced NYCLA coaches can help first-year principals assess the current state of their school, build relationships with staff, create realistic goals and develop a plan to meet those goals. The coach can serve as another set of eyes to help point out things the principal hasn’t yet seen. Most importantly, the coach serves as a confidential thought partner who can act as a sounding board and push the principal’s thinking.

NYCLA can work with your district to determine the number of coaching hours over the course of the school year based on your needs.

A typical package for a first–year principal may include 60 hours of coaching over the course of the school year, consisting of:

  • school visits by the coach, conducted at least monthly.
  • remote meetings held via Web or phone.
  • assisting the principal in planning two half-day staff retreats for his/her leadership team. (The principal, not the coach, leads these retreats, but the coach is on site to observe and give the principal feedback on his/her leadership of the meeting.)

Coaching for groups of principals

In our group coaching model, coaches facilitate a stable group of 4-6 principals over the course of the year. Groups can be structured in a variety of ways:

  • Learning walks and problems of practice. The group conducts learning walks once a month at each group member’s school. The host principal develops a focus area for the visit and presents a related problem of practice to the group. The coach facilitates a discussion in which members give the host principal feedback on what they observed during the learning walk and on the problem of practice he/she identified. If the group cannot conduct in-person learning walks due to logistical challenges, members may meet after school or over the phone to discuss problems of practice on a monthly basis.
  • Q&A. The coach facilitates a group of first-year principals who brainstorm a list of questions (related to operations, systems and structures, content, culture, building staff capacity, etc.) at the start of the year. The coach, with the group’s input, identifies and brings in aligned content experts to present at a meeting. The coach facilitates a discussion about the content’s application to the principal’s work.
  • Study group. The group chooses a leadership text (or series of texts) to engage in over the course of the year. These may cover topics including the latest research in education and management. The coach facilitates discussion about how the text informs the principals’ work as leaders. This group structure may work well for a mixed audience (principals, superintendents, and central office staff).

Coaching for school turnaround

Based on evidence from schools and NYCLA’s experience supporting principals leading turnaround schools, we have identified a subset of leadership dimensions and behaviors particularly important for principals as they begin the school turnaround process. These areas include:

  • Resilience
  • Communication
  • Student Performance
  • Situational Problem Solving
  • Supervision of Staff

For turnaround school leaders, NYCLA’s coaching focuses on helping them hone their skill in these critical areas that are essential to the development of a positive school climate and culture, which is in turn key to turnaround success. Another significant success factor for turning around low-performing schools is the strength of the school leadership team (e.g., Armistead, 2010; Lucas & Valentine, 2002). Thus, NYCLA’s coaching for turnaround leaders also focuses on supporting the principal’s capacity to build a strong leadership team and to engage in distributed leadership.

A typical package may include 60 hours of coaching, consisting of:

  • Monthly in-school visits
  • Remote meetings via Web or phone
  • Email availability of the coach to address questions
  • Assistance helping the principal plan two half-day staff retreats for his/her leadership team

NYCLA also offers a comprehensive, year-long professional development program for turnaround school leaders, which incorporates coaching with a five-day summer institute and ongoing professional learning sessions for principals and their leadership teams. See Leading School Level Change for more information.

Contact us for more information at or (646) 666-8181.

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