In 2017, the Puerto Rico Department of Education (PRDE) created seven new regional educational units—OREs, in Spanish—with the goal of supporting rapid improvement in schools across the island. At the same time, PRDE created a new position called a “data coach” to work within the accountability and assessment offices of the new OREs. PRDE leadership explained the data coaches would work with school leaders and teachers to help build their capacity to analyze and use their own classroom data to plan lessons and differentiate instruction.
PRDE hired 14 data coaches for a pilot program, with two coaches assigned to each ORE. Many coaches were brand new to the role, so PRDE partnered with REL Northeast & Islands to design and deliver a series of training workshops as part of the Puerto Rico Research Partnership to Promote the Use of Education Data. Together, we decided the first workshop should focus solely on explaining what a data coach is and does. My REL colleague Cerelle Morrow and I travelled to Puerto Rico in April 2018, and we presented research on data coaching as well as best practices and strategies for applying the research. In addition, we worked with the data coaches to assess their strengths and set goals for growth. At the end of the session, the 14 coaches developed action plans detailing what they would need to do to move their work forward. They left the session with a better understanding of their role and were eager and excited for the next training.
Following this first workshop, we conducted further planning sessions with PRDE, which decided to hold a weeklong summer institute for the 14 data coaches and an additional 20 coaches being hired for the next school year. PRDE wanted the institute to give the coaches the tools they would need to be successful in the new school year.
Throughout the planning process, we collaborated with the Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) Program as well as the Florida and the Islands Regional Comprehensive Center (FLICC). During the weeklong institute, SLDS led a one-day workshop focused on data use standards, best practices in using the standards, and data analyzation; and FLICC provided a one-day workshop on differentiated instruction. Cerelle and I facilitated a two-day workshop on developing a school culture of data use and the data inquiry cycle, using materials from REL Northeast & Islands’ “Practitioner Data Use in Schools: Workshop Toolkit.”
On December 4, we returned to Puerto Rico for a third workshop. The data coaches all brought actual student data from their regions, which they then analyzed using the data inquiry cycle. Cerelle and I also taught them a problem-solving process—called a “consultancy protocol”—that helped them to think more expansively about particular dilemmas and to collaborate as a group to come up with solutions. Once again, we partnered with FLICC, which offered its own workshop the following day that dug more deeply into differentiated instruction and how to design lesson plans with teachers. Many coaches were not only eager to learn more about how to be an effective data coach but also expressed excitement about how their role can make a difference in the success of their students. Here are some examples of the feedback we received:
- “The workshop was very significant in helping us carry out the functions of the data coach in the region and schools…. Everything was pertinent in order to develop our work.”
- “It was important to learn about the data use cycle in order to carry out effective analysis.”
- “The application of the inquiry cycle, the videos, and all the exercises were the most useful aspects of the workshop. As a result, I will empower myself with academic data of my region.”
It has been a privilege to work in partnership with PRDE to support their newly appointed data coaches, and we are planning one more workshop for the spring. This workshop will include the data coaches and accountability officers at the regional level to begin developing a common vision of the data coaching work for each region. It also has been wonderful to collaborate with two other federally funded technical assistance providers. We look forward to future collaborations that advance the work of the Puerto Rico Partnership as well as the work of other REL Northeast & Islands research alliances and partnerships.
Contact us to learn more about REL Northeast & Islands’ training, coaching, and technical support for your state, district, or school.