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Ask A REL Response

April 2019


What research has been conducted on the effect of literacy and math coaches in the school building?


Following an established REL Southeast research protocol, we conducted a search for research reports as well as descriptive study articles on the effect of literacy and math coaches in the school building We focused on identifying resources that specifically addressed the effect of literacy and math coaches in the school building. The sources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic research databases, and general Internet search engines (For details, please see the methods section at the end of this memo.)

We have not evaluated the quality of references and the resources provided in this response. We offer them only for your reference. These references are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. Also, we searched the references in the response from the most commonly used resources of research, but they are not comprehensive and other relevant references and resources may exist.

Research References

  1. Bean, R. M., Draper, J. A., Hall, V., Vandermolen, J., & Zigmond, N. (2010). Coaches and coaching in reading first schools: a reality check. Elementary School Journal, 111(1), 86-114.
    From the abstract: "The current article investigates the work of 20 Reading First coaches to determine how coaches distribute their time and the rationale they give for their work. Teachers' responses to coaches and the relationships between what coaches do and student achievement are also analyzed. There was great variability among coaches in how they allocated their time; their major emphasis was determining if all students, but especially at-risk students, were receiving effective reading instruction. Teachers valued coaches, and there were significant relationships between time allocated to working with teachers and teachers' views of coaches. A median split on amount of time coaches spent coaching divided the coaches' schools into a group with more coaching and a group with less coaching. There was a significantly greater percentage of students scoring at proficiency and a significantly smaller percentage of students scoring at risk in schools where coaches spent more time working with teachers."
  2. Davis, M. H., McPartland, J. M., Pryseski, C., & Kim, E. (2018). The effects of coaching on English teachers' reading instruction practices and adolescent students' reading comprehension. Literacy Research and Instruction, 57(3), 255-275.
    From the abstract: "Although the use of literacy coaches is becoming more common, few research studies have shown positive effects of coaching on teacher practices and student achievement. In the current study, a cluster randomized design was used to evaluate usefulness of coaches for teachers of struggling high school students. High schools were randomly assigned across three experimental conditions: professional development workshops, workshops with written lesson materials, and workshops with lesson materials and coaching. Participants in this three-year study included 130 ninth-grade teachers and 3,160 ninth grade students. Recommended literacy practices included teacher modeling, student team discussions, and self-selected reading. Findings indicated that coaching improved teachers' use and quality of recommended literacy practices and increased student reading achievement over the period of a year."
  3. Elish-Piper, L., & L'Allier, S. K. (2011). Examining the relationship between literacy coaching and student reading gains in grades k-3. Elementary School Journal, 112(1), 83-106.
    From the abstract: "This article presents the results of a study that examined the relationship between the amount, type, and content of literacy coaching and K-3 student reading gains in a school district that received a Reading First grant. In addition, this study investigated the relationship between student reading gains and literacy coach certification. Findings from the study suggested that the amount of time literacy coaches spent with teachers and 5 specific aspects of literacy coaching predicted student reading gains at one or more grade levels. Using the findings from this study, the authors proposed a research-based model of literacy coaching focused on promoting student reading gains. (Contains 3 figures and 7 tables.)"
  4. Hathaway, J. I., Martin, C. S., & Mraz, M. (2016). Revisiting the roles of literacy coaches: Does reality match research? Reading Psychology, 37(2), 230-256.
    From the abstract: "This study surveyed 104 school-based elementary literacy coaches to explore their perceptions of their roles as coaches. These perceptions were then examined relative to the Standards for Reading Professionals-Revised 2010, developed by the International Reading Association. Overall, coaches reported the majority of the tasks they carried out as coaches were tasks they believed should be part of the role of a coach. They most highly valued tasks that allowed them to interact with and support teachers, ultimately leading to improved student achievement. Coaches also indicated a lack of clarity about their role in supporting the standards related to diversity."
  5. Harbour, K. E., Adelson, J. L., Pittard, C. M., Karp, K. S. (2018). Examining the relationships among mathematics coaches and specialists, student achievement, and disability status: A multilevel analysis using national assessment of educational progress data. Elementary School Journal, 118(4), 65-679.
    From the abstract: "Using restricted-use data from the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress mathematics assessment, the current study examined the relationship between the presence of elementary mathematics coaches and specialists (MCSs) and the mathematics achievement of more than 190,000 fourth-grade students in more than 7,400 schools nationwide. In addition, the study explored how that relationship differed for students with and without identified disabilities, a vital concern with the continued focus of equity in mathematics education. Hierarchical linear modeling, with adjustments for composite covariates and controls as well as sampling weights, was used to examine each research question. Results showed promise for the use of full-time elementary MCSs to support students' overall and specific content-area mathematics achievement. This positive relationship did not hold true for the use of part-time MCSs, nor was a differential effect found based on students' disability status."
  6. Kraft, M. A., Blazar, D., Hogan, D. (2018). The effect of teacher coaching on instruction and achievement: A meta-analysis of the causal evidence. Review of Educational Research, 88(4), 547-588.
    From the abstract: "Teacher coaching has emerged as a promising alternative to traditional models of professional development. We review the empirical literature on teacher coaching and conduct meta-analyses to estimate the mean effect of coaching programs on teachers' instructional practice and students' academic achievement. Combining results across 60 studies that employ causal research designs, we find pooled effect sizes of 0.49 standard deviations (SD) on instruction and 0.18 SD on achievement. Much of this evidence comes from literacy coaching programs for prekindergarten and elementary school teachers in the United States. Although these findings affirm the potential of coaching as a development tool, further analyses illustrate the challenges of taking coaching programs to scale while maintaining effectiveness. Average effects from effectiveness trials of larger programs are only a fraction of the effects found in efficacy trials of smaller programs. We conclude by discussing ways to address scale-up implementation challenges and providing guidance for future causal studies."
  7. Marsh, J. A., McCombs, J. S., & Martorell, F. (2012). Reading coach quality: Findings from Florida middle schools. Literacy Research and Instruction, 51(1), 1-26.
    From the abstract: "Drawing on a statewide study of Florida middle-school reading coaches, this article examines what constitutes, contributes to, and is associated with high-quality coaches and coaching. Authors find that coaches generally held many of the qualifications recommended by state and national experts and principals and teachers rated their coaches highly on many indicators of quality. However, several common concerns about recruiting, retaining, and supporting high-quality coaches emerged. Estimates from models indicate that a few indicators of coach experience, knowledge, and skills had significant associations with perceived improvements in teaching and higher student achievement, although the magnitude of the latter relationship was quite small. Findings suggest that although possessing strong reading knowledge and instructional expertise may be important for coaching, it may not be sufficient. (Contains 1 figure, 5 tables and 11 footnotes.)"
  8. Yopp, D. A., Burroughs, E. A., Sutton, J. T., Greenwood, M. C. (2019). Variations in coaching knowledge and practice that explain elementary and middle school mathematics teacher change. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 22(1), 5-36.
    From the abstract: "This study investigated relationships between changes in certain types of coaching knowledge and practices among mathematics classroom coaches and how these explain changes in the attitudes, knowledge, and practice of the teachers they coach. Participants in this study were 51 school-based mathematics classroom coaches in the USA and 180 of the teachers whom they coached between 2009 and 2014. The participating coaches were recruited from schools that hired their own coaches independently from this research project. This study found evidence that improvements in coaches' use of practices recommended by particular coaching models are related to improvements in teachers' mathematical knowledge for teaching. The study also found that improvements in coaches' self-assessment of their own coaching skills are related to improvements in teachers' mathematics content knowledge for teaching, mathematics teaching practices, and attitudes about self-efficacy for teaching mathematics. The study did not detect relationships between changes in coaches' mathematics knowledge and changes in teachers' knowledge or practices."


Keywords and Search Strings
The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • math and literacy coaches, student achievement
  • effect of literacy and math coaches
  • instructional coaches, school improvement

Databases and Resources
We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of over 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences. Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and PsychInfo.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published for last 15 years, from 2003 to present, were include in the search and review.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, JSTOR database, PsychInfo, PsychArticle, and Google Scholar.
  • Methodology: Following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types - randomized control trials,, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, etc., generally in this order (b) target population, samples (representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected, etc.), study duration, etc. (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, etc.

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Southeast Region (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast at Florida State University. This memorandum was prepared by REL Southeast under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0011, administered by Florida State University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.