Factors That May Lead Instructional Coaches to Leave That Role: A Mixed-Method Case Study



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In many school districts across the United States, initiatives geared toward improving classroom instruction now include instructional coaching models. The utilization of instructional coaches (ICs) is becoming more prevalent in districts for the purpose of providing job-embedded PD and follow-through with additional coaching sessions to help teachers implement new learning. If utilized correctly, ICs benefit districts by improving instruction, which impacts students' learning (Knight, 2007). In one large suburban school district in Texas, ICs were leaving the profession at an average rate of 26% annually. Frequent changes of ICs on campuses impede progress; therefore, school districts should identify reasons ICs leave the profession. This mixed-method case study provides insight into the factors that lead ICs to leave the coaching role. A survey of 90 instructional coaches from kindergarten-12th grade was conducted to solicit perceptions of the job. Eight interviews were also conducted to delve deeper into the experiences of four coaches who left the field to return to the classroom as well as four coaches who have remained in the role for at least six years. Utilizing grounded theory, an analysis of both quantitative and qualitative data revealed reasons ICs leave the coaching position as well as the experiences that motivate coaches to remain in the role despite the challenges they face. A lack of a clearly defined instructional coaching model was found to be the root cause of many of the challenges experienced by these coaches. Roles and responsibilities were not clearly defined for coaches, administrators, or teachers, leading to frustration. Instructional coaches were being utilized as data coaches, content specialists, administrators, and even substitute teachers. Recommendations are provided for district and campus administrators to create an instructional coach model that provides adequate training and support necessary to retain ICs in the role.