Special Education Strategist/Instructional Coach Model gaining approval

Northwest AEA developed a new delivery service model four years ago. The Instructional Coach/Special Education Strategist Model was implemented in 2009-10. During that school year, 50 percent of our staff and schools started the new model. In 2010-11, 25 percent more came on board, and in 2011-12 the last 25 percent joined. We consider the 2012-13 school year to be the first year of a fully implemented model, which makes it the base year for our data to analyze this delivery service model. 

We, at Northwest AEA, have studied multiple surveys in analyzing this coach/strategist model. All of the results have been positive, but are growing in popularity as the model transitions into the way we do business. The Special Education Strategist model has improved slightly more than the Instructional Coach model. This was expected since we have increased special education staff over the four-year period, which improved the strategist-to-student ratio. Strategists served 850 students in the design of the model the first year, but currently serve 750 students per strategist during the current 2012-13 school year. We were able to provide more special education resources for the strategist model.

Unfortunately, the coach model has seen a decrease in staff over this four-year period. Coaches served 1,600 students in the first year but now serve over 2,200 students and beyond during the 2012-13 school year. We have had to redesign the instructional coach positions each and every year of the model. This has been frustrating and confusing to both our schools and our staff. These reductions were a direct result of budget cuts at the state level and more statewide responsibilities. Once again, we anticipate having to redesign the Instructional Coach model for the 2013-14 school year.

You will find the results from the latest survey (attached) of the Special Education Strategist/Instructional Coach model. This survey is part of the Iowa Department of Education's customer survey that was just completed in April. The results are below. As shown, the coach/strategist model has gained approval since the spring of 2011-12.

Notice that 38-46 percent of educators in Northwest AEA have no opinion of the model so far. The "No Opinion" category has gone down in each of the six questions this year. The school personnel that "Agree" or "Strongly Agree" that this model is working have increased in every question. The data shows the margins in the Special Education Strategist model between "Agree" and "Disagree" are much greater than the gaps in the Instructional Coach model. This mirrors the larger number of staff and resources the AEA is able to allocate to the special education program.

More Northwest AEA educators are pleased with the Special Education Strategist model than the Instructional Coach model, but not by a large percentage. Even with a limited number of staff, educators are more likely to agree that the Instructional Coach model is a successful model for us. It is obvious that Northwest AEA will need to review how staff will be allocated in the 2013-14 school year in the Instructional Coach area.

Overall, I’m pleased with these results and realize that the Special Education Strategist model is headed in the right direction. Looking at the positive results from this survey, coupled with our reduction in funds, it makes me proud of the efforts of our staff and the services they provide in the schools. In times when resources have diminished, the Northwest AEA staff have provided more services and worked harder and smarter in delivering their services. Many respondents used the phrase “going above and beyond” when describing the AEA staff who work in their buildings. I would agree with their assessments. One respondent summed it up the best by stating, “The services that we receive from the AEA staff are second-to-none. They always go above and beyond to make sure the needs of students are being met."

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Educationally yours,

Dr. Tim Grieves
Chief Administrator