Just like athletes become stronger under the guidance of a good coach, so do teachers. There are many ways to design a coaching program, but the general idea is that a veteran educator observes a teacher in the classroom and then gives constructive feedback on issues ranging from managing student misbehavior to framing open-ended questions that push students to think harder. The teacher then tries to incorporate what the coach suggests and the cycle of observation and feedback repeats. The number of sessions and frequency vary.

Researchers began rigorously studying coaching in the late 1990s and have been ramping up in the past 10 years to see how well coaching works and if coaching programs are any better than the kind of training seminars that teachers typically attend to further their “professional development.” Now, a team of researchers has come to a frustrating conclusion: coaching can help but no one has figured out how to successfully expand coaching programs so that they reach many teachers.

Researchers Matthew Kraft and David Blazar have been collecting every well-designed study on teacher coaching. They tallied up results from 60 programs and found that, on average, coaching greatly improved the quality of classroom instruction as measured by how outside observers evaluated teachers’ performance and interaction with students. But the average improvement in students’ academic achievement, as measured by reading or math assessments, was small.

Read the full article about whether teachers need coaches by Jill Barshay at The Hechinger Report.