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Teaching is a career that is universally praised and seen as virtuous, but often, people don’t realize the rigors and difficulties attached to the job. One organization is working to alleviate the challenges teachers face and help educators improve their teaching abilities and adapt to constantly changing classroom environments.

BetterLesson is a personalized professional development program that individually coaches teachers in order to help them improve their teaching skills. One of the places where BetterLesson has taken up roots is at Groton Elementary School, where they’ve been helping teachers improve their instructional skills since September 2016. Groton Elementary School Principal Kent Maslin described the benefit that BetterLesson is having on the nineteen teachers at his school that currently use the program.

“From a teaching perspective, they really like the fact that it is personal and that they don’t have to reveal everything to everyone in the building,” he said. “Believe it or not, teaching is a highly competitive field. They [teachers] are constantly making judgements and trying to improve their craft, and they’re competing with people in the classroom literally right next to them. So it’s nice to be able to have a private place to work on things without it having to be everybody's business.”

Founded in 2008, and operating in school districts throughout the country from Alaska to Washington state to locally here in New York, BetterLesson is working to improving the teaching skills and lesson plans of the teachers they coach. These are the goals highlighted by Seth Cohen, the Head of Partner Success at BetterLesson.

“Our mission is to empower educators and give them the skills they need to prepare students for success in a rapidly changing world,” he said. “The genesis of BetterLesson was ‘by teachers for teachers’ and we started by saying ‘How can we create a space where teachers can be sharing their practices with each other, their lesson plans, curriculum materials, things of that nature?’”

The tactics used by BetterLesson to coach teachers meets a four-piece criteria: their coaching is personalized, continuous and flexible, job indebted and aligned, and it’s supportive and non-evaluative. Cohen broke down the coaching strategies that allow the four aspects of their structure to be met.

“In terms of being personalized, each educator is matched with a coach who is an experienced educator who can work to understand each educator’s needs,” he said. “In terms of being continuous and flexible, something that really makes us stand out is that our coaching occurs on a regular basis over the course of the year. Something that’s very different in professional development elsewhere, where most of the you sit in a room, hear an experienced educator, and then that’s the end of it.”

Maslin also noted that his teachers benefit immensely from BetterLesson’s focus on flexibility and the convenience of educators. He stated that the consistency of the coaching sessions, coupled with the ability for teachers to prioritize their areas of focus, creates a learning environment that foster the continual growth of his teachers.

“In education we are always going up against the clock,” Maslin said. “We only have teachers for 182 days a year and 7 hours a day. To be able to offer something that’s consistent and doesn’t change, for example, if a teacher wants to work with a coach on the same thing throughout the year, they are able to, that’s the most important thing.

The company touts very positive teacher feedback as a measure of its success, but outside evidence seems to back that up. A further investigation of the results of the BetterLesson program, conducted by the Department of Education, found a “statistically significantly positive impact on the academic achievement of students.” This is particularly true for African-American students, as well as disabled students, who the DOE noted to have garnered the biggest gains in academic outcome.

BetterLesson, and their commitment to teacher’s growth and improved student achievement, has created a climate of increased academic prosperity and growth among schools all across the country. And their organizational goals look to continue this trend, as Cohen stated, he wants BetterLesson to expand their reach.

“Our vision moving forward is to expand and support every teacher,” Cohen said.

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