Is Coaching Worth It? Three Questions to Ask
BY ANNE D. LACKRITZ/School Administrator, September 2019

Anne Lackritz, a partner in the Noble Story Group, says determining how return on investment will be calculated is important before a school district enters a formal coaching arrangement.
As a leadership coach who works with schools across the country, I often hear that coaching is expensive or that school districts can’t allocate money for this purpose, given other competing priorities. However, with the 2014 report by School Leaders Network revealing that nearly half of new school principals leave their roles by the end of the third year on the job, districts can’t afford not to develop and sustain these essential school leaders.

According to a report by the International Coach Federation in 2009, leaders in various professional fields who’ve worked with a coach reported a personal return on investment of over three times the initial investment, meaning they get three dollars’ worth of benefits back in return for every dollar spent on coaching. Organizations that invest in coaching report a median return of seven times the initial cost. How might this translate to a school district interested in maximizing its investment in coaching its newly hired administrators?

Coaching Considerations
School district leaders might consider three questions.

» What is the cost if we don’t provide coaching?
High principal turnover contributes to institutional instability and is correlated with negative effects on student achievement. Principal turnover is also costly, with a typical expense of about $75,000 to recruit and integrate a new school principal into the system, according to the School Leaders Network report “Churn: The High Cost of Principal Turnover.”

Coaching has been shown to improve relationships, positively impact results, help leaders work through adaptive challenges and stay more engaged and active in their work, all resulting in lower turnover.
For example. in a district with 20 schools, if a quarter of the principals are leaving their roles each year, it may cost the district $375,000 to train and onboard new school leaders, not to mention the associated costs on staff attrition and student achievement. Compare this with the cost of around $50,000-$75,000 to provide coaching for those same leaders, or even $200,00 to $300,000 to provide coaching for every school leader in the district (based on estimated $10,000-$15,000 per leader). Not providing coaching upfront can result in additional costs in the future.

» What issue is the coaching seeking to address?
Is the school leader receiving high marks on staff and family engagement, yet not getting the desired results for student achievement? Is the school leader an effective veteran with an interest in continued professional learning and growth? Various types of coaching are available.

For technical issues, such as consistently implementing components of a new math curriculum, one would seek experts on the issue, such as instructional coaches. For adaptive leadership challenges, such as effectively managing the adoption and stakeholder buy-in of a new math curriculum, one would look for executive coaches with expertise in leadership development. To maximize the effectiveness of coaching, narrow the focus to the most pressing issues to be addressed.

» How will we measure success of the coaching?
What is the desired result? Consider the impact the coaching could have on the individual leader, administrative team, staff, students and families. Would it result in improved student achievement, in improved morale for staff, in public recognition for the school, in securing additional funding or new partnerships? Would a 20 percent gain in staff satisfaction result in lower staff turnover, more engaged teachers, better collaboration within and across school teams and more engaged students?

Whatever the priority, district leadership should clearly identify an existing measure or create one to measure the impact of coaching over time.

ANNE LACKRITZ is a partner with the Noble Story Group in Washington, D.C.