PLCs Beyond Talking Stage

From the “Instructional Leadership Department” comes this news from this morning’s Herald Sun:

Durham Public Schools officials are considering letting students out two hours early eight times a year to give teachers time to meet and plan together.

Under a proposal to be considered by the school, elementary students would be dismissed at 1:30 p.m., and middle and high school students would be let out at 12:30 so that teachers would have time to work in “Professional Learning Communities,” or PLCs.

“It reduces the amount of isolation and it professionalizes the workplace,” said Terri Mozingo, chief academic officer for the school system. “It gives teachers all time to plan together.”

From a LeaderTalk entry by Dr. Terry Holliday, superintendent of Iredell-Statesvilles Schools:

In our school system teachers are expected to work in teams at least one hour per week and look at common assessment of student progress to learn how children are progressing. Many of our teachers will find that struggling readers are the children that are not successful. All of our teams of teachers are then expected to develop strategies to provide interventions for these students who are struggling and challenges for those students who are meeting or exceeding expectations.

These meetings take time. A few of our teachers resent the use of this time or they spend the time in these meetings complaining about having to meet. Teachers say they need this time to plan. However, the synergy of the group with the appropriate use of data and research on best instructional strategies will always create better PLANS than individual teacher plans.

From the blog of Dr. Terry Holliday:

One of the highlights of my week is visiting classrooms. ISS has implemented a strategy this year that requires all administrators to visit at least 5 classrooms per week and document the instructional strategies that are happening in our school system. At the end of this month, the building administrators will learn how to retrieve reports about their schools and then share the information with teachers.

The purpose of the reports is not to evaluate teachers. The purpose is to train administrators about what great instruction looks like and have teachers share best strategies with each other in conversations called Professional Learning Communities.

And then there are these facts from Cherry Hill, NJ Public Schools about the Japanese Model called lesson study:

  • The average Japanese teacher teaches at least one study lesson per year, but observes about ten.
  • Over ten years, the average Japanese teacher has made 100 observations of fellow teachers! (How many do American teachers observe?)
  • Japanese 1st year teachers go through 30 days of professional development (15 at education centers and 15 at the school learning lesson study)
  • Teachers are hired for 12 months, and they work from 8-5 each day.

In schools today, we talk a lot about Professional Learning Communities and Lesson Study. Knowing that ideals are difficult to attain, we do have to start somewhere if PLCs are the way to go. And several of our schools have been taking innovative steps over time to encourage and facilitate the conversations and professional growth characteristic of PLCs.

What are some concrete ways we—like Durham, Iredell, and Japan— can take this discussion beyond talk and into sustained action . . . systematically, school-wide, and departmentally? Please share.

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One Response to PLCs Beyond Talking Stage

  1. Scott McLeod says:

    The teachers who complain about PLC meeting time don’t understand yet the value and power of working collaboratively with role-alike peers to analyze useful, relevant, timely student progress monitoring data in order to facilitate instructional changes for the benefit of students. Once teachers have the opportunity to participate in what I just described, they’ll fight you tooth and nail if you try to get rid of it.

    As Douglas Reeves notes, action drives belief, not the other way around. Iredell has it right. Make ’em do it (at a small scale at first), set ’em up for success, and then grow it as quickly as possible.

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