Why PLC days? Platte County School District's PLC days are designed to establish sustained and uninterrupted time for educators to work together and collaborate. Collaboration is an essential ingredient for continuous school improvement and staff development. Both of these are directly related to student achievement. This time allows educators to examine and respond to the four basic fundamental questions of a Professional Learning Community:
- What is it we want students to learn?
- How will we know when each student has achieved the learning?
- How will we respond when a student is not learning?
- How will we respond when we know a child has mastered the learning?
PLC Questions and Answers
Why do teachers need this time?
PLC Time allows for educators to work together in responding to the needs and strategies to achieve the District’s Vision, Mission, and Values, and goals.One of the most important aspects of PLC time is to analyze results. Looking at data, results, and parent/staff/student opinion on how we are measuring up, is the ultimate tool to improve. We cannot improve if we do not look critically at what is working and what is not.Teachers work as team to:
- Develop common assessments (tests, quizzes or processes by which we can determine if the students are learning the lessons).
- Develop common rubrics and/or scoring guides (consistency across classrooms, grade levels, subject matter, etc. if very important).
- Create common scope and sequence of the curriculum. All students, no matter who’s class they are in, should be learning the same curriculum.
- Create common grading practices.
- Align the curriculum vertically, or as a student moves on, making sure what they are teaching/learning in first should be the foundation for second grade objectives and so on.
- Examine student work collaboratively being very honest about what is working and what needs additional time. If a number of students score low on a particular topic, strict evaluation needs to be made as to the why and how can we correct. Use student results to differentiate instruction and/or individual student interventions.
Why can’t teachers just meet after school hours? It is difficult to schedule a time where, for example, all 2nd grade teachers or all secondary communication arts teachers can meet to review tests, evaluate and create consistent strategies or collaborate on how to best handle certain situations. Yes, teachers have “planning time” but those planning times vary from teacher to teacher. Many of our teachers are also coaches and/or sponsors. One or two people missing in a collaborative session, hinders the effectiveness of the time. Each member brings different strengths and perspectives to the team and the uninterrupted and scheduled time maximizes the effectiveness.
How do we know PLCs are effective? Ultimately, the measure is student achievement results – current reality and trend data. PLC days were established for the first time in 2008. From 2008-2011, the Platte County School District has shown a positive trend in reference to MAP scores with substantial increases in student achievement. Even with the plateau these past two years, the District can examine strategies during our PLC time to continue to improve. In addition to performance results, others to consider are perceptions of teachers, students, and parents. That is why the District surveyed all three of these categories on a variety of topics to see exactly what they thought…or their perceptions. For example, the percentage of teachers agreeing that the use of collaboration time to analyze data to guide their instruction is definitely on the increase since 2010. The one commodity educators say there is never enough of… is time. Time to teach, time to have professional dialogue, time to think, time to plan, time to analyze results, and time to communicate with parents. Time is indeed precious in school. In a Professional Learning Community an educator’s role shifts from working in isolation to working in collaboration with others. Simply put, we have to make this meaningful time. Collaboration time is absolutely an essential element to making our students and schools succeed.