Blog

How Hundred Day Plans Sustain a Culture of Continuous Improvement

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You’re feeling good – you have created demand for modeling your school as a PLC and have structures in place to answer the key questions. You are making progress along the PLC journey… Well, you think you are. Or perhaps your PLC is stagnant; you are not seeing progress or you are not sure about how to measure it. Or maybe your school is just beginning the PLC journey and you are questioning how to monitor the first stages, especially since small wins are essential in the beginning to sustain the momentum. Or perhaps you’re wrestling with when and how to lay out the next steps of your school’s improvement work and are trying to determine how it fits into the larger school improvement plan. Read more

21st Century PLC

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There is a great deal of talk in education these days about 21st Century learning. A quick Google search of this topic produces thousands of hits. Much of it focuses on 21st Century skills. These are often referred to as the ‘soft skills’ in education. According to much of the research and online discussion, these so-called ‘soft skills’ are really the skills students will be required to have in order to be successful both in school and in life beyond school. Read more

Getting Better at Getting Better

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As I paid visits to schools at the beginning of this year, a teacher sent a question through the principal, “ask her when we are going to be good enough”. I knew the question came from a place of frustration: more new standards, another change in assessments, new technology, and other national, state, and district demands. Yet, the question itself took me by surprise. I had thought the principle of continuous improvement was ingrained in who we are; that all staff understood this was one of our district’s core beliefs. Read more

Product Templates to Guide the PLC Process

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Becoming a highly effective collaborative team can look easy, but with some templates and guidance, teams may get just the boost they need to assist them in becoming part of an effective PLC school. Let’s presume your school has completed the challenging work of creating a shared mission, vision, values, and goals, and the culture of the school indicates readiness for the next steps in the PLC journey—the standardization of products, or for some templates to guide the work. Read more

Curriculum Pacing – are we focused on coverage or learning?

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My job as a Support Counselor is to help students be able to manage their stress in healthy and productive ways; and as a PLC Associate, I can’t help but think about how different our school will be once we master a shift of practice from teaching to one of learning. Read more

Keep the Focus on Learning

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“Only half of the students in our school were proficient on last year’s end-of-level test, and our teachers seem satisfied with that!” This was the frustrating observation of a school principal that he shared with me in a recent conversation. My first response to him was that perhaps it’s time to revisit why you exist—to go back to your school’s mission and vision—to revisit the first big idea of a professional learning community: an unwavering focus on student learning. Read more

Are You On A “Learning By Labeling” Journey?

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You can call your goat a chicken, but you won’t be eating eggs for breakfast! You may be thinking…what the heck does that mean? Quite simply put, changing the label does not change the outcome! We all should be able to agree with that statement, and yet, I am amazed at how many times I encounter settings where labels change, but practice does not. Read more

From STEM to TEAMS

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There's been much discussion these days about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education and what it really means. In fact, you may have been a part of the discussion and are looking to infuse STEM in one way or another into your existing curriculum. Proponents argue that if we can increase math and science opportunities while infusing engineering and technology, it would expose students to the areas of STEM, and could tackle potential career deficits while preparing them for successful 21st Century careers. Read more

It’s Not a Meeting; It’s a Way of Being!

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In her keynotes, Becky DuFour often uses the phrase "Clarity precedes competence!" Over the years we have heard the term/acronym "PLC" used in so many ways that it will be hard for schools and districts to be truly competent unless they are clear regarding the meaning of the Professional Learning Communities at Work process. If we continue to use the term "Professional Learning Community" (PLC) in the way that it is being used in many quarters, then it truly has lost its original meaning and influence. Read more

Harnessing the Collaborative Power of the Four Critical Questions of a Professional Learning Community

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With so many demands on curricular teams these days collaborative time can quickly be sacrificed for coordination tasks such as scheduling events, casual dialogues of best practice, rote test modifications, and adjusting curricular pacing guides, to name a few. This kind of collaboration tends to produce shallow curricular changes, narrow instruction adjustments, non-timely remediation, and superficial assessment modifications. Read more

Why Size Doesn’t Matter

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I have been blessed during the past 43 years to work in amazing school districts of all sizes—one as small as 600 students to one as large as 37,000 students. Time after time, school after school, district after district, we have learned size simply doesn’t matter for four main reasons. A highly functioning PLC continually examines and improves its capacity through four main elements: Organization, Execution, Persistence, and Celebration. Read more

Put Your Money Where Your Maxim Is: “Investing” in PLCs at the District Level

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Dictionary.com defines maxim as “a general truth or principle” or “a rule of conduct.” A few years ago when I was a high school principal leading the implementation of a PLC . . . Read more

Are You Married to Your PLC?

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Are you married to your professional learning community? Are you just flirting or dating? Maybe engaged? What is your level of commitment to the PLC process? These were the questions and . . . Read more

Clearing Things Up With the Cloud

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The team leader taps away furiously at her computer. “I know we decided this last spring in our release day. Don’t you remember?” Her teammates watch with a variety of expressions . . . Read more

The Toughest Audience of All: Your Colleagues

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I have led professional development for school faculties and at educational conferences in the United States and now in Singapore. It’s a slightly heady feeling—walking into a ballroom . . . Read more