Jamie Virga

Jamie Virga has been a teacher, principal, district staff developer, principal coach, and associate superintendent in Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland for more than 20 years.

New Year's Resolutions and PLC Goals

How are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions? Have you been making it to the gym? Eating more vegetables? Setting new goals at the beginning of the year is a great way to push ourselves to higher levels of performance.

The same is true with PLCs in schools. In most parts of the country, we have arrived at the midpoint of the school year. How are you doing with your school goals? How can you use the midpoint of the school year to monitor your progress and make any necessary adjustments?

If you have already begun the PLC journey with your school, here are some critical questions to consider:

  • What processes and structures do you have in place to check on mid-year progress? It is important to make sure that your collaborative teams have time during each week that is devoted to review of student work and individual student achievement. This ongoing team discussion is critical to the growth of the team and to the effort to provide all students with what they need to be successful. For your school leadership team, the midpoint of the school year is also an excellent time to conduct a thorough review of progress on team and school goals.
  • What progress have your collaborative teams made in the SMART goals they set at the beginning of the year? Hopefully, your teams set specific, measureable, action-oriented, results-oriented, and time-bound goals regarding the academic achievement of their students.  It is important to make sure that teams have pertinent data to review to see how individual students are progressing, by name and by need.
  • Are there any mid-year adjustments needed in order to ensure learning for all students? The midpoint of the school year is an important time to ask critical questions and evaluate strategies used school-wide or in teams. Is there a strategy or intervention that is not producing results in student learning? Principals and teams should carefully analyze the data and decide how to modify the strategy to produce more results for kids. Is the professional development plan for the year providing teachers with what they need to be successful?  If not, maybe there needs to be adjustments to the professional learning calendar for second semester.

If you have not yet begun the PLC journey at your school, the midpoint of the school year is an ideal time to begin planting seeds for the next school year. Here are some questions to consider:

  • How could you begin to involve teachers and teams in a more deliberate review of student achievement data? An excellent first step is building shared knowledge. Try to infuse your collaborative team meetings with a focused look at student data, thereby building their capacity to use this information to modify instruction. Support teams and teachers as they have their first experiences with common formative assessment.
  • What conversations can you have now with teacher leaders to set the stage for implementation of PLC practices next year? To effectively launch your PLC, you will need to establish a guiding coalition, a group of individuals that will help to lead all staff in creating your PLC culture. Consider using individual chats and conversations to inspire and create excitement about working differently to help all students achieve at high levels.
  • What does your staff need to know and be able to do to begin to implement a PLC way of doing things? Consider the professional development needs of your staff moving forward and begin planning now about how to build the capacity of individuals and teams.

By considering these important questions and providing effective guidance and support, principals can lead their staffs to a future marked by a deeper PLC culture and ongoing celebrations of achieved goals and growth in student learning.


Al Garrido

This is a great article that breaks down some of the important questions that should be asked in order to assure the school's success and growth in their professional learning communities. I was curious how schools that are successful are able to get their teachers to buy into the success that PLCs have proven to be for schools. I ask this, because there seems to be a rather large amount of teachers at my school that just will not cooperate and find meetings and planning to be a waste of time when they can be doing more productive things like planning lessons or grading school work. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
- just a fellow teacher who wants to get things done at his school.

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