Does This Seem Like a PLC Format?

We recently received the following question:

At my school we have two mandatory PLC meetings scheduled per month in the mornings before our contract hours begin. We are in the process of preparing to establish schoolwide intervention blocks four days a week. Groups of two grade levels are working together along with our ESL staff to implement these blocks. I am excited about implementing these interventions in this coordinated manner, but in trying to plan for these intervention blocks, we have been working on compiling data from multiple assessments without being given time to meet. Our administrator just sent out a schedule of planned training sessions for one of our two PLC meetings each month beginning this month and continuing every month throughout the rest of the school year.

This does not seem like a PLC format nor does it seem to value our judgment and professionalism, but the administrator is not very approachable on the subject. Any suggestions?

Here is our reply:

We hope you and your colleagues will work with your principal to make this a great year of professional learning linked hand-in-hand with the student learning needs in your school. We advocate the following:

  • Time for team collaboration is part of, not in addition to, the contractual workweek. We understand that many schools do adjust the start and end of the teacher contractual day once a week (or twice a month) to provide collaborative time, but those adjustments are then offset by allowing teachers to leave early that day or arrive late on other days so the total hours that they work are within the contractual workweek. We offer brief explanations of this option and a variety of other no-cost strategies for making time at the following link:
  • Teachers and collaborative teams should be provided user-friendly data that quickly allows them to see how their students are doing in learning agreed-upon standards, on valid assessments, and in comparison to other students in the same course or grade level. We do not advocate that teachers should be expected to spend lots of time gathering, compiling, and disaggregating data. We recommend this work be completed by either a designated person(s) in the school and/or through the use of data software programs. In either case, it is imperative that teachers receive the information in a timely and user-friendly way.
  • The work of collaborative teams of teachers clarifying essential learning outcomes (power standards); developing and administering common, formative assessments; analyzing students’ performance on those assessments; and developing systems of intervention/enrichment to meet the learning needs of each student is the best professional development possible! It represents job-embedded professional development. When teams of teachers engage in this ongoing collective inquiry and action research focused on their content, their students, and their own professional strengths and learning needs, learning for ALL increases. The best training to become a PLC is actually engaging in the work of collaborative teams (described above), being reflective, sharing and learning best practices with and from each other, testing out those new best practices in the classrooms with students, gathering new learning data, etc. In other words, learning by doing. We would strongly support the idea that PLC time be reserved for teachers to work on the PLC process.
  • It appears that your school would benefit from a crucial conversation between teacher representatives and the principal. We recommend that a small group of representative teachers ask to meet with the principal to discuss your concerns. Set the tone by finding common ground; that is, discuss your assumptions about the shared hopes and dreams for your school. Acknowledge the good intentions of the principal and that you share his/her desire to create a great school for your students. Suggest some specific steps that TEACHERS are willing to take to help achieve that objective. Then indicate that you feel the success of your efforts will depend on the principal’s willingness to make certain commitments. Be very specific about those commitments. For example: (1) We ask that our collaborative meetings be reserved for teams to work on the PLC process; (2) We ask that you be willing to confront a teacher who is not contributing to our PLC process; and (3) We ask that we be provided with time to collaborate in mutually agreeable ways.


Becky DuFour

Dear Brian Casebeer,

We appreciate your questions and couldn't agree more that if the purpose (mission) of your school is learning for all then the collaborative time must be devoted to the questions that directly impact learning. If teams of teachers don't co-labor on the right work, then we shouldn't expect to see gains in student achievement. The following is the link to the Critical Issues teams should cycle their way through if the purpose of their team is to see to it that all students learn: Each issue is linked by research to either gains in learning or the development of high-performing teams. We recommend that principals and teacher leaders work together to create a time-line of team products that will be generated as a natural result of teams spending their collaborative time engaging in collective inquiry and action research on these issues. We wrote the book, Learning By Doing: A Handbook for PLCs at Work to provide teams with the resources, research, templates, tool, tips, etc. to help them tackle each one of the critical issues.

We also agree that teachers should be provided with user-friendly data from their own team-created common formative assessments so that the team is frequently monitoring the learning of each student. Each teacher should be able to look at the printout from the software program or even a simple excel spreadsheet document that shows how each student's performance compares to the team's proficiency target on each essential skill and concept being assessed. Following the administration of a common formative assessment, the team meeting time should be devoted to making a plan for addressing the learning needs of each student - intervention and enrichment - based on the results of the assessment. We strongly agree that the teachers should not spend that precious collaborative time in-putting data and applaud you for wanting to take this task off of their plates! The following links to a couple of past blog article ay be useful to you and your staff:

Wishing you all the best as you continue to lead the PLC journey,
Becky DuFour

Posted on

Brian Casebeer

I've only recently discovered this site, and so am very late to this conversation - hope it's still active.

I have two questions related to the original DuFour response to "Does this Seem Like a PLC Format?" posting. Our district adopted PLCs at the beginning of last year (08-09)after some district wide study and training. As part of planning for implementation several stakeholder groups met to discuss what would be considered appropriate use of PLC time. Based on my reading of the DuFour/Eaker work, I feel many of the items deemed appropriate are not really good "fits"; though all the topics are important components of what educators have to do, many selected could contribute to "coblaboration" rather than collaboration. It was also decided, and Board of Education approved, that the content of PLC meeting agendas would be collaboratively developed between teachers and administrators at each school site. So when I attempt to focus how we use our PLC time so that it moves us toward being more learning-focused, data-driven and interdependent (at least that's what I'm trying to do) I am occasionally politely accused of too much top down control. My long term goal for our school is that our vision becomes so compelling, and that PLC work is considered so successful in supporting students AND teachers in realizing our vision that our staff will embrace the need to do PLCs as the DuFours, et al, have so clearly stated they need to be done. But given the context in which I get to work, I'd appreciate some tips on how I can do that.

Secondly, the quote from the original message, "We do not advocate that teachers should be expected to spend lots of time gathering, compiling, and disaggregating data. We recommend this work be completed by either a designated person(s) in the school and/or through the use of data software programs" is very intriguing to me. I believe strongly our school has a good staff, intent on doing what's best for kids, and most are willing to reexamine how they teach to see if they can do it better. But this is exactly their complaint - district technology initiatives designed to make data collection and management easier don't work as intended; common assessments are worthwhile, but they're just one more piece of data they have to collect, store somewhere, disaggregate, etc. I would love to take a good portion of that data management off their plates (or it least put in on their plates already prepared, without asking them to shop for, prepare and cook it!) but I'm not sure how to do that. Again, any ideas anyone can share are appreciated.

Elementary principal in Colorado

Posted on

Jennifer Bolinger

Dear mdavis,
I graduated from a school much like the one you describe and find myself to be the only teacher in my department in my current school. I think the best way would be for each teacher to exam their curriculum and test and make sure that what they are valuing as important is also what they teach and what is on the state assessment. Also, maybe for example the students are doing a speech in English and a presentation in Science. Perhaps those teachers could work it out that the students are doing a speech on the same topic as their presentation so that they cut down on the homework but are still getting the fundamentals.
I really do feel for you and know that your teachers are stretched very thin. But I am sure that you have some of the most dedicated teachers around and that they will do their best to make this work.
Good Luck and I hope this helps some.

Posted on


Our school serves 225 students, ages 3-22, all of whom have significant cognitive disabilities. The majority of our ongoing assessment data is derived from individual students' IEP goals. Without common assessments available for PLC discussions, how do our teams develop student assessment-driven instruction?

Posted on


My question focuses on being able to plan and collaborate as a true Professional Learning Community. When your school has a staff of 7 content area teachers and they each teach multiple content areas, how would you suggest they develop team assessments? If you say develop assessment by grade level this will not efficiently work because due to the number of teachers on staff, they all do not and can not have the same planning periods. If you say develop assessments by content areas, there is usually one teacher teaching, for example, Social Studies. So, again I ask, how would you suggest team assessment be developed when human resources are scarce, vertical alignment is not possible/common planning is not possible, and the element of enough time is lacking?

Posted on


We have begun using a true PLC format rather than just common planning this year. It is so important I think that teachers are empowered to make decisions about "the what" of their classrooms and to do that they need "the why". PLCs are the best mechanism to facilitate this, but I want to monitor the effectiveness and integrity of the implementation of this process. Reading the research has helped but a succinct list of what should be happening would be helpful.

Posted on

Rick and Becky DuFour

Dear mstarr,

We recommend each team identifies the essential learning outcome(s) for each unit and then develop common, formative assessments (rather than
pre-tests) aligned to monitor whether or not each student is learning each essential outcome currently being taught in that unit. After a period of initial instruction, the team administers the common assessment to all of the students taking the same course/subject. The team uses the results to identify and cluster the students into flexible groups for intervention & enrichment (i.e. students who are meeting, exceeding, and falling below
the team's proficiency target for each skill on the common formative assessment.)

The team should always make an effort to cluster the students in need of the most learning support with the teacher(s) who have the greatest expertise in teaching that skill. After a period of intervention deemed appropriate by the members of the team, a "Form B" of the common
assessment should be given to the students who were not initially proficient to determine next steps in the learning process.

For more information on this topic, we recommend the following books published by Solution Tree:

Whatever It Takes: How Professional Learning Communities Respond When Kids Don't Learn

Learning By Doing: A handbook for Professional Learning Communities at Work

Revisiting Professional Learning Communities at Workâ„¢: New Insights for Improving Schools

Best Wishes,
Becky & Rick DuFour

Posted on

Rick DuFour

Dear mrecht,

There is no PLC rule on facilitation. It is very important that members of the team address and clarify collective commitments regarding how they are going to work together and contribute to a successful team. If members are clear on those commitments and honor them, it is not critical that a group of three people designate one person as the leader or the facilitator.

Rick DuFour

Posted on


We are a grade level team of three teachers who are just beginning to work together
within a PLC school. We are successfully collaborating to schedule meetings and make
agendas. We will soon discuss roles that we will have during meetings. During our whole
staff meetings, the principal or members of the leadership team serve as facilitators. One teacher serves as timekeeper, and another takes notes. But on a small group of only
three teachers, is one designated facilitator always necessary? Is this a PLC rule? Or can three people just discuss agenda items and watch the clock (while we rotate the job of notetaker?)

Posted on


We have also initiated a PLC block of Intervention/Enrichment which we are calling The Math Zone. Our PLC planning committee meets once a month after school, but they are paid our curriculum rate for that. All of our teachers are meeting in PLC Planning teams weekly, for 40 minutes, during contracted prep time (1 of 6 prep periods per week). Our Math Zone period is on Wednesday afternoons, last period. Every professional in the building is involved. It is the one period in the week when we cleared the schedule of any "specials." So far, so good. The collaboration is great, however the "sorting" process for assigning students to groups is a challenge. Our pre-tests (we are calling them check-ins) are not identifying those students who really need remediation, so we are talking about ways to better identify the appropriate students for remediation, maintenance, or extension.

Posted on

Doug DeLong

I agree that time for team collaboration has to be provided within the contractual work day. This way, everyone participates in the collaborative time. We established a delayed start on Tuesday mornings to provide common planning time for our teams. Our delayed start coincides with the beginning of the work day for teachers. This also allows our teams to meet every Tuesday during the school year. Scheduling the common planning time during the contractual day allowed me to ensure that the PLC time was reserved for work on the PLC process.

Posted on


Remember to look at your contract. Many teacher contracts allow for after or before hours faculty meetings. In my district, principals are allowed to call two one hour faculty meetings per month beyond the 7 hr and 20 minutes teacher's time on duty. In the spirit of creating a PLC we must all be flexible (and know all the rules). How teachers approach the principal to discuss this matter will make all the difference. If you begin quoting rules and strict guidelines to your administration (without regards to all other concessions he or she is trying to make), you may find a principal less inclined to continue in this school-wide renewal. Principals wear many hats and must comply with innumerable mandates from the district, State, and Federal Government. A supportive (how we make it better) rather than complaining (your not following the rules) stance will go much further. Principal in South Florida.

Posted on