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.