Uinta County School District #1
December 2018-Newsletter, Vol. 36
Advocates for Professional Learning Communities: Finding Common Ground in Education Reform
What would it take to persuade educators that the most promising path for sustained, substantive improvement in their schools and districts is successful implementation of the PLC process?
Experts Who Endorse Professional Learning Communities For those who find research persuasive, we submit the following.
“The most successful corporation of the future will be a learning organization” (Senge, 1990, p. 4).
“Every enterprise has to become a learning institution [and] a teaching institution. Organizations that build in continuous learning in jobs will dominate the 21st century” (Drucker, 1992, p. 108).
“Preferred organizations will be learning organizations. . . . It has been said that people who stop learning stop living. This is also true of organizations” (Handy, 1995, p. 55).
“Only the organizations that have a passion for learning will have an enduring influence” (Covey, Merrill, & Merrill, 1996, p. 149).
“The new problem of change . . . is what would it take to make the educational system a learning organization—expert at dealing with change as a normal part of its work, not just in relation to the latest policy, but as a way of life” (Fullan, 1993, p. 4).
“We have come to realize over the years that the development of a learning community of educators is itself a major cultural change that will spawn many others” (Joyce & Showers, 1995, p. 3).
“If schools want to enhance their organizational capacity to boost student learning, they should work on building a professional community that is characterized by shared purpose, collaborative activity, and collective responsibility among staff” (Newmann & Wehlage, 1995, p. 37).
“[We recommend that] schools be restructured to become genuine learning organizations for both students and teachers: organizations that respect learning, honor teaching, and teach for understanding” (Darling-Hammond, 1996, p. 198).
“We argue, however, that when schools attempt significant reform, efforts to form a schoolwide professional community are critical” (Louis, Kruse, & Raywid, 1996, p. 13).
Karen Seashore Louis and Helen M. Marks (1998) found that when a school is organized into a professional community, the following occurs.
1. Teachers set higher expectations for student achievement.
2. Students can count on the help of their teachers and peers in achieving ambitious learning goals.
3. The quality of classroom pedagogy is considerably higher.
4. Achievement levels are significantly higher.
Melanie S. Morrissey (2000) asserts that PLCs offer an infrastructure to create the “supportive cultures and conditions necessary for achieving significant gains in teaching and learning.” Additionally, they “provide opportunities for professional staff to look deeply into the teaching and learning process and to learn how to become more effective in their work with students” (Morrissey, 2000).
“The framework of a professional learning community is inextricably linked to the effective integration of standards, assessment, and accountability . . . the leaders of professional learning communities balance the desire for professional autonomy with the fundamental principles and values that drive collaboration and mutual accountability” (Reeves, 2005, pp. 47–48).
“The use of PLCs is the best, least expensive, most professionally rewarding way to improve schools. . . . Such communities hold out immense, unprecedented hope for schools and the improvement of teaching” (Schmoker, 2005, pp. 137–138).
“Well-implemented professional learning communities are a powerful means of seamlessly blending teaching and professional learning in ways that produce complex, intelligent behavior in all teachers” (Sparks, 2005, p. 156).
“Strong professional learning communities produce schools that are engines of hope and achievement for students. . . . There is nothing more important for education in the decades ahead than educating and supporting leaders in the commitments, understandings, and skills necessary to grow such schools where a focus on effort-based ability is the norm” (Saphier, 2005, p. 111).
“Participation in learning communities impacts teaching practice as teachers become more student centered. In addition, teaching culture is improved because the learning communities increase collaboration, a focus on student learning, teacher authority or empowerment, and continuous learning; . . . when teachers participate in a learning community, students benefit as well, as indicated by improved achievement scores over time. . . . The collective results of these studies offer an unequivocal answer to the question about whether the literature supports the assumption that student learning increases when teachers participate in PLCs. The answer is a resounding and encouraging yes” (Vescio, Ross, & Adams, 2008, pp. 87–88).
“The notion of professional learning communities (PLCs) has really taken off around the world. Researchers have focused attention on the topic for some time, especially in North America, but there’s a growing realisation that professional learning communities hold considerable promise for supporting implementation of improvement initiatives and the progress of educational reform more generally. … An effective professional learning community has the capacity to promote and sustain the learning of all professionals in the school community with the collective purpose of enhancing pupil learning” (Stoll et al., 2006, pp. 3–4).
Yvonne Goddard, Roger Goddard, and Megan Tschannen-Moran (2007) studied student achievement in fourth-grade math and reading and found fourth-grade students have higher achievement in both “when they attend schools characterized by higher levels of teacher collaboration for school improvement” (p. 880). Schools with a one standard deviation increase in teacher collaboration showed a .07–.08 standard deviation increase in fourth-grade test scores. This holds true even when they accounted for student characteristics such as race, gender, or socioeconomic status (Goddard, Goddard, & Tschannen-Moran, 2007).
“Findings from many studies suggest that participation in a professional community with one’s colleagues is an integral part of professional learning that impacts positively on students” (Timperley, 2008, p. 19).
“Successful systems are creating more opportunities and spaces for teachers to work together in sharing practices and research, developing lesson plans, and building consensus on what constitutes good teaching practice. . . . The expansion of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) is indicative of the increased emphasis on teacher collaboration as the means of professional development. Through effective PLCs, teachers work together to: Research, try, and share best practices Analyse and constantly aim for high, internationally benchmarked standards Analyse student data and plan instruction Map and articulate curriculum Observe and coach each other “PLCs are an indication of a broader trend toward professional development that is increasingly collaborative, data-driven, and peer-facilitated, all with a focus on classroom practice” (Barber & Mourshed, 2009, pp. 30, 32).
“In general, a school-based professional community entails new work arrangements for faculty that (1) make teachers’ classroom work public for examination by colleagues and external consultants; (2) institute processes of critical dialogue about classroom practices (for example, what is and is not happening in our classrooms? How do we know that something is actually working? Where is the evidence of student learning? Are there other practices that might work better, and how might we figure this out?); and (3) sustain collaboration among teachers that focuses on strengthening the school’s instructional guidance system. . . . Strong instructional leaders promote the growth of a professional community around a shared system of teaching and learning and also stay the course, guided by a coherent, strategic plan that aims to advance the entire enterprise over time” (Bryk, Sebring, Allensworth, Luppescu, & Easton, 2010, pp. 56, 133).
“It is no accident that the standards for professional learning begin with the standard on learning communities. While many forms of professional learning may lead to improved knowledge and skills for adults, only the learning community offers a structure, process, and product that lead to systematic continuous improvement for both educators and students” (Hirsh, 2012, p. 64).
Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, and Ian Pumpian (2012) point out that although there are certainly anecdotes that PLCs have failed to deliver promised outcomes, a closer examination of what occurred invariably reveals that the school or district strayed from the three guiding principles of PLCs: 1) focus on student learning, 2) work collaboratively and take collective responsibility for student learning, and 3) create a results orientation that uses evidence to make decisions.
According to Robert J. Marzano (2013), when the PLC process is used to its full potential it can help create a school environment that is safe, orderly, collaborative, and learner focused. He maintains that “the PLC process can change the basic dynamic of leadership within a school, allowing school leaders to have a more efficient and direct impact upon what occurs in classrooms” (Marzano, 2013, p. 19).
One key to successful implementation of the Common Core is the “professional-learning-communities model, in which teachers meet frequently by grade level or content area to collaborate on strategies, set goals, and analyze data” (Schneider, 2015).
Human Resources would like to give a big thanks to everyone who contributed to the substitute job fair last week. We are also grateful to those who shared the event information with others. There were several people who attended and it was a huge success!!
3rd-Vickie Lester Ashley Graham
7th-Allan Dancer, Nicole Linford, Barbara Jefferis, Shelby Powell
11th-Susan Pinter, Billie DeLong
12th-Camille Horrocks, Heidi Lloyd
17th-Todd Nixon, Daniel Cowan
19th-Brenda Heward, Amie Cornell
22nd-Chris Brown, John Williams
24th-Bradley Francis, Bren Payne
26th-Tim Herold, Heather Blackwell
29th-Jeremy Lash, Melissa Roundy, Edie Rhodes
30th-Julie Dumas, Erin Russell
Cheri Dunford, Supt., Board Exec. Assistant Ext. 1021
Dr. Joseph Ingalls, Assistant Superintendent K-5 Ext. 1026
Doug Rigby, Assistant Superintendent 6-12 Ext. 1025
Alicia Johnson, Instructional Services Admin. Asst. Ext. 1024
Kristine Hayduk, Human Resources Ext. 1023
Matt Williams, SPED Director Ext. 1040
Diana Olson, SPED Admin. Asst. Ext. 1041
Bubba O'Neill, Activities Director Ext. 1060
Dauna Bruce, Activities Admin. Asst. Ext. 1061
John Williams, Business Director, Ext. 1030
Jaraun Dennis, Facilities Director, Ext. 1075