April 2019, Vol. 1
Community of Practice For Principals
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Professional Learning Communities Today
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”
Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) have been around since the 1960s, so are they still relevant? Do they work for schools in 2019? The answer to both is, “Yes.” In fact, they have been linked to high student achievement when implemented with fidelity.
First, we have to dispel a few misconceptions. PLCs are not book studies, data talks, or professional development plans. Nor are they Response to Intervention (RtI) meetings or Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS). PLCs are none of the above - in isolation. So what are they? PLCs are all of the above, wrapped in a special culture. You see, culture is the ‘secret ingredient’ to successful PLCs.
Picture a high-energy staff, seamlessly working together toward a unified goal. Students, parents, and the community all understand what the school is doing, and are behind them. The school has involved all of these groups from the beginning of the PLC journey and keeps them informed. The culture is positive because the purpose is clear: All students will learn at high levels. Students understand what they are learning and why. They even track their own progress. Staff members collaborate and support one another. Trust is high and teachers say to themselves, “I wouldn’t teach anywhere else.”
We’ve seen these schools in Indiana, and the Indiana Department of Education's Office of School Improvement is committed to helping all schools who want to join them. Contact us to get started and watch for a series of articles on PLCs in our newsletter.
Ambitious Instruction for All!
We, as educators, are often overwhelmed with the task of improving our instruction to meet the varying needs of all our students. We often don’t know where to start or how to start. Over time, we will investigate each of Marzano’s Nine Essential Instructional Strategies. It is our hope that if we take our time to critically analyze each of these, that we will become more comfortable in utilizing them with our daily instruction, which will greatly improve our students understanding and achievement.
Marzano’s first strategy-Identify Similarities and Differences
The research conducted states that “students should compare, classify, and create metaphors, analogies, and nonlinguistic or graphic representations. This allows students to think about the content and the relationships within the content.” In the classroom, this strategy could look many ways. Teachers may utilize: t-charts, venn diagrams, thinking maps, classifying, analogies, cause and effect links, compare and contrast organizers, QAR (Question/Answer/Relationship), sketch to stretch, affinity diagrams, or the Frayer Model. The key is to break more complex content into a simpler form. This may begin with teacher-directed activities to support students in the beginning and move towards the students independently breaking complex problems into a simpler form.
More information about identifying similarities and differences can be found here.
Marzano, R. J., Pickering, D., & Pollock, J. E. (2001). Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Growing Teacher Leaders
Ten Roles for Teacher Leaders:
1. Resource Provider
2. Instructional Specialist
3. Curriculum Specialist
4. Classroom Supporter
5. Professional Learning Facilitator
7. School Leader
8. Data Coach
9. Catalyst for Change
Culturally Responsive Teaching Practices
The Office of School Improvement is planning the launch of a Cultural Competency Resource Hub, to aid Indiana Educators throughout our diverse classrooms. Cultural Competence is a key factor in enabling educators to be effective with students from various cultures throughout the world.
Cultural competence is having an awareness of one’s own cultural identity and views about difference, and the ability to learn and build on the different cultural and community norms of students and their families. It is the ability to understand the within-group differences that make each student unique, while celebrating the between-group variations that make our country a tapestry. This understanding informs and expands teaching practices in the culturally competent educator’s classroom.
The Office of School Improvement Resource Hub
The School Improvement Resource Hub is designed to provide educators with access to tools that can be adopted or adapted to support locally-driven school improvement efforts. Additional guidance is provided to (1) describe potential ways to use each tool, (2) outline strategies for getting started with each tool, and (3) share background information on the individual tools.
The "5Essentials for School Improvement" framework is anchored in the belief that effective leadership is a "catalyst" for school improvement and thus it is the first essential support. The school leader is responsible for fostering an environment in which the other four essential supports (i.e., collaborative teachers, involved families, supportive environment, and ambitious instruction) can flourish. Although each of the essential supports is independently important, they have the greatest potential for impact when they are integrated effectively. Each of the essential supports will be described at greater length in their respective sections of the School Improvement Resource Hub.
Each month the School Improvement team will be highlighting a tool from the Resource Hub, but we invite you to take a quick tour by clicking HERE
Assistant Director of School Improvement
School Improvement Specialist
School Improvement Specialist