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Professional Learning Communities - (PLC)

Newaygo Public School teachers have been engaged in the PLC process for the last several years. PLC's are not a fad or something that will eventually go away as it is not a "program" or package that schools purchase.  PLC's are simply a way to do business for school staff.  It is a process to systematically implement change and best practices in schools.  Most of the work that has to be done for teacher development, curriculum, assessment, decision-making, etc., is best done through the PLC process.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ) 

1.)  What are PLC’s?
PLC is the acronym for Professional Learning Communities.  Our staff is expected to meet in PLC’s to write and revise curriculum, build common assessments and examine student data.  All of this is done to improve the quality of teaching and learning and increase student achievement.

2.)  What are Late Starts?
On selected Mondays, school will begin one hour later for students.  Teachers will meet in PLC’s during this time.  Bus routes will run one hour later on these days.  The time school is dismissed does not change.

3.)  Why do teachers need to work in PLC’s?  Why can’t they just figure out curriculum and assessment/tests on their own?
The stakes for teachers and student achievement are high due to pressures from policy-makers.  We have had multiple changes in curriculum over the past ten years (Michigan Content Expectations, Common Core Standards, etc.).  We have also had state tests change constantly (MEAP, M-Step, MME, ACT, SAT, etc.) in the last few years.  It is not practical to leave all of this up to individual teachers.  It is too much for one single educator to keep up with.  When teachers can meet in PLC’s on a regular basis and work as a team, curriculum can be revised and this allows us to work toward more alignment in curriculum.

4.)  What do you mean when you say teachers need to work on curriculum?
The Common Core standards are written in broad terms and with all of the content expectations, it is estimated that we could teach every content standard in every subject at every grade level and it would take until a student was in their early to mid-20’s to actually get through all of the content.  Therefore, much work has to be done to interpret content standards and write age-appropriate curriculum.  This cannot be done by each teacher individually.  There has to be discussion and decisions made on what gets taught, emphasized, and reviewed in each subject at each grade level.

5.)  What else do teachers do in PLC's?
Policy-makers have required schools and educators to become data-driven. In order for teachers to accurately determine what our students have learned and need to know, they must look at data. This is not something that can or should be done in isolation.  Teachers need the time to work together to examine classroom test scores as well as state test scores and benchmarks to see if students are making progress. They need to work together to figure out who needs extra support for learning and who has mastered the content.

6.)  Why do teachers need to do this in groups or PLC’s?
Learning is not something that can be left to chance.  For example, each student in a 4th grade classroom should be expected to master the same 4th grade content regardless of which 4th grade classroom students are placed in.  In years past, teachers could individually pick and choose what things they taught because schools and teachers had the autonomy to do so. This is no longer the case. Teachers must work with each other to make the best decisions for our students. As leadership expert Ken Blanchard states, "In high-performing teams, members hold each other accountable."

7.)  Teachers get prep/planning time.  Why can’t they just meet during that time?
Teachers are expected to plan thorough lessons and grade student work during their prep/planning time.  They are also called on to attend IEP team meetings, data meetings, meetings with the principal, and return parent phone calls and emails during their prep/planning time. At the middle school and high school level, it is not possible for teachers to have “common” planning time due to the fact that the needs of students are the priority when a master schedule is built. In other words, it is impossible to build a schedule where all math teachers, for example, have the same prep/planning time so they can meet in PLC's.

8.)  Why can't teachers just meet after school in their PLC's?
After school, several of our teachers coach or guide extracurricular activities and clubs. Our high school teachers and a few middle school teachers tutor students who need extra help after school. We have an After-School program that must be staffed by certified teachers. For all of these reasons, it is not possible to have PLC time for teachers after school.

9.)  Have you thought about doing an Early Release instead of a Late Start?
Yes, this has been considered in the past but for the reasons stated above, the Late Start was a better solution.

10.)  I am worried that I can't keep track of the schedule of when Late Start Mondays are. What can I do?
We have the capability with our Skylert Notification system to send general reminders in addition to our current snow day/emergency messages. Instructions on how to make sure your phone/text/email is configured as such will be provided in the fall so that parents can get a reminder the night before a Late Start. 

11.)  I am concerned about my family situation when my kids board the bus at a certain time most days but then a different time on some Mondays. What can I do?
The Late Start Mondays do not begin until October, 2016. This gives families 4 months (from the time the parent notification letter went out in early June) to consider their alternatives and options. We are also examining options for superivison of students who absolutely must get dropped off at school the same time each day. 

12.) So you are saying the dismissal time for students on Late Start Mondays doesn't change, correct?
That is correct. School dismissal is not one hour later on Late Start Mondays. School dismissal time is the same every day (except for half-days of course).

13.)  I have more questions, who can I ask?
Please contact Dr. Mathis at 231-652-4933.

 

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