Ensuring that your Professional Learning Community (PLC) actually is professional, focused on learning, and really is a community!
It is very cool today to say that you work in a Professional Learning Community (PLC). The DuFours and their colleagues have energized the nation with their principles and stories of schools that have developed stretch cultures that ensure that all students will learn to high levels.
The DuFours have proven that it can happen. We can be successful with virtually all students. So, why aren't we? I think the answer is in the words Professional…Learning…Community.
Is your PLC actually Professional? If your school/district buys programs primarily based on which company gives you the most free stuff, then your PLC is not professional. If your school/district allows its educators to use research-based core curricula and interventions in ways that do not ensure fidelity of implementation, then your PLC is not professional. If your school/district allows its educators to continue to use instructional strategies that have a proven track record of not working, then your PLC is not professional.
But, if your school/district buys programs based on the intersection of standards to be met and student needs to be addressed, then your PLC is professional. If your school/district demands that program investments are treated with care and efficacy, then your PLC is professional. If your school/district uses the effective schools literature as a basis of instructional strategies, staff evaluation, and professional development, then your PLC is professional.
Here’s the bottom line. Numerous studies have proven that what we do in schools has 6-10 times more influence on learning than all the demographic issues students bring to schools COMBINED! We can be professional, if we choose to be.
Is your PLC focused on learning? If your school/district makes educational decisions based on tradition, then your PLC is not focused on learning. If your school/district makes educational decisions based on the ideology of who is in power in your system, then your PLC is not focused on learning.
But, if your school/district makes educational decisions based on whether or not the strategy used has significantly increased achievement, then your PLC is focused on learning.
Here’s the bottom line. The great Anita Archer says it best: "If there is not learning, there has not been teaching!" Our focus can be: If it works, keep doing it, if it doesn’t, stop using it! We can focus on learning, if we choose to do so.
Is your PLC really a community? If your school/district is a hierarchical, top down organization, then your PLC is not a community. If your school/district views collaboration as an end rather than a means, then your PLC is not a community.
But, if your school/district views the one purpose of collaboration to be to improve achievement, then your PLC is a community.
Here is the bottom bottom line. We actually can develop PLCs that match best practice. Ron Edmonds said it best in 1982:
"We can, whenever we choose, successfully teach all children whose schooling is of interest to us. We already know more than we need to do that. Whether or not we do it must finally depend on how we feel about the fact that we haven’t so far."
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