Column: What's all the buzz about PLCs?WORTHINGTON — The old adage “It takes a village to raise a child” is how we should be looking at the important role of educating our area children.
By: Paul Karelis and Tammy Timko, District 518, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — The old adage “It takes a village to raise a child” is how we should be looking at the important role of educating our area children. Our world is quickly changing, and we want to ensure that our children are able to compete with their peers around the world. Our children’s educational background has become more significant than ever before. There have been calls for more accountability and regulation of public education to guarantee this high level of success for our children. In order for our schools to meet these expectations, it is crucial that we collaborate as communities, teachers and schools. We must recognize that teachers and schools cannot help students achieve the highest levels if we work in isolation.
Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) are one forum for this type of collaboration. PLCs are made up of educators who relentlessly question the status quo and seek new methods of teaching and learning, test the methods, and then reflect on the results. Building shared knowledge of both current reality and teaching strategies is an essential part of each PLC’s decision-making process. In forming PLCs, educators demonstrate their commitment to helping all students learn by working collaboratively to address the following critical questions:
What do we want students to learn? What should each student know and be able to do as a result of each unit, grade level, or course taught.
How will we know if they have learned it? Are we monitoring each student’s learning on a timely basis?
What will we do if they don’t learn? What systematic process is in place to provide additional time and support for students who are experiencing difficulty?
What will educators do if students already know the materials? How will we enrich and extend their learning?
On March 14 25 area school districts, including District 518, converged in Redwood Falls to learn more about how to make this happen here in southwest Minnesota. More than 1,500 educators had the opportunity to hear Dr. Thomas Many present on the necessary structural and cultural components of PLCs. During the next couple of months, these 25 districts will work out all of the logistics of the PLC structure in order for them to move forward with PLCs for next school year. While most of the District 518 staff will be teamed with other staff from our district, there will be some that will have the option to team with teachers from other area districts. This will be particularly true for teachers in areas with few colleagues teaching the same course.
PLCs help schools to improve when teachers are given the time and support to work together to clarify the essential student outcomes, develop common assessments for learning, analyze data that identifies student learning, and use that evidence to build effective teaching strategies that support learning. Our 25 area districts are on their way to making this a reality.
Paul Karelis is principal at Worthington High School. Tammy Timko is the district’s coordinator of teaching and learning.