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School Improvement and Professional Learning Communities

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1 School Improvement and Professional Learning Communities
March 30, 2007 Dennis King, Ed. D.

2 Professional Learning Community
Creating a Professional Learning Community is a journey... In closing… Optional—if time: Invite people to read Journey to Ithaca to themselves. Then turn to neighbor and talk about “blinker words/phrases” –what appeals, what pulls you in?

3 It begins with a shared understanding of where you want to go, together,

4 …and is fueled by a continuous process of building the skill and the will to share responsibility for the success of all learners. Emphasize WILL and SKILL The ONLY way we’ll be able to meet NCLB—and other—challenges is if we have capacity for ongoing learning and renewal.

5 When I shoot a 65 or 68, as close to a perfect score as I can, I still have missed 5 shots.
Jack Nicklaus

6 What is the business of our business?
Judith Bandwick

7 What is the target? PLC Student Learning

8 Professional Learning Communities
“The most promising strategy for sustained, substantive school improvement is building the capacity of school personnel to function as a professional learning community.” Milbrey McLaughlin

9 Fundamental Assumptions
We can make a difference: Our schools can be more effective. People improvement is the key to school improvement. Significant school improvement will impact teaching and learning. Re-culturing is the key to school improvement. Schools that function as a PLC is our best hope in re-culturing schools.

10 Structure v. Culture … if you want to change and improve the climate and outcomes of schooling - both for students and teachers, there are features of the school culture that have to be changed, and if they are not changed, your well-intended efforts will be defeated. Seymore Sarason (1996)

11 Need for a Professional Learning Community
Throughout our ten-year study, whenever we found an effective school or an effective department within a school, without exception that school or department has been a part of a collaborative professional learning community. Milbrey McLaughlin

12 Big Ideas of a Professional Learning Community
Foundation Shared mission, vision, values, goals Collaborative teams FOCUSED ON LEARNING Collective inquiry into “best practice and “current reality” Action orientation/experimentation Commitment to continuous improvement Results orientation

13 Barriers to Learning Community
Inability to establish clear and focused educational purpose and goals.

14 MVVG - The Foundation If a school is to withstand inherent turmoil involved in substantive change, the foundation must be solid. DuFour, Eaker, Dufour

15 Foundation of PLC’s Mission - Why do we exist?
Vision - What do we want to become? Values/Collective Commitments - How must we behave in order to create the kind of school we want to become? Goals - What steps are we going to take and when will we take them?


17 P U R OSE

18 Mission Statement - Why do we exist?
What is our fundamental belief? Focused on Learning

19 Traditional School v. Learning Community: Mission
Statements are generic Statements are brief; such as “We believe all kids can learn” or “Success for every student.” Statements clarify what students will learn Statements address the question, “How will we know what students are learning?” Statements clarify how the school will respond when students do not learn.

20 Critical Corollary Questions
If we believe that all kids can learn What is it we expect them to learn? How will we know when they have learned it? How will we respond when they don’t learn? What do we do when a student has learned?

21 Variations on a Theme: All Kids Can Learn!
Based on ability If they take advantage of the opportunity Something, and we will create a warm, pleasant environment for them And we will do whatever it takes to ensure they achieve the agreed-upon standards


23 Vision Defined Vision describes a realistic, credible, attractive future, a condition that is better in some important ways that what now exists. A vision is a target that beckons…. Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus

24 Traditional School vs.. Learning Community: Vision
Averages opinions Is dictated Builds shared knowledge Is shared

25 Begin Building Shared Vision by Building Shared Knowledge
What does the research advise us in terms of best practices for improving schools? What is the current structure and culture of our school? What data are available about our school? Can we paint a picture of our school using nothing but data?

26 A Vision that Focuses on Results: Not Good Intentions
What is our current (data-based) reality? What is our vision of what we hope to become as a school? If we achieve our vision, what impact will we see on the data?

27 Importance of Shared Vision
You cannot have a learning community without shared vision. Building shared vision must be seen as a central element in the daily work of leaders. It is ongoing and never ending. Peter Senge

28 My Ideal School Imagine that you could single-handedly transform your school into the organization of your dreams in five years… What would the three BIG IDEAS be?

29 Importance of Shared Vision
You cannot have a learning community without shared vision. Building shared vision must be seen as a central element in the daily work of leaders. It is ongoing and never ending. Peter Senge


31 Question Being Addressed:
How do we need to act in order to achieve our vision?

32 Traditional school vs.. Learning Community: Values
Random Excessive Articulated as platitudes or beliefs Focus on Others Linked to vision Few in number Articulated as attitudes, behaviors, and commitments necessary to advance the vision Focus on self

33 Focusing on Ourselves Conversations about empowerment always seem to turn to a discussion of how we are going to change other people. The focus outward, looking for the difficulty in others is how we betray ourselves. The revolution begins in our own hearts. Peter Block

34 Example: Vision Statement
Our school will provide all students with a common core curriculum. Student advancement through the curriculum will be based on demonstrated proficiency. There will be close monitoring of each student’s proficiency, and adjustments made to curriculum and instruction based upon that monitoring.

35 Our Collective Commitments: Value statements
Identify a series of value statements for the school you hope to become in five years. In order to achieve our vision we will….. We will teach to the agreed-upon course outcomes and provide evidence that each student has achieved those outcomes.


37 Question Being Addressed:
What steps will we take and when will we take them?

38 Traditional School vs.. Learning Community: Goals
Random Excessive Focus on means rather than ends Impossible to measure Not monitored Linked to vision Few in number Focus on desired outcome Measurable performance standards Monitored Short-term and stretch

39 Goals Should Address the Following Questions
Which steps should we take first? What is our timeline? What evidence will we present to demonstrate our progress?

40 Identify a SMART goal for your school
Strategic and Specific Measurable Attainable Results-oriented Time bound

41 Are These SMART Goals? By the end of the school year we will: Implement three new reading strategies aligned with the skills and concepts outlined in the state standards. Increase the use of cooperative learning activities in our classrooms by 25%. At least 90% of second grade students will score 80% or higher on the district reading assessment.

42 The Biggest “BIG IDEA” of a PLC
The guiding principle of a PLC is that the purpose of the school is to ensure high levels of learning for all students. Will focus the attention and energy of the entire school on learning. The frame of reference for all decisions will become, “what is the impact on learning?”

43 Reflective Questions Think of policies and practices in schools that are inconsistent with the fundamental assumptions all kids can learn and success for all students.

44 A Powerful Guiding Principle
Great organizations simplify a complex world into a single organizing idea or guiding principle. This guiding principle makes the complex simple, helps focus the attention and energy of the organization on the essentials, and becomes the frame of reference for all decisions. Jim Collins

45 Making the Complex Simple
If we could truly establish high levels of learning for all students as the guiding principle of the school, and if we were willing to honestly confront the brutal facts of the current reality in our school, the right decisions about what to do and what to stop doing often become evident.

46 Addition by Subtraction
The challenge of becoming a PLC demands more than adopting new programs and practices. We must also demonstrate the discipline to discontinue much of what we have done traditionally.

47 The Need to Stop Doing Most of us have an ever-expanding “to do” list, trying to build momentum by doing, doing, doing - and doing more. And it rarely works. Those who built “good-to-great” organizations, however, made as much use of “stop doing”lists as “to do” lists. They had the discipline to stop doing all the extraneous junk. Jim Collins

48 Collaboration is one of the “Big Ideas” that drive a PLC…
We can achieve our fundamental purpose of high levels of learning for all students only if we work together. We cultivate this collaborative culture through the development of high performing teams.


50 What makes an effective meeting?/Team Protocols
Team norms Method of Consensus Vision Agenda with assigned minutes per topic Time keeper Critical Questions for Teams SMART Goal Interventions Product orientation

51 “To Do” List “Stop Doing” List
Create systems and procedures to develop the collective capacity of staff to work together interdependently as members of collaborative teams. Stop allowing teachers to work in isolation. Stop settling for “collaboration lite.” Stop focusing on congeniality more than collaboration…

52 What is congeniality? Avoiding the Mary Poppins Principle….
“Congeniality has to do with the extent to which teachers and principals share common work values, engage in specific conversation about their work, and help each other engage in the work of the school.” “ The emphasis on human relations management has resulted in the value of congeniality becoming very strong in the way schools are managed and led. Congeniality has to do with the climate of interpersonal relationships within an enterprise. When this climate is friendly, agreeable, and sympathetic, congeniality is high. Though congeniality is pleasant and often desirable, it is not independently linked to better performance and quality schooling.” Thomas Sergiovanni, 2004

53 The Focus of Collaboration
Collaborative cultures, which by definition have close relationships, are indeed powerful, but unless they are focusing on the right things they may end up being powerfully wrong. Michael Fullan

54 Critical Corollary Questions
If the mission is focused on learning, what is it we expect them to learn? how do we know they have learned it? how will we respond when they don’t learn? how will we respond when they already know it?

55 What is Collaboration? A systematic process in which we work together, interdependently, to analyze and impact professional practice in order to improve our individual and collective results. DuFour, DuFour and Eaker

56 Culture Need for a Collaborative
Creating a collaborative culture is the single most important factor for successful school improvement initiatives and the first order of business for those seeking to enhance the effectiveness of their schools. Eastwood and Lewis

57 Need for a Collaborative Culture
If schools want to enhance their capacity to boost student learning, they should work on building a collaborative culture…When groups, rather than individuals are seen as the main units for implementing curriculum, instruction, and assessment, they facilitate development of shared purposes for student learning and collective responsibility to achieve it. Fred Newmann

58 Interventions What do we do when students don’t get it?
Classroom Interventions Grade Level or Department Interventions School Interventions

59 Pyramid of Intervention Strategies
Least Restrictive Most Restrictive

60 INTERVENTION PYRAMID Problem Solving Team
Special Education Placement Screening and Evaluation for Special Education Problem Solving Team Systematic School Interventions How does the school respond when students don’t get it? Grade Level / Department/Classroom Interventions - SMART Goals Early Interventions – What do we need to know prior to the start of school?

61 Results Orientation Big Idea #3

62 PLC - Results Focus We assess our effectiveness on the basis of results rather than intentions. Individuals, teams and schools seek relevant data and information and use that information to promote continuous improvement. Becky DuFour

63 Results Oriented Culture
Shifting paradigms from “We taught it, but they didn’t learn it,” to “They didn’t learn it. What do we need to do differently?”

64 Culture What is culture? How do we define culture in a PLC?
How is culture defined in your school?

65 Change is Complex! Any significant innovation, if it is to result in true change, requires individual implementers to work out their own meaning. Michael Fullan

66 Myth vs. Realities of Change
Myth – Everyone wants to embrace change because the organization wants to change Realities Most people act first in their own self interest, not in the interest of the organization Most people do not want to understand the What and Why of organizational change Most people engage in organizational change because of their own pain, not because of the merits of change Jerry Patterson, Coming Even Clearer About Organizational Change

67 From Theory to Action: Closing The Knowing - Doing Gap
Ten Barriers to Action: Substituting a decision for action Substituting mission for action Planning as a substitute for action Complexity as a barrier for action Mindless precedent as a barrier to action. Internal competition as a barrier to action Badly designed measurement systems as a barrier to action An external focus as a barrier to action. A focus on attitudes as a barrier to action. Training as a substitute for action

68 From Good to Great When all these pieces come together, not only does your work move toward greatness, but so does your life. For, in the end, it is impossible to have a great life unless it is a meaningful life. And it is very difficult to have a meaningful life without meaningful work. Perhaps, then, you might gain that rare tranquility that comes from knowing that you’ve had a hand in creating something of intrinsic excellence that makes a contribution. Indeed, you might even gain that deepest of all satisfactions: knowing that your short time here on earth has been well spent, and that it mattered. - Jim Collins


70 not make yesterday wrong,
What we know today does not make yesterday wrong, it makes tomorrow better. Carol Commodore

71 Professional Learning Community Schools
Community begins with a shared vision. It’s sustained by teachers who, as school leaders, bring inspiration and direction to the institution. Who, after all, knows more about the classroom? Who is better able to inspire children? Who can evaluate, more sensitively, the educational progress of each student? And who but teachers create a true community for learning? Teachers are, without question, the heartbeat of a successful school. Ernest Boyer (1995, p. 31)

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