Kicking off the Year with Professional Learning Communities Summit

Kicking off the Year with Professional Learning Communities Summit
Posted on 08/30/2017
Superintendent's Column

Superintendent's Column 

Welcome back to what promises to be another outstanding school year in Leander ISD! While 2017-18 may be off to a soggy start, our educators are rearing to go after preparing the past several weeks and months for the year ahead.

Last week, LISD hosted its inaugural Professional Learning Communities (PLC) Summit at Vista Ridge High School with the theme 1 Purpose, 1 Community, 1 LISD. Thousands of educators from across our district convened to spend two days learning, networking and planning with their peers.

We believe PLCs are the most effective manner to ensure academic growth for all students through their focus on learning and results, as well as their commitment to teacher collaboration.

PLCs involve a group of teachers linked by grade-level, subject or campus that work collectively to address four main questions: What do we want our students to learn? How do we know students are learning it? How will we respond when they do not learn it? How will we respond when they already know it?

A PLC approaches these questions by analyzing student achievement and identifying the most effective instructional strategies. Teachers then work to develop lesson plans and assessments by sharing their expertise and learning from each other.

While teaching the lesson plans, team members gauge the level of discussion and engagement to check for student understanding. Sharing their successes and challenges within the PLC can help determine what is or is not working and how to course-correct.

Teams also regularly review student work together, identifying students who need additional support or challenge. This method allows teachers to drill down throughout the semester on each lesson standard — also known as Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) — to ensure students are mastering concepts before moving on to new topics.

Beyond our teachers’ role, principals and assistant principals serve as integral leaders in the PLC approach. In a model focused on collaboration, teamwork and schoolwide improvement, campus administrators are key instructional leaders who guide their teachers and staff.

After participating in a leadership retreat a week prior to the PLC Summit, our campus administrators were well-equipped to assist Summit participants in learning about leadership for effective PLCs. They did an exceptional job clearly articulating the program and energizing their teams to ensure their PLCs can hit the ground running.

While some campuses and teams have already been using the PLC model, this districtwide rollout will be an ongoing process.

In the end, our goal is three-fold: to create more targeted early-intervention for students who need more support or more challenge with certain topics; to allow teachers more opportunities for professional growth and peer collaboration; and to institutionalize a districtwide culture of continuous improvement, where all students in all schools have a clear path to success.

It was inspiring to spend last week with our teachers, administrators and staff. Their passion for working together, to do the best job they possibly can at educating every Leander ISD student, shines through in everything they say and do.

I look forward to seeing our PLCs in action this year, guiding our students toward bright futures.