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PLCs: Leveraging Collaboration to Move Student Achievement

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July 25th, 2019

While collaboration is central to a PLC’s success, it can sometimes feel difficult for educators to accomplish. For many districts and schools, this challenge stems from having a single subject area teacher for the whole grade level (for example, having only one fifth grade math teacher). These lone subject teachers are sometimes referred to as “singletons,” and face unique collaboration challenges without other subject area teachers to share and compare data with. Or, in other cases, teachers may find themselves as de-facto “singletons,” simply because they lack subject area colleagues who are interested in collaborating.

A team from Ascension Public Schools (LA) recently presented a webinar about how they overcame the challenge of being “singletons” and successfully work together to support the achievement and growth of every student. The team shared a framework of day-to-day actions for the PLC itself, as well as the district and school-level supports that surround the PLC. Here are just a few highlights from their presentation.

PLC Support from the District and School

District Instructional Supervisor, Dr. Melissa Langlois, and Lake Elementary School Principal, Dr. Jeremy Muse, shared some of the system-level and leadership structures they provide to PLCs.

  • A team approach: In the district’s framework, the District Instructional Supervisor works closely with the Director of Middle Schools and Principal to form a connected and communicative leadership team. 
  • Monthly Principal Breakouts and Assistant Principal Meetings: These meetings not only provide a forum in which to discuss the individual needs of each school, but also gives the principals a chance engage as a PLC themselves. Using a cross-school common assessment, they practice analyzing student work, identifying trends, and discussing next steps, so they are better equipped to support teachers back in their buildings.
  • District-Wide PLC Facilitator Meetings:  Here, PLC Facilitators share research-based best practices to take back to their teams. It provides consistency in how the PLCs are led and offers support to the facilitators. 
  • Student-centered focus: Students are asked throughout the year what they aspire to do after completing their education. Knowing their students’ goals helps the team stay focused on preparing each student for his or her future.

A Framework for PLC Collaboration Across Subject Areas

Lake Elementary School’s 8th grade team—Michalyn Ourso (ELA), Rhonda Bordelon (Science), Britne’ Edmonston (Math), and Morgan Hutchinson (Social Students)—shared the following framework for their PLC work.

Communicated Criteria: 

The PLC works together to create common criteria for a particular skill across all subject areas (e.g., writing criteria across ELA, math, social studies, and science). This creates consistency around how students are asked to show mastery of writing (and how they received feedback about their writing), regardless of whether that writing is happening in their ELA or science class. Working as a cross-curricular PLC also ensures those common writing criteria are well-aligned to the individual subjects’ content criteria as well.

Common Student Tracking Groups: 

The PLC identifies students they will all track (and monitor individual growth for) throughout the year. This student group is selected by identifying students who showed minimal growth on previous year’s Louisiana Educational Assessment Program (LEAP) assessment (as opposed to students in particular proficiency levels).

Student Work Analysis:

The PLC then uses a shared spreadsheet that pulls together key data from across subject areas. Not only does this allow the PLC to track growth for their student group, but it also helps identify trends in student needs across subject areas.

Action in the Classroom:

Based on the PLC-established common criteria, the teachers then use a variety of techniques to help students analyze their own work as well as the work of their peers. In one activity, the students complete a “Feedback Loop,” in which students analyze the work of three peers to provide feedback. Each student then references feedback from their peers as they make revisions. Students may also establish class-wide S.M.A.R.T goals and celebrate their collective progress

Would you like to see Ascension Public Schools’ full presentation? Watch the recording here:

Illuminate provides the data integration and visualization tools that PLCs, SSTs, and other data teams need in order to make data-driven decisions and the collaboration tools they need to be efficient. Reach out today to learn more.

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