‘Professional Learning Communities’ Bridge Middle Schools

This fall, Sunnyvale School District took the concept of Professional Learning Communities (PLC) to a higher level: the first collaborative session across the district’s two middle schools, Columbia (CMS) and Sunnyvale (SMS). On Wednesday, October 12, 2011, teachers from both schools met with their course-alike counterparts to discuss curriculum alignment, assessments, and strategies to better support student learning. Sunnyvale Middle and Colombia Middle teachers worked in “data teams”, looking closely at test data to better guide their teaching efforts.

Above: SMS and CMS teachers on Oct. 12th

These peer-to-peer sessions will be held four times a year, on Wednesday mornings when students at both schools have a late start. Colombia Middle recently changed its “late-start” morning from Fridays to Wednesdays in order to facilitate cross-school meetings.

Professional Learning Communities (PLC) were adopted as a district-wide practice about two years ago, in order to implement several of the Seven Correlates of Effective Schools, a framework for school improvement adopted by the Sunnyvale School District. PLCs are typically comprised of teachers teaching the same grade level and subject matter, with emphasis on:

  • collaborating on best teaching practices
  • sharing effective teaching strategies
  • problem-solving challenging teaching situations
  • examining assessment results of their students
  • designing teaching protocols to meet students’ learning needs based on assessment results
  • conducting follow-up assessments
  • evaluating student learning

Both schools recently adopted a new Reading Language Arts (RLA) textbook and the RLA teachers were able to troubleshoot and look at curriculum planning for the school year. At the end of the first meeting, a Google chat group was created for CMS and SMS RLA teachers to problem-solve and support each other in implementing the new curriculum.

Above: CMS and SMS teachers review new RLA materials

Elective teachers in Music, Art, and Computers were also able to meet with their course-alike counterparts. Teachers found this collaboration extremely helpful. The Music departments at CMS and SMS now have plans to work together to strengthen their programs and to work with high schools where students will be heading (Fremont High School and Homestead High School).

The remaining meetings are scheduled for the following dates:

  • November 30, 2011
  • January 18, 2012
  • March 14, 2012

Article by Nina Wong-Dobkin

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