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Hello everyone, and welcome. My name is Gino Sangiuliano, and I'm so glad you could join me today as we look at the use of site-based management and professional learning communities in strategic and school improvement. Let's get started.
Sports often make great analogies. In the case of aligning PLCs, I liken the process to baseball, particularly the defense during a sacrifice bunt. It starts with the pitcher choosing to deliver a pitch that will result in the desired outcome, let's say to the third baseman. If it is a right-handed batter, he pitches him inside. From there, the third baseman will charge the ball and the entire field rotates to giving him options. If everyone is where they're supposed to be, the third baseman can turn and fire the ball to any base and trust that someone will be there covering. Conversely, if one individual decides to do their own thing, the play will ultimately end in disaster.
Site-based management and professional learning communities cannot be successful without the support of district leadership. This is a fact that cannot be overstated. However, even with the support it is imperative that all teams are in alignment with the strategic vision of the district. Researchers Mark Van Clay, Perry Soldwedel, and Thomas Many define district-wide alignment as "the intentional linkage of the work of schools and the school district to the work of collaborative teams in order to achieve a district-wide professional learning community."
Now that we have established that alignment is necessary, the question becomes, how can we achieve it? More specifically, how can site-based management and PLCs support strategic planning, the implementation of district initiatives, and school improvement? It's not an easy task, but let's try to answer it.
Teams must consider the perspective of the different stakeholders, including the school board, superintendent, principal, teachers, parents, students, and the community. According to Richard DuFore, in order to meet the needs of these stakeholders, the focus must be on-- putting processes in place to ensure that all students can learn. Establishing a positive and collaborative culture-- and this is something that you can actually feel when you're in a building. Focusing on results, not excuses. This means that there must be close attention paid to both teacher and student learning and growth, as well as systems to monitor that learning and growth are happening. For students, it may be progress monitoring, standardized testing, or formative assessments. For teachers, it would include the evaluation system that's in place.
Van Clay, Soldwedel, and Many suggest that for overall alignment to occur, certain factors must be in place. For example, there must be transparent use of communication of data connected to the goals and attainment of the goals. Data collection is often misunderstood by teachers and has unfortunately developed a negative connotation and is associated only with testing. However, for alignment to work, data is crucial. Also, it's incumbent upon school officials to ensure that there is alignment of policies, practices, procedures, the teacher evaluation system, resources and professional training, monitoring, and reporting.
Whether your school has two PLC teams or 20, they should all have the same purpose. As stated in previous lessons, that purpose is to improve teaching, learning, and culture as part of a continuous improvement process leading to school improvement. The most prevalent and perhaps most vital PLC team found in schools is your school improvement team.
School improvement teams can set the tone for everything and act as the governing body of your school. By establishing the vision, mission, and goals, they often take on a leadership role in an SBM. Their responsibilities include but are not limited to creating a school improvement plan that establishes their goals and actions. They are also the body that is responsible for monitoring steps toward achieving their vision, mission, and goals, which are typically aligned to the larger district's vision and mission. School improvement teams, however, can still be personalized to meet the unique needs of that school.
Another very common team is made up of staff who are associated with specific grade levels. These grade-level teams work together to review curriculum and assessments that are grade-specific and set goals to improve teaching and learning at that grade. In larger districts that have many schools, achieving consistency can be a challenge. But it's an important goal to strive for.
At the secondary level, as opposed to the grade level, it's often common to have content teams. Like their counterparts, they to work together to review curriculum and assessments that are content-specific and set goals to improve teaching and learning for that content. Again, depending on the size of your school or district, you may see various configurations of the two.
Most districts are now required to have response-to-intervention teams that are charged with meeting the needs of learners who might be struggling to reach proficiency academically, or even behaviorally. RTI teams ensure that the Tier 1 or core curriculum is strong and meets the needs of all learners. They typically create systems of supports and interventions lasting six to eight weeks that increase in frequency, intensity, and duration according to the needs of the student. The monitoring is just as important as the intervention, and the data is used to ensure all students are making progress.
These are examples of some of the more common PLC teams found in schools. Others you may come across might be positive behavior, health and wellness, crisis response, and administrative.
It is extremely important to remember that no matter how many teams you have, for best results, they need to work together as part of the whole in order to move the school forward in its improvement efforts. It's important for the smaller teams to report their progress and needs to the school improvement team. Communication and alignment of goals coordinated by and connected to the school improvement plan is absolutely crucial.
It's time to summarize what we covered in this lesson. We began by reviewing the importance of alignment and moved on to how to achieve it. We looked at what the researchers have to say about the factors that need to be in place to achieve that alignment. Finally, we looked at why it's important for all PLCs to work together.
And here's today's food for thought. Chances are that if you're a teacher or administrator, you are a member of one of the teams mentioned in this lesson. How effective is your PLC team? Do you feel that you are making an impact on your school?
As you reflect on how this new information can be applied, you may want to explore the Additional Resources section that accompany this video. This is where you'll find links to resources chosen to help you deepen your learning and explore ways to apply your newly acquired skill. As always, thanks so much for watching. We'll see you next time.
(00:14-00:53) Trusting the System
(00:54-03:20) Creating Alignment
(03:21-05:45) PLC Terms
(05:46-06:10) Working Together
(06:11-07:03) Summary/Food For Thought
Leading in Professional Learning Communities
This article from the All Things PLC website focuses on the topic of establishing loose-tight leadership.
Leading to Change / Making Strategic Planning Work
This helpful article outlines the steps and considerations in effective strategic planning at the school district level.