NEW GROUP! Includes discussions from the Administrators and Professional Development groups. What will it take to move our schools into the 21st century? Please share your thoughts and leadership strategies here.


Eric Sheninger Principal at New Milford High School

My district has begun to make a big push for the implementation of Professional Learning Communities (PLC's). Now I am fully aware of what PLC's are and how they are supposed to function within a school. Can anyone share with me their experience with them? How have you set time aside for them? How do you monitor them? Do your teachers think they effective in terms of professional growth? What are the positives and negatives? Can you tell me how you got your teachers to "buy into" the concept?

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I have been in education for

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I have been in education for 33 yrs and will be retiring in June. I have been a school principal for 21 yrs and an adjunct instructor at the university. I have a consulting company in which I offer online book studies for staff development. Could you please let me know topics of interest, benefits of online PD. How I could save you $$$ while adding meaningful PD to more staff. Thank you

Assistant Principal

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My district is pushing for PLCs as well. Other schools are doing PLCs, but our school is not consistent. Part of the of the inconsistency is because my principal does not embrace going out into her building and assessing what teachers are doing. This is the first year that she actually took on will be conducting observations of her staff. Well she hasn't begun that process and I am agitated. Last year our school was one of maybe 3 middle schools that did not make high growth in our district and she just doesn't get it. What do I do? I am stuck. My principal only is only concerned about the look of the picture and not the quality of paint that went into creating it. Sometimes I feel that our teachers are happy with being at standard, which is a shame because we are an IB school. HELP...I NEED ADVISE QUICK IT IS OCTOBER!!!!

Principal at New Milford High School

IBmiddleschool: My advice to

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IBmiddleschool: My advice to you is to take the lead yourself. You will gain the respect of your staff and greatly assist them in embracing PLC's if you yourself form one with other administrators in your district. Through modeling your will be establishing expectations and your staff will see firsthand that you truly value this form of professional development. If you want I can send you some resources from our PD days this year. As far as observations go that same can be said. Take charge and establish yourself as the instructional leader. This is the only way that your teachers will be able to grow and improve their teaching.

Principal at Walker Middle School

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I certainly understand your concern. There are really two issues here. One, is the principal's mode of operation. Two, what the school needs to do to improve. The second is the most important of the two because it is the one that directly affects students.

As Eric said, you can take the lead. In my podcast show (School of Effective Teaching) I spent three episodes talking about PLCs. In one episode I said that to start, get with teachers who are willing to sit and talk about instructional practices. At this point, you can't worry about whether all teachers are doing it. Start with a few that are willing. Your success will be motivation for other teachers to join the conversation.

As far as being an IB Middle School, plans are for my school to become one next year. It will be an exciting time.

Business and Computer Teacher from Champaign, Illinois

Using PLCs to Improve, then Differentiate Instruction

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I've been to Rick Dufour's Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Illinois three times and highly recommend it for everyone, particularly if you can go as a team. The first time I was there I joined 17 teachers and administrators from a high school in Utah that drove to Illinois in two vans.

PLCs are vehicles that should be used to accomplish goals (SMART Goals to be exact). Once you've PLCs to translate the standards so that all agree what they mean, use them to develop common assessments, then to evaluate the results of the assessments to determine where the weak and strong units of instruction are. Use the PLC to raise the weak units to the highest level possible and then raise the average units to the level of the strongest units. There are many directions you can take your PLC in from that point, but we are working on Differentiating Instruction for those who get it as well as for those who don't. There are many research based ways to utilize PLCs. Look through the books at and buy them for your staff library. Ask questions at, the Dufours, their staff are great and authors are amazing.

Education Consultant

PLC Implementation

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1. Focus on specific PLC outcomes that help teachers predict success when trying a new strategy. Prepare them to walk in, close the door, and teach better on a given day; and then be able to analyze results. Focus on classroom-ready MATERIALS OF PRACTICE. This focus will quickly prove it is about their content and better teaching.

2. Focus on how to make these brief cycles of improvement work in the brief time we have available. Make these collaborative improvement cycles work in hours.

Just like we need to meet teachers where they are, we need to meet the system where it is. Both teacher and system will change and adapt practices incrementally. PLC outcomes need to address specific reasons why teachers don’t change and adapt.

Meeting the system where it is, we can ask, at the end of these “hours” how can we produce specific results that remove barriers to teacher change? In hours, how can we help teachers prepare for and predict the successful implementation of one strategy? Small cycles of PLC work should continually help teachers meet a readiness threshold for using and analyzing new strategies.

We need quick PROCESSES combined with STRATEGIES and TOOLS that produce results. We meet teachers where they are, generate small cycles that produce results, and adapt the system to support the cycles.

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