Richard DuFour’s six characteristics of effective professional learning communities (PLCs) have been around for almost 22 years, and their benefits have been well documented by researchers. So why are some PLCs effective and others not? In a word, implementation. (more…)
My school, long rated as top-performing, was this year given a rating of “targeted” for underperformance among student subgroups—including African-American, free and reduced-price lunch, and special education students. Though this is understandably not an ideal rating, I look at it as a blessing in disguise. We now have a very clear mandate to look at the performance of these subgroups and make immediate improvements. To me, this gives us an opportunity that will ultimately benefit all students, depending on the measures we put in place and the kinds of practices we implement. As an instructional leader, I am reminded that this work starts with me. (more…)
More than 1 in 6 principals leave their school each year. This kind of disruption in school leadership impedes school improvement, leads to an increase in teacher turnover, and has a negative effect on student achievement. The problem is worse in high-poverty schools, where 1 in 5 principals leave each year. This inequity exacerbates racial and socioeconomic disparities in education. (more…)
Guest post by Jack Baldermann
At Westmont High School (WHS)—a Title 1 school just outside Chicago, IL—our team has sustained tremendous growth and significant gains in student achievement. WHS continues to rank in the top 1 percent in Illinois and in the nation for its graduation rate. Over the past five years, 98.5 percent of our students have graduated on time, up from a 10-year average of 90 percent. For five years straight, 100 percent of Latino and African-American students at WHS have completed all graduation requirements on time. In addition, WHS can also claim one of the most improved and top performing AP programs in Illinois and in the nation.
What has caused our substantial growth and gains in student achievement? (more…)
Guest post by Brent Rowland
Do you have a handful of rock star teachers who are your go-to people, so you keep going to them over, and over, and over?
Imagine finding that just-right leadership spot for all of your teachers—that place where school needs match teacher interest. What would that do to connect them to the school’s mission, distribute leadership, and develop teacher capacity?
Guest post by Autumn Pino
I will be the first to admit that what I am about to say might be a little controversial, and maybe even a bit daunting for some. (more…)
Guest post by Allison Staffin
A professional learning community (PLC) is more than just a time to prepare lessons, grade papers, and create learning materials—it is an opportunity to impact student learning. Based on the DuFour model for PLCs, it is essential to consider the differences between teaching and learning. PLCs lose credibility unless the educators who are part of them keep the fundamental concepts of Professional Learning Communities at the forefront of their thinking when it comes to educational reform. (more…)
At Tefft Middle School, we have a motto: Moving all students forward, whatever it takes… together. This motto has been our driving force in how we approach student learning and success.
Moving All Students
Tefft serves a diverse population of students. We strive to make all of our students feel comfortable in our building, to think of it as a second home. It is our goal to ensure that all of our students grow during their time with us, no matter their ethnicity, language, special needs, or income.
Whatever It Takes
Strategic supports, interventions, and initiatives help us to meet the needs of every student.
Data transparency is one thing had has contributed to our great success. Student data journals let the students analyze scores of school, district, state, and national assessments, decide what they did well and what can be improved, and make goals for that improvement. Their data means something to them and becomes more than just numbers to take home.
When students bring their families to school for student-led conferences, they demonstrate ownership over their work by creating portfolios to share with their parents. Parents hear about their children’s progress right from their mouths, and students feel accountable for their own progress. Parents are able to ask questions and help their children set goals.
In addition to these two initiatives, we also have common learning targets and academic vocabulary, which hold students to high standards and provide them with continuity of learning. Daily intervention classes, which utilize software for those students who are below grade level in math or reading, provide additional practice in the skills students need to grow. Common assessments in each class provide us—and students—with data to help set goals and drive instruction.
Grade-level teams share the same students and therefore provide close relationships and a feeling of family within the school. Department teams ensure continuity of content and push each other to improve student performance. Professional learning communities at faculty meetings allow staff to discuss issues from all points of view and analyze student data. Our parent-teacher group provides parents the opportunity to share ideas about their children’s education.
Taking on challenges and initiating change based on our data helps us continually strive for success.
Tefft Middle School will be one of 22 schools featured at the Breaking Ranks School Showcase at Ignite 2014. The Tefft team will be presenting Harnessing the Power of Transparency and Data to Create and Sustain a Culture of Accountability on Thursday, February 6th. For more on Tefft Middle School, check out the article published in the May 2010 issue of Principal Leadership.