Wahkiakum School District is doing just that.
This spring, school board members, administrators, teachers and parents made a commitment to improve student achievement within the district. One effective strategy for improvement, they found, is providing time for teachers to work together in small groups or Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). Beginning September 13, students will come to school one hour late on Thursdays, giving teachers 60 minutes each week to collaborate.
District officials will use tested research to plan their new strategy to not just teach, but also to help students learn. The school has adopted the Professional Learning Community method, under which school staff members work toward a common goal, according to Stephanie Leitz, Wahkiakum High School Principal. Under the method, teachers collaborate often and monitor whether students are learning, what to do if they are not learning, and how best to meet the needs of students, Leitz said.
“Teachers will be working in small groups with others that teach similar subjects or grade levels. For example, some of the time English and social studies, math and science specialists, etc. will work together on shared goals. Grouping will be flexible depending on what teachers are trying to accomplish,” explained Leitz. “Teachers will meet in the library to facilitate a collaborative work environment.”
“Our classified staff will join teachers,” Leitz said. “Classified staff members often spend their time tutoring small groups of students. Working with the teachers during collaboration time will help create a more cohesive intervention that will improve the support students receive from our classified staff."
Richard DuFour and Robert Eaker, public school educators and district consultants said, “Working together to build shared knowledge is the best way to achieve goals.
For educators, that goal is helping all students learn. Members of a professional learning community are expected to work and learn together.”On Thursdays across the district, the yellow school buses will pick up students one hour later than normal. School doors will open at 9 a.m., rather than 8 a.m. WHS students will attend regular classes within a shortened school day. And all of this is part of the goal to improve student learning through PLCs.“We are committed to working together with parents and students to enhance the learning of all students,” Leitz said.