Improving PLCs: an Emerging Idea

An Opportunity for Improved Student Learning

Imagine what our students could achieve.....

Research shows that it is difficult for high achieving school districts such as LPS to maintain high student achievement and even improve upon it over time. LPS has been beating these odds by maintaining and increasing student achievement over time through Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), which have been in place system wide since 2007. 

Research shows that the highest performing countries in the world provide a great deal more time for teachers to collaborate with one another. Teachers in the highest performing countries also spend more of their total working time engaged in collaborative activities:

  • While U.S. teachers generally have 3 to 5 hours a week for lesson planning, teachers in most high achieving countries spend 15 to 25 hours per week working with colleagues, preparing and analyzing lessons, developing and evaluating assessments, observing other classrooms and meeting with students and parents.
  • Instructional delivery consumes about 80 percent of U.S. teachers' total working time compared to about 60 percent for teachers in high performing nations, leaving teachers abroad much more time to plan and learn together, developing high-quality curriculum and instruction.


Now is the time to increase our efforts. Education has changed in the last decade:

  • The new Colorado graduation requirements, which take effect with the Class of 2021, are more rigorous.
  • Colorado Academic Standards require a higher level of learning and therefore more sophisticated and complex curriculum and instruction.
  • Our community’s demographics are more diverse. Our families speak nearly 60 languages and come to us with varying levels of school readiness. Poverty is increasing at some of our schools, and two elementary schools serve communities where more than 75 percent of their students live in poverty.

It is more important than ever before to provide teachers with the tools, skills, and information they need to meet the needs of individual students. Our new district achievement goal states, “100 percent of LPS students will graduate prepared for meaningful, post-secondary opportunities.” 100 percent. This is a promise we make to our students every day when they walk in the door. To get there, students must achieve mastery in the most important standards.  

PLCs provide time for teachers to meet together in teams to analyze data, solve student learning challenges, and improve instruction:

  1. There is clarity regarding what students are expected to learn and be able to do.
  2. Each student’s learning is monitored on an ongoing and timely basis.
  3. When students struggle, extra time and support are provided.
  4. When students have already mastered the intended learning outcomes, extended learning opportunities are provided.

Imagine a learning environment where teachers have frequent, consistent time to discuss what’s most important for students to learn, to collectively make adjustments to their teaching based on data, to meet each student where they are academically, socially and emotionally, and move them forward.

We know from our decade of experience that Professional Learning Communities increase student achievement, as do other high performing schools locally and across the nation. It’s how we keep our promises to our students to prepare them for meaningful postsecondary opportunities upon high school graduation. Our community has high expectations for its schools. Professional Learning Communities are the mechanism through which we will continue to meet these expectations. 


Learn More...

Watch Videos about PLCs

The Importance of PLCs

PLC - 4 Essential Questions

LPS Leaders Talk about PLCs in our district

View LPS Superintendent Brian Ewert's presentation to parents (updated 2/27/17)

Improving Student Learning: Recommitting to Professional Learning Communities in LPS

Read Research

How High-Achieving Countries Develop Great Teachers, Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education

Read The Ever Increasing Burden on American's Public Schools, Jamie Robert Vollmer

LPS Learns from the Experts

"The reason Professional Learning Communities increase student learning is that they produce more good teaching by more teachers more of the time."
Jonathon Saphier, founder and president of Research for Better Teaching

"There’s never been greater consensus about what it’s going to require of educators in order to improve student learning in all of their schools....the one thing the highest performing school systems in the world have in common is an understanding that a system can only be as good as the people within it.”  
Rick DuFour, EdD, former public school educator, prolific author and sought-after consultant,is recognized as one of the leading authorities on helping school practitioners implement the Professional Learning Communities at Work™ process in their schools and districts.

"Their record of achievement is remarkable. But, no matter how hard they (public school employees) work, they cannot produce the results our nation needs...They cannot teach all children to high levels because they are working in a system designed to do something else: select and sort children for an industrial society that no longer exists."
Jamie Vollmer, award-winning champion of public education and the author of, Schools Cannot Do It Alone


The Ever Increasing Burden on America's Public Schools

LPS Educators Said...

All LPS employees were invited to participate in a survey the week of January 9, 2017 regarding the emerging idea to provide additional time for Professional Learning Communities. 1,038 LPS employees (more than half of all employees) took the survey.  Here are the results.

What Would Additional PLC Time Look Like?

For the past decade, LPS has provided 10, 2-hour late starts, which are scheduled on Wednesday mornings throughout the school year. PLCs are a time in which teachers meet in teams to analyze data, solve student learning challenges and improve instruction.

An emerging idea is to provide more frequent and consistent time throughout the school year for PLCs. Instead of having 10, 2-hour late starts throughout the school year, LPS is considering starting school one hour later one morning a week, or dismissing school one hour earlier one afternoon a week.

Will this result in less instructional time?
No. As was done 10 years ago, each school day would be lengthened by a few minutes to satisfy the state’s statutory time requirements.

Will the first day of school change, etc?
No. The days students are in school would not change. School day start and end times and the length and frequency of PLC time would change.

Will teachers like the new calendar?
Feedback from teachers is overwhelmingly positive. Our teachers know from experience that their teaching is improved and their students learn more when they have frequent, consistent collaborative time. Teachers welcome the additional time added to every school day that makes PLC time possible.

Will parents like the new calendar?
Initial parent feedback tells us that parents will appreciate the consistency of weekly, one-hour late starts or early releases for PLCs and will find it less problematic and less disruptive to school schedules.

Will students like the new calendar?
Yes! Students will also appreciate the consistency and will find the one-hour late start or early release less disruptive and a great opportunity to study or sleep!

Will childcare be an issue for parents?
For the past 10 years, parents have been able to choose to enroll their children in the tuition-based School Age Child Care program at their elementary school on late start mornings. This will continue to be available to parents during the late start or early release. In addition, the cost of childcare during a PLC late start or PLC early release will be the same as all other school days.  There will also be an option for childcare at half cost for the PLC time only.  

Will transportation continue to be available?
Yes! Buses will run one hour later/one hour earlier on those days.

Collaboration is crucial to success in the 21st Century Workforce

"Our students deserve our very best. Our teachers are amazing, But, they don't have enough time during the school day to collaborate and share their best thinking with one another. The research proves that students all over the country are benefiting from PLCs. Imagine what our teachers could do if they had the same opportunities to collaborate on a regular basis all year long. We owe it to our students to give them a highly effective teacher in every classroom. That's what more frequent time for PLCs can do."

"LPS students are expected to collaborate with one another every day to share their best thinking and solve problems together.  This kind of collaboration is crucial to success in the 21st Century workforce.  Yet, we struggle to find time for our own education professionals--our teachers-- to engage in this same crucial work."

Brian Ewert, LPS Superintendent

Compared to other high achieving countries, U.S teachers have less time

Whereas U.S. teachers generally have from 3 to 5 hours a week for lesson planning, in most high achieving countries teachers spend from 15 to 25 hours per week working with colleagues, preparing and analyzing lessons, developing and evaluating assessments, observing other classrooms and meeting with students and parents.

Instructional delivery consumes about 80 percent of U.S. teachers' total working time compared to about 60 percent for teachers in high performing nations, leaving teachers abroad much more time to plan and learn together, developing high-quality curriculum and instruction.

How High-Achieving Countries Develop Great Teachers

School start times will NOT change for 17-18; exploration will continue into the fall of 2017

An update from LPS Superintendent Brian Ewert:

March 17, 2017

I’d like to thank you for your thoughtful engagement in the community conversations we’ve had over the past several months about two very important topics: 1) increased, consistent and protected time for Professional Learning Communities; 2) changing school start times to align with research that indicates teenagers benefit from a later start time.  I’ve had the pleasure of visiting with many of you about these ideas during my 22 staff presentations and 30 parent presentations in the last few months. The dialog was thoughtful and engaging.  Many of you also participated in our recent surveys related to these topics and and we thank you for sharing your opinions with us.


The LPS Board of Education had a thoughtful conversation about the survey data during a workshop March 9, 2017.  This was followed by an additional robust discussion during the regularly scheduled Board meeting March 9, 2017.

A few weeks ago, the Board suggested both of these issues be combined into one recommendation for the 2017-2018 school year so that family schedules might be impacted only once.  After further study and analysis, I made a recommendation to the Board that we separate the two issues: remove changing school start times as a possible option for the 2017-2018 school year, but continue to consider the implementation of more consistent time for Professional Learning Communities (late start or early release) for the 2017-2018 school year. As stated in the community presentations, a decision regarding PLCs will be made no later than the end of April.  

Since the staff and community data was overwhelmingly supportive of changing school start times, the Board of Education reached consensus that the discussion about changing school start times will continue into next fall as we answer more questions about the impact to the entire LPS system.   While LPS is a research-based district, and the research certainly supports a change in our school start times, we want to complete our due diligence and take more time to explore additional options and address concerns about the impacts to activities, athletics, child care, and the potential unintended consequences for families.   

Therefore, school start times will NOT change for the 2017-2018 school year.

Other school districts are exploring similar ideas or have already made changes to their school start times, and we will learn from them as they move forward.  In the meantime, we will continue to address the details of such a possible change in LPS.  You will hear more in the coming months about the broad-based community process, timeline, and additional opportunities for input moving forward.

Thank you again for your engagement in these important issues.  LPS is a truly special place where the focus is on what’s best for kids.  It continues to be my honor to serve you.

Warmest Regards,

Brian Ewert


What Other Changes to School Day Start Times are Being Explored?

Currently, LPS is exploring how to streamline school start and end times to better meet the needs of teenagers and to pave the way for improved and more efficient transportation services in the future. Research tells us that a later school start time positively impacts alertness, mental health, wellness, and behavior in high school and middle school students, which means students are better prepared to learn.

LPS is exploring ways to shift the high school and middle school day so that it starts about one hour later in the morning every day and therefore dismisses about one hour later in the afternoon every day. Elementary schools would start about an hour earlier every day and dismiss about an hour earlier every day:

  • Elementary schools would start around 8 a.m. and dismiss around 2:45 p.m.
  • Middle schools would start around 9 a.m. and dismiss around 4 p.m.
  • High schools would start around 8:30 a.m. and dismiss around 3:30 p.m.

 LPS would address concerns about the logistics of childcare, activities, athletics, and transportation. 

Read the Research:

Read a recent article about high school start time considerations in other Denver metro districts

Attend a Conversation with Superintendent Brian Ewert

Mark your calendar to attend one of these parent meetings! LPS Superintendent Brian Ewert will be sharing important information about the district's vision for improving student learning through Professional Learning Communities.  He will share emerging ideas of how to adjust instructional time to provide more opportunities for professional collaboration. He would like to hear your thoughts! Parents and community members are welcome to attend the meetings at ANY school.

December 5, 6 p.m.
Centennial PTO
Centennial Academy of Fine Arts

December 15, 8 a.m.
Ralph Moody SAC
Ralph Moody Elementary School

January 10, 6 p.m.
Heritage SAC/PTO
Heritage High School

January 11, 3 p.m.
Powell SAC
Powell Middle School

January 11, 4:30 p.m.
Euclid SAC/PTO
Euclid Middle School

January 11, 7 p.m.
Ralph Moody PTO
Ralph Moody Elementary School

January 17, 10 a.m.
The Village North & Ames PTOs
The Village North

January 18, 6 p.m.
Peabody SAC/PTO
Peabody Elementary School

January 19, 9 a.m.
Powell PTO
Powell Middle School

January 19, 6 p.m.
Sandburg SAC/PTO
Sandburg Elementary School

January 24, 7:30 a.m.
Centennial SAC
Centennial Elementary School

January 24, 6 p.m.
Highland SAC/PTO
Highland Elementary School

January 25, 6 p.m.
Runyon SAC/PTO
Runyon Elementary School

January 30, 3:15 p.m.
Goddard SAC/PTO
Goddard Middle School

January 30, 6 p.m.
Lenski SAC/PTO
Lenski Elementary School

January 31, 6:30 p.m.
East Elementary School

February 6, 6:15 p.m.
Franklin SAC
Franklin Elementary School

February 7, 6 p.m.
Hopkins SAC/PTO
Hopkins Elementary School

February 8, 6 p.m.
Field Elementary School

February 14, 7:30 a.m.
Arapahoe PTO
Arapahoe High School

February 15, 5:45 p.m.
Twain PTO
Twain Elementary School

February 16, 3 p.m.
Arapahoe SAC
Arapahoe High School

February 21, 7 p.m.
Franklin PTO
Franklin Elementary School

February 22, 2:30 p.m.
Littleton SAC/PTO
Littleton High School

February 22, 6 p.m.
Options Middle & High; 
Redirection Day & Evening
Options at Whitman

February 27, 6:30 p.m.
Wilder SAC/PTO
Wilder Elementary School

Next Steps

•Teachers continue training
•Staff meetings and survey
•Parent meetings, website and survey
•Board workshop March 9, 5:15 p.m., ESC
•Board discussion March 9 (tentative)
•Board action March 23 (tentative)