LPS BOE approves changes to 17-18 calendar; includes weekly, one-hour late start for Professional Learning Communities

At its regularly scheduled meeting April 27, the Littleton Public Schools Board of Education approved changes to the 2017-2018 school-year calendar that provide a one-hour late start every Wednesday for teachers to meet in Professional Learning Communities (PLCs).

The Board indicated early on that a decision to move to weekly PLCs would be made by the end of April in order to give staff and families time to plan. LPS and the Littleton Education Association (LEA) have reached a tentative agreement on this weekly PLC calendar. Pending LEA ratification, the entire negotiated agreement will come to the Board of Education for final approval on May 11.

Having consistent, frequent time for Professional Learning Communities is more important than ever before. The new district achievement goal states: 100 percent of LPS students will graduate prepared for meaningful, post-secondary opportunities. This means that teachers need more collaborative time to better address:

  • improving academic growth and achievement;
  • closing achievement gaps;
  • serving a more diverse population as the community’s demographics change;
  • and ensuring students graduate with 21st century skills.

Additional time to collaborate is also critical as schools prepare students to meet the increased rigor of the state’s new graduation requirements. Students’ social/emotional well-being is also addressed through teachers’ PLC work.

LPS first implemented Professional Learning Communities more than a decade ago, and teachers say PLCs have a significant impact on their ability to help students learn. Research says that there has never been greater consensus about what works; the one thing the highest performing school systems in the world have in common is an understanding that a system can be only as good as the people within it. Professional Learning Communities increase student learning and close achievement gaps because they produce better teaching strategies, by more teachers, more often.

The Board’s support for the change was the culmination of nearly a year of research, community conversations and planning. LPS Superintendent Brian Ewert engaged every school staff in conversations about how to improve Professional Learning Communities. He also gave 30 separate presentations to parent and community groups. He was often accompanied by members of the LPS Board of Education and the President of the Littleton Education Association. 

Staff, parents and students were invited to take surveys about the idea of increasing the frequency of Professional Learning Communities. Of all the groups surveyed, between 75% and 82% were in favor of weekly Professional Learning Communities. “We heard loud and clear from parents that they preferred a weekly, one-hour late start for PLCs rather than our current 10, two-hour late starts spread throughout the school year. Parents like the consistency of an hour, once a week,” said Ewert. “Parents also told us that there is a need for affordable childcare on those mornings, and we will provide it.”

In addition to before- and after-school child care, elementary School Age Child Care programs will offer one-hour PLC Late Start care for families at a reduced rate.

“The Board believes that providing more time for teachers to engage in Professional Learning Communities will significantly enhance and improve the craft of teaching and will therefore improve student learning. We have incredible teachers in our schools, and for years they have been expressing their concerns that they need more time to collaborate to better meet the needs of their students,” said LPS Board of Education President Jack Reutzel. “We are pleased that we can now provide that time for our teachers.”

What does this mean for the 2017-2018 school year calendar? 

An initial 2017-2018 school year calendar was approved by the Board two years ago. The only change to this previously approved calendar is that next year, school will begin one hour later every Wednesday so that teachers can meet in Professional Learning Communities. Every school day will be six minutes longer than it is currently, to ensure that no instructional time is lost and to maintain compliance with the Colorado Department of Education.

“We have a decade of experience with Professional Learning Communities, and we know how powerful they are,” said Ewert. “Over the past year, we have recommitted our efforts across the system to implementing Professional Learning Communities with fidelity. Providing time each week for this important work will have a profound impact on student learning.”

The approved 2017-2018 calendar, new bell schedules and other details are available on the district website.