Professional Learning Communities

At its regularly scheduled meeting April 27, 2017, 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).

What are Professional Learning Communities (PLCs)?
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.

PLCs provide a learning environment where teachers have frequent, consistent time to discuss what’s most important for students. This collaborative time allows them to better address: 

  • Improving academic growth and achievement;
  • Closing achievement gaps;
  • Serving a more diverse population as the community’s demographics change;
  • Ensuring students graduate with 21st-century skills.

This additional time 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.

Over the last decade, education has changed, making it necessary to change our approach to preparing our students for successful futures. Now is the time to address these changes:

  • 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.  

Research Shows that PLCs Make a Difference
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. 

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.

Board and Community Support
The Board’s unanimous 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.

Weekly PLC Times

Child Care on PLC Late Start Mornings

In addition to before and after school childcare, elementary School Age Child Care (SACC) programs offer one hour PLC Late Start care for families. This one-hour childcare option is available only at the elementary level and only on PLC days. This one-hour SACC option is at a reduced rate. Families must register in advance for elementary PLC Late Start childcare. Contact your child's elementary school for registration and fee information.

To ensure the safety of all students, please make sure your child arrives at school at the later start time on weekly PLC late-start days and not before. Schools will NOT provide supervision for children who arrive early.

Thank you for your partnership!

Transportation on PLC Late Start Mornings

Buses run exactly one hour later every PLC Late Start Wednesday morning. 

Learn More

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. 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