At its regularly scheduled meeting April 27, 2017, the Littleton Public Schools Board of Education approved changes to the 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 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:
This additional time each week is critical as schools prepare students to meet the increased rigor of the state’s 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.
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:
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.