April 8, 2019


The Real Work of PLC's
As I have written about previously, I have worked with dozens of administrators and teachers on the topic of teacher evaluation and best practices for successful schools. Today I am writing about a process or system that I believe all schools should utilize to maximize educational opportunities for students.
The process starts with a guaranteed curriculum for all students. "Guaranteed" means that all students have access to a quality education regardless of the teacher in the classroom or the subject being taught. The district must determine the curriculum to be taught and all teachers must teach to that curriculum. Every student must have instruction provided by a quality teacher who has the proper credentials and also has been determined to be at least minimally proficient in their teaching skills. Each teacher should be a lifelong learner and be willing to share and grow in his/her profession.
Teachers at the same grade level or subject area in middle and high school grades must be willing to actively participate in common lesson planning. Teachers should be provided time each week to gather as a Professional Learning Community (PLC) and to undertake this common planning.
Next, the teachers should develop common formative and summative assessments. This exercise would also be completed in the PLC time. Each teacher would be required to assess all students with these assessments.
Following the actual instruction that happens in the classroom, the teachers would, at a minimum, use common grading practices for the summative assessments. This common grading practice would consist of teachers not grading their own summative student assessments.
After grading the summative assessments, a data analysis would be completed, comparing and contrasting individual student results. The teachers in the PLC environment would analyze the results. Teachers would collaborate about instructional strategies that resulted in the strongest student achievement. This part of the process is extremely important. The majority of discussion in a PLC should be around instructional strategies, not curriculum. Too often we make decisions to change curriculum when in fact we should be talking about best instructional practices used to maximize the results of the taught curriculum.
I believe if schools would adopt the above-mentioned process for school improvement purposes, the student achievement and student growth scores would increase. Work in schools needs to be centered on best practices of the teachers in that school who are doing the best work. We must not allow personal pettiness or jealousy to derail us from learning from the best teachers in our schools.
Whole Class Instruction..........Differentiation..Personalization
The number of dots in the above title has a purpose. Each dot stands for 10 years. Classroom instruction has traditionally been whole class instruction. The teacher would teach to the middle ability level of the students. Students who struggled with the learning task often were left behind and students who already knew the learning task just marked time in the classroom. Approximately 20 years ago educators started thinking about differentiating instruction. When teachers differentiate, they tailor instruction to meet the individual needs of the students. Teachers often use flexible grouping patterns via information from ongoing assessment to differentiate instruction.
Personalization is learner centered. The learner drives his or her own instruction. Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey have developed the following Personalization v Differentiation v Individualization Chart . Take a close look at the personalization column and evaluate what type of instruction your students are getting. Many districts have invested large sums of resources into technology. Does your school's instruction reflect personalization?
Personalization v Differentiation v Individualization Chart
The Learner...
The Teacher...
The Teacher...
drives their learning.
provides instruction to groups of learners.
provides instruction to an individual learner.
connects learning with interests, talents, passions, and aspirations.
adjusts learning needs for groups of learners.
accommodates learning needs for the individual learner.
actively participates in the design of their learning.
designs instruction bases on the training needs of different groups of learners.
customizes instruction based on the learning needs of the individual learner.
owns and is responsible for their learning that includes their voice and choice on how and what they learn.
is responsible for a variety of instruction for different groups of learners.
is responsible for modifying instruction based on the needs of the individual learner.
identifies goals for their learning plan and benchmarks as they progress along their learning path with guidance from teacher.
identifies the same objectives for different groups of learners as they do for the whole class.
identifies the same objectives for all learners with specific objectives for individuals who receive one-on-one support.
acquires the skills to select and use the appropriate technology and resources to support and enhance their learning.
selects technology and resources to support the learning needs of different groups of learners.
selects technology and resources to support the learning needs of the individual learner.
builds a network of peers, experts, and teachers to guide and support their learning.
supports groups of learners who are reliant on them for their learning.
understands the individual learner is dependent on them to support their learning.
demonstrates mastery of content in a competency-based system.
monitors learning based on Carnegie unit (seat time) and grade level.
monitors learning based on Carnegie unit (seat time) and grade level.
becomes a self-directed, expert learner who monitors progress and reflects on learning based on mastery of content and skills.
uses data and assessments to modify instruction for groups of learners, and provides feedback to individual learners to advanced learning.
uses data and assessments to measure progress of what the individual learner learned and did not learn to decide next steps in their learning.

Tip of the Week
If your school district will be entering negotiations this year, it may be a very difficult process. There are a number of items that will have to be carefully studied prior to negotiations. Salary is always the most important topic and this year will be no different. It is essential that either you or, if you have central office staff, an assistant keep a separate spreadsheet of salaries for all personnel. Even as a superintendent of a large unit district, I used to keep my own Excel spreadsheet of salary figures. I updated every month based on who was hired, who resigned, what new positions were added, etc. This is a good check against payroll and HR figures to make sure these salary figures are being accurately predicted and budgeted.

For more information, please contact:

Dr. Richard Voltz
Associate Director
Professional Development/Induction-Mentoring
2648 Beechler Court
Springfield, IL 62703
Follow me on Twitter at:  https://twitter.com/rvoltz