District 54 recognized as model Professional Learning Community
School District 54 has been recognized as a model Professional Learning Community (PLC) for its sustained success in raising student achievement. PLCs are schools and districts in which educators recognize that the key to improved learning for students is ongoing, job-embedded learning for the staff who serve those students.
District 54 was one of 13 districts in the United States and Canada to be selected as a 2017 model PLC based on strict criteria, including demonstration of a commitment to PLC concepts, implementation of these concepts for at least three years, and clear evidence of improved student learning over that period. As a recognized model PLC, District 54 appears on www.allthingsplc.info, a website to share implementation strategies, structures, and performance with other educators interested in improving their schools.
The District 54 PLC journey began in the summer of 2005, when all administrators read Whatever It Takes and attended staff development on PLCs. The first step to forming collaborative teams is having all staff members involved in drafting the mission, vision, collective commitments and goals. A Board Goals Committee was created during the 2006-07 school year to write such a document, which continues to be updated.
The new mission became the foundation for the next steps. A Goals Communication Committee was formed to ensure that all staff members, parents and students were aware of the new mission, vision, collective commitments and goals. The mission of a school district is essential to its success – however, that only holds true if all stakeholders understand and embrace that mission. As part of this process we also adopted three goals for the district. One of these goals was that “At least 90% of all students will meet or exceed standards in reading and math as measured by both district and state assessments.” As more of our schools have met, or are on their way to meeting this goal, they have participated in audits which have shown that District 54 is succeeding in providing PLCs that have positive impacts on students and staff. Each audit offered some suggestions for improvement which staff has embraced to better support students.
District 54 is the largest elementary school district in the state of Illinois featuring a diverse collection of 28 schools. Prior to the implementation of PLC principles, there was tremendous variance in schooling experiences for students across the district. PLCs have been instrumental in bringing the entire school system into focus and in providing students with the educational experiences they truly need in order to be successful. Today, more than ever, District 54 is living up to its credo of “Ensuring Student Success.” PLC implementation has been the number one factor in our success, and District 54 continues to focus on collaborative processes with 10 successful years of PLC implementation. District 54 continues to be recognized as an All Things PLC district, one of 13 in the United States, and has been visited by many districts from across the country and around the world for our cross-cutting work in the areas of PLCs, School Improvement Processes, STEM, Dual Language, Inclusion, and the implementation of the Common Core State Standards.
On the web site, allthingsplc.com, District 54 details how it has achieved success through three PLC concepts:
1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
District 54 administers the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessment to students in kindergarten through eighth grade three times each year in mathematics and reading. This adaptive, computerized assessment precisely identifies a student’s strengths and areas where he needs further assistance. Teachers receive immediate feedback (within 24 hours), allowing them to provide appropriate instruction for each child. By administering MAP three times each year, we can measure a child’s growth over the course of the year. The results help us tailor instruction to the individual student, and also provide data for the school and the district to evaluate programs and curriculum.
2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.
In 2008 District 54 adopted its Response to Intervention (RtI) plan. The key to RtI is simple: If we provide quality instruction, with all of our personnel supporting all children, and do this early, we will meet our District 54 goal of getting all students to grade level in reading and math. Each school has set two 30-minute intervention and extension blocks each day (one or two periods for junior high students) for every grade level. During this time, students across a grade level are regrouped based on the instructional needs identified by the data from common assessments and from other reliable data. Students in need of additional support work with teachers in small group settings who have the training and expertise to accelerate learning for our most struggling learners. Students who have mastered the identified skill receive extension from gifted or classroom teachers.
3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.
District 54 dismisses students 30 minutes early every Wednesday so that staff can have additional time to meet to monitor student progress, develop common assessments and discuss appropriate interventions and enrichment. In addition, each school was charged with creating a master schedule that allowed for team collaboration.
Collaborative teams in District 54 focus on the four key questions of the PLC.
- What do all students need to know and be able to do?
- How will we know if they learned it?
- How will we intervene for students who don’t learn our essential outcomes?
- How will we extend for students who already know our essential outcomes?
District 54 is one of only 13 districts listed on the website, www.allthingsplc.info. In addition to being listed as a district, there are five District 54 schools on the site as well: Enders-Salk, Hanover Highlands and Muir elementary schools and Eisenhower and Keller junior high schools.