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Professional Learning Communities

PLC’s: The Big Picture

“The moment teachers begin to closely examine their lessons and the results of those lessons, instruction improves and competence increases.” - Mike Schmoker, 2004

USD 320 is committed to Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) as our model for improvement.  Educators in all schools are committed to the 3 Big Ideas of a PLC:

Big Idea # 1:  Focus on Learning

The fundamental purpose of our schools is to ensure high levels of learning for all students. This focus on learning translates into four critical questions that drive the daily work of the school. All USD 320 educators demonstrate their commitment to helping all students learn by working collaboratively to address the following critical questions:

  • What do we want students to learn? What should each student know and be able to do as a result of each unit, grade level, and/or course?
  • How will we know if they have learned? Are we monitoring each student’s learning on a timely basis?
  • What will we do if they don’t learn? What systematic process is in place to provide additional time and support for students who are experiencing difficulty?
  • What will we do if they already know it?

Along with learning of students, all adults in our organization focus on their own learning-continually-job-embedded learning as part of their routine work practices.


USD 320 is committed to building a culture of collaboration.  All educators recognize that no school can help all students achieve at high levels if teachers work in isolation.  We recognize that schools improve when teachers are given the time and support to work together to clarify essential student learning, develop common assessments for learning, analyze evidence of student learning, and use that evidence to learn from one another.

Big Idea #3:  Focus on Results

PLCs measure their effectiveness on the basis of results rather than intentions.  All programs, policies, and practices are continually assessed on the basis of their impact on student learning.  All USD 320 staff members receive relevant and timely information on their effectiveness in achieving intended results.

  • A focus on results is essential to a school’s effectiveness
  • A focus on results is essential to a team’s effectiveness
  • A focus on results can serve as a powerful motivator
  • A focus on results is essential to continuous improvement

Elements of USD 320 PLC Cycle

Inquire-Research it!  PLC members will read/research the instructional area of focus that they strive to address.

Analyze Data!  Analyze available data in the instructional area of focus to identify the learner-centered problem to be addressed.  Specific data that might be examined include results of results from state assessments, MAP assessments, classroom observations, number of failures in class, etc.

Look at Student work!  Examine examples of student work (beyond standardized assessments) that may provide a clearer picture of student thinking and understanding within the focus area.

Examine Instruction!  The learner-centered challenge is reframed as a challenge of practice, PLC members observe one or more teachers (one of the PLC members) providing instruction by using a protocol developed to address the instructional area of focus.  Teachers provide feedback to the presenting teachers and debrief the observational process.

Assess Student Progress!  Teachers give common assessments to students.  They then grade these and determine areas which reteaching and review may be necessary.

Reflect!  Teachers reflect on their teaching and student progress in the targeted instructional area and establish an action plan for moving forward.  This action plan supports teachers in monitoring and adjusting student learning.


For Your Child: We Will Do Whatever it Takes

All Things PLC

 National School Reform Faculty