PLC Info

Professional Learning Communities in La Grande School District
By Larry Glaze

PLC PPT August 2012

La Grande School District (LGSD) began its Professional Learning Community (PLC) Journey in the 2010-11 school year.  The Superintendent initiated the process by engaging school board members and the administrative team in reading the book, Learning by Doing- A Handbook for Professional Learning Communities at Work by Dufour, Eaker and Many. This book received a great deal of attention through studies at the administrative level and by book discussions involving board members during open sessions at board meetings. Board Members and administrators have also read and discussed in depth, Building a Professional Learning Community at Work, A Guide to the First Year by Graham and Ferriter. Both groups are currently reading Every School, Every Team, Every Classroom by Robert Eaker and Janel Keating. These book studies have provided a strong foundation of knowledge to move our District forward with excellent school board support and involvement and active building leadership by principals.

This set the stage for the identification of building PLC team Leaders and their subsequent training and reading of the same book. Key teachers at each grade level, K-5 and subject area teacher leaders at the middle and high school level were identified and invited to become PLC Team Leaders.  The district provided release time and training to develop back ground knowledge and skills necessary to move our district forward in this effort. The district administrative team identified non-negotiable items that would guide each PLC team. The non-negotiable items included; all PLC meetings would be guided by an agenda on a form provided by the school district, minutes would be taken at each meeting and turned in by the team leader to the building principal who in turn forwards the agenda and minutes to the Superintendent. Each team was required to develop team
norms that provided guidelines for the behavior of each team. PLC meeting time is only used for the purpose of promoting the PLC agenda, outside issues are not discussed at this time. During the first year of development 2010-2011, the stage was set for the initial implementation of PLC teams throughout LGSD. Board members were committed to the process and administrators have been highly engaged in the planning process. PLC team leaders have been trained and all certified staff have been exposed to one training. 

For the 2011-12 school year, LGSD Board made a bold decision. That decision involved changing the 2011-12 school calendar so that every Monday morning there would be a one hour late start and this time was formally dedicated to PLC team meeting district wide. This action sent a strong message to staff that the Board is deeply committed to the PLC process by providing them with the time to get the work done. This time has become essential to the planning of many of our PLC teams and sets the stage for the week of instruction that follows. The provision of this time from the school board has been crucial to the success of this program. During the course of the 2011-12 school year, our PLC teams have refined their focus and are becoming highly effective at using formative data to drive instruction. Several of our schools have changed their class schedules to provide both time for core instruction and interventions. Team planning for best practices and instructional interventions has become the norm. 

The LG school board has changed the mission statement for the school district to reflect the major role the PLC’s play in our K-12 educational process. It reflects their beliefs as a board and a vision for our district. The mission statement is cited below:

In the La Grande School District we 
believe every student can learn and deserves a safe, motivating, and challenging school environment.
Therefore, it is the mission of 
the La Grande School District to provide a learning environment where educators work collaboratively to ensure that students maximize their learning. To accomplish this mission we will use best practices and data to ask and answer:
  • What do we want students to learn?
  • How will we know what students have learned?
  • How do we respond when they don’t learn?
  • How do we respond when they do learn?
The school board also takes an active role in monitoring the progress of our PLC teams. Each building is expected to make a PLC progress report at a Board Meeting once per year. During the course of the school year, the board visited and observed PLC teams in every building. The board then debriefs with the building principal at the end of each observation and shares their insights and perceptions of the PLC team meeting they just visited. LGSD also has a district leadership team that actively visits and observes PLC’s each Monday morning. The team consists of: the Superintendent, School Improvement Coaches, ESD School Improvement Specialist, SPED Director and Title Coordinator. Each Monday morning the teams debrief in the Superintendent’s office following the observations. The District PLC leadership team also plans and organizes District level PLC meetings which are scheduled quarterly.

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