A Model PLC

The math department has always supported each of its teachers and has long attempted to align, if not instruction, then at least outcomes from one class to the next. Their history has made the transition to developing PLCs relatively natural, as they have essentially worked in PLCs for so long. Their weekly PLC meetings this year, if not perfect, are a genuine model of what PLCs should do to make instruction work for students.

How Math I Began The Year
All Math I teachers began the school year giving the same pretest. That test provided data about several mathematical skills–requisite skills for success in Math I–about every student enrolled in the course. The data was terrifying. It showed just how ill-prepared this new crop of students would be for the course they had just begun. The important part, however, was not the data itself. It was the response to the data. The PLC found itself immediately revising curriculum, figuring out where they really needed to begin instruction, where they needed to plug holes, and what they could do to help students succeed in Math I.

The process of creating this assessment, implementing it, processing its data, and responding to that data through curriculum design and instructional strategy–that’s what PLCs do. And that’s what is going to help those students, no matter which teacher stands at the front of the class, learn all they can.

Six Weeks In
It’s that time, and it snuck up quickly. The geometry PLC took to heart the command to implement six weeks assessments. They designed several very short, topical quizzes. Without warning, review or preparation beyond the instruction that has taken place over the past six weeks, they implemented those quizzes. One might show that an entire class comprehends parallel and perpendicular lines. Another might show that 48% of students don’t understand right triangles.

The first tells the teacher to keep moving. The second says review, reteach, intervene. And it even tells them who needs that intervention and who does not. Again, the assessments, and I promise you they are simple but well crafted, provide the data that shapes instruction. Perhaps more importantly, the need to respond prompts important conversations. A teacher will not sit with a PLC, reflect on unsatisfactory data, and come to the conclusion to keep moving forward, regardless. At the very least, that teacher will pursue solutions to the problem. And four great teachers tackling one problem is sure to produce a better response, and a response that impacts not just the 34 or 68 or 112 students fortunate enough to have a certain teacher, but every student supported by that PLC.

It Ain’t Easy
Talking to math teachers, I don’t hear tales of glory. I don’t hear the teachers praising the measurable benefits of the PLC. I hear grit. I hear labor. But I also hear a unified effort to identify and overcome the challenges of everyday life in the mathematics classroom. It’s not pretty, but it makes a difference.

One Response to “A Model PLC”

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