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posted: 3/14/2012 2:04 PM

District 54's success counts on teamwork at all levels

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By Ed Rafferty
School District 54 Superintendent

The hallmark of a Professional Learning Community is teams of professionals working together to provide an outstanding education for their students.

We have seen for many years the strength of teamwork and the benefits that it provides. Our practice of working closely and in collaboration with our professional colleagues on a regular basis has enabled District 54 to reach unprecedented gains in student achievement in recent years.

District 54's commitment to fully implementing the Professional Learning Community framework has not only improved student learning, it has also provided staff with additional support to continuously improve how they teach and address the diverse learning needs of their students.

Our district continues to be recognized throughout the United States as one of the top sites for the effective implementation of the Professional Learning Community framework. The more than 14,000 students who attend our schools are the real winners in this district-wide school improvement effort.

The key element of the framework includes highly effective collaborative teams who are passionately committed to continually improving their teaching practices. Effectiveness is based on results, and ways to increase student learning are at the heart of any decision that is made.

Implementing the Professional Learning Community framework has led to significant improvements in the way we structure and provide learning opportunities for our students. Every school has revamped its master schedule, guaranteeing uninterrupted blocks of instructional time in every core subject and additional time for students who can benefit from intervention or enrichment opportunities.

The District 54 Essential Outcomes, which are directly tied to the Illinois Learning Standards and the new Common Core Standards, are used by teachers to guide their daily planning and teaching.

Due to the ever changing nature of the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) and the timeline for our receipt of the results, our district administers Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) to students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

We use the results of these tests to monitor the learning that is taking place in each school, to evaluate the effectiveness of specific programs, and to track individual student growth over time. Progress toward meeting district, building and classroom goals is assessed throughout the year and included in the 90-day school improvement review cycle.

Similar to the most effective business models, the Professional Learning Community framework includes specific plans and supports for the ongoing professional development of our staff. This summer, District 54 will be holding its second annual Professional Development Symposium with more than 60 sessions taught by our staff.

During the two days, teachers and support staff will be able to learn from the knowledge, experience and success of our district's many expert professionals.

The effective implementation of the Professional Learning Community framework has enabled District 54 to become even more focused on every student achieving at a high level and to be fully accountable for meeting our district's mission of Ensuring Student Success.