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posted: 1/14/2014 1:24 PM

District 54 incorporates concepts of 'Professional Learning Communities'

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By Andrew DuRoss

Happy New Year! A great deal of discussion is taking place across our district, and throughout the country, regarding how to increase student achievement. In District 54, that conversation begins with the term "Professional Learning Community." The term has been used by education researchers to describe a more collaborative and collegial approach to teaching than a traditional isolated, closed-classroom-door model.

The concept and principles of Professional Learning Communities were first introduced in District 54 in 2007. Since that time, we have worked to embed the three big ideas that are at the core of transforming education practices.

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• Ensure that all students learn.

• Establish a culture of collaboration among staff.

• Focus on results.

During the past seven years, we have been extremely fortunate in District 54 to work directly with two nationally recognized leaders in the field of Professional Learning Communities. Rick and Becky DuFour have been instrumental in helping us understand and integrate the key concepts of the Professional Learning Communities framework.

The framework is being used by our district to guide and focus on school improvement efforts. It also helps us evaluate and refine our learning structures and teaching practices with the goal of increasing student achievement.

Staff members work collaboratively to analyze student assessment data and utilize the results as they plan instructional activities for their students. Many of the key components of the PLC framework have been incorporated into the revised District 54 Mission, Vision, and Goals document approved by the Board of Education in May 2013 and are listed below:

• Commit to high levels of achievement and growth for all students;

• Analyze student achievement data and tailor instruction to meet the needs of individual students;

• Take collective ownership for the education of every student;

• Participate in shared leadership; and

• Reflect as a team to improve professional practice.

Professional Learning Communities direct our work in several key areas. They help to ensure that our students are learning and achieving success. School structures and support systems that promote a collaborative school culture are their foundation. All staff members work in teams to analyze their teaching practices and learn together.

In a Professional Learning Community, there is an unwavering focus on results, with every employee being responsible for student success. To be successful, staff commit to continuously improving their work and to incorporating changes that are needed to help students achieve at high levels.

With the changing educational landscape, District 54's collaborative approach will remain the core of our professional practice. This involves high levels of collegial trust, a shared passion for teaching and learning, and a commitment to continuous improvement. Accountability is alive in District 54.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to call me at (847) 357-5036. Also, don't forget to visit our Mission and Goals website at sd54.org/board/mission to view a video in which I further explain this vision statement.

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