I can vividly recall listening to Mike Mattos explain the elements of a Professional Learning Community while participating in Brigham Young University’s Principal’s Academy in early 2009. It made sense…

  • Teachers collaborating to create common, core focused pacing guides.
  • Teachers collaborating to create common formative assessments.
  • Teachers collaborating to discuss student performance on the CFAs…with attention given to provide opportunities to reteach struggling students and enrichment to students who reached mastery.
  • Teachers focusing on data gathered from core focused assessments.

Throughout the day a couple of principals from surrounding schools came to share their stories of success. Each principal outlined their progress towards finding time for teachers to collaborate and create “Core Focused Common Formative Assessments. PowerPoint slides of the school’s progress were inspiring. Conversations with fellow principals all included stories of each school’s focus on the development of CFAs. I had to wonder why so many like minded principals, all of which were asking teachers to collaborate in the isolation of their school buildings…each duplicating the work being done at the school across the street, hadn’t come together to connect and share resources.

I have since personally heard Rick and Becky DuFour, Robert Marzano and others reiterate the importance of the elements Mr. Mattos outlined in his presentation. The recent release of the Common Core State Standards has created greater opportunity for teachers to connect and work collaboratively. This is an exciting and sometimes scary time in the world of education. Exciting because technology is allowing teachers to do things they never dreamed of in the past. Teachers share resources and information with thousands daily via social networks and web 2.0 sites. The web is crawling with ideas and potential solutions for improving education. Scary because education seems to be under attack from those who want to simplify the work teachers do into a set of data points or prepackaged solutions that devalue the role of the teacher. Scary because the web is crawling with ideas and potential solutions that may serve to complicate rather than simplify the role of the teacher.

I am acutely aware of the challenges teachers face every day. I read the polarizing arguments being made on teacher and reformer blogs and find myself overly affected by things outside my control. The pressures I feel as a principal to increase test scores and improve teacher and student performance must be counter-balanced with my core beliefs that schools should not be reduced to arbitrary performance measures and that real solutions can be found in our own schools and classrooms. It is time for teachers to come together to connect and share resources that will truly make a difference.

The methods outlined by Mattos, DeFour and Marzano are solidly grounded in research. Teacher collaboration, a focus on the core, sharing of common assessments and the monitoring of student performance are essential. It is critical that teachers participate in all the elements in order for a community of teachers to be successful. Teachers working in a global community to create and share common assessments around the Common Core State Standards is a critical first step. Providing teachers the ability to monitor student performance around the standards is an essential second step. Having the ability to share real-time results with parents and students…priceless!

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