PLC’s Bring Benefits to Brookings

This fall the Brookings School District embarked upon a new education endeavor to continue their focus of enhancing student achievement.

“Brookings has been and continues to be a high achieving school district,” Brookings Superintendent Klint Willert said. “We are continually focused on improving student success and supporting teacher quality and effectiveness.”

To support high levels of student achievement and improve and invest in teacher quality the district established Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s), which are collaborative teams of educators engaged in an ongoing process of improvement.

Teachers work interdependently within their team – organized based on common grade levels and in shared content areas – to improve instruction by reviewing and narrowing essential standards, by consistently monitoring student progress using common formative assessments and reviewing the impact of instruction on the assessment results.

The organization of the teams creates opportunities to focus on the essential standards and create consistency across sections in buildings and, ultimately, across the entire district.

“Over the last two years, the district has made a very concerted effort to function as a school system rather than a system of schools,” Willert said.

“We are deeply committed to the effectiveness and quality of the teachers and the professional learning community model is an evidence-based model for systematically and systemically improving instruction.”

Brookings embraced the DuFour PLC model, which focuses on four questions:

  1. What do we expect our students to learn?
  2. How will we know if the students are learning?
  3. How will our team respond when students don’t model or demonstrate success in their learning?
  4. How will our team respond if students already know it?

This spring the teacher PLC teams started focusing on the first question of the model, pulling apart the academic standards and focus on narrowing the curriculum to the essential standards. Once the district completes this first step in the process it will enter the next phase of implementation by focusing on the understanding, developing, and implementing common formative assessments in the district.

“Ultimately, the Brookings School District anticipates several significant and lasting benefits,” Willert said.

Willert said the district aims to create a culture that embraces collaboration across many levels, adding greater depth in the curriculum, improve teacher effectiveness while also creating a culture of support and, most important, the improving student outcomes.

“Each of these efforts requires time, commitment and dedication. The Brookings School District and community is committed to preparing students to be successful learners for life,” Willert said, adding that feedback from teachers on the program has been overwhelmingly positive.

“While it may take time and dedication, we know that improvements and results will be worth it in the end.”