Instructional Services Live Action VideosPosted by Barth Paine at 9/17/2015
Collaborative TeamsPosted by Kim Wallace, Ed.D at 9/15/2015
In a professional learning community, the focus is not simply on whether we have organized our schools into high-performing teams, but rather what the teams DO. So what should be their focus? Teams need to focus on the major questions and issues that have the biggest impact on student learning:
- They are constantly clarifying the essential outcomes that students are expected to learn in every subject, grade and course, and continuously improving the alignment with state and district curriculum standards.
- They set learning and curriculum priorities and collaborate on the pacing of the curriculum.
- Collaborative teams write periodic formative assessments designed to monitor the learning of subgroups and individual students on a timely basis, and they collaboratively analyze the results of these assessments and set learning improvement goals.
- Teams collaboratively analyze and assess the quality of student work and develop rubrics that define the level of quality that students should achieve.
- They engage in study about such important issues as best practices in grading, feedback, and homework.
- They are constantly seeking ways to provide additional time and support for students who are having difficulty with their learning, as well as publicly celebrating and stretching the performance levels of students who are meeting learning goals.
- They accept the collective responsibility for ensuring that their students are learning at high levels.
- Teachers not only provide support for students, they learn from and support each other. Teams work together to deal with issues and solve problems, making success seem more doable.
In short, collaborative teams of teachers are the heart and soul of a school that functions as a professional learning community.
Professional Learning Communities as a Way of BeingPosted by Kim Wallace, Ed.D at 9/9/2015
The professional learning community concept is not a program or initiative, but a way of thinking about consolidating best practices into a rational approach to education. While this may sound simple, connecting a way of thinking to the real day-to-day world of what goes on in schools and classrooms can be challenging. It takes a strategic approach to bridge the gap between theory and application and PLC building starts with the following key principles:
- Build a guiding coalition: The creation of a guiding coalition or leadership team is a critical step in the complex task of leading a school. By beginning with a smaller group, it becomes easier later to build consensus with the entire faculty.
- Build shared knowledge: A major cultural shift occurs when people move from averaging opinions about issues to gaining shared knowledge. Although research findings are an important part of generating shared knowledge, best practices may also be found within our own schools, schools across town, in articles, books, or online. Think of it like this: PLC teams seek to learn.
- Foster a culture of experimentation: A willingness to try new approaches is a critical element of a professional learning community. If we refuse to try anything because it may not be perfect, we’ll never take any risks. The goal is not to reach perfection, but to become better. A wise person once said, “You don’t get to ALL before you get to MORE” students learning. The culture of continuous improvement is a hallmark of a high functioning PLC.
- Focus on results: In analyzing the effectiveness of our actions we must ask the right question: How are our efforts affecting students and our mission to ensure high levels of learning for all who attend Fremont Unified schools? We must make a collective commitment as a district that we’ll evaluate the effectiveness of our changes and be willing to make adjustments to increase learning outcomes when we don’t hit the mark.
It is exciting, important, and complex work to make things better for our students. As we approach various issues and topics throughout the school year, it will be helpful if we keep in mind that the quality of what we do will be determined, to a great extent, by how we think and how we act. Thank you to all Fremont Unified staff who strive every day to make getting a great education a reality for all of our students.
August 20th PD Day a Success!Posted by Kim Wallace, Ed.D at 8/25/2015On August 20th, 41 Fremont Unified schools joined their colleagues at 14 different locations to learn about Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s). This was the first time in most employees’ careers in FUSD of ever having a district-wide staff development day provided in this manner.
To set the stage, an administrator assigned to each site showed the following Instructional Services video about the district’s long-term commitment to PLC’s: https://www.fremont.k12.ca.us/Page/29311
Professional development associates from Solution Tree—the leading organization behind PLCs—collaborated on the day’s agenda to create a meaningful baseline of understanding across the entire district. Though the facilitators put their own spin on their presentations, everyone walked away with a fundamental knowledge of the three key ideas of PLCs…
…And the four essential questions:
- Big Idea #1: Focus on Learning (sharing a common purpose)
- Big Idea #2: Collaborative Culture (highly effective teams)
- Big Idea #3: Results Orientation (using assessments to make a difference)
1) What do students need to be able to know and do? (guaranteed & viable curriculum)
2) How will we know when they have learned it? (assessment)
3) What will we do when some have not learned it? (intervention)
4) What will we do when some already know it? (enrichment)Planning for and delivering a high-quality professional learning experience for nearly 2,000 people was an ambitious undertaking. Instructional Services gathered feedback from participants and principals and found that the majority of schools were very satisfied with the outcomes; we also took notes on things that could have been better organized or executed. Once we have a summary of participant evaluations back from Solution Tree, we will do a deeper dive into the feedback, lessons learned, and design our next steps.
In Participants’ Own Words:
“I'm so grateful that we had this opportunity to have a consistent message as a district with such a positive outlook and really emphasize the focus of doing what is in the best interest of students.”“Rich Smith did a great job of engaging our staff through interactive group activities, discussions, questions and role playing. Teachers left this PD feeling excited about the direction our district is moving and about next steps in the journey. I also felt the Formative Assessment Training/Book Study on 8-21 was a perfect follow-up for many of the points highlighted on 8-20.”“Great conversations around how effective teams function and lots of great pieces on team accountability. Really drove home the point that teachers/teams cannot reach their maximum potential by working in isolation.”“We plan on using his presentation and breaking it down into smaller pieces throughout the year as we continue to improve and grow as a PLC. My biggest take away is that it is all about “action” and not waiting for everything to be how I think it should be. It really is Learning by Doing, where "doing” is the key. Thank you for arranging such a great facilitator and session! This was exactly the next step we needed!”“In short, the Professional Development was amazing and was just what we needed. I have always felt a bit odd because I have based our goals on faith and a belief that we can get there. Mr. Dewey was the first presenter I have ever seen that shared that same philosophy. He catered the presentation according to what we said were our greatest needs and we did excellent work.”“I thought the presentation yesterday was very good. I have studied PLCs and value collaboration. The seminar's emphasis on student learning and sharing ideas to improve student outcomes will be helpful for our school. Suggesting the idea to share in the teaching of one another's classrooms is another solution for improved learning outcomes that interests me. I am committed to do more analysis of my formative assessments and use closer collaboration to arrive at solutions to improve student learning.”
Principals Training with Janel Keating from Solution TreePosted by Kim Wallace, Ed.D at 8/14/2015
Superintendent, author, and Solution Tree associate Janel Keating traveled to Fremont from Washington State on Aug. 11, 2015 to work with principals and the FUSD Instructional Services leadership team on building professional learning communities in our district. She has led this charge in her own district near Seattle for over a decade and shared her wisdom, mishaps, and insights to launching successful PLCs. Janel provided us with practical advice and support for framing professional learning communities for ourselves and others.
Here are a few sound-bites worthy of repeating from her presentation:"We don’t want it to be MORE work, we want it to be THE work."
This statement underlies a unique mindset for developing professional learning teams at our schools. PLCs are not an extra meeting, curriculum add-on, or program or product to adopt; they are a way of engaging in collaborative conversations and a framework for examining what we do on a daily basis to improve student outcomes.“You don’t get to ALL before you get to MORE.”
We’ve all echoed the phrase (and seen it in nearly every school mission statement ever written) that we believe ALL students can learn. While this belief certainly rings true for us as educators, it is taking actionable steps that really counts. It can seem overwhelming to get to “all”, so Janel’s words truly resonated with us. What we can absolutely accomplish is more and more students learning and achieving standards until we get to all. It’s about progress, not perfection.“This is important.
You can do it.
I won’t give up on you.”We know that each and every student needs to hear these words (spoken and unspoken), but so do the adults in our organization. When we are here to support each other’s growth and learning, the entire district becomes stronger.
Instructional Services PLC CommitmentsPosted by Kim Wallace, Ed.D at 8/4/2015
A professional learning community, or PLC, is a team of educators that meets regularly, shares expertise, examines student work, and collaborates to improve instruction and the performance of all students. As Dr. Kim Wallace visited each of the 42 Fremont Unified schools during her first year as the Assistant Superintendent of Instruction, she saw PLCs organically taking root and recognized that we were ready to take the movement district-wide in 2015-16.The Instructional Services department’s goal is to provide quality support and expertise that empowers:
- Management to lead
- Teachers to engage &
- Students to succeed
Establishing professional learning communities at every school takes support, training, and capacity building. Kim Kelly, the district’s Principal on Special Assignment, will focus on the preparation and coaching of principals as they guide their staffs through the PLC process. A key concept of PLCs is seeing ourselves as continual learners and recognizing that everyone in FUSD can benefit and grow from self-reflection, collaboration with colleagues, and sharing resources. PLCs seek to continually answer these four essential questions:
●What do we expect our students to learn?
●How will we know when each student has learned it?
●How will we respond when some students do not learn it?●How will we respond when some already know it?
Leading the Curriculum & Instruction department through adopting new curricular materials, defining essential standards, and modeling effective instructional practices will help school sites see the power and possibilities in their PLC team meetings. Director Linda Anderson knows that her department’s role in successfully launching PLCs in the district is critical. Our expert content-area program managers and instructional coaches are the most valuable resource we can offer to schools to plan and problem-solve with teachers—and help all of us stretch our thinking to bring our professional learning to the next level.
Fostering professional learning communities in our district will have a dramatic impact on students with special needs. Karen Russell, Director of Special Education, has seen the incredible educational benefits that take place when children with disabilities learn side by side with their typically developing peers. This philosophy of inclusion is firmly embedded in the PLC culture—one in which all students are valued for what they bring to the table and inspired to push beyond where they thought they could go.
Students can’t learn if they don’t feel safe, supported, and secure in their school environment. Having been a former junior and senior high school principal in Fremont and currently the Director of Student Support Services, Greg Bailey has experienced the positive early effects of PLCs on our schools already. Students and parents notice us going the extra mile to really understand their needs—whether they are social, academic, behavioral, or emotional. As we continue to strengthen our PLCs in the district, we will only increase those important feelings of connectedness that allow each student to reach their potential.
Healthy PLCs also rely heavily on using data to inform our practice. As the Director of Assessment & Accountability, Julie Forbes is responsible for supplying meaningful and digestible data for administrators and teachers. Gathering data and explaining how to interpret it to inform instruction is a cornerstone of professional learning community conversations. In this changing landscape of new standards, new state measures, and evolving local assessments, it is also essential to keep parents, community, and staff accurately informed so we can all help our students reach mastery and beyond.
Students who need extra support can only gain from Fremont Unified weaving professional learning communities into the fabric of our district. Our English Learners, economically disadvantaged students, and others who may struggle academically, linguistically, or socially at school, will benefit tremendously from staffs engaging in PLC work at their sites. The Director of Federal and State Programs, Dr. Christie Rocha has witnessed firsthand how PLCs transform schools and directly impact student achievement. By analyzing data, effectively allocating resources, and providing direct support, we will see all of Fremont’s students flourish.
Our elementary schools in Fremont are already nurturing and engaging places for our youngest students to learn. As our enrollment increases, we need to continue to make sure that every child is well cared for. Creating a community of learners with a growth mindset is an intentional process. When the adults are willing to try new ideas, ask for student feedback, and refine our practice on a daily basis, we model collaboration, social skills, and learning from our mistakes. Having been the Director of Elementary Education for several years in Fremont, Debbie Amundson firmly believes that when teachers work together, sharing their knowledge and expertise, all students win.
Preparing students for college and career opportunities is a key focus for our junior high and high schools. Professional learning communities at the secondary level encourages teachers to develop common assignments and assessments that will help all students attain 21st century workplace readiness. James Maxwell’s goal as Director of Secondary Education is to provide tools and resources for schools as they begin their PLC journey. In doing so, we will continue to see our already highly-skilled educators innovating, energizing, and challenging students in their learning—and opening the doors to limitless possibilities for life after graduation.
As educators, it is our collective responsibility to help all students succeed. Since Dr. Jim Morris first became the Superintendent six years ago, he has been in awe of the dedication, compassion and caring demonstrated by the teachers, administrators, and support staff of this district. Our professional learning community effort is designed to support and expand on a key element for student success which is creating professional environments where educators are respected and supported in sharing best practices, learning together, and growing continuously as educators.The Instructional Services PLC team thanks you for all that you do to educate, challenge, and inspire our students!
Instructional Services Team PLC LaunchPosted by Asst. Superintendent of Instruction Kim Wallace at 7/23/2015The Instructional Services team attended a Solution Tree conference in June to learn more about PLCs and how to implement them successfully in a district as large as ours. We spent three days in workshops and in collaboration planning for the 2015-16 launch in FUSD. The directors and I all agreed that it was the best conference we'd been to, possibly ever, and it reconfirmed our decision to bring in expert Solution Tree trainers host our district-wide kick-off event on August 20th. Solution Tree has become a great partner--working with us to develop the day's agenda and customizing the content to meet Fremont's needs.The initial PLC kickoff, as great as we believe it will be, is just one step of many over the next several years' commitment to instill professional learning communities into the fabric of our district. As will be echoed in other communications, becoming a PLC is a journey, not a destination; it is not something that we are "doing", rather something we are "embodying" in our language, attitudes, practices, protocols, and approaches to learning.What will it look like?Sound like?Feel like?Be like to be part of a professional learning community in Fremont?The answers to these questions will evolve as we do throughout the process. Our PLCs will grow and transform as we focus intently on our own learning and craft novel approaches to our students' learning. What I can tell you is what I hope for as we embark--that Fremont exemplifies a place where everyone feels comfortable taking learning risks, sees mistakes and missteps as opportunities instead of failures, and takes joy in discovering and uncovering what we don't already know (and perhaps rediscovering the important things we do).
Simply put, we’re an organization that places students at the center—exactly where they should be.