School district looks at ‘Professional Learning Community’ initiative |

School district looks at ‘Professional Learning Community’ initiative

MILLIE HAMNERsuperintendent

As the Summit School District moves into the second semester of the 2006/2007 school year, the Board of Education has finalized a revised Strategic Plan to guide the school district through the end of this school year and into the next three years. Four key strategies have been implemented to achieve the District’s goal of increasing academic achievement and character development for all students.The first strategy – focusing on professional learning opportunities for our teachers and staff – was the main subject of the first Board of Education meeting in 2007. The Board and I took a serious look at how the schools are using their professional learning time on Mondays when school is dismissed early for this purpose.

The professional learning time has been bolstered by scheduling weekly staff meetings on Mondays to provide teachers with nearly two hours of professional learning time every week. In previous years, we provided 15 hours of professional learning for our teachers compared with this year’s 72 hours! This significant increase was achieved at no additional cost to the school district and the shorter day for students on Mondays is made up by lengthening school hours Tuesday through Friday.Although most of our parents and students are adjusting to the schedule change, we do hear from some who wonder why this time couldn’t be scheduled on Fridays. I hope that we can agree that professional learning (and staying at school later) is better accomplished on a Monday rather than a Friday, and that there is a stronger likelihood that new ideas will transfer into the classroom in the days ahead if the professional learning takes place on Mondays. The Board of Education will decide about the future of the professional learning time later this school year.

Current education literature strongly supports the direction that Summit School District is taking to allow time during the teacher work day for teachers to continually improve instruction to meet student needs. Additionally, this time for professional support has been cited as a major strategy to increase teacher retention and reduce feelings of isolation that lead to leaving the profession.It has long been the culture in education to hire great teachers and then hope for the best while they work alone in their classrooms without much interaction with other professionals in their schools. This weekly time for teacher collaboration has allowed our teachers the opportunity to work together on a consistent basis to get very clear on course curriculum and expectations for student learning, to develop consistent assessments of this learning, to focus on character education and bullying prevention strategies, and to share and learn strategies for students whose behavior and/or achievement data indicate they either need more help, or need more enrichment in their classes to be more successful in school.

Interviews conducted of our teachers indicate great support for this strategy of deepening professional learning and most teachers already see the promise in store for their students. We have our work cut out for us to ensure students do indeed reap the benefits of this professional time for teachers. We look forward to demonstrating increased student achievement and character development when we review a variety of measures of success of this initiative later this school year.Dr. Millie Hamner is the superintendent of Summit schools. She can be reached at (970) 668-3011.

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