Richardson, J. (ed.). (2008). JSD, Professional Learning Communities. 29(3).
Author: The Journal of the National Staff Development Council, Joan Richardson, Executive Editor
JSD, the journal of the National Staff Development Council, summer 2008 issue, focuses on professional learning communities. Professional learning communities have become the leading structural change implemented by schools and districts across the country. When implemented correctly and with fidelity, professional learning communities provide a structure for educators to transition from a focus on teaching to a focus on learning. The ultimate goal of professional learning communities is to increase student achievement for all students and to bridge achievement gaps for sub-populations: English language learners, special education students and students in low socio-economic groups. Districts that have implemented professional learning communities realize how easily they can become a label that makes the district sound as if they are working toward progress rather than an effective method for increasing student achievement.
The JSD summer 2008 issue provides an array of articles for district and school leaders as they conceptualize what true professional learning community work looks like and sounds like. The journal focuses on the importance of creating a collaborative school culture that goes beyond "sharing" ideas to developing consistent curriculum learning outcomes, common assessments that track student progress and dialogue focused on student data. The important role that collaboration plays in literacy and instructional coaching is the reason that literacy leaders must also focus on the implementation of effective professional learning communities.
In "Crunching Numbers, Changing Practice" Gary Waddel and Ginny Lee describe how one school's focus on data lead to a significant change in teaching practice and student achievement. During year one, teachers participated in book study groups to establish the groundwork for strong instructional practices. In year two, when the school developed a framework for literacy instruction, teachers were assigned a peer coaching partner and given the opportunity to watch lessons in a fishbowl scenario and then experience specific training in the new instructional model. As teachers began to see that gaps in data were linked to gaps in instructional practices, peer coaching became an integral part of sustainable professional development. At the end of year two, Increases in student achievement could be seen in teachers' classrooms who had implemented instructional practices aligned with the framework. Teachers whose data did not show significant gains as compared to the increases of the building overall sought professional development and realized the power of strengthening their instructional practices.
Throughout the entire journal, articles reveal both explicitly and implicitly the potential for literacy and instructional coaching to be incorporated into the professional development needs of schools and districts. Within the current educational climate, when most schools and districts claim to be using professional learning communities, this journal provides a strong reminder why so few schools are actually seeing increases in student achievement. Professional learning communities have become a nice title but often an ineffective agent of change because of poor implementation. Schools and districts looking to begin using professional learning communities or seeking advice on how to go beyond having a structure that from the outside looks nice to an actual philosophical and meaningful change within their schools should read the summer 2008 issue of JSD.
Date Added: 10/20/2008
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