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How to Launch PLCs in Your District

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Transform your district with thriving professional learning communities. Implementing high-performing PLCs can enhance educators’ outlooks and dramatically improve learning for all students. With this user-friendly guide, your team will discover practical, research-based strategies for committing to districtwide PLC implementation, navigating challenges along the way, and ensuring sustainable practices are in place for far-reaching, lasting results.

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4 Chapters

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Chapter 1: Developing a District Guiding Coalition and Common Language

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District leaders’ long-term commitment to pursuing PLCs solidifies implementation. Once district leaders confirm their long-term commitment, they can develop a guiding coalition. This coalition provides district leadership with an advisory group to guide, measure, and evaluate the district’s implementation efforts.

“Forming a powerful guiding coalition starts with identifying the true leaders” in your district (Frampton et al., 2010, p. 56). This includes formal leaders—those in key power positions in the district—and informal leaders—those recognized for their leadership, credibility, and influence in all sites and departments:

The guiding coalition (sometimes called a steering team . . . ) includes representation from all key stakeholder groups . . . . It then grows over time as respected, reputable individuals with the capacity to lead from various sectors within the community are identified. Finding the right blend of strengths and interests pays great dividends toward future success. (Frampton et al., 2010, p. 56)

 

Chapter 2: Empowering Site Leadership Through Staff Development and Training

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District leadership has made it unequivocally clear to all those concerned that the district is developing a collaborative PLC culture. The guiding coalition has provided input on tailoring the message and fundamental rationale for moving to a collaborative culture. This is a critical stage for setting a firm foundation on which to implement PLCs districtwide. The efforts of district leaders and the work of the guiding coalition must lead to districtwide PLC rollout across school sites. This begins with the leaders of those sites: the principals.

Districts with high levels of initial implementation success first ensure that principals have a firm understanding of the fundamental foundations of professional learning communities. They equip principals with a working knowledge of PLC vocabulary and a road map of what teams are expected to do. District leaders cannot expect principals to teach, coach, and support others by simply handing them copies of Learning by Doing (DuFour et al., 2010). Principals will be responsible for their sites’ PLC implementation, so district leaders must support them with specific principal training.

 

Chapter 3: Monitoring to Sustain Momentum

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We’ve all heard the phrase “What gets monitored gets done.” This admonishment seems to indicate that if we simply monitor districtwide PLC implementation, then it will happen. What gets monitored may get done, but are you measuring what really matters? The frightening part is that we have the potential to monitor the wrong things. Monitoring the wrong things can lead to an enormous waste of time and energy and turn collaboration into a bureaucratic paper chase.

On the other hand, we cannot forgo monitoring and assume that all schools and teams are implementing the PLC process as planned. Following the “No news is good news” strategy tends to lead to a district administrative mirage of successful implementation that may or may not be actually happening at the sites. This type of monitoring strategy provides no feedback to tailor or modify training and support. In this case, we are hoping for the best, but if district leadership is to effectively provide support, coaching, and guidance as schools move toward internalization, monitoring must take place.

 

Chapter 4: Ensuring Sustainability Through Ongoing Commitment and Implementation

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Even after a successful year, many collaborative programs fail due to the lack of sustained effort. Maintaining commitment to change over time requires resolve, monitoring, and a steadfast focus on the benefits of collaboration (Mehaffey, 2001). District leaders must continue to embrace the vision, monitor progress, and clearly restate their support for districtwide PLC implementation. Proactive district leaders must have the skills to keep the soul of the PLC initiative alive and relevant to the needs of the district, schools, teams, and classroom teachers.

It cannot appear that district leaders shifted their attention and direction after one year of work. Anything less than continued, clearly stated commitment from district leadership will prove cynics correct and doom any future initiatives from district leadership to failure. It will also demoralize the work of those who bought into and supported PLC implementation efforts and make them think twice before buying into district plans. The stakes for the district’s continued commitment are high and cannot be minimized.

 

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