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NECC Webinar Looks at PLCs from SEA and Field Perspectives

ONLINE: The May entry in NECC's ongoing series of webinars on professional learning communities (PLCs) featured Susan Kennedy of the Connecticut Bureau of School and District Improvement and Amy Brodesky, a project director at the Education Development Center.

Connecticut Support for District Teams

With 15 districts now considered "in need of improvement" for three or more years, Connecticut leaders saw a need for what Richard Elmore calls "reciprocal accountability"—in order to hold schools and districts accountable, states must provide assistance for improvement.

Taking a systems approach, Connecticut involved a host of partners to work with underperforming districts in collaborative teams focused on raising student achievement. Each district team comprises the superintendent, key central office staff, school representatives, and union members in addition to school- and grade-level teams. All meet regularly. "All of our work is about having these teams in place," Kennedy said. A range of state agencies support district efforts, including the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, the Connecticut Association of Schools, the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, regional and state Education Service Centers, and the two statewide unions, the AFT and CEA. A three-person team from the Connecticut Bureau of Accountability meets with each district in need of improvement twice or more a month, as needed.

School-Based Studies of Collaborative Math Instruction

Amy Brodesky presented findings from two studies conducted by the Northeast and Island Regional Educational Laboratory. The first was a cross-case analysis of six elementary schools that brought special education and general education teachers together in collaborative teams to improve math instruction for students with disabilities. Brodesky focused on one school that used professional learning communities at both the school and district level; the study found that the professional learning communities improved student learning and teachers' professional growth. The second study was of grade-level collaborative teams of general and special education teachers aimed at improving accessibility for all students. Ninety-four percent of participants reported that participation changed their thinking about teaching mathematics to students with disabilities.

The major take-aways from the study, Brodesky said, included: (1) groups that set specific goals were more focused and productive, (2) groups that used discussion protocols were more focused and productive, (3) trained facilitators kept the groups focused and on task, and (4) follow-up, administrative support, and protected time were essential.

Archived Webinar

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June 2009