Increasing Success for ALL Students:
A case study of professional learning
communities as a leadership strategy to
drive m...
Professional Learning Communities
Discussion
In groups:
 Share your key understandings about professional
learning commu...
Purpose of the Research
Aggie-STEM Center*: Professional development in Project-
based Learning (PBL) and Professional Le...
Organizational Learning and
Professional Learning Communities
Professional learning communities are situated in
organizat...
Methods
Data Collection – year-long research at Riverside
Academy*
 Written documents
 Multiple observations
 Semi-str...
Riverside Academy
Students
 Close to 700 students who have an interest in one of six
academies (engineering, environment...
Riverside Academy Cont.
Teachers
 One math PLC; six teachers
–PLCs meet one period a day in addition to each teacher's
c...
Riverside Academy Cont.
Leadership in math PLC
 Principal - over thirty years of school experience, ten
years as princip...
Results
I. Implementation Context of the Case
II. Leadership Style of the Principal
III. PLCs as Principal's Key Reform...
I. Implementation Context of the Case
School experienced success under previous
accountability system, but under new, mor...
II. Leadership Style of the Principal
African American female principal for last ten years at
Riverside Academy
Leadersh...
III. PLCs as Principal’s Key Reform
Strategy
Principal decided to make professional learning
communities her key reform s...
IV. Nature of the Principal’s PLC
Process
A. Focus
 Clear focus on increased achievement on the state-
mandated assessme...
IV. Nature of the Principal’s PLC
Process Cont.C. Support
 Provided pedagogical "voice"
– Mr. Mercer (algebra II teacher...
IV. Nature of the Principal’s PLC
Process Cont.
E. Increased Group Accountability
 Individuals increased responsibilitie...
V. Improved Teaching and Learning
Teaching
 Practice changed for both novice and veteran teachers
–Researcher: "How does...
So what?
Success in math in low-income, diverse high schools
is tough and rare. This case is an example of such
success.
...
Framing the Research through
Bolman and Deal
The Structural Frame
 Professional learning communities (PLCs) on a daily b...
Framing the Research through
Bolman and Deal
The Political Frame
 Ten years as principal, 28 years in the district
 Aca...
Professional Learning Community
Implementation and Continuation
Bottom Line
Context Matters
Consider the Bolman & Deal F...
Professional Learning Communities’
Checklist
Shared Norms and Values
Reflective Dialogue
Deprivatization of Practice
C...
Professional Learning Communities’
Activity
In discussion groups – as “district level teams” (district
level professional...
References
• Argyris, C., & Schön, D. A. (1978). Organizational learning: A theory ofaction
perspective. Reading, MA: Addi...
References
• Lincoln, Y. S. & Guba, E. G. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry. Thousand Oaks,
CA: Sage.
• Lomotey, K. (1989). Afr...
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Huggins.wsu.supt.cohort.plc.presentation

  1. 1. Increasing Success for ALL Students: A case study of professional learning communities as a leadership strategy to drive math success in a high school serving diverse, low-income students Kristin Shawn Huggins, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Educational Leadership
  2. 2. Professional Learning Communities Discussion In groups:  Share your key understandings about professional learning communities (PLCs).  Given what you know about Bolman & Deal’s four frames, which frame(s) inform your thinking about PLCs?
  3. 3. Purpose of the Research Aggie-STEM Center*: Professional development in Project- based Learning (PBL) and Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) for three high schools in one district; graduate research assistant on project Case Study of the implemetation of PLCs in one diverse, low- income high school with a focus on the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) areas of math and science The purpose of the research was to study this implementation. Due to the amount of leadership participation, specifically the principal's participation; the unique and consistent math PLC structure and processes; and the results of those structures and processes, only the math professional learning community is discussed in this presentation. *Funded by the Texas Education Agency, Texas Governor's Office, Texas Legislature, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, and National Instruments through the Communities Foundation of Texas' Texas High School Project
  4. 4. Organizational Learning and Professional Learning Communities Professional learning communities are situated in organizational theory where in order for changes or reforms to occur, organizational behavior (Argyris & Schön, 1978) must be considered, specifically organizational learning (e.g. Senge, 1990). Professional learning communities are communities of continuous inquiry and improvement where teachers in a school and its administration continuously seek and share learning, and act on their learning (Hord, 1997), and have "a commitment to lifelong professional and collective responsibility for improved student learning" (McLaughlin & Talbert, 2006, p. 2). Professional learning communities have five distinct, critical characteristics: shared norms and values, reflective dialogue, deprivatization of practice, collective focus on student learning, and collaboration (Kruse, Louis, & Bryk, 1995).
  5. 5. Methods Data Collection – year-long research at Riverside Academy*  Written documents  Multiple observations  Semi-structured interviews (Lincoln & Guba, 1985)  Specifically, observed professional learning community meetings and then the effects of those meetings in teacher classrooms Data Analysis – constant comparative method (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) *"Riverside Academy" is a pseudonym.
  6. 6. Riverside Academy Students  Close to 700 students who have an interest in one of six academies (engineering, environmental technology, finance, health sciences, hospitality and tourism, information technology)  49% Latina/o, 35% African American, 15% White, and 1% Asian/Pacific Islander  82% low socioeconomic status
  7. 7. Riverside Academy Cont. Teachers  One math PLC; six teachers –PLCs meet one period a day in addition to each teacher's conference/planning period –PLCs comprised of teachers teaching different subjects (e.g. 1 algebra I teacher, 1 geometry teacher, etc.)  Three traditionally certified, three alternatively certified  Two Latinos, One African American, Three White  Experience based on teaching current subject matter at the high school level –One with over fifteen years –One with over five years –One with overt two years –Three with less than two years
  8. 8. Riverside Academy Cont. Leadership in math PLC  Principal - over thirty years of school experience, ten years as principal at Riverside Academy  Associate principal – over twenty years of school experience, ten years as assistant/associate principal at Riverside Academy  Intsructional Specialist – over ten years of school experience; four as instructional specialist at Riverside Academy
  9. 9. Results I. Implementation Context of the Case II. Leadership Style of the Principal III. PLCs as Principal's Key Reform Strategy IV. Nature of Principal's PLC Process  A. Focus  B. Structure/pressure  C. Support  D. Increased individual accountability  E. Increased group accountability  F. Increased collaboration V. Improved Teaching and Learning
  10. 10. I. Implementation Context of the Case School experienced success under previous accountability system, but under new, more rigorous accountability system, the school had experienced average results consistently for the five previous years to the study. Math and science scores kept the school from reaching a higher level of success. District mandated professional learning communities as a reform effort for math and science teaching and learning.
  11. 11. II. Leadership Style of the Principal African American female principal for last ten years at Riverside Academy Leadership style – stable, persistent, hands-on, and firmly focused on instruction  Dr. Holloway (principal): "I've always believed that the principal is the instructional leader first. So, a lot of things that drag on the principal's time don't have a lot to do with instruction. They have a lot to do with management, but not instruction. So, you really have to kind of clear the way. I work longer hours than a lot of principals who don't do that. So, I'm here later. I'll admit that. You cannot get it done all in an eight to five day. Or at least, I haven't been able to do that. So, I work longer hours." African American community is often supportive of a more directive leadership style (Lomotey, 1989).
  12. 12. III. PLCs as Principal’s Key Reform Strategy Principal decided to make professional learning communities her key reform strategy for improving math and science teaching and learning. Principal focused on a high-quality implementation by closely following research that was provided through professional development concerning professional learning communities (e.g. Louis, Kruse, & Marks, 1996; reflective dialogue) in math PLC. Principal used her leadership role to create specific PLC structures and processes.
  13. 13. IV. Nature of the Principal’s PLC Process A. Focus  Clear focus on increased achievement on the state- mandated assessment for math B. Structure/Pressure  Leadership in the room 85-90% of the time and usually facilitating the meetings; gradual release of responsibility model (Fisher & Frey, 2008)  Professional Learning Community was structured using three questions every day for teachers to reflect on – Who's learning? Who's not? What are we doing about it?  Lesson cycle was implemented in the math teachers' classrooms
  14. 14. IV. Nature of the Principal’s PLC Process Cont.C. Support  Provided pedagogical "voice" – Mr. Mercer (algebra II teacher): "I'm usually looking at Ms. Sassano (associate principal) and Dr. Holloway and Mr. Paz (pre-calculus teacher) and Ms. Cross (math department chair). Those are the four that I get a lot of my ideas from. And Ms. Cross and Ms. Sassano and Dr. Holloway, I wouldn't get to communicate with very much if it weren't for [the math professional learning community]. So, I like that because it's been helpful. I've gotten helpful things from them."  Provided equipment and resources, including T.I. Nspires and Wiis D. Increased Individual Public Accountability  Every day, the math teachers publicly reflected on their student achievement and how to change their practices to increase student achievement.  From this public reflection came a shift in responsibility for student learning.
  15. 15. IV. Nature of the Principal’s PLC Process Cont. E. Increased Group Accountability  Individuals increased responsibilities to the collective whole of the math PLC F. Increased Collaboration  Sharing of ideas to assist teachers who were struggling with their practice  Using collective knowledge to improve teaching and learning –Ms. Johnson (algebra I teacher): "We came up with the little sign that's back there. 'Solving for Equations on Both Sides.' We came together, and we decided what's important step-by-step in order for those kids to understand how to solve equations. And so, all the teachers had their little say in how it was worded. Some words, they took out. Some words, they left."
  16. 16. V. Improved Teaching and Learning Teaching  Practice changed for both novice and veteran teachers –Researcher: "How does meeting in there change your practice?" –Mr. Wright (algebra I inclusion teacher): "Well, I almost immediately implement any kind of suggestion they bring up. I will try almost, like the next day after to see if it works. 'How do I adapt this?' You know? Learning  In 2008-2009, Riverside Academy raised its state- mandated assessment accountability rating to Recognized* through improved math scores; math scores increased 15% across all grade levels. *Rating based on four-tier rating system of Unacceptable, Acceptable, Recognized, and Exemplary
  17. 17. So what? Success in math in low-income, diverse high schools is tough and rare. This case is an example of such success. The way in which the principal used her leadership role as an instructional leader to implement the math PLC and drive math achievement is significant. Current PLC research concerning principal leadership is mainly theoretical instead of empirical. This research, unlike previous PLC research with self-reported teacher practice changes, documented changes in teacher practice through observations.
  18. 18. Framing the Research through Bolman and Deal The Structural Frame  Professional learning communities (PLCs) on a daily basis implemented by the district for all math and science teachers  Principal had responsibility for structuring the PLCs within the master schedule; unlike other schools, she chose 7th period – time of day as well as reflective dialogue piece with daily mastery and weekly benchmarking The Human Resource Frame  Urban teacher alternative certification in Texas context  Martin Haberman's "Urban Teacher Selection Interview" (M.H. is a distinguished professor emeritus of Curriculum & Instruction at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)  Okay if teachers left, unlike her counterpart leading science PLC
  19. 19. Framing the Research through Bolman and Deal The Political Frame  Ten years as principal, 28 years in the district  Academy business connections, community connections  Superintendent job  Lack of large union presence like WA The Symbolic Frame  Dr. Holloway "When I first came all of the bulletin boards that you see around, there was nothing up. It was just blank, lots of graffiti stuff. It was bad, holes in the walls in some of the areas and stuff. And, I asked the teachers why there were no displays on the bulletin boards. And, they said, 'Well, they’ll just tear them down. The kids don’t care.' And so, I said, 'Well, let’s see if they’ll tear themselves down.' So, that’s when we started student-of-the-month in all of the departments and recognized them, took their picture, made a big deal out of it. And miraculously, they didn’t tear those bulletin boards down. So, I thought, 'We’re onto something now.'"
  20. 20. Professional Learning Community Implementation and Continuation Bottom Line Context Matters Consider the Bolman & Deal Frames Be explicit about expectations/beliefs and how success will be measured  Realize that collaboration and vulnerability are part of a new paradigm concerning teaching; thus, be direct and confident, but thoughtful about approach
  21. 21. Professional Learning Communities’ Checklist Shared Norms and Values Reflective Dialogue Deprivatization of Practice Collective Focus on Student Learning Collaboration Maintaining an ongoing record Leadership support/attention
  22. 22. Professional Learning Communities’ Activity In discussion groups – as “district level teams” (district level professional learning communities):  You are having concerns that the PLCs in one high school do not seem to be working.  The high school principal has investigated the problem and has found that while there are regular meetings of the PLCs, the teachers do not seem to understand how to use this time to improve teaching and learning.  Utilizing the PLC checklist for your district level PLC – where/how would you begin to examine this issue?  Through which Bolman & Deal frame(s) will you explore guidance for the principal?  Report out your thinking as a PLC.
  23. 23. References • Argyris, C., & Schön, D. A. (1978). Organizational learning: A theory ofaction perspective. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley. • Fisher, D. & Frey, N. (2008). Better learning through structured teaching: A framework for the gradual release of responsibility. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. • Glaser, B. & Strauss, A. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory. Chicago, IL: Aldine. • Hord, S. M. (1997). Professional learning communities: Communities of continuous inquiry and improvement. Austin, TX: Southwest Educational Development Laboratory. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED410659) • Kruse, S. D., Louis, K. S., & Bryk, A. S. (1995). An emerging framework for analyzing school-based professional community. In K. S. Louis, S. D. Kruse, & Associates, Professionalism and community: Perspectives on reforming urban schools (pp. 23-44). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
  24. 24. References • Lincoln, Y. S. & Guba, E. G. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. • Lomotey, K. (1989). African-American principals: School leadership and success. New York, NY: Greenwood. • Louis, K. S., Kruse, S., & Marks, H. M. (1996). Schoolwide professional community. In F.M. Newman & Associates (Eds.), Authentic achievement (pp. 179-203). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. • McLaughlin, M. W., & Talbert, J. E. (2006). Building school-based teacher learning communities: Professional strategies to improve student achievement. New York, NY: Teachers College Press. • Senge, P. (1990) The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization. New York, NY: Currency Doubleday.

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