DavieLEADS – Professional Development and PLC’s – A Wonderful Process to Watch Unfold

By Jeanna B. White
“What steps will you take forward to help ensure a growth mindset for your team?” asked DavieLEADS consultant, Barbie Brown, during a workshop for the leaders of Davie County Schools’ Professional Learning Communities (PLCs).

Professional Learning Communities allow teachers to meet regularly, share expertise and work collaboratively to improve teaching skills and drive the academic performance of students.

These meetings have become an essential component of DavieLEADS (Literacy Empowers All in Davie to Succeed). Although the initiative, created through a 5-year $2.5 million grant from the Mebane Foundation, focuses on early literacy, all teachers across the county are benefitting from its professional development.

Davie County Schools’ PLCs are organized by grade level. Each school includes a time within its master schedule for the weekly meetings. During those meetings, teachers discuss how to increase academic performance by evaluating what is going well and what could be improved. The primary focus of the meetings is to gain a deep, collective understanding of what the standards are requiring our students to know, understand, and do. Teams also create common formative assessments, update quarterly pacing maps, and review testing data. The goal of PLCs is effective classroom instruction that ensures high levels of learning for all students.

PLC Leader Training
Over the summer, PLC leaders were trained to create a solid foundation for weekly PLC meetings. With the assistance of the school’s instructional coach, as well as the guidance of the PLC consultants, these leaders are learning to support collaboration in PLC meetings.

“PLC Leader’s Training is empowering our teachers,” said Kelly Myers, the instructional coach at Cooleemee Elementary School. “Through training, teacher leaders are learning how to plan for and facilitate effective PLCs.  We are putting structures and tools in place that allow us to think deeply about our standards and what students need to know and be able to do. Strong PLCs allow us to grow as educators and lead to laser-focused classroom instruction.”      

This month around 100 PLC leaders from preschool through high school met at Bethlehem United Methodist Church for continued instruction on facilitating an effective PLC meeting.

“Our goal is to train leaders in each grade level how to dig deeper into the standards and content so that the process can be sustained beyond the five years of the grant,” said Amy Spade, literacy coach.

Since this year’s PLC focus is clarifying standards and learning to teach them more deeply, the PLC leadership teams participated in activities that further clarified the work that should be done in PLCs.  Teachers gained a deeper understanding of the Depth of Knowledge/rigor that the standards require. Time and attention was focused on vocabulary instruction as well.

“PLCs are a work in progress, “ said Nancy Scoggin, DavieLEADS consultant. “We are on a journey. As we dig deeper into our standards, evaluate data, and examine teaching practices, we have to be patient and persistent.”   

“This is a huge process,” Brown added encouragingly,  “Nancy and I think you are making great progress. Pat yourselves on the back because you’ve done a lot of work even if it doesn’t feel like it.”

Tracie Welch, the instructional coach at Mocksville Elementary School, believes the hard work is paying off. “During PLCs, our teachers are really able to “dig in” to their learning standards for students and guide their instruction to meet the needs of all learners.  Our teachers are putting in a tremendous amount of work, and it shows through student growth. It has been a wonderful process to watch unfold!“