What happens on Wednesday?

Recently, I was asked a question by a parent and business owner in our community. The question was something like, “What really happens on Wednesdays?” When I asked for some clarification, I learned that the person wanted to know what the teachers do in the district each Wednesday on an early release day. Considering that our district implemented an early release only a few years ago, I agreed that it was a good question that warranted additional explanation and information.

During each Wednesday afternoon early release in the Marshall Public Schools provides time for our classroom teachers to meet in small, well organized groups called Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). These small learning communities are made up of six to 10 staff members. The meetings last from 2:40 p.m. until 3:40 p.m. The meetings are lead by a teacher leader and have an agenda focused on the overall goals of the District.

The foundation of the Professional Learning Communities is grounded in three big ideas. The first big idea is that the PLC structure focuses not just on teaching, but on the fact that schools are here to ensure students are learning. Four questions focus teachers in the Professional Learning on student learning. The questions challenge our teachers to ask, “What knowledge and skills should every student have?” “How will we know each student has acquired the essential knowledge and skills?” “How will we respond when some students haven’t learned the essential knowledge and skills?” and “How will we respond when students have clearly achieved the intended learning goals and outcomes?” These four questions challenge teachers to ensure there is alignment across a grade level and from grade to grade or from class to class. The four questions also focus teachers to examine how students learn and examine how teaching impacts student engagement and student learning in the schools.

The second big idea from the Professional Learning Communities is the notion of collaboration. Teachers are highly trained professionals. The PLC time allows the professionals in our school with an opportunity to work together and to learn together. The PLC time ensures teachers have time to coordinate lessons, to analyze student work, and to improve classroom practice. Ultimately, this process of collaboration contributes to improved student learning and student achievement in the school.

The third big idea is a clear focus on results. The quality of time in the professional learning communities is found in the student achievement results in the schools. With the PLC structure and time, working together becomes the work of everyone. Teachers work together to develop quality student assessments. Teachers work together to review lessons. Teachers work together to understand student performance. All of these efforts focus on improving the overall results in the classroom, in the school, and ultimately, the school district.

As you can see, the early release time on Wednesday in Marshall Public Schools is an important process for Marshall Public Schools. The Professional Learning Community process is a key foundation to the success of our district by providing our professional teaching staff opportunities to focus on student learning. The PLCs force staff members to focus on learning rather than teaching, to work collaboratively on factors associated with student learning, and to develop accountability for student performance results. The Professional Learning Communities provide fuel for continuous improvement in the Marshall Public Schools as we strive to achieve our mission of “developing the potential of each learner for success in a changing world!”