Using professional learning communities to effectively respond to intervention
Parker, Nancy R.
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Despite numerous national and state reforms among minorities and socioeconomically disadvantaged students, the achievement gap has not been closed. In fact, the achievement gap continues to grow and is evident in a range of educational indicators. Increased accountability for districts, more choices for parents, and greater flexibility for districts, also has not helped. Given the complexity of the problem, school reforms alone will not close the gap; therefore, innovative and adaptive strategies must be implemented by schools to reach all students. The purpose of the mixed method study was to design, develop, and implement a targeted professional learning program for a campus leader and staff members to improve student achievement in reading. Then it was to provide additional training on Professional Learning Communities framework and systems. Finally, the study was designed to allow time for teachers to collaborate with each other and apply the peer coaching and feedback professional development training to improve teacher practices and instruction. The qualitative research study was completed by using a design-based approach through an insider action research model. The organizational framework consisted of the campus administrator and six teachers called the Instructional Design Team (IDT). The key player was the campus principal in leading the IDT through the intervention process. The researcher collected both quantitative (impact) and qualitative (process) data throughout the study. Overall, the impact and process data findings strongly suggest that the phases, content, and method of professional learning series resulted in growth for the IDT team. The data collected solidifies the importance of creating a PLC environment that establishes teaching practices, policies, and systems that will be implemented with students daily. Through the process the researcher found that collaboration in their PLCs not only improved for the participants but it became a crucial part of their planning and instruction. The study also found that peer coaching and feedback had a direct impact on improving teacher instruction of planning, strategies, and content. Lastly, the school-based professional learning series also played a role in creating a positive impact on teaching practices which then had an impact on reading achievement. The researcher recommends that schools and districts examine professional development plans to ensure that PLCs are used through their trainings. The professional development should also provide follow up activities, reflection activities, discussion questions through technology and promote the use of social media and blogs as mediums for conversations with each other. In addition, principals should be intentional in making time to review and refine the PLC framework, monitor teacher PLC collaboration times, analyze current reading teaching strategies and instruction, and schedule time for consistent peer coaching and feedback.