Early release

Professional Learning Communities move to Mondays correct for Durango District 9-R

Durango School District 9-R and Superintendent Daniel Snowberger are right in moving the time for their Professional Learning Communities program from Friday afternoon to Monday. If the PLC effort is to be given a fair shot at working, it needs to be done right. That requires a focus on education, not convenience.

The underlying facts are straightforward: It is widely thought, including by Snowberger, that properly implemented PLCs can help improve educational outcomes, at least as measured by test scores. And those knowledgeable about developing successful PLCs uniformly agree that Friday afternoon is the worst time of the week to implement them.

The basic idea is for teachers to work together to help understand what each student needs and how best to address those needs. Regardless of how fine the school may be, there are times when one teacher might have trouble reaching a particular student. At the same time, another teacher may have a connection or an insight into how that student needs to learn. Sharing those thoughts, talking through problems and collaborating to find the best way to teach in each circumstance can better educate students.

Of course, to do that, teachers need time on the job not taken up by classroom teaching. That’s what led to a rearranged calendar that lets students out of school 90 minutes early Fridays.

But in the five years since it was put in place, the PLCs concept has not worked as intended in Durango. Across the board, scores are flat or down.

Does that mean the PLC concept is wrong – or that it was poorly implemented here? Given that it seems to work in other districts, 9-R is looking at the latter. And it is not seen as a coincidence that districts where it works do not use Fridays for PLC time.

More than a few parents have objected to the change. At a Monday meeting with Snowberger, however, few of the complaints directly addressed the schedule. More were about notice, process or the general state of education. The real problem seems to be that people like leaving early Fridays.

If the PLC concept cannot be made to help 9-R students, it should be dropped, as Snowberger has said he will do that if no progress is seen in a year. But first, it should be given a chance. The point is to teach our kids – not jump-start the weekend.