The Wauwatosa School District has embraced the Professional Learning Community (PLC) model to build an institutional capacity for continuous improvement.
The PLC structure is one of continuous adult learning, strong collaboration, democratic participation, and consensus about the school environment and culture and how to attain the desired environment and culture. In such a collegial culture educators talk with one another about their practice, share knowledge, observe one another, and root for one another’s success (Barth, 2006). This new relationship forged among administrators, staff, and schools leads to shared, collegial leadership in the school where all staff members grow professionally as they work toward the same goal (SEDL 2007).
The Professional Learning Community model is grounded on the assumption that the core mission of the Wauwatosa School District is not simply to ensure that students are taught, but to ensure that all students learn. This shift—from a focus on teaching to a focus on learning—will have profound implications for our schools.
In order to achieve this, organizations are guided by:
- A clear and compelling vision of what the organization must become in order to help all students learn.
- They make collective commitments, clarifying what each member will do to create such an organization.
- They use results-oriented (SMART) goals to mark their progress.
- They work together to clarify exactly what students must learn (local standards & benchmarks), monitor each student's learning on a timely basis (frequent formative and common assessments), provide feedback to the learner in a timely manner, and provide additional support when students struggle or exceed the learning expectations.
The Wauwatosa School District is committed to improving student learning by implementing research based best practices in professional learning. We are currently working toward the implementation of a job embedded professional learning model which includes such practices as coaching, mentoring, peer observation, reflection, and Professional Learning Communities.