"Long after they've forgotten what you taught them, they will remember how you treated them."
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Friday, January 13, 2012

PLGs and Late Start Wednesdays

PLCs (Professional Learning Communities) and PLGs (Professional Learning Groups) are terms that can be used to describe these same thing.  In RSU#4 and OHMS we call these groups PLGs.

What are PLGs?  Simply put, it is a group of educators that gather with a specific purpose related to improvement of instruction, professional development and increase student achievement.  At OHMS we have several ways we group our teachers for the purpose of PLGs. Sometimes teachers meet with grade level collegues, sometimes they are grouped by content (math, ELA, science, etc). Sometimes the whole staff comes together for a PLG.

What happens in a PLG?  PLGs are opportunities for teachers to meet with a number of purposes in mind: 1.  Discuss student needs including data from assessments and how best to meet the needs of particular   students.
2.  Teachers meet to learn together or from each other.  Our staff has a wealth of experience and knowledge.  We can and do learn from one another at little to no cost to the distrcit.  At times teachers discuss a research article, other times they share instructional practices or discuss how to implement formative (or other) assessment strategies.
3.  Generally once per month PLGs discuss student survey data from around our advisory groups and how this program can better meet the needs of each grade level.  Each grade level has a theme and they design acitvities for the students related to these themes.
4.  Vertical teaming is the practice of having teachers meet from different grade levels that have something in common. Examples of vertical teaming groups include, but are not limited to 6-8 math or ELA, 6-12 science or social studies, k-12 Art or Media specialists.  These groups don't get to meet very often, so PLGs are important to the coordination of services and curriculum.     
When does a PLG occur?  The short answer is that a PLG can occur any time the necessary staff can get together.  Primarily for this year PLGs are occuring during late start Wednesdays.  It is one of the few times all staff are available to meet.  Work that isn't completed during this short hour can and often is finished or continued during common planning times and after school.   
Why is it worth the time?  As mentioned above, teachers working and learning together is excellent for our professional development.  The associated research article posted on this blog goes into greater depth in describing how PLGs done well can dramatically increase student achievement.  While we are always working to improve the use of our time, we are grateful for the gift of this time.  Our Leadership Team plans the work of the PLGs a month in advance and they generally have one of four themes: 1.  Planning  and student grouping during our intervention times, called Learning Lab, 2) Planning for the thematic approach to our advisory system, 3) 6-8 or 6-12 vertical teaming by content area as described above or 4) the study of Formative Assessment straegies.  The common thread throughout these PLGs is the collection or analyzing of data.

PLGs can be complex and are certainly a fluid entity.  They are a research-based and growing trend in education today.  The conecpt behind PLGs work in concert with the middle school philosophy.  Please feel free to contact me (jeff.ireland@rsu4.org) if you have any questions about PLGs.      

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