By Kristen Miller
DASSEL-COKATO, MN As students get ready for back-to-school, so are the teachers and staff of the Dassel-Cokato School District.
Last week, there were several days of workshops, preparing teachers for the start of the new year, including a full day of training specific to the professional learning communities.
The district-wide professional learning communities (PLCs) initiative began last year in an effort to improve student achievement.
Teams were put in place according to grade level and/or course subject.
The purpose of PLCs is to collaborate as a team to deliver the proper education for each student, explained Superintendent Jeff Powers.
Each week, the PLC teams meet for 30 to 40 minutes (or as needed) to have a conversation on “what they can do to help students achieve at a higher level,” Powers said.
Last year’s focus was on establishing norms as a team, Powers explained, adding that each team was in a different place as far as how much they progressed.
Last Monday’s training, with PLC facilitator Dennis King, provided teachers with more support and training on how to become more focused and ultimately more productive teams, Powers explained.
PLCs are meant to bring schools farther away from the concept of teachers working in an isolated classroom to moving forward as a team towards higher student achievement, explained Paula Trisko, DC Middle School sixth-grade teacher.
“It’s changing the mind-set from ‘my’ students to ‘our’ students,” Trisko said.
PLCs have also helped invigorate the teaching staff.
“It has very much energized our teachers,” said DC Middle School Dean of Students Alisa Johnson.
For those who go into teaching, it’s because they want to help students achieve, she explained.
“This is such a collaborative way to do it,” she said.
First, the teams will identify the course essential outcomes, or the most important areas the students need to learn in each course, Powers explained. Then, they regularly assess the students for proficiency and for those who struggle, the team collaborates on how it can help each student reach the level of proficiency.
“Our job is to go beyond delivering the material. Our job is to make sure the students learn what they’re supposed to learn,” Powers said.
DC High School Principal Dean Jennissen explained the ultimate goal of PLCs is create more success for all students.
“As our teachers collaborate regarding what students are learning, we will be creating more success for our students,” Jennissen said. “When students experience success, the culture of our school becomes more positive because each success builds confidence and promotes a positive atmosphere.
“As a school, we got off to a solid start with PLCs last year, Jennissen said. “We are interested in taking the next step and using data regarding student learning to guide our instruction.”