PLC debate heats up

POULSBO — Parents and community members have taken issue with a plan to change the bell schedules at North Kitsap and Kingston high schools this fall .

The new schedules allow extra non-classroom time for teachers to collaborate in Professional Learning Communities, while students who fail classes or need extra help for any reason participate in tutorials. Students who do not need extra attention are free to use that time however it suits them best.

What concerns parents is that if the current plan stands, the students who are not required to attend tutorials may fall short of acquiring the number of classroom hours needed to earn credit for their courses.

“I don’t have a problem with the PLC philosophy, I just have a problem with the way it’s being implemented,” said Cathy Coleman, a parent of three students in the NKSD. “If (students) are not in a tutorial, they’re going to be missing out on about six hours of class per two weeks. I don’t think that’s an effective use of time for the students.”

According to Superintendent Rick Jones, the idea of allowing students with high grades to use tutorial time to sleep in or take part in studies of their own choosing is meant to be an incentive, enticing pupils to improve their grades. Jones also said principals at both high schools are examining the PLC schedules to make changes and ensure that students meet the required number of hours to earn credit.

The school board and district administrators will have a public meeting Aug. 6 to discuss the new, planned schedules and possible changes.

“We want to talk and understand what the situation is,” Jones said. “Nothing is cast in concrete at this point in time.”

The PLC plan resembles one used by the Burlington-Edison School District, where Jones and Assistant Superintendent Shawn Woodward worked previously. District administrators expect that teaching will be more cohesive when teachers are given time to meet and discuss their techniques and bounce ideas off each other.

“What we’re trying to do is to get the teachers talking to each other, to help them all increase the caliber of their instruction,” district spokeswoman Chris Case said. “Districts that have done this are seeing really strong results.”

In addition to the PLCs, teachers also have five days per year for learning improvement days, or LIDs, giving students five fewer days of class than their peers in other local districts.

At a July 23 school board meeting, Woodward touted the PLC idea, citing studies that show learning improvements once the plan is implemented. Some school board members, though, showed concern with the PLC concept. District 5 Director Ed Strickland, a former teacher himself, voiced his opinion that teachers get more out of informal collaboration time than regimented professional development sessions.

School board president Tom Anderson also said he was “somewhat cynical” about formal professional development.

“I think teachers need time to collaborate,” Coleman said. “But I don’t think what’s been presented is an effective way for them to do that”

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