The Lee’s Summit R-7 School District has a proud tradition of educational excellence with an emphasis on quality educational programs for each child. During the 2006-07 school year, the school district began to further emphasize student achievement through a school-improvement initiative known as Professional Learning Communities or PLCs.
As a Professional Learning Community, the LSR7 School District is incorporating successful programs and continuous improvement efforts in order to succeed as a school district where failure is no longer an accepted option for any student. This undertaking is not a reaction to failure on the part of Lee’s Summit R-7, recognized as one of Missouri’s top school districts. Instead, this effort is about finding solutions to challenges related to providing academic intervention for students needing additional help and accelerations for students who are already meeting grade-level expectations – all while meeting high expectations for each child.
The Professional Learning Communities initiative is a school-improvement model that increases student achievement by building the capacity of school personnel to create and sustain conditions that promote high levels of student and adult learning. Key aspects of this initiative include shared purpose, collaborative activity and collective responsibility for results.
Through this initiative, a number of R-7 staff members are participating in Professional Learning Communities training sessions offered by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Professional Learning Communities/Accelerated Schools Academy. Incorporated into the training are information about Professional Learning Communities as well as leadership capacity, proven instructional strategies and collaborative groups. The initiative focuses on meeting the needs of each child, whether they are struggling with learning and require academic intervention or whether they are in need of enrichment.
LSR7 staff members participating in the training serve as coaches within their own schools and departments to help schools develop and enhance their Professional Learning Communities’ efforts.The Missouri Professional Learning Communities Project began in 2003-04 and currently includes more than 200 schools using this model to guide school improvement. The project incorporates current research and best practices to help schools better serve each student.
In addition to benefiting students, Professional Learning Communities have a financial value. Early intervention for struggling students is both less costly to implement and more effective for children than waiting until the situation worsens and long-term remediation is needed.
The four critical questions emphasized within a Professional Learning Community are:
- What should each student know and be able to do?
- What systems are in place to monitor a student’s learning in a timely manner?
- How do we respond when a student does not learn?
- What do we do when a student already knows the content?
The answers to these four questions help us:
- Determine where we spend our time and financial resources.
- Determine what students should learn and how we will monitor student achievement.
- Develop interventions for struggling students or gifted students.
This is an exciting time to be a part of the LSR7 School District as we continue to focus on making a difference for students. Each child comes to school with a unique set of skills, talents and challenges, and each student must have his or her individual needs met before learning can occur. Through Professional Learning Communities, we believe failure will no longer be an option for any student within our schools.