Return to Headlines

Taking teacher meetings to the next level

At first glance into Tracy Koranda’s classroom before school at Sumas Elementary, the meeting could have been anything. Five teachers sitting around a table talking. It could have been anything. But it wasn’t, it was a high-functioning professional learning community, a group of teachers working tougher in a systematic way with the sole focus of improving instruction and finding results for student achievement while working together to make it happen.

From Koranda starting off the meeting by reviewing the previous week’s suggestions — it was a success, by the way — and thanking the teachers for support to Carole Donaldson presenting the next question, hers about which reading interventions prove the most impactful, the group didn’t waste time and got right to the point.

They covered specific students by name and what interventions were working for them. They discussed the roles of specialists in helping and what data showed them in terms of which intervention strategies offered the most positive change for which kids and why. The discussion moved quickly at the professional learning community, covering ground from data to the role of English language learners to so much more.

One discussion of a particular intervention had the teachers really discussing the value. “I have some good data for thinking about next interventions, but I want to know how do I decide which of these interventions gave us the biggest bang for our buck so I can continue,” Donaldson says. Another teacher chimed in that it wasn’t just about results, but results in an efficient use of time. Then came the suggestions of how the intervention worked for them. “The more you can interact with the students while they are using it, the more useful it is going to be,” Koranda says. “Partnering them together so they are not doing it in isolation has shown much greater success.”

For Mark Johnson, superintendent, who was sitting in on the before-school session, there was obvious authenticity. “It feels artificial in other places I’ve witnessed,” he says. “This is real. This is good stuff. You walked away with some ideas and that is a good result.” He was also impressed at how each one of the teachers knew their kids, knew the data and knew the student-focused goals.

During the professional learning community times, the time starts with a recap of the previous week’s discussion and any updates on how the action points played out in the classroom. The teachers rotate so that weekly one teacher presents for five minutes before they all discuss that topic.

Megan Vigre, Sumas principal, says the school has six professional learning communities, all meeting in the morning on different days. Every school does something similar. At Sumas, the teachers mix grade levels and the Koranda class included a special education teacher, a kindergarten teacher, teachers for grades three, four and five and an intern.

“It is cross-grade level teaming based on student needs,” Vigre says. “It is timely and it helps us be reflective of our practice and meet student need in the best way possibly while constantly refining our craft.”