Curriculum & Development
The Ellensburg School District implemented a late-start model Monday mornings during the 2016-2017 school year to enable teachers to meet collaboratively in Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). This replaced the PLC Tuesdays and the early release Fridays that were in place during the past year. (Please note that as part of this schedule change, busses will run an hour later on late-start Mondays).
What is a Professional Learning Community?
A Professional Learning Community is a group of teachers who meet regularly to increase student learning through consistent collaborative inquiry.
Why do teachers need collaboration time?
When teachers meet, they are working together to create a better learning experience for students and improve student learning. They study student achievement data and examine learning standards to consider how the materials they are using align to those standards. They discuss effective teaching strategies and plan to meet the needs of all students, including those performing above or below grade level. Learn More.
In the last five years we have seen new standards, new tests, and a time-intensive new evaluation system, all of which have required the district to meet often to implement successfully. These unfunded legislative mandates have greatly increased the need for teachers to have time to work together and for administrators to work with their teams.
How will teachers use the time?
- Writing goals and learning targets aligned with standards
- Creating common formative and summative assessments
- Identifying resources and creating instructional materials
- Identifying and reflecting on effective teaching strategies
- Analyzing assessment results, identifying patterns, and considering causes
- Planning for differentiation and intervention
Does research support the need for collaboration?
Yes. Research has shown the most significant impact on student learning is the teacher. Learn More. Multiple studies have also shown that providing collaboration and professional development time is a high leverage strategy for creating effective teachers. Learn More. Research on professional development shows it is most effective when it is ongoing, sustained, job-embedded, tied to school/district goals, and results-focused; these elements can be met through weekly PLC times.
Why can't teachers do this work at another time?
Many teachers already have outside family and professional commitments beyond the school day, and the district cannot require staff to attend after the contracted day. In addition, each additional hour beyond a teacher’s contracted day costs several thousand dollars for the entire staff to meet. By offering late start, we know that our teachers are receiving the professional development and collaboration time that is needed.
Why change from PLC Tuesdays to late-start Mondays?
The model we were using in which four of our five buildings met Tuesday mornings while students were in the building, but not in class did not meet PLC needs. Not all staff members could participate because some had to supervise children. Specialists were not able to meet or to consult with teachers, and administrators were not able to observe or join team conversations. There was also an equity issue between buildings, which ultimately means an equity issue for students. Some buildings had 60 minutes of PLC time while others could only manage 30. A district-wide late start will ensure all buildings have equal time and full staff participation.
Why not use early release Fridays?
While early release days have served our district well, having late start Mondays rather than 10 early release Fridays creates a consistent weekly schedule for our students, families, and staff. Early release time is also not ideal for staff development since some staff members lead extra-curricular activities on those afternoons.
Are students going to lose valuable instructional time with the new calendar?
Research shows collaboration time improves teacher effectiveness, and teacher effectiveness is an important factor in student achievement. Students will benefit directly from teacher collaboration time. Additionally, this model increases contact hours with students at four of our buildings and keeps it essentially the same at the remaining one.
How will the district communicate progress to the community?
The district will continue to update the community through televised school board meetings at which the public is always welcome and through the district newsletter.