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What are PLCs and why are they important?

December 26, 2012
By Kim Swartz , Times-Republican

The term Professional Learning Community (PLC) has become commonplace in the field of education. Educators use this term to describe multiple combinations of individuals with an interest in education. Grade-level team meetings, groups meeting to read a common book, weekly data meetings, even a high school department meeting have been called PLCs. While these groups all have a place, they are not what is meant by a PLC. More accurately described, PLCs are a group of educators in collaborative teams that are committed to increasing student achievement. There are three big ideas that represent the core principals of a PLC: focus on learning rather than teaching, work collaboratively, and hold yourself accountable for results.

In a PLC, members work together to clarify exactly what each student must learn. They monitor each student's learning on a timely basis, provide interventions that assure students receive additional support for learning when they struggle, and enrich learning when students have already become proficient at the intended outcomes.

In order to help all students achieve at high levels, teachers can no longer work in isolation. Educators who are building a professional learning community recognize that they must work together to achieve learning for all. Therefore, finding time for teachers to work together collaboratively becomes a priority. Teams take part in a variety of activities including sharing a vision, visiting and observing other classrooms, and participating in shared decision making.

PLCs are results-oriented and judge their effectiveness on the basis of results. A strong accountability system is in place to ensure that expectations for student performance are being met. Each team participates in an ongoing process of identifying the current level of student achievement, establishing goals for improvement, working together to achieve those goals, and providing evidence of progress.

PLCs are considered one of the most promising educational reform efforts. The benefits include reduced isolation of teachers, better-informed and committed teachers, and academic gains for students. Area Education Agency 267 has resources and support staff for districts that are interested in, or are already working to develop strong professional learning communities within their schools. For more information please visit:


Kim Swartz is the Assistant Director of Educational Services with Area Education Agency 267. She is based out of the Marshalltown office and can be reached at 641-844-2477. Area Education Agency 267 serves over 65,000 students. In addition, over 5,000 educators rely on AEA 267 for services in special education, school technology, media and instructional/curriculum support. The agency's service area reaches 18 counties and nearly 9,000 square miles.



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