With the advent of school choice and the ever increasing ability of a family to move from one state or one neighborhood to the next, there is an increasing desire for parents to seek high school rankings.  When doing so, there are so many factors to consider.  Some of these pop right into mind: expenditure per pupil, SAT and other standardized test scores, AP classes offered, rate of crime in the school and in the neighborhood surrounding the school.  But there is one factor that goes mostly unnoticed and might be important when assessing high school rankings.  Does the school ascribe to the cutting edge idea of Professional Learning Communities (PLC)?

PLCs and High school rankings

Professional Learning Communities are a new idea spearheaded by Rick and Betty DuFour.  The success of their program and the logic of the ideas it espouses have led to a sweeping change in the way schools do business.  So what is a PLC?  Check out some of the main ideas behind them below and you’ll see why PLCs are the latest in educational reform for High school rankings.

1.  PLCs allow for a real sense of community.  The whole purpose of high school rankings is to help the community assess schools. For PLCs that means everybody working together to ensure student success.  Of course the usual suspects (students, teachers, parents) are included, but so are non-instructional staff like bus drivers and security officers.  PLCs also include the community at large so local businesses and community colleges are drawn in to help the school and the students. What could be more important for high school rankings?

2.  Another purpose of high school rankings is to gauge how effective teachers are in a school. PLCs use unique and flexible scheduling to allow students and teachers time outside of the classroom to boost learning.  Students meet with teachers or other advisors one on one or in small groups.  Teachers meet within discipline or within grade levels to work and plan together while sharing best practices.  This is an essential part of PLC and is important to check for when considering high school rankings.

3.  Because student success is a community effort, what students study can be standardized.  While high school rankings always include standardized test scores, they don’t always include other assessments. Although PLCs use standard assessments and formative assessments, they don’t require teachers to “teach to the test.”  Instead students are prepared at a high level of rigor for things like state exams within the normal parameters of the classroom. What a great piece of information to include in high school rankings.

4.  The DuFours insist that failure is not an option.  In PLCs failure is seen as an easy way out.  Instead, the community works to present the student with many avenues to success.  This may take a while for students and teachers to get used to, but the change in “mind set” is an important one in the path to student achievement and an important one when assessing a school for High school rankings.

So if you are a parent or student considering High school rankings, you may want to make the inclusion of professional learning communities part of your assessment.  It is the wave of the future and an important factor in determining if a school is the right fit for you.

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