A professional learning community (PLC) is a group of educators that meets regularly to share expertise and work collaboratively to improve teaching skills and the academic performance of students. Our district continues to implement grant funded PLCs focusing on standards-based instruction, embedding technology to engage students and assessment literacy. This was developed based upon previous programming which has produced excellent results. Working in PLC's has strengthened culture, created a vehicle for common language, strategies and accountability. The work aligns with the RI Quality PD Standards: Quality teaching is informed by individual, school and district goals to deepen educators content knowledge, provide them with researched based instructional strategies to assist all students in meeting rigorous academic standards.
This summer, the North Smithfield Middle School PLC is comprised of 5 math teachers, working on a review of math content and standards for grades 6, 7, and 8 and refinement of instructional strategies and assessments in order to increase student achievement in mathematics. I am grateful for the time, energy and efforts of Christine Lopes, Cassie Jalbert, Carol Charest, Margaret Gallo, and Amy Wright.
Grade 6 Focus: After a careful review of math content and standards, the team is developing materials that utilize interleaving as a method for learning and review. Interleaving - providing practice problems that are arranged so that skills are intermixed - has been shown to increase student achievement.
"In an alternative approach that served as the intervention in the present study, practice problems are merely rearranged so that a portion of each assignment includes a set of different kinds of problems presented in an intermixed order—a technique known as interleaved mathematics practice" (e.g., Higgins & Ross, 2011; Richland, Bjork, Finley, & Linn, 2005; Richland, Linn, & Bjork, 2007; Rohrer & Taylor, 2007; Schmidt & Bjork, 1992).
Grade 7 and Grade 8 Focus: After analysis of math content and standards, the team is developing performance tasks that align with grade 7 units of study curriculum, as well as reviewing and refining grade 7 and grade 8 unit assessments and corresponding study guides in order to ensure high-quality assessments. In order to achieve a deep level of learning as described in the Common Core State Standards, students need to be able to apply integrated skills in order to solve real-world problems. Performance tasks assess a student's higher-order thinking and ability to transfer knowledge to new contexts. In addition, summative assessments (unit assessments) provide information integral to the continual review and refinement of curriculum and instruction.
"If schools are to enable the kind of transferable learning described in the Common Core State Standards and required of young people in contemporary society, assessments will need to support curriculum and teaching focused on such learning, along with traditional basic skills."
Criteria for High-Quality Assessment By Linda Darling-Hammond, Joan Herman, James Pellegrino, Jamal Abedi, J. Lawrence Aber, Eva Baker, Randy Bennett, Edmund Gordon, Edward Haertel, Kenji Hakuta, Andrew Ho, Robert Lee Linn, P. David Pearson, James Popham, Lauren Resnick, Alan H. Schoenfeld, Richard Shavelson, Lorrie A. Shepard, Lee Shulman, Claude M. Steele