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Professional Learning Community Pioneer Visits Dublin High School

May 22, 2014
Dr. Timothy Kanold

Dr. Timothy Kanold

On several occasions, OneDublin.org has shared stories that have highlighted the Professional Learning Community (PLC) movement within the Dublin Unified School District. The generalized concept of PLC is not a new one. However, there has been a significant commitment by Superintendent Dr. Stephen Hanke and the DUSD staff to implement this culture into all 10 schools sites in the district.

The basic tenets of PLC are to create a professional learning community, to focus on learning rather than teaching, to work collaboratively and to hold oneself accountable for results. In general terms, it is the hope that a major principle of PLC’s is that people will learn more together than if they were on their own. In concept, schools should not be a “top down” organization (school Principal) – rather it should represent a community of committed educators working in collaboration.

With that, Dublin High School received a special visitor on Monday. Last month a small contingent of DUSD staff traveled to Illinois and experienced a site visit at Stevenson High School. Stevenson is widely considered a benchmark site for the success of the PLC movement. As a former teacher, Dr. Timothy Kanold attained both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Mathematics from the University of Illinois. He then achieved a Doctorate in Education Leadership and Counseling Psychology from Loyola University in Chicago. In 2007, he retired from his position as Superintendent at Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, IL, where for 17 years he served as Director of Mathematics and Science. Throughout this period, he co-authored multiple mathematics textbooks – including those currently utilized in DUSD.

Dr Timothy Kanold Presents to Dublin Unified School District Teachers and StaffWhile Stevenson HS may not be considered the “birthplace” of PLC, many of the strategies and principles have been implemented there over the past +two decades. Today, Dr. Kanold presents various workshops on organizational training and leadership throughout the country. While he grew up in the Chicago-land area, he currently resides in Lodi, CA.

On Monday, DHS Principal Carol Shimizu invited all staff to attend a presentation in the Student Union that included a focal discussion on PLC, a question and answer session and, even dinner. OneDublin.org was granted a unique opportunity to observe a portion of this presentation.

Timothy is a rather dynamic speaker and is not one to mince words. He was armed with some interesting industry statistics and was quite pleased to share his experiences – both as a classroom teacher and as Superintendent. At its foundation, he was willing to share several concepts that may rattle some industry norms. As an example, he cited the value and urgency of Collaboration days. His supposition was that they should not occur only once or twice a month, but every week across all grade and subject levels. His basic premise is that two biology courses in the same grade could yield completely different student experiences if the teachers were instructing in “isolation.” The need for collaboration would be vital to ensure a level experience. But how could this accomplished on a weekly basis? Part of the answer would be to manage a “block” schedule and to moderately shorten each class period to allot for this time. Another idea would be to dedicate one day of the week as a late start day – perhaps to 10:30 AM. This would accomplish two things: The students get to sleep in an extra hour and the staff would be able to engage with each other in the morning while they are fresh, as opposed to the late afternoon after a full day of instruction. Another of his ideas was to rid Department meetings as he found them to be useless – unless the focus was on pure collaboration.

Dr Timothy Kanold PLC PresentationDr. Kanold also made the relatively bold statement to say that the ultimate results on achievement are in the hands of the students. Teachers do not take the tests. However, in a true PLC model, teachers would be accepting the partnership to develop improvement/achievement with their students. In essence, if the student is not gaining mastery in a subject, what vehicles / intervention will be employed to rectify the situation? Timothy also spoke very plainly about how our students are functioning in a society where everything is ranked. Case in point: If a graduating class is comprised of 500 students, they can be ranked from 1 to 500. This is what post-secondary institutions are measuring. If a student is in the bottom 50%, what, if anything are we doing to ensure college/career readiness for this segment? While some of the direct questions may have been somewhat unsettling, it was a powerful exercise for many of the instructors. As the Dublin Unified School District continues to grow, it is imperative to explore the options for academic growth for all of its students. The adoption of PLC may represent one vehicle to ensure that our students are in a position to compete in the new economy.

OneDublin.org would like to thank Principal Carol Shimizu for the opportunity to view a portion of this presentation. Dr. Kanold’s blog, “Turning Vision into Action” can be found at http://tkanold.blogspot.com/

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