For meaningful collaboration to occur, a number of things must also stop happening.
Schools must stop pretending that merely presenting teachers with state standards or district curriculum guides will guarantee that all students have access to a common curriculum. Even school districts that devote tremendous time and energy to designing the intended curriculum often pay little attention to the implemented curriculum (what teachers actually teach) and even less to the attained curriculum (what students learn) (Marzano, 2003). Schools must also give teachers job embedded opportunities and time to analyze and discuss student work, align common assessments, and improve instructional practice.
With time and opportunities, teacher conversations must quickly move beyond "What are we expected to teach?" to "How will we know when each student has learned?" In addition, faculties must find ways to collaborate.
Few educators publicly assert that working in isolation is the best strategy for improving schools. Instead, they give reasons why it is impossible for them to work together: "We just can't find the time." "Not everyone on the staff has endorsed the idea." "We need more training in collaboration" The district doesn’t support what we are doing” and so on.
But the number of schools that have created truly collaborative cultures proves that such barriers are not insurmountable. As Roland Barth (1991) wrote,
Are teachers and administrators willing to accept the fact that they are part of the problem? . . . God didn't create self-contained classrooms, 50-minute periods, and subjects taught in isolation. We did—because we find working alone safer than and preferable to working together.
Some obstacles must be addressed in order to start and continue learning communities. One obstacle is the length of time needed for a school to show a cultural change as a result of the PLC approach. Research has found in many instances that it takes between three and five years to measure improvement as a result of an initiative. The larger school community needs to recognize and allow schools this extended time to implement the initiative and to demonstrate positive and related change.
Other obstacles and barriers that need to be addressed include cost of implementing and sustaining PLCs, participants’ time commitment to the initiative, and the isolated nature of faculty life.
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