Teachers, who too often are left to work in isolation and lack instructional support or clear expectations, are struggling to help students rebound academically and personally post-pandemic.
Policy Analysis for California Education’s (PACE) December report What Does It Take to Accelerate the Learning of Every Child?: Early Insights from a CCEE School-Improvement Pilot outlines findings from the first year of the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence’s (CCEE) Intensive Assistance Model (IAM).
The three-year pilot school-improvement project, designed to build new approaches for teacher collaboration and student support, launched in 2022–23 in eight schools across five districts — the majority of which are receiving direct technical assistance from CCEE.
IAM’s primary focus is aiding schools in implementing the Professional Learning Community (PLC) at Work model, “which uses an intensive support and coaching process to empower teachers as instructional leaders through developing processes, structures, and culture that support collaborative planning, data analysis, and targeted interventions,” according to the report.
“Many local educational agencies across California would say that they have PLCs in place, but the effective implementation of the PLC at Work model is structurally different from how schools are typically organized,” the report states. “This model shifts schools from the traditional system of largely independent instructors to a community with collective responsibility for all students and their achievement.”
CCEE helped establish teacher/staff teams on each campus who regularly come together to identify essential standards, develop common assessments, analyze student data and find ways to tailor instruction and support to lift students’ academic success.
During the pilot period, the schools will take part in 40-50 days of intensive coaching from the national professional development service Solution Tree centered on creating and implementing the PLC at Work model.
Aligned with the tenants of continuous improvement and local control found in California’s current education policy approach, the model can be used with any curriculum or materials, according to the report, and most critically, it empowers teachers to make instructional decisions as a team.
“This pilot has shown promise for creating schools that can quickly diagnose and collectively respond to students’ needs. Five of the eight participating schools shared evidence of improved academic outcomes after the first year of implementation, along with increases in teacher satisfaction, but to sustain and expand these positive gains, substantial school district support and leadership are required,” the report states.
Based on insights from the pilot’s first year and other relevant research, the elements that need to be present for the PLC at Work or similar models to work, include:
- A site leadership team (guiding coalition) that represents all grades and subjects.
- A minimum of one hour of collaboration time for teacher teams per week within the school day and an established culture and norms for the use of that time.
- A principal who sees teacher collaboration as part of the school improvement plan and holds teachers accountable for using the collaboration time appropriately and for achieving improvement.
- Common standards, curriculum and assessments.
- Common digital data that track progress by student, subgroup and class/subject.
- Systemic, immediate and personalized interventions shared across all teachers/staff for students who don’t reach learning targets.
- Intensive support from content-level experts and coaches for teachers and leadership teams.
The report also shares possible barriers to implementation and solutions.
“Realizing the model’s potential requires the active engagement of district offices to align resources, remove barriers, and support effective teaching and learning systems. Barriers include lack of collaboration time, insufficient school-site staff, incoherence between district- and school-based work, and the cost of intensive coaching,” the report asserts. “These can be overcome with a focus on strengthening and aligning systems at the school, district, county, and state levels to center student learning and educator support.”