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Why has Canyons Moved to Early-Out Fridays? Two Words: Student Achievement

If the quality of schools is a measure of the greatness of its teachers, imagine what can be accomplished when really great teachers work together, pooling their knowledge, resources and ideas to help all students succeed.

The Canyons Board of Education recently approved a uniform early-out Friday schedule to provide time and space for teachers to do just that. The goal is simple: student achievement. And the path to get there is what’s known in the education business as “Professional Learning Communities.”

PLC expert and educational consultant Bob Sonju.

What are PLCs and why do they matter?  The Connect Canyons podcast crew recently posed these questions to PLC expert, career educator, and Solution Tree consultant Bob Sonju who says PLCs are loosely defined as a group of educators that meets regularly, shares expertise, and works collaboratively to improve instruction and student achievement. But, in order to be a true PLC, the work these groups do must be very intentional and driven by four questions:

  • No. 1:  What is it that we want students to be able to know and do at each stage as they work through the curriculum? What does academic success look like?
  • No. 2: How do we determine whether students get it or they don’t get it?
  • No. 3: What if we teach the very best way we know how, and there are still some students who don’t get it? How are we going to respond as a school? 
  • No. 4: What do we do with students who already get it? How can we deepen their learning?

There are few educational practices that have persisted for as long as PLCs have and are supported by as much compelling research. In fact, the value of PLCs for boosting student performance is largely viewed as a foregone conclusion.

Canyons District teachers have been collaborating this way for years. But having a regular and uniform time set aside for this type of work reinforces its importance and ensures that all teachers in all grade levels and disciplines can meaningfully participate. Parents also like the idea of having a consistent schedule; the early-out Friday replaces any late-starts or other early-out days that schools had previously scheduled.

“Everyone on the same schedule is brilliant!” wrote one parent in an email to Canyons District’s customer service line.

“For working parents this is huge,” said another.

Superintendent Dr. Rick Robins compares PLCs to teaming in the medical field. “Healthcare teams have a common purpose to provide patient-centered and optimal care to each patient,” he said. “Just as no patient is the same, no student learns the same way. It’s our job as educators to help each student find a path to success. We do this best when we work as teams.”

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Lucie Chamberlain

Alta View Elementary

If a movie about super teachers were ever made, Lucie Chamberlain would be a prime candidate for a leading role. Fortunately for her kindergarten students at Alta View Elementary, she already thrives in a supporting role for them. Parents thank her for being a “super teacher.” She is also described as an “amazing colleague.” Whether students need help in the classroom or from home while sick, Lucie goes above and beyond to help them learn, overcome fears, and feel important and cared for. Lucie is the reason a number of kids went from hating school to loving it, according to parents. The way she exudes patience, sweetness, positive energy, and love for her students with special needs melts is appreciated and admired. One parent noted: “Both my kids wish she could be their teacher forever.” Another added:  “She treats every student like their learning and their feelings are her priority.” Super teacher, indeed!

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