Professional Learning Communities

Frequently Asked Questions

.    I have been told each grade/content area should identify “essential learning (standards).”  Why aren’t all of the standards essential standards?  Aren’t we supposed to teach all standards?

This question is often asked as teachers and PLCs begin the process of looking at their academic year. To answer the second part of the question, yes, teachers are responsible for teaching all of their standards.  However, most teachers would agree that all standards are not created equally.  Certain standards have increased endurance and leverage when it relates to future academic success.  In other words, there are some standards that, as Mike Mattos states, are “good to know” while others are “got to know.”  These “got to know” or essential standards are the basis of ensuring each student in the school receives a guaranteed and viable curriculum. The essential standards are guaranteed when each school level PLC agrees upon what they will ensure is taught to mastery for all students. This also answers the first guiding question of the PLC process, “What is it we want our students to learn?”  A viable curriculum refers to actually being able to teach the essential standards in the designated time frame. 

Without identified essential standards, teachers are forced to either rush through all the standards, treating them all as equal or independently prioritize what they think is of key importance regardless of what the teacher next door is doing. 

When we select these as a PLC we are increasing our ability to ensure all students have the skills necessary for success.  We are also increasing our ability to collectively respond when students do not show mastery.

In his book, What Works in Schools Marzano points to the creation of a guaranteed and viable curriculum as the number-one factor for increased levels of learning. Choosing essential standards is the first step in the work of a PLC and drives all other work.