The Perceptions of Principals and Math Teachers in Successful Comprehensive 5A High Schools on the Role of the Professional Learning Community
Whitbeck, Christie Branson
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As accountability for public schools continues to increase, educators are continually seeking the best practices in order to assure successful academic achievement, particularly in mathematics. This study focused on the popular reform movement of establishing professional learning communities (PLCs) within the schools, and combined it with a frame of reference from the math teaching context. The purpose of this study was to gain the perceptions of principals and math teachers in successful 5A high schools about the role of the professional learning communities in their schools. For several decades, educators have been trained and continue to be trained on the effective use of professional learning communities in all levels of education. Utilizing a PLC concept requires additional efforts by the school leadership and the teachers. By gaining insight into the perceptions of those in the field, the researcher was able to find common themes, analyze them, and develop recommendations for practice and further research. This qualitative research focused on reviews of literature beginning with early reform movements of forty years ago, which spawned the PLC movement to practitioners and researchers today. Participants were selected from highs schools with a Recognized or higher rating by the Texas Education Agency, and that were also acknowledged for their high performance in mathematics. Three large Texas high schools were chosen, and interviews conducted with twelve participants, three principals and nine teachers. The perspective was narrowed to the field of mathematics because this subject continues to be challenging for so many students as reflected on Texas state scores. After analysis of interviews with the three principals and nine math teachers, five common themes emerged from the data. Structure/time, leadership, collaboration, effective components of the PLC, and professional development were analyzed in the findings. It was evident that these educators saw value in the process of working within a professional learning community and advocate the continuation and development of such a work structure within their schools. The perceptions of these participants validated the research found in the literature supporting PLC's as an appropriate school reform strategy.