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G-K schools eye ‘learning communities’ plan

GENOA – Genoa-Kingston schools could see more consistency throughout their classrooms soon.

The Genoa-Kingston School District 424 board backed a proposal Tuesday to implement Professional Learning Communities for the 2014-15 school year.

The collaborative learning communities would allow teachers and staff to meet on a weekly basis to assess their teaching methods and see how effective those techniques are for all of their students.

“I think it’s a great step for the district,” said G-K Superintendent Joe Burgess. “I think we’ve needed to do this for a long time.”

Principals John Francis of Genoa Elementary, Cindy Wills of Davenport Elementary and Stefanie Hill of Kingston Elementary gave the board a rundown of what the learning communities would mean.

Teachers would be held more accountable for student learning based on the weekly assessment data available to them. Data from many schools with Professional Learning Communities also show improved test scores, said Wills, who helped implement the program at Hinckley-Big Rock before moving to District 424.

“This is all about trying to create a viable, sustainable curriculum,” Francis said.

If approved, the Professional Learning Communities could require a late start every Monday, with classes beginning an hour later at 9:10 a.m. Teachers and staff would arrive at 7:40 a.m. to meet and go over assessments, Hill said.

The district currently uses a handful of “data days” throughout the year when students are released early and teachers and staff meet to analyze the curriculum and go through assessments.

While the startup costs of training teachers and faculty concerned some board members, Francis said the learning communities would actually save money in the long run.

“With [Professional Learning Communities], you wouldn’t have to contract subs to come in,” he said. “The savings comes from not having subs.”

The program would be paid for through Title II funds and supplemental state aid, and the district could save as much as $1,400 in the first year of implementing the learning communities, Francis said. As the district eventually phases out the data days, it could save about $6,000, he said.

After about a year of serious talks about the learning communities, Burgess said he is eager to get them in place.

“I’m so ready,” he said. “But we’re going to do it correctly.”

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