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Arkansas Division of Elementary and Secondary Education and Solution Tree Announce Fifth Cohort of Schools in Professional Learning Communities at Work® Project

Bloomington, Ind. (April 30, 2021)— The Arkansas Division of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), in partnership with Solution Tree, a national professional development provider, has selected the fifth cohort of schools for their ongoing program to develop and expand the Professional Learning Communities at Work® process across Arkansas.

In addition to the 39 schools and five districts chosen since the project began in 2017, 13 schools and 2 districts have been selected to serve as working models for the professional learning community project for the 2021–2022 school year. As part of the project, these schools will receive up to 50 days of training, coaching and support to build and sustain a strong culture of collaboration that will enhance student learning.

Schools were selected through a rigorous application and evaluation process. A panel of education professionals reviewed applications, and the DESE selected the following schools to receive support from Solution Tree:

  • Arkansas High School in the Texarkana School District
  • Booker Arts Magnet Elementary School in the Little Rock School District
  • Camden Fairview Middle School in the Camden Fairview School District
  • Glenview Elementary School in the North Little Rock School District
  • Hellstern Middle School in the Springdale School District
  • Howard Elementary School in the Fort Smith School District
  • Lake Hamilton Middle School in the Lake Hamilton School District
  • Leverett Elementary School in the Fayetteville School District
  • Magazine School District
  • Meekins Middle School in the Stuttgart School District
  • Oaklawn STEM Magnet School in the Hot Springs School District
  • Parson Hills Elementary School in the Springdale School District
  • Searcy County School District
  • University Heights Elementary School in the Nettleton School District
  • Washington Elementary School in the Little Rock School District

“Since the first cohort was announced four years ago, we have seen tremendous growth in teacher collaboration, school culture, and student learning,” Arkansas Department of Education Secretary Johnny Key said. “This new cohort has joined the others by making an important commitment to rebuilding internal systems, leveraging best practices, and creating a strong culture of learning. I congratulate them on their dedication to student learning and embracing the hard–but rewarding–work involved with this initiative.”

Recent research validates the success of Solution Tree’s Professional Learning Communities at Work® process in Arkansas. After two years of data, third-party research firm Education Northwest found that the DESE PLC at Work project positively impacted mathematics student achievement on the ACT Aspire assessment. The first DESE PLC at Work cohort saw an overall positive impact on mathematics ACT Aspire growth, particularly among specific student groups.

By continuing this impactful partnership, DESE and Solution Tree hope subsequent cohorts continue to experience marked improvement in both student achievement and teacher collaboration.

“The PLC model has proven to be a successful best practice implemented in many schools around the state,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said. “Schools that have embraced the PLC partnership, teacher coordination, and student-focused learning have seen improved learning and a culture that breeds success. I am excited that additional schools and districts now have the opportunity to learn about the benefits associated with this highly-successful program.”

Solution Tree president and COO Ed Ackerman said, “We are encouraged by the accomplishments of these cohorts year after year. We truly believe–and now research confirms–there is no better way to improve student education than with the transformative process of implementing professional learning communities. We are excited to welcome the fifth cohort to the project and look forward to working in conjunction with DESE to help Arkansas schools succeed.”

Selected schools will be matched with a certified PLC at Work associate from Solution Tree and receive intensive job-embedded training, observation and coaching. The schools will create action plans that focus on increasing student achievement through the aligned curriculum, formative assessments and proven instructional strategies. During the second year, schools will deepen their understanding and focus on implementing multi-tiered systems of support, followed by strengthening their systems and sustaining the process in year three.

To share the story of the PLC at Work process and expansion across the state, a new documentary, “A Child's Best Hope: The Arkansas PLC Story,” has been released to the public today. Solution Tree followed three schools throughout various stages of the implementation process to document the schools’ struggles and triumphs.

Providing an inside look into PLC implementation, filmmakers document the schools’ experiences, challenges, and successes as they strive for higher levels of learning for all students. This new documentary can be found on Solution Tree’s Arkansas-focused web pages, along with other resources and solutions for local educators.

For more information, please visit the DESE website, and follow this project on social media using #PLC4AR.

PLC at Work schools are distinguished by the process in which educators work collaboratively in recurring cycles of collective inquiry and action research to achieve better results for the students they serve. PLC at Work operates under the assumption that the key to improved learning for students is continuous job-embedded learning for educators. When the PLC at Work process is implemented with fidelity, schools experience a dramatic improvement in learning results by both students and adults.

Learn more about Solution Tree.