After reading Lance Hostetter’s opinion column in the Valley Courier regarding Alamosa School District’s Professional Learning Communities, and what I thought was a response by Dr. Elden Daniel in the Letters to the Editor section, I want to add my thoughts to this topic.
First of all, I appreciate anyone who takes the time to care enough about education in our community to follow these issues and attempt to inform others. Like Dr. Elden, I’m familiar with the subject of PLCs, as a long-time educator myself, trained in educational research and best practices, and I thought that Lance ‘s treatment of the issue, while not “expert” was fair, and based on common-sense. Generally, more time with students is a good thing, and he was right to point that out.
I agree with Dr. Daniel that the phrase “send them to the streets early” is a bit provocative. But Lance clearly has the students’ best interests in mind, and I took his column as a sincere effort to ask the questions, why are we doing this, and can we do better?
I’m less impressed with Dr. Daniel’s response. He used his expertise to imply that because research shows that PLCs work, then ASD is right to be implementing them, no questions asked. He says, “trust the leadership” because they know what they are doing.
Well, I think it is a good idea for parents and community members to be informed rather than to simply trust. As a researcher, I can attest to the fact that just because something works in theory, that does not mean it works in practice. The theory of PLCs is being tested in our community, and we will see if it is working. These things are hard to measure, because standardized test scores are imperfect measures. For example, Lance made mention of poverty rates impacting test scores.
Improving education is a complex problem. At its core we need excellent teachers. I don’t think we really have one solution to our educational problems. I suspect that PLCs will enhance teacher competence, but only if done well, and not at the expense of quality classroom time.
On a final note, I think it’s important not to discourage people like Lance Hostetter from writing columns because they are young, or because they are not experts in all subjects. I, for one, value the enthusiasm of youth and am willing to forgive some missteps. Even more than sharing information, Lance’s column made me feel like he cared about the students in our community, and encouraged me to care as well. And for that, I thank him.