Next Level PLC: The Power of the Principal Learning Clusters

Professional Learning Communities have been well documented and widely implemented throughout school systems across the country as a means to improve teacher efficacy. As our team in Crowley ISD analyzed the success of this process, one of the highest leverage strategies observed within the PLC system is the power of collective thinking. Our team took this understanding to create a framework based on the collaborative work within the PLC model to structure this type of learning for our campus principals. Through this work, the Principal Learning Cluster was created.

By design, Principal Learning Clusters bridge the implementation of district initiatives, develop campus leaders, and increase student performance. This is achieved through small, intentional groupings of principals working together in an intimate setting where principals dive into learning for deep understanding.

The goals of the principal learning cluster are simple yet powerful and effective to move our campuses forward. With the guidance of the Principal Supervisors, the design is built around three main principles.

Leadership Development: As Principal Supervisors, we have the opportunity to be a visible partner and to model teaching and learning practices. Understanding the needs of each campus principal requires examination of systems at the campus level. Principals begin to reflect and refine their own processes, procedures, and systems to meet the needs of individual campuses. In these smaller settings, leaders break down professional development and new learning, moving from acquiring knowledge to impactful action.

Collaboration: Principal Learning Clusters create safe spaces for our campus leaders to share and collaborate. Working together builds collegial relationships that extend beyond the meetings. True partnerships are formed in this supportive, safe, and encouraging environment. Each leader brings strengths and diverse perspectives to the group, sharing best practices for the team to leverage and evaluate individual campus procedures to refine for continuous improvement.

Reflective Practices and Implementation: A unique feature of the cluster is learning opportunities that allow our team to directly be in the learning. As each meeting is held at a different campus, Principal Supervisors are able to target needs by designing targeted campus learning walks and presentations of success in action that benefit the mission of the group. After observations, leaders have collaborative discussions that result in quick, implementable actions that will enhance systems and processes on his or her own campus.

Principal Learning Clusters are designed to meet the unique challenges and needs of each campus leader. To ensure the effectiveness of our time together as Principal Supervisors, we gather information from observations, upcoming events, recent professional development and, most importantly, principal input on topics for each meeting. The intentionality of the design makes learning relevant and responsive. This practice is beneficial for all leaders from beginning leaders in the role to experienced principals committed to lifelong learning.

Our role as Principal Supervisors is to ensure this time is protected, the environment is safe and conducive to learning and to partner together as we work for excellence for all. Principal Learning Clusters develop a shared belief that through collective thinking, partnership and action, our campus principals will increase the capacity of leadership to positively impact the mission.

A proud product of Texas public education, Anna Roe currently serves as an Executive Director of School Leadership in Crowley ISD.

Serving public education for 16 years, TEPSA member Dr. Clarence Williams serves as an Executive Director of School Leadership in Crowley ISD.

Together, Ms. Roe and Dr. Williams supervised and facilitated the Principal Learning Cluster comprised of a group of six Principals that resulted in a team of high-performing schools that contributed to an increase of performance in 2021-2022 with three A-rated campuses and three B-rated campuses with 15 distinctions overall.

The Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association (TEPSA), whose hallmark is educational leaders learning with and from each other, has served Texas PK-8 school leaders since 1917. Member owned and member governed, TEPSA has more than 6000 members who direct the activities of 3 million PK-8 school children. TEPSA is an affiliate of the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

© Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association

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