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The Effects of Professional Learning Communities on Student Achivement Erin N. Fyffe School of Teacher Education, Western Kentucky University. Methods and Action Plan

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Methods and action plan

TheEffects of Professional Learning Communities on Student AchivementErin N. Fyffe School of Teacher Education, Western Kentucky University

Methods and Action Plan

The data in this study comes from three main sources: student assessments showing academic data before, during, and after implementation of TAP, teacher interviews, and teacher surveys. The data collection took place over a two week period in March of 2014, and the quantitative assessment data and qualitative survey and interview data were examined and interpreted in April of 2014. Implementation of TAP was to be considered effective if student achievement on assessments increased and if increased academic achievement was observed through teacher and administrators.

All student from the 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grades participated in the TAP assessments. Students were administered the assessments in their homeroom, which allowed the assessment to be given by the same teacher each time and in the same classroom environment, producing consistent and reliable results. The master teacher de-identified the data collected during the 2012-2013 school year before it was used in the research, ensuring student confidentiality.

An administrator, the master teacher, a mentor teacher, and three career teachers were interviewed to gain perspective from the varying roles in TAP. These interviews took place at Clarksville High School in the main conference room located in the school’s office. Teachers in the school district were invited to participate in a survey about professional learning communities. The survey was given through an electronic format and sent to teachers through the district email. Teachers could participate by completing this survey, which may have been done at school or at home.

Figure 1(a) shows data from the senior class. The overall percentage of students ranked high in the senior class improved forty-one percentage points throughout the year. The percentage of students ranked medium remained constant at thirteen percent throughout the year. There was a decrease of twenty-eight percentage points for seniors ranked low.

Figure 1(b) shows assessment data from the junior class. They had an overall increase in students ranked high of forty-two percentage points, an increase in students ranked medium of thirteen percentage points, and a decrease in students ranked low of fifty-five percentage points.

Figure 1(c) shows assessment data from the sophomore class. The sophomores had an overall increase in students ranked high by forty-seven percentage points, an increase in students ranked medium by three percentage points, and a decrease in students ranked low by fifty-one percentage points.

Figure 1(d) shows assessment data from the freshman class. The freshman class showed an increase of thirty-seven percentage points for high, an increase of one percentage point for medium, and decrease of thirty-seven percentage points for low.


The System for Teacher and Student Advancement (TAP) is a professional learning community that was implemented at the participating school. The master teacher and leadership team created a series of assessments to measure student mastery throughout the implementation of TAP. This data was collected throughout the 2012-2013 school year. Teacher surveys and interviews were conducted to learn about TAP and teacher perceptions of TAP. Results indicated that the implementation of the professional learning community TAP lead to an increase in student achievement at the high school level.


The development of professional learning communities (PLCs) is an emerging pathway by which we, as educators, can help to improve student achievement and enhance their overall educational experience. DuFour and Eaker (2008) looked at best practices to improve student achievement, insisting “The most promising strategy sustained, substantive school improvement is developing the ability of school personnel to function as professional learning communities” (p. xi). The words in the phrase ‘professional learning community’ are carefully and purposefully chosen. A real professional is someone with an expertise in a specific field that has received training and is expected to remain current on the evolving knowledge base. Learning ought to include ongoing action and insatiable curiosity in the discovery of new ideas. The idea of a “community” suggests a group comprised of people with shared interests (DuFour & Eaker, 1998). These three components (recognizing that teachers are experts in specific fields, receive training, and remain current) create an environment in which teacher growth is encouraged and student learning is enhanced.

The participating school in this study works steadily in order to provide a high quality of education, while taking part in research-proven practices. This high school has implemented the professional learning community TAP (The System for teacher and Student Advancement) in an effort to enhance student performance. The purpose of this research project is to determine the effects of TAP on student achievement.


The main goal of implementing TAP during the 2012/2013 school year was to improve student achievement. The three types of problems that were assessed were multiple choice, short answer, and logic. For each category of question, students were ranked high, medium, or low based on a numeric scale. Students were also ranked high, medium, or low on their overall score. At the participating school, the level of mastery is set at eighty percent. The analyzed assessment data is displayed in Table 1, which shows student data grouped by class, assessment, and problem category. Overall mastery scores are given as well.

Table 1: Student Assessment Results


The results of this study indicate that student achievement increased with the implementation of the professional learning community TAP. The data from the pre, mid, and post assessments show an increase in student achievement across all secondary grade levels. The overall percentage of student reaching mastery increased from 24% to 70%. That is an incredible increase of 46% over the span of one school year. The freshman increased from 15% mastery to 53%, with a total gain of 38%. The sophomores increased from 32% to 82%, giving them a total increase of 50%. The junior class started with 22% at mastery and ended with 77% mastery, resulting in a 55% increase. The senior class started at 30% mastery and ended with 71%, which gave them a 41% increase.

Research Question

What effect does The System for Teacher and Student Advancement have on student achievement?


DuFour, R. and Eaker, R. (1998). Professional Learning Communities at Work: Best

Practices for Enhancing Student Achievement. Bloomington, IN: National Education