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OLYMPIA — A bill to increase professional development resources for teachers passed the Senate this Tuesday, poising Washington state to brace educators for growth and stabilization post-pandemic. Sponsored by Sen. Lisa Wellman (D-Mercer Island), SB 5054 clarifies how school districts can implement Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), which are already allowed in all districts and being used in many. The bill encourages districts to be creative with how they structure a given school day in order to reflect new research and best practices that lead to better learning environments for our students.

“Though today we heard opponents say this is reducing the amount of instructional time provided to our students—the truth is that it absolutely does not. This bill makes no changes to what counts as an instructional hour,” said Wellman.

“Particularly as schools are coming out of the pandemic, it is more important than ever for educators to have opportunities that allow for time and space to connect with each other on problems of practice and issues they may have never had experienced as educators or ever had to address in their classrooms. PLCs allow educators to unpack student data, work collaboratively with colleagues and specialists to discuss strategies, develop lesson plans, which, ultimately, benefits students,” said Wellman

SB 5054 provides districts encouragement to begin discussions about how to change their school calendars and creatively re-think what a school day looks like with this collaboration in mind. The bill is intentionally silent on how schools may structure these types of educational activities, so as to retain a critical element of local control.

“The bill is about giving more to students and building an educational system that prioritizes student-driven learning and produces critical thinkers. Consider that three teachers in the same hallway or teaching team can have different experiences with the same child throughout the day. With some, the student may struggle, and with other educators they may thrive. We want those teachers to share their wins with kiddos who might be having some troubles elsewhere. We want collaboration at all levels, and when we pave the way for clearer communication among staff, students win.” said Wellman.