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Teachers collaboratingIt is with great excitement that we anticipate our upcoming SRI ‘Critical Friendship’ facilitator training here in Tucson, June 11-15. We call this annual training the ‘PLC Summer Institute’, however, this training experience for prospective facilitators of ‘professional learning communities’ and even our understanding of a PLC itself is very different from what has become common practice across the United States.

The School Reform Initiative (SRI) and the SRI ‘Critical Friendship’ model for professional learning communities has its roots in the groundbreaking work of Ted Sizer and the Coalition of Essential Schools (CES). In the 1980s and into the 1990s (in response to a report from the US Department of Education called ‘A Nation at Risk’), Ted Sizer conducted a comprehensive study of the American high school, shared his findings and recommendations in three books known as the Horace trilogy (Horace’s CompromiseHorace’s School, and Horace’s Hope) and founded the Coalition of Essential Schools – a network of existing and start-up schools across America that aligned their vision/mission to the CES ‘Common Principles’.

The fictional Horace character in the trilogy was a teacher, and teachers and students were always at the heart of Sizer’s work and the work of CES. From its outset, the Coalition gathered members of CES school communities annually from around the country to a Fall Forum – what Sizer called ‘a conversation among friends’. In 1993 the Annenberg Institute for School Reform was founded at Brown University under Sizer’s leadership and the concept of ‘critical friendship’ was developed there into a model for creating and facilitating transformational learning communities.

As an affiliate of the School Reform Initiative, CITY Center for Collaborative Learning provides facilitator training in the SRI ‘Critical Friendship’ model. Our three small demonstration schools use this model to facilitate monthly, 2-hour SRI critical friendship groups and the model informs our entire professional learning process, culminating in teacher ‘demonstrations of learning’ at the end of the school year. In recent months we hosted one of four regional SRI Facilitator Retreats and provided a 5-day facilitator training using the SRI ‘Critical Friendship’ model for 40 teacher leaders at the Nido de Aguilas School in Santiago, Chile.

And so yes, we are ready and very excited to share this powerful model for creating and sustaining transformational learning communities again in June at our new collaborative learning center in downtown Tucson. If you have any questions about this training experience, please contact me (Santo Nicotera) at santo@CITYccl.org. Register for the PLC Summer Institute at https://plc-summerinstitute.eventbrite.com.