Spotlight

Communities of Practice in Schools

The IDEA Partnership reports that at least 33 states now participate in Communities of Practice at some level, including K-12 education.

In 2004, Myron Rogers and Joann Ricci of The Ball Foundation worked with Chula Vista Elementary School District in California to form a community of practice focused on independent reading as a component of a comprehensive literacy program. Chula Vista is the largest K-6 elementary district in California with more than 23,000 students.

The district's community of practice provides school staff with an opportunity to share instructional practices, solve problems, create new knowledge and innovate around learning and teaching.

The community started with six schools (out of 39) and increased to 10 schools within the first year. Teachers and administrators come together to share best practices, reflect on their purpose and continue their work toward promoting independent reading as a component of the literacy program. They also attend national meetings and visit other schools to broaden their experiences.

Among school leaders, communities of practice are more difficult to organize, but they have been used in several places, including West Clermont, Ohio, San Diego, and in several Washington state school districts. Both Ohio and Washington have had groups of principals regularly view videos of teaching and then discuss what is effective instruction. San Diego uses school walk-throughs followed by in-depth conversation for the same purpose.

These resources provide more details about the use of communities of practice in K-12 education:

• The Ball Foundation (www.ballfoundation.org) funds communities of practice at the local level and its website carries a detailed description of Chula Vista, Calif., Elementary School District's community of practice.

• The IDEA Partnership has devoted a section of its website (www.ideapartnership.org) to strategies for applying communities of practice to work with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.