IN READING some education gobbledygook, I came across abbreviations with which I was not familiar – LEA and PLC – that the writers presumed any intelligent person would know.

In pre-Duncan, pre-No Child America, it was generally thought that one should spell out a phrase before you used its initials. Then there came the legalistic technique of including both the phrase and the initials – as if the reader couldn’t decipher which were the first letters of the relevant words – as in United States of America (USA).

Now we’re just meant to know that LEA and PLC are. This, I suspect, is more than a minor metaphor for what has happened to public education: it’s become a bureaucratic insiders’ game and rest home instead of a gift to all humanity.

I first became aware of this when I began seeing school buses with the letters SAD on them. What I initially thought was a slander against the young occupants was only an unexplained abbreviation for School Administrative District.

I figured out LEA with a little googling. In this case it was apparently not a law enforcement administration or the Lutheran Educational Association but a “local education authority.”

PLC turned out to be a “professional learning community.” What in God’s name was this? An attempt to include charter schools and public schools under the same moniker? A place you went to become a lawyer or an accountant? An effort to distinguish such places from the growing number of insidious amateur learning communities?

I turned to that guru of the blackboard and other school-like matters, Susan Ohanian, who explained it this way:

“It’s educationese for professional learning community. A school proves it’s ‘in the know’ by having teachers form these small groups that plan together – 6 to 8 teachers working together. Or a whole school can declare itself a PLC, meaning they claim to take responsibility for student learning: “Members work together to clarify exactly what each student must learn, monitor each student’s learning on a timely basis, provide systematic interventions that ensure students receive additional time and support for learning when they struggle, and extend and enrich learning when students have already mastered the intended outcomes.”

And here I thought the word ‘school’ covered that pretty well. Oh well, WTF.

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