Every year, the Department of Education recognizes schools that present examples of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). Ballman and Spradling Elementary Schools were recently named national models, two of 10 in the state of Arkansas.

"It’s a great honor that we have two schools in Fort Smith that are recognized as national models," said Mayor George McGill.

According to Principal Lori Griffin of Ballman Elementary, it is just "a way of being."

Griffin went on to explain the idea of PLC covers how all staff members approach students. This means custodians and secretaries can interact with students in ways which are as impactful as teachers and administrators.

"It’s the entire staff wrapping our arms around our students," said Griffin.

There are no specific programs to make schools PLCs, but there are steps to create more welcoming and equitable environments. This is now part of Fort Smith Public Schools (FSPS) initiative to reach the level of Ballman and Spradling.

Griffin said the school district has started implementing these initiatives in elementary, junior high and high schools at various levels of implementation.

Another primary goal of this initiative is to "meet every student where they are." This meeting may take place on learning, social or emotional levels as each student is unique and might not be at the same point as their classmates in one or more of these areas.

Spradling Principal Robyn Dawson noted "this process is designed to have a strong system of prevention, intervention and remediation... Our goal is to provide a guaranteed viable curriculum, set long and short term goals and provide support to reach them at a proficiency level."

Solution Tree is an organization that recognizes schools who stand as models for a PLC across the nation. According to their website, Northside High School is also named as a successful PLC.

The schools are a part of a statewide pilot project that hopes to raise all Arkansas schools to the same level of excellence. This will require collaboration on both a state and national level to help others implement the process.

A major goal is for teachers to work together and provide the best learning environment possible for each and every student regardless of background.