If schools are perfectly designed to get the results they are getting now, it is important that they determine what processes are producing their current results. Then, they must determine which processes are working and which must be changed, improved, or perhaps eliminated to get better results.
A continuous school improvement framework can help schools measure the successes of their current processes and guide them toward a plan to get better results.
A good continuous school improvement framework begins with a comprehensive needs assessment that can help schools determine how they are getting their current results. A quality comprehensive needs assessment includes four types of data that all schools have:
• School Processes
• Student Learning
Each type of data is important for understanding a part of the organization and how it is changing — or not — over time. The intersections of these data elements can show schools the impact of their processes on all students. A contributing cause analysis, additionally, uncovers what is at the root of the undesirable results. Collectively, all these powerful analyses show how the school is getting its current results.
The next challenge in the continuous school improvement process is to determine what the school is going to do about improving its current results.
A detailed vision of how the school will carry out its mission (purpose) will help all staff get on the same page and commit to the same curriculum, instruction, assessment and learning environment strategies — and then implement the strategies together. The vision takes into consideration the results of the comprehensive data analysis, and hypothesizes the elimination of undesirable results.
Once a vision is created, with details so everyone understands it in the same way, it is very easy to create a plan to implement the vision.
Components that will help the most in implementing the vision include leadership structures, professional learning for all staff, collaborative strategies for staff to review ongoing student learning data and determine new strategies to implement to get different results, and partnerships with parents, community and businesses.
As these components are being implemented, we must determine if what we are doing is making a difference. Along the way we need to make sure the components are being implemented with fidelity and integrity, getting the results as intended, and make adjustments as we go. Additionally, we need to stand back and look at the big picture to not only make sure we are doing things right, but to ensure that we are doing the right things for all students.
This framework seems so logical; one would think that all organizations do this. It would be nice, but it hasn’t really happened like this in most schools, especially since No Child Left Behind was enacted in 2001. Once high stakes testing was put into place, many schools focused entirely on what was being tested: English language arts and mathematics. Social studies and science were not taught for almost a decade and a half! Plans were written to improve the subject with the lowest score, and to tutor those kids scoring just below proficiency level to get them over the cut score during the next testing.
A continuous school improvement framework works to ensure student growth and a rounded education for all students.