School improvement can be successful through on-going professional development in the following areas:
Looking at the school "Where Are We and What is Our Reality?"
- Data Driven Dialogue
- Analyzing the Right Data
- Looking for Trends in Data
After the assessments:
- How to Analyze Data on Low Performing Students
- Linking Data on Low Performing Students with Effective Instructional Strategies
- Collaborating and Encouraging Inquiry Into the Data
Improving Student Learning
The underlying assumption for school improvement efforts is that student learning can and should improve on a continuous basis. Students come to schools to learn—to find exciting challenges and new understandings. If schools are to provide learning environments that are meaningful and engaging, educators must continually reflect on the quality of school systems and focus their efforts to make them better.
District and school leaders are guided by a clear vision focused on student learning and a well- defined mission statement aimed at high-quality learning environments and optimum student achievement. Insightful leaders empower collaborative teams, engage their staff in purposeful analysis of their systems, and guide them in making data-based decisions.
The following section describes how and why data can and should be incorporated into this continuous improvement process.
The School Improvement Cycle
Effective school improvement processes are cyclical and continuous, with no clear beginning or end. The plan-do-study-act cycle for school improvement is shown below. An early version of this cycle originally was developed by Dr. Walter Shewhart (1939), and it provided a foundation for much of the work by corporate management expert W. Edwards Deming (see Rinehart, 1993). This cycle contains four major activities:
Plan, Do, Study, Act
Plan: Develop a plan for improvement based on school data
Do: Implement the plan with the most qualified and highest performing staff
Study: Evaluate the impact according to goal criteria.
Act: Adjust strategies and resources to better meet goal.
In spite of your good intentions, not every intervention will be successful for every child. At times, your efforts may not lead to the results you anticipated. But with rigorous measurement of your work, informed decision making, and a willingness to change, the improvement
process can be a forgiving one. That is, when you evaluate how interventions
(such as using new teaching techniques) affect student learning, you learn what interventions are
working and for whom they are working. With this information, you can adjust your practices, renew your plans, and try again. You can work to continuously improve.
Data are the key to continuous improvement. When you “plan,” you must use data to provide insight and focus for your goals. Data patterns reveal strengths and weaknesses in the system and provide excellent direction. When you “do,” you collect data that will tell you the impact of your strategies. Through collaborative reflection, you “study” the feedback offered by your data and begin to understand when to stay the course and when to make changes. Then you “act” to refine your strategies. Eventually, the whole cycle begins again.
As shown in Table 1 below, focusing on data throughout the school improvement cycle—rather than on intuition, tradition, or convenience—marks a great change in what administrators and teachers have used in the past to drive their decision making regarding student learning.
For additional information relating to using data in school improvement efforts please contact the Office of School Improvement.