What does a School Improvement Process look like?
The School & Community Improvement Process, From Individuals to Institutions
The improvement process goal is to identify problems (indicators), effective solutions (research or evidence-based), community resources (opportunities), and then develop a plan that targets these elements, AND develop the human and social capacity to successfully carry the plan forward.
1) Gather data and other input,
2) Identify the school and community strengths, challenges, needs, opportunities, resources and the people or institutions that can make the solutions happen,
3) Research workable solutions (best practices, evidence-based successes),
4) Communicate, cooperate, and collaborate to produce a “working guide” for school and community improvement,
5) The Planners Implement the Plan, and
6) Continue to re-evaluate and adjust the plan for a continuous school improvement process.
Guided by democratic principles, an improvement plan has a greater chance for success when the process includes an ongoing meaningful exchange of ideas that allows expression of differing views without penalty, and acknowledges that all community members have a right to have their views heard and considered.
Why do we so often fail?
Lack of capacity is high on the list of reasons for failure to improve. We just don’t seem to have enough school leaders knowledgeable and skilled in the change and improvement processes.
Leadership capacity means possessing the knowledge, understanding, and skills – plus the motivation and desire – to work towards the solutions to the problems we must face.
In the broader sense of what is needed in school improvement processes, communities need to develop and tap-into their existing human capacities. “‘Human capacities include trust, respect, and a willingness to accept feedback and work toward improvement.”
What Needs to Happen?
Our lowest-performing schools do need to be “turned around,” but the process should be based on both research and the schools’ experiences, not on political agendas or unproven theory. The research done by Ronald Edmonds on Effective Schools has never been disputed. Local schools are where the focus of analysis and interventions must take place. Laws must give this focus direction and support.
Legislative changes have been written that promote use of the common elements of effective schools in order to address school improvement processes through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). To date, these ideas have been largely ignored.
It is time to replace the failed practices promoted through No Child Left Behind with what works.
The body of research supporting what was a “Theory of Change” in 2002 has continued to grow. We have proven, once again, the importance of community supports for public education.
EDUCATE TO ENGAGE parents and the community with the purpose of building capacity for school and community improvement by broadening the knowledge, understanding, skills, and motivation of individuals to improve schools and the greater community.
This is the way to help people help themselves.