Archived InformationTried and True: September 1997--The information in this publication was current as of September 1997, and has not been updated since. Some services described in the publication may no longer be available.
A Ten-Step School Improvement Process Designed
To Improve Student Performance
|Developed and tested by the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory (NWREL)|
The process begins by (1) introducing the effort throughout the school and the community, and continues with (2) staff learning about the research, (3) profiling student performance, (4) setting one or two improvement goals, (5) checking current practice related to the goal or goals, (6) developing a prescription for improvement, and (7) developing action plans for implementation. The final steps in the initial cycle of the process include (8) implementing action plans, (9) monitoring progress, and (10) renewing the effort. The leadership team of 10 or fewer individuals includes teachers, specialists, and a principal in all instances. It includes students, community representatives, and classified staff in some instances.
Two conditions seem to be necessary to maximize potential for successful use of the Onward to Excellence school improvement process. The first is that the district and the schools have gone through a thoughtful process of deciding to use Onward to Excellence. Full consideration should be given to time and resource implications of the process in light of other improvement activities being undertaken in the school and district. Second, districts and schools should consciously decide to commit some of their own resources and leadership to the effort. Obtaining outside funding for the entire process seems to cause schools and districts to take the process less seriously than when they commit their own resources.
1. The effective schooling research
The effective schooling research is summarized in a publication entitled Effective Schooling Practices: A Research Synthesis/1995 Update. Drawing upon several research bases, the synthesis identifies practices at the classroom, school, and district levels that have been shown to have a positive impact on student resultsłacademic achievement, attitudes, and social behavior. Within each level, findings are organized by topic; for example, the school-level section summarizes research on leadership, setting goals and objectives, curriculum integration, uses of computer technology, workplace preparation, site-based management, grouping, time use, discipline, equity, staff development, assessment, parent involvement, alcohol and drug use prevention, and others. Onward to Excellence schools and many others use the information in the synthesis to develop school improvement plans.
Some two dozen additional research syntheses are available that explore these and other topics in greater detail, and 40 other feature pieces describe effective programs in schools in the NWREL region and beyond. Together, these materials compose the "School Improvement Research" series, which is available on a subscription basis from NWREL.
2. Adult learning and professional development
A synthesis of adult learning theory and professional staff development is also available from NWREL in a publication entitled A Review of Adult Learning Theory and Development Research. Based on an extensive review of research on the ways adults learn and the effects of different approaches to professional development, effective development programs were found to have the following characteristics, grouped into three categories:
Staff costs include release time for leadership team members to participate in training and additional time to complete tasks related to the school improvement effort. Each team member will need approximately 8 days of release time for each of the 2 training years. Following the training program, leadership team members should be able to do their work in the equivalent of 3 release days per year.
A need also exists to involve the full faculty in improvement activities. An estimate of the amount of time with the full faculty is four blocks of 2 or 3 hours each per year. Committee work may be organized and handled in the way that other committee work is already managed in the school.
The decision to use Onward to Excellence is usually made in several steps. Initially, schools or districts will receive informational materials from NWREL after inquiring about the program. If they decide they are interested in implementing the program in their district, they can request an awareness session that is a half-day to a full-day workshop that highlights the process.
Following the workshop, or in some instances before, there is a request for names of schools that have used the process and the training program; references are provided. The next request is usually for an estimate of costs and the names of potential trainers--schools and districts generally have a high level of concern about who their trainers will be.
With this final information, the district makes a yes or no decision to proceed. Throughout the decision process, many individuals at many levels are involved in learning about the process and the training and technical assistance program. Principals are then asked to discuss the process with their staff and, if enough interest is evident, agree to participate.
Costs associated with implementing this program vary, depending on the components of the program being used.