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Domain 1 - Leadership for Rapid Improvement

Each Domain has three practices that describe the broad activities involved in each domain. For each practice, the roles of the state, district, and school is briefly outlined. Practices are not provided in a suggested order of implementation.  Many practices might be implemented simultaneously, although it would be difficult and even counterproductive to focus on too many domains or practices at once. Decisions about what practices to implement when, and how, as well as necessary course adjustments, should consider the particular needs and context of the rapid improvement effort.

Practice 1A: Prioritize Improvement and Communicate its Urgency 

Practice Description 

  • Set the strategic direction for rapid improvement, and establish and communicate clear policies, structures, and expectations for constituents to work toward ambitious improvement goals.
  • As part of that strategic direction, set a clear vision for instruction and behavioral expectations reflected in classrooms, schools’ instructional models, and professional learning.
  • Articulate a commitment to accelerate improvement for the lowest-performing schools and advocate fiercely and effectively across stakeholders for these schools.
  • Closely monitor, discuss, report, and act upon the progress of schools undertaking rapid improvement.

Examples of How Different Levels of the System Can Enact this Practice 

State. Establish an office or core cadre of personnel responsible for supporting policy, programmatic implementation, and evaluation efforts to lead school improvement initiatives. State leaders advocate the social and moral imperative of school improvement through multiple public forums, leveraging communication and other strategies to garner parent and community support.

District. Identify a senior district official to lead a team that oversees local rapid improvement initiatives, including overseeing principal support and development, policy development, districtwide data analysis, and overall strategy direction. The superintendent articulates the need for rapid improvement, connecting the state’s championing of efforts to local contexts and inviting local community members to further inform implementation efforts, policy, and resource distribution.

School. Develop leadership teams and, within the school staff, build leadership capacity for rapid school improvement. Increasingly distribute leadership among faculty and staff to solidify commitment, increase collaboration, and provide faculty and staff with new challenges to keep them meaningfully engaged in rapid school improvement efforts. Share school improvement priorities with students, faculty, and the school community, leveraging local media outlets to communicate the school’s commitment to change and to enlist parent and community partners in the effort.

Practice 1B: Monitor Short- and Long-Term Goals  

Practice Description

  • Develop goals informed by recent data and performance trends, and identify practices under a well articulated, documented, and communicated plan for significantly improving equitable student learning outcomes.

  • Establish data-based milestones for gauging progress. Regularly communicate progress and continually update timelines and tasks to maintain the pace needed to accomplish meaningful goals quickly.

  •  Respond to regular data-based feedback on progress toward goal-directed milestones, and make timely adjustments to policy, programs, and personnel to remain on track to achieve desired results for all students.

  • Celebrate initial successes and capitalize on momentum to shift the focus from understanding change to implementing effective organizational processes, structures, and conditions that contribute to sustainable improvement.

Examples of How Different Levels of the System Can Enact this Practice 

State. Create overarching expectations and accountability for improved student outcomes that are clearly articulated and measurable and that can be adapted for local contexts. Share clear examples of high impact practices deployed at high-performing schools, along with aspirational examples of schools that have made rapid improvement.

District. Provide intensive, tiered support to principals and school leadership teams to help them develop action items, timelines, and responsibilities aligned with their school’s improvement plan. Provide access to data and training to inform and develop goal-directed milestones, including markers for implementation, changes in professional practice, interim and annual student assessments, and evaluation efforts. Provide schools with resources, time, and concrete feedback to support them in refining and advancing their improvement plan.

School. Develop and update the school improvement plan to ensure that it has clear short- and long-term goals. Celebrate initial successes, monitor the progress of strategy implementation, and make changes in personnel, programs, and methods as needed to keep the effort on track. Intervene swiftly if waning progress is detected.

Practice 1C: Customize and Target Support to Meet Needs

Practice Description

  • Provide customized, targeted, and timely support for improvement efforts based on root cause analysis, existing capacity, and identified prioritized needs.
  • Align support to ensure coherence and integration with other necessary initiatives; eliminate unnecessary initiatives.
  • Regularly monitor progress to identify support needs and then act quickly and competently to address those needs.

Examples of How Different Levels of the System Can Enact this Practice 

State. Conduct site visits to monitor plan implementation, and target district support based on identified priorities and progress toward articulated goals. As an incentive to drive change, allow earned autonomy for local leaders in making key decisions. Share templates and tools to enable local leaders to make the best decisions for supporting school improvement plans and actions. Provide professional learning activities for district and school leaders to establish and strengthen organizational leadership.

District. Provide tailored support to each school based on deep root-cause analysis and comprehensive needs assessment to inform the school’s improvement priorities. Customize each school’s level of autonomy for personnel hiring, placement and replacement, and other key decisions based on school capacity.

School. Identify the priority needs of the school, focusing on two to three immediate priorities. Request flexibility from established policies and/or procedures as justified by the data, school improvement plan, and school capacity.

Domain 1 Self Reflection Questions 

  • What are your school improvement goals?
  • How do you define success regarding meeting school improvement goals?
  • What structure(s) or processes are in place to assess whether your efforts are successful?
  • Who will be held accountable for creating timelines and updating the team regarding continuous progress?
  • How will your progress on data-referenced goals be monitored, tracked, and communicated?
  • What measures will be monitored and evaluated to identify successes and challenges in student outcomes for school improvement?
  • Who will be held accountable at each level to monitor and report changes in student outcomes?
  • Who will determine what interim assessments will be administered and analyzed?
  • Who will be held accountable for analyzing and reporting the results of the interim assessments?
  • How will the results of the interim assessments be reported to everyone involved?
  • What tools, systems, and structures need to be established in order to give school rapid improvement leaders adequate decision-making authority and autonomy?
  • How will you publicly advocate for your lowest-performing schools and your rapid improvement process?
  • What steps need to be established for this advocacy process and who will be held accountable?
  • What is your plan for engaging parents and other community stakeholders in your rapid improvement process?
  • How do you define flexibility and how will you offer it to your rapid improvement leadership?
  • What tools, systems, and structures are needed in order to provide flexibility to turnaround leadership?
  • How will data be used to customize support for rapid improvement efforts?
  • How will you consider the sustainability of improvement efforts from the start?