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Choosing a School Improvement Strategy

Old public school building

download_pdf_smWhether your district is already working with CLI, or is considering that possibility, it is important to know why CLI is the right choice in this new era of school improvement.  CLI’s comprehensive and multi-dimensional Pathways to School Improvement Model fits nicely with all new and emerging recommendations for meeting standards and expectations.

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During the original NCLB era school district leaders could choose an improvement strategy focused primarily on gathering and using data about student learning, and ensuring that students meet adequate yearly progress (AYP) goals as measured on a state’s assessments.   Board members and a district’s administrative team often chose an improvement strategy that emphasized the internal development of classroom and grade level or subject area “common” tests.  Such tests were to be aligned with state standards in NCLB’s designated subjects, initially mathematics and reading.  The logic behind this kind of school improvement seemed clear:  Tests identify what students should know or do, so instruction should be designed and delivered to ensure that students do well on those assessments.

Any outside individual or organization asked to help the district achieve that type of measured accountability had to guarantee progress in achieving AYP.  That usually meant improving the effectiveness of local techniques for gathering data and using them appropriately.   It also meant raising the ability of teachers to create classroom learning targets and helping students meet them on standards-aligned local tests.

Changes Caused by the Common Core, NGS, C3, and Other State Standards

Although not all states have adopted or kept the new, more nationally accepted State Standards, they influence the general discussion about school accountability in new and complex ways.  What emerges from those discussions are novel ideas of what schools should be like, most of which involve much more than what was included in the original NCLB era.  In a nutshell, here are four ways conditions are different and how CLI can meet the new challenges:

  • Teachers: The standards are now centered on the importance of students being prepared for college and careers, and that requires teachers to be more than instructional guides for helping students do well in specific and narrow learning outcomes.  Teachers must now create a scholastically deep and meaningful learning environment that includes theories, applications, and dynamic involvement with the subject.  That means both the preservice and ongoing preparation of teachers must be more comprehensive, intense, and involving.
  • Accreditation: Leaders in both education and business now realize the importance of a PK-12 district in developing, maintaining and implementing a well-articulated and sequentially coherent academic program.  No longer do key organizations that approve public school programs isolate their attention on individual buildings alone, or ignore the internal decision-making and action-taking dynamics required to make programs run smoothly.  The primary school accreditation association in the United States is AdvancED, which evaluates these internal processes at the district level and assists in identifying areas of strength and weakness as well as goal-setting to improve.  The CLI Model aligns almost perfectly with the AdvancED standards with the exception of tangential aspects such as budget priorities.
  • Assessment/Student Expectations: The media have been reporting on debates concerning what public school students should know or do, and a consensus is emerging that traditional fill-in-the-bubble multiple choice assessments are losing favor as a sole means for measuring student academic skills.  Assessment organizations such as ACT, PARCC, SBAC, and SAT have made it clear that students should also be able to score well on performance-based assessments that show college and career readiness, although there is some debate about the formatting and weight of these types of questions.
  • Scholastic Behaviors: It’s unclear how pervasive the less measurable aspects of school improvement can become, but such professional organizations as the National Education Association are capsulizing important student behaviors as they prepare to become productive and reflective college students, job holders, citizens and leaders.   The NEA refers to them as the “Four Cs,” which stand for critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity.  These four behaviors are either inherent to or supportive of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Domains, which are also a significant part of the CLI Model.

School improvement isn’t easy; however, CLI advocates that all districts can empower themselves to meet the challenges through well-planned and implemented processes.  School improvement is always a top priority for every school district!

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