District and school leaders today are being asked to do more with less. Shrinking budgets and changes to federal and state policies have made their jobs harder. In addition, to help increase student achievement, leaders are trying all kind of new initiatives—curricula and assessment systems, school-improvement-planning processes, learning methods—that have promised to deliver greater student achievement results. However, as the recent findings from the USDOE School Improvement Grants show, most school-improvement initiatives—especially in high-needs, disadvantaged schools—are continuing to fail or create little improvement.
The strategies and techniques that used to work, even a couple years ago, just aren’t working anymore. We all acknowledge that change takes time, but it is important to put systems in place that allow for the examination of signals along the change horizon that help ensure that leaders’ decisions lead to improvement, result in some early wins, and ultimately ensure a good use of human and fiscal resources.
3 levers for improvement
While many factors go into successful school improvement, research and on-the-ground experience have helped us identify three levers that create systems for investing in teachers and school leaders—and increasing student achievement.