Continuous Improvement

California and the nation are at the crossroads of a major shift in school accountability policy. At the state level, California’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) process encourage the use of multiple measures of school performance used locally to support continuous improvement and strategic resource allocation. Similarly, the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) reinforces this local control, requiring more comprehensive assessment of school performance and a less prescriptive, local approach to school support. These changes represent a major cultural shift for California schools and districts, as they work to implement continuous improvement. Our work in this area is designed to share lessons from CORE’s collaboration as a Networked Improvement Community to accelerate implementation of continuous improvement statewide. Our work thus far has aimed to answer the following questions:

Continuous Improvement
What is “continuous improvement” and what are current challenges to implementing it in California?

Calls for “continuous improvement” in California’s K-12 education system are central to current discussions about school improvement in the state. Yet, definitions of continuous improvement vary, and knowledge of what continuous improvement looks like in practice is limited. To advance the conversation, in this brief, Continuous Improvement in Practice, the authors define continuous improvement both in theory and in practice and identify current implementation challenges and opportunities in California.

How can school districts use the method of continuous improvement to achieve improvements in student outcomes?

This continuous improvement brief, Exploring Improvement Science in Education: Promoting College Access in Fresno Unified School District, highlights how Fresno Unified School District (FUSD) developed and utilized its data dashboard and the principles of Improvement Science to increase college access for their students.

How have the CORE districts used their shared data system and the tools of improvement science to better understand their systems?

This policy report, Building Systems Knowledge for Continuous Improvement: Early lessons from the CORE districts, shares four lessons from the CORE districts’ early efforts to build systems knowledge about their shared middle school math achievement gap for their African American and Hispanic/Latino students. By participating in an extended systems analysis process, the CORE districts learned that: (1) Effective systems analysis starts with creating an improvement team that is set up for success; (2) The systems analysis process enables district leaders to revise, refine, and expand their initial theories about the reasons behind their problem of practice; (3) Accessing and interpreting different types of data are critical to building a complete understanding of a problem of practice; and (4) Teams getting started in continuous improvement benefit from expert facilitation and learn-by-doing activities.

How can school and district leaders use data for continuous improvement and what can we learn from the CORE districts?

Experts agree that effective data use is critical for continuous improvement. However, there is a lack of understanding statewide about how data use for continuous improvement, with its adaptive and iterative nature, differs from data use for other purposes. In this paper, the authors discuss what data are most useful to inform continuous improvement at all levels of the system and provide a case study of how the CORE data collaborative uses a multiple-measures approach to support decision-making.

How do district and school leaders work together to make continuous improvement a reality?

California’s shift towards continuous improvement in education makes understanding how districts and schools can learn to improve a more pressing question than ever. The CORE Improvement Community (CIC), a network of California school districts engaged in learning about improvement together, is an important testing ground to learn about what this work entails. This paper shares lessons learned from their second year of implementation.


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