A formula for continuous improvement

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Schools have just two choices—to continuously improve the quality of teaching, learning, and relationships within the school community or to suffer the gradual erosion of all three. The status quo is not an option.
While there are no fool-proof recipes for continuous improvement, there are a few fundamental principles that can be expressed in this simple formula:
Skillful leadership + high-quality professional development embedded in teachers’ daily responsbilities + a high-performance school culture = outstanding teaching in all classrooms = successful learning for both adults and young people.
• Because skillful leaders change themselves first—what they believe, understand, say and do on a consistent basis—they  embody the changes they seek in the school culture and in their daily professional practice.
• Because professional development within high-functioning teams are the core processes of continuous improvement, leaders ensure that professional learning and teamwork are both of the highest quality.
• Because culture trumps innovation, effective administrators and teacher leaders  shape school cultures in ways that enable trust, experimentation, risk taking, meaningful collaboration, and continuous improvement in learning and relationships.

What do you think? How would you modify my formula?

8 Responses to “A formula for continuous improvement”


  1. 1 Karen Miller September 4, 2013 at 9:44 am

    I totally envision a school with a risk free, totally respectful, and open-minded learners. As a new instructional coach, I would welcome any strategies others have used to build their cultural capital when working with reluctant teams.

    • 2 Dennis Sparks September 4, 2013 at 10:03 am

      I believe that what you envision is not only desirable, but possible, Karen. The only exception may be the “risk free” part given that important learning sometimes requires walking to the edge of our comfort zones and taking another step or two into discomfort and the risk of failure. I’m curious what other readers think, and I’m hopeful that at least a few will offer strategies that will support your work. Thanks for following my blog, Karen!

  2. 3 Chuck Bell (@Chuck_Bell_) September 4, 2013 at 7:34 pm

    Yes! Love this and can’t wait to share with my leadership team. Thanks Dennis…

  3. 5 Randall Squier September 10, 2013 at 9:08 am

    Karen,
    Start by having the team look at data with no names attached. Lead them through the Date informed instruction cycle and have them set aim high targets for student performance. After they have re-assessed, go over the results together and celebrate improvement. If they did not reach their target, make sure to say, “that’s ok” we still had improvement, because we worked together; what next?” Small wins will build enthusiasm and trust within the team.

    • 6 Dennis Sparks September 10, 2013 at 9:12 am

      Thanks, Randall, for your contribution to the conversation…

    • 7 Karen Miller September 10, 2013 at 11:20 am

      Thank you Dennis. I am currently trying to frame how I will approach this new role and I just wrote in my journal. I am searching for clarity on my role. Is coaching facilitating collaborative inquiry as co learners or responding to needs and questions as they arise? Or is it both? Read your response at a critical time in my thinking. Thank you for taking the time to care and respond.

      • 8 Dennis Sparks September 10, 2013 at 4:03 pm

        I think it is both/and, Karen. Those things and probably more. It may be helpful to think about how it is the same and different than teaching younger people.


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