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Room to Grow: Continuous Improvement through Small Tests of Change

Room to Grow: Continuous Improvement through Small Tests of Change

As I participate in workshops to support schools to improve student outcomes academically, behaviorally or socially and visit schools actively studying the change and improvement process in order to impact student growth, I realize that all organizations have room to grow and learn. Effective schools are known for using a process of continuous improvement.

Continuous improvement is a process supporting educators in implementing and studying small changes with the goal of making lasting improvement. This small test of change helps educators address a specific problem by testing potential solutions through a short cycle.  These iterative, short cycles allow teams to better develop, revise and fine-tune a tool, process or initiative such as an assessment rubric, evidence-based instructional strategy, induction program, or collaboration strategy that might lead to the desired change and potentially transform their work in small and large ways.

The Plan-DO Study-Act (PDSA) cycle is shorthand for testing a change – by developing a plan to test the change (Plan), carry out the test (Do), observe and learn from the consequences (Study), and determining what modifications should be made to the test (Act or Adjust).

I visited with members of the NWESD School Improvement Team (SIT189) about change efforts that promote sustainable change. When writing school improvement plans it is important to keep in mind that effective implementation of a new tool or initiative takes time, and study. If we set goals that project sweeping changes in short amounts of time, it is far less likely to lead to our desired results.  The Office of System and School Support (OSSS) suggests timelines for school improvement plans to, encourage and support small tests of change that have been modified and readied to “scale up” for the 2019-2020 school improvement plans.