The Key to Successful School Improvement: Implementation to Fidelity
Research by Fixsen, Naoom, Blasé, Friedman, and Wallace (2005) suggests that implementation with fidelity of evidenced-based practices is a key to successful school improvement.
What does it take to achieve implementation to fidelity?
Integral to the school improvement process is the continuous assessment of the implementation itself. (Hanover 2014) This continuous assessment includes monitoring. Monitoring is supervising activities in progress to ensure they are on-course and on-schedule in meeting the objectives and performance targets. (Businessdictionary.com)
Often, School Improvement Plans (SIPs) are created without including a continuous way to monitor the progress of the implementation. Without this there is no way of knowing what is working and what is NOT working. The quality improvement process of (plan, do, study, act) stops because you have nothing to study. It may look like people are taking actions, but no one knows if the actions are moving the school closer to meet its goals.
Important Elements for Success
- Clear and Detailed Plan – Create actionable plans that are broken down into yearly, quarterly, weekly and even daily objectives. (Hanover Research 2014)
- Professional Development – Provide the training and tools necessary for faculty and staff to implement the selected evidence-based strategies successfully.
- Monitoring Imbedded into the Plan – Determine who will monitor the implementation process, how often, and how. This will allow it to become a part of your system of implementation.
- Monitoring Includes Collecting Data – Data examples can include: classroom observations, assessments, and discussions with students, teachers, and parents.
- Adjustment Decisions Based on Data – Use the data from the monitoring process to determine what’s working and what is not working to adjust actions to reach each outcomes.
A detailed actionable plan with training and monitoring embedded into the plan will help provide the data needed to make decisions that move a team toward achieving outcomes.
School Improvement: Focus on the One Thing
Gary Keller asks this question in his New York Times Bestseller, The One Thing, “What’s the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” He asserts “that no matter how success is measured, personal or professional, only the ability to dismiss distractions and concentrate on your ONE Thing stands between you and your goals. The ONE Thing is about getting extraordinary results in every situation. “
What does this have to do with School Improvement? Educators are often confronted with a myriad of distractions that take them off their School Improvement Plan goals. Or their goals have not been distilled down into one main goal that they can focused on. Here are some examples of overall goals:
- Increase SBA scores in Math
- Increase SBA scores in English Language Arts
- Increase Graduation Rate
- Create a Climate of Success
You can’t get to these overall goals without your focus on the ONE thing. In this example, the ONE thing we have identified is: Building positive student and staff relationships in your school.
Why is this so important? Collaborative teacher teams with strong relationships and focus will be necessary to get the work done that will increase scores, graduation rate, and create a climate of success. Jones (2014) in her article “The Power of Teacher Collaboration” identifies teacher collaboration as a way to raise student achievement. Three of her tips for successful collaboration are:
- Build Relationships
- Find Time to Collaborate
- Share Responsibility
Strong relationships between staff and students will also be an important foundation for increasing scores, graduation rate and creating a climate of success. Strong teacher student relationships are ranked high on Hattie’s 2018 List of Strategies that impact achievement. Keren Sofer (2018) a psychologist and former teacher on the benefits of “attachment theory” in schools, shares her story on The Key to Student Success? Relationships.
How to Keep the “One Thing” as the Focus
- Incorporate the goal into your School Improvement Plan
- Determine what each person in your organization will be doing daily to reach the ONE goal of building relationships.
- Create a system to monitor your progress on the goal.
Often, it’s the foundational elements that move our academic goals that go unnoticed. With ever increasing demands on educators to increase academic progress, it’s easy to overlook the human fundamentals that move the work and make it easier and more enjoyable.
Strong Core Instruction is the Heart of Effective Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS)
Core Instruction is a school’s instructional practices that all students receive through Tier 1. One guideline for MTSS implementation suggests that 80% of your students should score proficiently on the benchmark criteria established by the school’s selected screening tool. If not, RTI Network recommends intensifying your focus on improving Tier 1 instruction for two reasons: 1) buildings do not have the resources to intervene with a large percentage of students and 2) you cannot “intervene” your way out of core instruction that is not effective.
What are some first steps?
Create a Team
While it might seem easier as an administrator to just do the research yourself and pick a few strategies, collaborative decision-making is a key to sustainability of practices. According to the Hanover Report 2014, “Districts should organize school‐level and district‐level taskforces to design, implement, and track improvement efforts. These groups should comprise representatives from all groups affected by the improvement efforts, and teams should be no larger than 12‐15 people. At the district level, experts emphasize that the primary focus of leadership teams should be supporting schools in these efforts, rather than compliance.”
Select One or Two Teacher Criteria from OSPI.
- Content Knowledge
- Learning Environment
- Families and Community
- Professional Practice
Criterion 2: Demonstrating effective teaching practices.
Descriptor: Instruction; the teacher uses research based instructional practices to meet the needs of all students.
Example: Implement the instructional strategy “Effective Feedback”
Wiggins (2012) in the article “Seven Steps to Effective Feedback” defines effective feedback as specific, timely feedback as “goal-referenced; tangible and transparent; actionable; user-friendly (specific and personalized); timely; ongoing; and consistent.”
Criterion 5: Fostering and managing a safe, positive learning environment.
Descriptor: Learning environment; the teacher fosters and manages a safe and inclusive learning environment that takes into account: physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being of students.
Example: Build strong relationships with students
In the article, “What Everyone Needs to Know About High-Performance, Teacher Student Relationships,” strong student and teacher relationships are highly impactful to student success. It takes warmth, empathy, and time to begin developing these caring relationships. In addition, believing students can succeed and pressing them to succeed are crucial. This is often referred to as “nag and nuture.”
Make MTSS a Part of Your School Improvement Plan (SIP) and Use a Quality Improvement Process (Plan, Do, Study, Act/Adjust)
Finally, it’s important to make your MTSS plans a part of your SIP and create S.M.A.R.T. goals. This means the goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. Consistent monitoring of your implementation process and the strategies and practices is necessary so you can see what is working and if adjustments need to be made to the plan. Without a quality improvement process there is a danger that your plan stays on a shelf as a compliance document and not as a working document that guides implementation.
Online Journal Articles
Metcalf, Terri. What’s Your Plan? Accurate Decision Making within a Multi-Tier System of Supports: Critical Areas in Tier 1. RTI Action Network. Retrieved from http://www.rtinetwork.org/essential/tieredinstruction/tier1/accurate-decision-making-within-a-multi-tier-system-of-supports-critical-areas-in-tier-1
Best Practices for School Improvement. Hanover Research. Retrieved from https://www.hanoverresearch.com/media/Best-Practices-for-School-Improvement-Planning.pdf
Hattie, John. (2008). Hattie Ranking: 252 Influences And Effect Sizes Related To Student Achievement. Visible Learning. Retrieve from https://visible-learning.org/hattie-ranking-influences-effect-sizes-learning-achievement
Wiggins, Grant. (2012). Seven Steps to Effective Feedback. ASCD Educational Leadership. 70 (1). Retrieve from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/sept12/vol70/num01/Seven-Keys-to-Effective-Feedback.aspx
What Everyone Needs to Know About High-Performance, Teacher Student Relationships. Retrieve from http://www.evidencebasedteaching.org.au/crash-course-evidence-based-teaching/teacher-student-relationships
How School Improvement is Like a House Move
You have decided to move to a new home. You know you need to go through your belongings and figure out what you want to take with you. You may have felt a similar feeling of overwhelm when you looked at the results of your needs assessment. You may have a vision of what you want your school to look like and thought, “where do I start?” A first step might be to ask yourself three questions based on one target area.
- What do you want to take with you into the new school year?
- What do you want to leave behind that’s not working?
- What new evidence-based strategies will you need to explore?
For example, you collaboratively consider your math data, scores and practices in mathematics and determine that your overall goal is to: Increase Math Scores for English Learners on the SBA by ______percentage in 3 years.
After your team reviews the three questions and research causal factors and effective practices you determine:
- A math team that is positive and on board.
- Teachers have been trained in Guided Language Acquisition Design (GLAD) strategies for English Learners (EL) but have not implemented any strategies.
- One member of the math team is relocating.
- The focus has been on math computation and memorization.
- Even your most successful students appear to struggle with critical thinking skills.
- Instruction often follows a text adoption scope and sequence rather that building resources to effectively bring EL students to standard.
What the Research Says about Math Success
According to the Strengthening Student Educational Outcomes (SSEO) from Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), the Washington State Mathematics Menu of Best Practices (see page 18) gives guidelines on what it takes to be successful in changing mindsets and the way we approach mathematics in education.
A focus from computation and memorization to conceptual understanding, procedural skills and fluency and application. A mindset shift from mathematics success is for an elite few to the concept that mathematics success is an achievable goal for all students.
With this information in mind, your team decides to try a small test of change for the remainder of this year. This small test of change will focus on learning and practicing new mindsets. Here’s what your sub goals or tasks might look like:
Sub Goal 1
Provide professional development to the math team and administrative staff on how to identify and shift mindsets.
Target Date: March 11, 2019
Person Responsible: Math Coach
Sub Goal 2
Provide math students with training on how to identify and shift mindsets.
Target Date: March 25, 2019
Person Responsible: Math Team
Sub Goal 3
Practice mindset shifting exercises in math classroom from April 1 – June 1.
Target Date: June 3, 2019
Person Responsible: Math Team
Sub Goal 4
Provide walkthroughs to determine percentage of classrooms implementing the practice of mindset shifting exercises.
Target date: Monthly April – June, 2019
Person Responsible: Math Coach
Sub Goal 5
Evaluate the effectiveness of mindset shifting exercises in math classrooms and determine next steps.
Target Date: June 5, 2019
Person Responsible: Principal, Math Team, Math Coach
Important Note: Progress monitoring goals are included in your sub goals.
- If this small test of change is successful, you might consider scaling this to others within your school.
- A math next step may be to continue using mindset shifting exercises and begin work on components of an effective math classroom that focuses on contextual understanding, procedural skills and fluency, and application.