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Continuous School Improvement. Mark A. Smylie University of Illinois at Chicago ESC of Cuyahoga County, Ohio Leadership Series February 10, 2011. Starting Points. “Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda.” A “work in progress”. The ubiquity of it all. Opportunity knocks.

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Continuous School Improvement


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    1. Continuous School Improvement Mark A. Smylie University of Illinois at Chicago ESC of Cuyahoga County, Ohio Leadership Series February 10, 2011

    2. Starting Points • “Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda.” • A “work in progress”. • The ubiquity of it all. • Opportunity knocks.

    3. A Presentation in Five Parts • The context and call for CI. • The meaning of CI. • Processes of CI. • Organizational design for CI. • On becoming a CI school. From Continuous School Improvement (Corwin Press, 2010).

    4. 1. The Context and Call • “The future ain’t what it used to be.” • Schools are unprepared for an uncertain and demanding future. • Schools must change in fundamental ways. • The call for continuous improvement.

    5. Shifting Terrains, Growing Discontinuity • Transformation of jobs and the economy. • Politics and control of education. • School funding. • Characteristics and conditions of children and youth.

    6. And if that wasn’t enough… Growing demands for: • New learning. • Higher performance for all. • Greater accountability.

    7. Up to the Challenge? • “Built for comfort not for speed.” • The “happy place” of equilibrium and stability. • Low tolerance for ambiguity. • Institutional grammars and organizational genetics. • External expectations, encapsulation, and conformity. • External threat? “Circle the wagons!”

    8. The Call for CI Need for schools to adopt organizational forms and processes for: • Meeting changing demands. • Engaging uncertainty and environmental instability. • Becoming more flexible, adaptable, and strategically proactive. • Bringing about their own learning and ongoing transformation.

    9. “In the beginning…” • Scientific management (late 19th early 20th centuries). • Statistical methods of quality control in industry (1920s and 1930s). • Early quality movement in U.S. military and Japan (during and after WWII). • “Reliability engineering and quality assurance” (1950s and 1960s). • TQM (1980s and 1990s).

    10. Early Application to Schools • Mid-1960s. The “self-renewing school”. National Training Laboratories. • Late 1960s and 1970s. DDAE (Dialogue-Decision Making-Action-Evaluation). I/D/E/A. • 1970s and 1980s. Self-development and renewal strategies in OD. • 1980s and 1990s. TQM.

    11. 2. The Meaning(s) of CI An evolving concept. Multiple definitions. • A set of values and beliefs. An organizational orientation. • A strategic organizational process. • An organizational property. The very definition of organization. • A means and an end. • A noun and a verb. • All of the above.

    12. Common Defining Elements • Regular and ongoing. • Oriented toward incremental changes. • Intentional and strategic. • Both proactive and reactive. • Focused on the whole organization. • Inclusive of all organizational members. • Oriented toward mission and core values. • Integral to organizational identity, design, and basic functions.

    13. Logic of CI Making continuous, strategic, incremental changes helps organizations to: • Adapt to changes in internal and external environments. • Improve performance and effectiveness. • Promote innovation and innovativeness. Small strategic changes can add up to fundamental changes.

    14. Additional Benefits • Reduce the need for and costs of radical change. • Reduce “threat-rigidity”. • Mediate isomorphic tendencies. • Enhance productive organizational learning. • Avoid vicious circles and create virtuous ones.

    15. A Counter Logic Revolutionary or “punctuated equilibrium” theories of change. • Power of inertial forces. • Adaptive change not enough. • Need for perturbations or “big jolts”. • Example of school “turnaround”.

    16. Counter Logic Countered • Inevitability of punctuated equilibrium and the need for perturbations? • CI as strategic alternative? • What comes after perturbation? What is the new and better equilibrium? • Ambidextrous organizations?

    17. Evidence Regarding CI Studies of businesses, industries, nonprofits, government agencies, schools. • Characteristics of high-performing organizations. • Characteristics of improving and innovating organizations. • Outcomes of particular CI processes.

    18. Findings of CI Effectiveness Positive contribution to: • Organizational performance and improvement over time. • Adaptation to changing environments. • Reduction in need for radical change. • Moderation of stresses and costs of significant changes when made. • Organizational creativity and innovation.

    19. 3. Processes of CI • A focus on process models not specific strategies. • General considerations. • Quality of implementation. • Hybrid processes and strategies. • Equifinality. • Danger of goal displacement. • “Location” in organization vis-à-vis core operations.

    20. The Basic Process Model “The Shewhart Cycle” (1939) Plan Act Do Check

    21. 1. Preparation for CSI Contemporary Example ANEA KEYS Continuous School Improvement (CSI) Model 2. Data collection/ organization. 8. Evaluating results 7. Monitoring implementation 3. Developing goal consensus 6. Professional development 4. Continuing assessment 5. Developing strategies

    22. Contemporary Example B Phase 1 Develop consensus on goals and assessments of students’ performance Phase 4 Phase 3 Hawley & Sykes, “Four-Phase Cycle of CI” Phase 2 Manage the implementation of promising practices. Collaborative, evidence-based problem solving. Continuing assessment of students’ performance. Provide opportunities for focused professional development. Identify resources to solve problems and address alternative solutions.

    23. Contemporary Example CBoudett, City, & Murnane, “The ‘Data Wise’ Improvement Process” 4 Dig into Student Data 5 Examine Instruction 6 Develop Action Plan 3 Create Data Overview Inquire Act 7 Plan to Assess Progress 2Build Assessment Literacy Prepare 8 Act and Assess 1 Organize for Collaborative Work

    24. Essential Elements • Clarify mission, vision, core values. • Determine current state, gaps, reasons for gaps. • Develop goals and objectives to address gaps. • Identify strategies and develop implementation plans. • Implement strategies. • Assess implementation and outcomes. • Rinse and repeat.

    25. Key Qualities and Considerations • Preparation for CI. • Teaching and student learning at the center. • Primacy of data throughout process. • Attention to data quality and capability. • Applied to whole school. • Integrated into core functions.

    26. 4. Organizational Design for CI Rationale: • CI processes need particular organizational supports. • Products of those processes need organizational supports. • Both processes and products need an organization “designed for change”, a continuously improving organization.

    27. Design Considerations • Unitary whole of form and function (noun and verb). • Formal and informal elements. • Open systems perspective. • Design as systemic, dynamic. • “Preferred organizational states of being”.

    28. 10 Design Elements • Norms, values, and a culture for CI. • To ground and guide CI as “work” of the organization. • CI as an expected and valued aspect of organizational life, part of the organization’s definition. • Culture of process, prospecting, experimentation, risk-taking, invention, intellectual “play”.

    29. 10 Design Elements (con’d.) 2. Human capital. • Knowledge, skills, and attitudes of individuals and groups for CI. • Knowledge, skills, and attitudes of individuals and groups to act upon “products” of CI. • Means for ongoing human capital development.

    30. 10 Design Elements (con’d.) 3. Organization of people and work. • Design of roles, relationships, tasks. • Structured flexibility, interdependence, “bounded” autonomy for learning, joint problem solving, experimentation. • Communication and interaction. • Proximity to environment. • Transition processes.

    31. 10 Design Elements (con’d.) 4. Distribution of authority and influence. • Diffused across roles and levels. • Expansive not “zero-sum”. • Upward and downward. • Putting influence and discretion “close to the problem”. • “Distributed leadership.”

    32. 10 Design Elements (con’d.) 5. Relational trust. • Predictability, dependability, and social-emotional support for uncertainty and risk-taking. • Trust of colleagues. • Trust of leadership. • Trust of organization.

    33. 10 Design Elements (con’d.) 6. Accountability and reward system. • Logic: What is inspected and rewarded is attended to. • Alignment with CI as an organizational priority. • Extra resources to encourage experimentation and risk-taking.

    34. 10 Design Elements (con’d.) 7. Capacity for data analysis. • Knowledge and skills to collect, obtain, analyze, and interpret data for CI. • Ability to use data in decision making. • Organization’s capacity to generate and manage good data.

    35. 10 Design Elements (con’d.) 8. Fiscal and physical resources. • Appropriate for context. • Sufficient and sustained. • Beyond general operations. • “Slack” for CI. • Time.

    36. 10 Design Elements (con’d.) 9. Internal management systems. • Support for day-in-day-out CI work. • Someone’s job assignment. • Conduct and coordinate flows of information, ideas, communication. • Manage processes of problem identification, experimentation, improvement. • Environmental scanning and future probes. • General management practices.

    37. 10 Design Elements (con’d.) 10. Leadership from the top. • Linchpin for all design elements. • Promote core values, identity, culture. • Set goals, priorities, and expectations for CI. • Promote development of organizational capacity and resources for CI. • Manage boundaries and external environment. • Champion CI inside and out organization.

    38. Comprehensive Design Models • Self-designing organization (Susan Mohrman & Thomas Cummings, 1989). • Design requirements and dimensions (Paul Lillrank et al., 1998) • The “B2change” organization (Edward Lawler & Christopher Worley, 2006).

    39. CI “In Action” School cases: • Shilling Elementary School, Newark Unified School District, CA. • Will Rogers Elementary School, Santa-Monica-Malibu Unified School District, CA. • Gustav Fritsche Middle School, Milwaukee, WI. • Blue Mountain High School, Ontario, Canada.

    40. 5. Becoming a CI School Considerations…. • Good starts important. • No one true path but some paths better than others. • Contexts and capabilities matter. • Becoming a CI school a CI process. • Little guidance, few lessons. But….

    41. “Steps” in Getting Started • Identify, clarify, and promote mission, vision, and core values. • Stabilize core managerial functions. • Establish an imperative for CI. • Adopt or develop a systematic CI process or “technology”. • Develop human capital, organizational, and leadership capacity for CI. • Establish meta-routine for assessing CI.

    42. Issues and Dilemmas • What mission? What core values? • Paradox of stability for change. • “Threshold” capacity. • External leadership and support. • Need for revolutionary change to become a CI school?

    43. Endings • Reflections. • Questions. • Benedictions.