State Education Initiatives

Partnership Aims to Create Tracking Tool for School Improvement Work

An education project in Maryland is testing the Peter Drucker adage: "If you can't measure it, you can't improve it." Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Mid-Atlantic is working with the Maryland State Department of Education to develop a tool that tracks services and engagement received by schools that need the most improvement. Those services are delivered by the state's Office of Leadership Development and School Improvement (OLDSI).

The idea is to take the actions specified in the state's plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act and "correlating state supports with outcomes in the schools," according to a description of the project, provided by Project Director Natalie Lacireno-Paquet. The schools involved are typically the ones with the lowest performance on academic outcomes, student growth and other measures.

OSDSI provides coaching for school leaders and tools and resources through a state resource hub.

  • The project will research which "leading indicators" can be used to track school improvement; and

  • Which metrics to use in monitoring the state's implementation of support to schools under OLDSI.

"The point of developing a progress monitoring tool is not to collect new data, but to organize and use the data that are already available to track progress," explained Lacireno-Paquet.

The new tool is based on one already in existence, created by the Center on School Turnaround & Improvement. The "Four Domains of Rapid School Improvement" covers four areas:

  • Turnaround leadership;

  • Talent development;

  • Instructional transformation; and

  • Culture shift.

Each area has a set of expected outcomes and various steps (with milestones) that the state could take on its road to success. One example offered by Lacireno-Paquet offered an outcome in which all of the school's leaders and its local school system leaders show knowledge and capacity to implement their school improvement plans. A state action step might be for OLDSI to convene meetings of those individuals from all of the schools in need of improvement and the district leaders so they can share how they're implementing their respective school improvement plans. A milestone for that might be that 100 percent of the improvement schools and the district leaders participate in the professional development opportunities. The data source would include a schedule and documents for the PD, such as agendas and examples of tools and learnings shared.

REL and OLSDI will also jointly develop a guidance document to support the use of the tool they create. Then the state will use the tool to come up with a "comprehensive picture of the strategies in play to support school improvement and identify any need for mid-course corrections."

A more complete description of the project is openly available on the REL website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.