To help assess an organization’s growth and progress along the continuum of improvement as it relates to each strategic area of focus and indicators, the consortium has identified four stages of development. These stages are applicable to school districts and individual schools.
This stage describes a school system that is beginning to recognize the need for change in a strategic area. Increasing discussion of this need is evident, but the system has not yet decided what actions to take to bring about the change. Frequent debates occur about the advisability of the change, and district policy is often silent regarding the nature of the change.
This stage describes a school system that has some pockets of change under way. These initiatives have emerged from discomfort with current practices in some settings. The discomfort is not yet systemic, and the pilot change efforts often tend to emerge from the bottom up within the system. They tend to be isolated from each other, but are beginning to get some broader debate and attention at the policy and administrative levels regarding their effects and possible consequences for the system.
This stage describes a school system that has made a formal decision to implement an improvement process. It is integrating significant strategic changes across the entire system, moving from isolated to systemic changes in policy, management and instructional practices. The system generally operates from the best of what is known about highly effective organizations. Such systems are widely recognized as leaders in strategic improvement and even called on for advice in shaping state policy. While the system’s strategic improvements are well defined and carefully implemented, a district at this stage continues to focus on making the changes truly pervasive across the system, including engendering strong understanding, support and collaboration from the broader community.
This stage describes a school system that demonstrates unusually high levels of student and organizational performance. It is constantly pushing the envelope and continuously learning from its data and experience, never totally satisfied with current levels of organizational effectiveness. The system also monitors trends within and outside the community to determine where new policies, practices and paradigms might be needed down the road. It expends considerable efforts in planning for these adjustments. Some might call this level “world class” in that such exemplary practices are attainable, but unmatched by most other educational systems around the world. Further, because it is recognized for its accomplishments, a system at this level often leads broader efforts in improving quality of life for children, youth and families within and outside its local community.