WINSS Successful School Guide
 Continuous School Improvement
School Improvement Planning Tool

 

Tips for Using the School Improvement Planning Tool

The School Improvement Planning Tool can help streamline the complex work of school improvement leadership teams. The Tool, based on the Characteristics of Successful Schools and the data retreat process, guides teams through a step-by-step process to review data, make hypotheses about areas of concern, set improvement goals to address concerns, identify and implement strategies to meet goals, and evaluate success.

Instructions for Using the School Improvement Planning Tool

How can schools, districts, and CESAs use the School Improvement Planning Tool?
What are the benefits of using the School Improvement Planning Tool?
How does the School Improvement Planning Tool enhance the data retreat process?
What data does the School Improvement Planning Tool provide?
What other data should our school improvement leadership team consider?
How can the School Improvement Planning Tool be used in a team setting?
How much time will it take to develop a plan using the School Improvement Planning Tool?
Is our online school improvement plan confidential?
Can a school identified for improvement use the Tool to meet federal requirements?

Strategies for School Improvement Leadership Teams

Who should be on the school improvement leadership team?
How can we develop an effective school improvement leadership team?
What other data should our school improvement leadership team consider?
What are the planning steps a team goes through in using the School Improvement Planning Tool?

How can schools, districts, and CESAs use the School Improvement Planning Tool?
The School Improvement Planning Tool was developed for use by school improvement teams at the building level. It can also be used by school districts and CESA staff.

It is important to note that the tool should be used by a team and not an individual. The analyses and discussion the tool requires of school staff, parents, and community members on your school improvement team will strengthen your plan, build relationships and support for school goals, and directly impact the success of student learners in your school.

At the school level, the School Improvement Planning Tool can be used to analyze disaggregated student achievement and behavior data, and compare the performance of students within the school by gender, ability, socioeconomic status, race, languages spoken, and grade level. School-level teams can also compare many aspects of their student achievement data to that of other schools in the district, schools in the state, and past years' performances.

Schools which use the online Characteristics of Successful Schools Surveys can also compare perceptions of school strengths and areas needing improvement reported by parents, teachers, administrators and other staff, and community members.

The online School Climate Surveys can add students' perspectives to team considerations for school improvement.

At the district level, under the leadership of the district administrator or school board president, the School Improvement Planning Tool can be used to generate school district goals, goals shared across school buildings in the district, or common areas needing improvement in the district.

District leaders can review the performance of individual schools over time, compare school performance to state and national trends, and set district improvement goals and monitor effects to achieve them.

Cooperative Educational Service Agency (CESA) staff can provide access to the School Improvement Planning Tool during data retreats to help teams record consensus decisions about goals, improvement strategies, and evaluation criteria.

If the CESA staff member facilitating the data retreat has passwords for all participating teams, he or she can continue to monitor the progress of teams and help advance them through the school improvement planning process once teams return to their schools.

What are the benefits of using the School Improvement Planning Tool?
The Tool:

  • Allows your team to conduct continuous, ongoing school improvement planning year-round. Your team will enjoy easy, online access to completing, evaluating, and refining school improvement plans at your convenience. The Sample Calendar offers ideas for school improvement planning month-by-month.

  • Uses a research-based process of team participation, analysis, and consensus-building. Based on the Characteristics of Successful Schools and the data retreat process, the tool uses a proven model of data-driven decision making through thoughtful exploration of hypotheses. It solicits and tests the best thinking of team members.

  • Places a vast array of comprehensive, online data at your fingertips. Utilizing the resources of the DPI's WINSS (Wisconsin Information Network for Successful Schools) Web site, the tool guides teams through step-by-step consideration of online student achievement, behavior, and demographic data. Teams can build in local data as they develop goals and plans to help all students succeed.

  • Can be used to create a plan that meets federal requirements for Schools Identified for Improvement. The tool contains links to the federal criteria for school improvement plans to help you check your work and assure that you are meeting requirements.

  • Can be used in conjunction with data retreats facilitated by CESA staff or others. Data retreats can jump-start the school improvement process available to teams year-round.

  • Captures the essential steps of a good planning process. The Tool is a guide, organizer, and recording device to help school improvement leadership teams as they explore, analyze, and select strategies to meet identified goals.

How does the School Improvement Planning Tool enhance the data retreat process?
A CESA-sponsored data retreat is a good place to begin assembling and analyzing basic information used in the school improvement plan. Ideally, a school improvement team would begin using the Tool at a data retreat where CESA staff are available to facilitate discussion and analysis of data. The Tool was designed to augment the data retreat process and help teams continue the improvement planning when they return to their district.

What data does the School Improvement Planning Tool provide?
All data about your school that is already online in WINSS will be automatically included in the review data portion of the Tool. This includes student achievement data, student behavior data, and perceptions data.

Users who have compiled information about their school or district online using enGauge, the Characteristics of Successful Schools Surveys, and the School Climate Surveys also have online access to that information.

What other data should our school improvement leadership team consider?
Your team may also have some local information it wants to consider, including district goals or a strategic plan, results from local assessments not covered by the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exams (WKCE), or printed copies of item analysis or detailed reports from the Wisconsin Student Assessment System (WSAS). Some Wisconsin schools have also conducted the National Education Association's Keys to Excellence for Your Schools Surveys. Your team may want to bring along copies of these items to work from in completing its school improvement plan.

How can the School Improvement Planning Tool be used in a team setting?
At least one team member assigned the task of recording information, needs a computer with Internet access. It is also helpful to have an LCD projector available so all team members can simultaneously view graphs, discussion questions, and other screens in the School Improvement Planning Tool. Suggestions for managing the logistics of working online with a team include the following:

  1. Use a computer and data projector to enable everyone to see the computer screens and what is being typed in during each step of the process after group discussions.

  2. Print out screens of the steps in the School Improvement Planning Tool and have the team work offline. Ask a designee to enter the information.

  3. Several teams could be given the same project password and work on different sections of the plan at different times. Someone would need to prioritize collective concerns.

  4. Assign smaller teams or committees to each develop their own, separate plans. Aggregate plans into one master plan by copying and pasting into the master.

How much time will it take to develop a plan using the School Improvement Planning Tool?
The time each team takes to complete the School Improvement Planning Tool will vary. Most teams will spend, similar to the data retreat process, about three days reviewing and discussing data. Additional time will be needed to reach consensus about improvement goals and strategies, and evaluating criteria.

Some teams go through the whole process at once, working many hours during consecutive days. Other teams meet for a few hours at a time over several weeks or months. Either way, teams have continual online access to data and to their school improvement plan as they complete it. The Tool also allows teams to return to, review, and make changes to their plan. See the Sample Calendar for ideas on planning to use the School Improvement Planning Tool.

School improvement is a process that can be achieved only through consensus. Arriving at consensus about concerns, strategies, goals, and evaluation takes time and should not be sacrificed for the demands of a rigid timeframe.

Is our online school improvement plan confidential?
Yes. Before beginning to use the School Improvement Planning Tool, the person assigned the role of project manager, or leader/facilitator, of each school improvement leadership team is asked to create a password. Only persons who know the password have access to view or edit your school's online improvement plan.

Can a school identified for improvement use the Tool to meet federal requirements?
Yes. Schools identified for improvement should complete the same process as any other school, keeping in mind the federal plan requirements.

Who should be on the school improvement leadership team?
A school improvement leadership team should be a small but representative group. Members should plan to meet regularly, at least once every four to six weeks. The role of this team is to gather feedback from all interested parties and bring those perspectives back to the team to make improvement decisions.

Suggested leadership team members include:

  • The building principal
  • Teachers representing different grade levels or disciplines
  • Special education representative
  • Parent and/or community representatives
  • Pupil services representative
  • Curriculum and assessment leader from the school or district

The diverse membership of effective leadership teams encourages the team to:

  • Gather important data from multiple perspectives.
  • Diffuse leadership across stakeholder groups.
  • Engage in rich and fruitful discussion that represents a wide variety of viewpoints within the school community.
  • Sustain the effort during the school year.
  • Successfully carry out targeted goals and activities.

How can we develop an effective school improvement leadership team?
See Team-Building Activities for School Improvement Leadership Teams.

What are the planning steps a team goes through in using the School Improvement Planning Tool?
The Tool is organized around the Characteristics of Successful Schools and the data retreat process. The Tool includes data about your school related to each of the characteristics; Evidence of Success, High Academic Standards, Standards of the Heart, Vision, Leadership, Professional Development and Family, School, Community Partnerships.

The School Improvement Planning Tool comprises seven steps to assist school teams in designing continuous improvement.

STEP 1: Review Data and Identify Concerns
In this step, the School Improvement Planning Tool automatically provides links to data about your students and school that currently exist on the WINSS Web site. Data is organized in seven categories corresponding to the Characteristics of Successful Schools. As you go through each data set, you can type in your concerns about student performance or other issues, and the program saves them for further review and refinement in Step 2. In addition to data that exist on WINSS, the School Improvement Planning Tool suggests other local data sources to review for concerns.

STEP 2: Review and Refine Concerns
Once the school improvement leadership team decides it has reviewed a sufficient amount of data, it is ready to move to Step 2. It's likely that a wide array of concerns have been identified in Step 1. In Step 2, those concerns are reviewed, refined, combined, or deleted all together so that the school improvement leadership team has a concise list of the most important concerns members want to discuss and address.

STEP 3: Prioritize Concerns
It is likely that even after the list of concerns has been refined, it is still quite long. In this step, the school improvement leadership team designates the priority concerns that will be addressed in the improvement plan. The goal in this step is to choose a small number of the most pressing concerns that will be the focus of the improvement plan. Concerns that are not designated as a priority for immediate improvement are retained within the program so that they can be addressed at a later date.

STEP 4: Make Hypotheses
To effectively address a concern, the team must understand why the problem is occurring. Why are certain groups of students performing poorly? Why do some students miss school regularly? In this step, the team begins to look for the underlying causes of each priority concern. The team suggests possible causes or hypotheses and then finds more data to support its hypotheses.

STEP 5: Set Goals
In this step, the team reframes the priority concerns as improvement goals. If only 20 percent of white male tenth graders are scoring proficient or advanced in language arts, what is the goal for improving the performance of these students? What percentage of white males will score proficient or advanced? By what date? This step requires the team to write an improvement goal for each priority concern.

STEP 6: Identify Strategies
The strategies are those programmatic or systemic changes that your team will implement to reach your improvement goal. They should directly address the contributing factors identified when the team generated hypotheses for the priority concerns. In this step, the School Improvement Planning Tool allows a team to identify an unlimited number of strategies to reach each improvement goal.

STEP 7: Evaluation Criteria
To ensure that the improvement plan is having the desired effect, the School Improvement Planning Tool requires users to establish evaluation criteria for each improvement goal, as well as for each strategy. The evaluation criteria describe the data the team will collect and review to ensure that the plan is being implemented and to document improvements in student performance consistent with the improvement goals.

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