How to Form School Improvement Plans

School improvement plan is a continuous process that school districts use to monitor school progress over time and to ensure that all school reach high standards of excellence. As the name suggests, the idea is to have a plan in place for improving the overall environment of the school. This takes commitment from educators, students, parents and administrators.

Different states and school districts have different requirements for School Improvement Plans. There are regulatory requirements and indications of how many forms need to be submitted. Here we are talking about the general idea of school improvement plans and a broad outline that is useful to achieve a good plan.

Schools are around lesson plans, worksheets and study skills but they are also about community, social engagement, good infrastructure and exciting extra-curricular activities. A good school improvement plan should take stock of all these elements in the school - data should be collected to evaluate the present status of everything from student reading levels to gym facilities. This is a solid starting point to form a good school improvement plan.

Once there is complete awareness of where things stand, the next step is to figure out the end goal. It is good to have a clear idea of long-term and short-term goals as the long-term result will often have to happen after sequencing some more immediate end results. For example, if the idea is to make the school technologically high achieving it may involve getting teacher trained in the use of specific software. So, short-term goals are a good way of breaking up a big agenda into manageable smaller pieces.

Once there is a clear idea of where the school is headed, it helps to research and understand the paths that other schools have taken. This is a matter of educating ourselves on best practices. There is often plenty of documentation to indicate the strategies that have been successful. By researching these, it is possible to lay out a plan that is not re-inventing the wheel. While each school does have figure things that work for its unique community, it is possible to learn from the experiences of others and to make choices that will maximize existing resources. This can help save a lot of time and money while laying out a plan for implementation. It is a good idea to get all the key players' approval for the implementation plan because without people buying into the idea, the proposal will not be successful.

It is a good idea to have a monitoring system while the plan is being implemented. This will allow for checks and balances along with the implementation. If a strategy sounds good on paper but is a failure in practice, active monitoring can prevent students or teachers wasting too much time and effort on a certain way of acquiring numerical literacy. Trying to introduce technology in a social studies classroom to move forward with the technology agenda can be a disaster if the basic study skills needed are not yet in place with that group of students. A teacher should have the flexibility to decide on how far to stick with the plan and it will help to have a monitoring system that allows the teacher to offer this feedback. This openness and flexibility are keys to making the teachers and other implementers feel a sense of ownership of the school improvement plan.

As a final step there should be an evaluation at the end of a given period of whether the school is heading in the right direction. School improvement plans are by nature cyclical and there is no real beginning and end but the idea is to track progress to make sure that the school community is reaching or trying to reach high performance levels.