by Rick Miller
The CORE Improvement Community is proud to be the largest education network in the nation using improvement science to close achievement gaps. This approach is helping us consider issues of race and equity, use data and a rigorous methodology, and take collective action to change education systems for our eight school districts. What we learn will benefit education systems across the state.
Our Improvement Community is working to meet two goals:
- Integrate the tools and technologies of improvement science with the power of education networks; and
- Focus on the urgent need to close the math achievement gap for African American and Hispanic/Latino students.
Improvement science is an approach to improving learning and teaching that is both user-centered and problem-centered. The overall goal: accelerate school improvement, using a rigorous approach that allows practitioners to “get better at getting better” by working in networked improvement communities.
Working with the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the CORE Improvement Community is now in the middle of our improvement journey. So far, we have convened three times, met virtually once and visited districts regularly since fall 2016 to accomplish the following:
- Identify the root causes of the achievement gaps we’re working to close;
- Examine the system and structures that led to creating those disparities in achievement in order to better understand the problem and the system that produces it;
- Ensure we’re seeing the system from the user’s perspective by talking with students, teachers and other key participants in our education communities; and
- Gain a broader perspective by analyzing local systems and bringing in the experts.
This summer we’ll begin to introduce small tests of change into our systems as we seek improvement. These interventions will be based on the theories we’ve developed so far about ways to close the achievement gap. Information we learn from testing our theories will be used to create another cycle of improvement work this fall.
Using disciplined inquiry to drive improvement will help the CORE Improvement Community create and rapidly assess our interventions, and adapt our efforts based on what we learn. As the Carnegie Foundation says, improvement cycles help us “learn fast, fail fast and improve quickly.” We’re building knowledge as we advance toward our goal.
Our network of eight school districts provides an ideal structure for organizing improvement efforts. The diverse perspectives and assets each district brings provide a wealth of ideas for testing possible improvements, comparing outcomes, and identifying patterns that lead to failure for disadvantaged students.
Improvement science lets us to look at the entire system that created disparities for students. We’re focusing on the students, teachers, administrators and families who face these issues every day, and involving them – as well as other experts – in creating effective change.
We’re especially excited about this work because we believe we’ll be able to scale and spread our improvements more effectively than ever before. Working together, we hold extraordinary power to accelerate learning and improvement in our schools.