Skip to main content
California Department of Education Logo

Continuous Improvement Resources

Resources and tools to assist all local educational agencies, schools, and local educational partners as they plan and implement their continuous improvement efforts through the Local Control and Accountability Plan and school planning processes.

Overview

Continuous improvement in education is a broad term used to describe the ongoing efforts of local educational agencies (LEAs), county offices of education (COEs), and individual schools as they work to analyze, understand, and address local needs over a period of time. The work is most effective when conducted in on-going/continuous cycles.

The Continuous Improvement Resources web page is a Level 1 resource in California’s System of Support that is dedicated to providing resources and tools to all and schools as they plan and implement their continuous improvement efforts through the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) and school planning processes. At a minimum, the information, including resources and tools, can be used as discussion starters to support continuous improvement efforts as LEAs, COEs and schools work toward identifying and meeting the needs of each student they serve, selecting evidence-based interventions (EBIs), strategies, and activities, improving student success and performance, building capacity to sustain continuous improvement, and addressing inequities in opportunities and outcomes.

The California Department of Education (CDE) does not mandate, prescribe, or endorse any particular practice, model, or activity on this web page. The resources gathered are provided for the user’s convenience and review. The CDE welcomes feedback on the resources and tools to better address the needs of the users. Please contact the office at the bottom of the web page with feedback and questions.

Continuous Improvement Frameworks

These tools and resources provide general information to LEAs, COEs, and schools about continuous improvement frameworks in education.

Resource Description
Four Domains for Rapid School Improvement: A Systems Framework External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF; 1MB)
This resource from the Center on School Turnaround at WestEd shares the critical practices of successful improvement in four domains: (1) Leadership, (2) Talent Development, (3) Instructional Transformation, and (4) Culture Shift. Each domain offers examples of how each practice would be put into action at each level of the system.
Four Domains for Rapid School Improvement: An Implementation Framework External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF; 3MB) This resource describes how to implement and use the Four Domains for Rapid School Improvement framework in practice.
Four Domains for Rapid School Improvement: Indicators of Effective Practice External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF) This resource provides indicators of effective practice for each of the domains outlined in the Four Domains for Rapid School Improvement framework. These indicators will assist educational partners in identifying whether a relevant practice associated with the domains is standard and routinely operational, or whether more work is needed to become an effective practice.
Four Domains for Significant and Sustainable Charter School Improvement: A Systems Framework for the Charter Context External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF; 2MB) This resource for charter school leaders and their boards is based on the Four Domains for Rapid School Improvement framework. This resource presents an improvement framework to organize and guide both policy and action across four areas of charter school operations critical to student learning.
District Readiness to Support School Improvement External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF) This resource assists LEAs and schools in assessing its readiness for bringing about sustainable systemic change based on the Four Domains for Rapid School Improvement framework.
Utilizing Integrated Resources to Implement the District and School Improvement Cycle and Supports External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF; 1MB)

Using the improvement cycle as a framework, this document integrates five resources into a concise and practical guide for constructing a cohesive system of support for continuous improvement. Included are tools, templates, and coaching tips to assist LEAs through the continuous improvement cycle. Key tools include:

  • Tool B: Coaching Techniques and Questions—protocols to facilitate deep discussions and probing questions to push thinking and challenge old ideas.

  • Tool C: LEA Self-Reflection to Support School Improvement—a starting point that informs the LEA’s direction and structure.
California's Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) External link opens in new window or tab. California’s MTSS is an integrated, comprehensive framework that aligns academic, behavioral, and social-emotional learning in a fully integrated system of support for the benefit of all students. MTSS offers the potential to create needed systematic change through intentional design and redesign of services and supports to quickly identify and match to the needs of all students, leading to improved student outcomes.
Toolkit for a Workshop on Building a Culture of Data Use External link opens in new window or tab. The conceptual framework of this workshop draws on five research-based elements known to support an effective culture of data use. The workshop toolkit contains structured activities to develop an understanding of how to foster a culture of data use in districts and schools. Supporting materials include a facilitator guide and agenda, a slide deck, and participant handouts.
Module 1A: Overview of Continuous Improvement and the LCAP (PDF; 1MB) This resource provides an overview of continuous improvement as it relates to the LCAP.

 

Needs Assessment

The needs assessment process enables LEAs, COEs, and schools to examine and understand gaps in service as it relates to student performance and school outcomes. These tools and resources provide information and guidance to support needs assessments and root cause analyses.

Resource Description
Needs Assessment and Root Cause Analysis FAQs
This resource lists frequently asked questions (FAQs) intended to introduce LEAs to needs assessments and root cause analysis.
Using Needs Assessments for District and School Improvement External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF; 1MB) This tactical guide describes the core components for developing and administering needs assessments for school improvement.
Needs Assessment Guidebook: Supporting the Development of District and School Needs Assessments External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF; 1MB) This guidebook describes the elements and implementation phases of an effective needs assessment process and how to identify the root cause of local challenges and needs.
Using Root Cause Analysis as Part of the Continuous Improvement Process in Education External link opens in new window or tab. This resource provides information on root cause analysis as part of school improvement, including both high-level guidance and detailed examples of what root cause analysis can look like at the school level.
The Comprehensive Needs Assessment Webinar External link opens in new window or tab. (Video; 59:15) This webinar describes how to leverage data and tools through six key steps of conducting a comprehensive needs assessment.
Module 2A: Planning a Needs Assessment for Continuous Improvement (PDF; 1MB)

This resource introduces the needs assessment, including guidance and questions to consider when planning needs assessments for use within the LCAP and school planning processes.

Module 2B: Designing a Needs Assessment for Continuous Improvement (PDF; 1MB) This resource provides information including guidance and questions to consider when designing needs assessments for use within the LCAP and school planning processes.
Module 2C: Introduction to Root Cause Analysis (PDF; 1MB) This resource introduces the root cause analysis, guidance, questions, and tools to consider when determining the root causes of improvement needs for use within the LCAP and school planning processes.
Worksheet 1: Planning Your Needs Assessment (DOC; 1MB) This resource lists seven guiding questions to assist users in planning for a needs assessment.
Worksheet 2: Designing Your Needs Assessment (DOC; 1MB) This worksheet lists various types of data points for users to consider when designing a needs assessment.
Worksheet 3: Designing Your Needs Assessment (DOC; 1MB) This worksheet lists various types of data collection methods for users to consider when designing a needs assessment.
Worksheet 4: Designing Your Needs Assessment (DOC; 1MB) This worksheet lists the roles and responsibilities of various educational partners for users to consider when designing a needs assessment.
Worksheet 5: Designing an Effective Onsite Analysis Meeting (DOC; 1MB) This worksheet lists six guiding questions for users to consider when designing an effective onsite analysis meeting.
Worksheet 6: Designing Your Needs Assessment (DOC; 1MB) This worksheet lists a series of decision point questions for users to consider when designing a needs assessment.
Worksheet 7: Key Questions for Implementing a Needs Assessment (DOC; 1MB) This worksheet lists key questions for users to consider when designing a needs assessment.
Root Cause Analysis Toolkit (DOC; 1MB) This toolkit provides the protocol for seven types of methodologies for conducting a root cause analysis.
Fishbone Diagram Template External link opens in new window or tab. (PPT; 1MB) This document provides two different fishbone diagram templates for use in conducting a root cause analysis.
Driver Diagram Template (PDF; 1MB) This document provides a template to identify goals and areas of focus, i.e. “drivers” to achieve identified goals.
High Tech High Graduate School of Education Protocols and Tools for Supporting Improvement Science External link opens in new window or tab. (DOC; 1MB) This document is the original source of previously listed and adapted resources that provides protocols and tools for supporting improvement science.

 

Selecting Evidence-based Interventions

Evidence-based decision making and reflection are at the core of the continuous improvement process and are used in each step of the continuous improvement cycle. Using data and evidence keeps the continuous improvement process guided toward the desired outcome. These tools and resources can assist LEAs, COEs, and schools with making evidence-based decisions and selecting evidence-based interventions (EBIs).

Resource Description
Non-regulatory Guidance: Using Evidence to Strengthen Education Investments External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)
This resource from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) is intended to assist State educational agencies, LEAs, schools, educators, and partner organizations in selecting and using evidence-based activities, strategies, and interventions, as defined in Title VIII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015.
Understanding ESSA Tiers of Evidence Video External link opens in new window or tab. (Video; 05:46) This video explains the four tiers of evidence, as outlined in ESSA, and how LEAs and schools can use them to rate an intervention’s potential effectiveness on improving student outcomes.
Evidence-based Interventions Under the ESSA This web page includes information and resources to explain and define EBIs according to the ESSA.
Evidence-Based Improvement: A Guide for States to Strengthen Their Frameworks and Supports Aligned to the Evidence Requirements of ESSA External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF; 2MB) This guide provides a set of tools to help States and LEAs understand and plan for implementing evidence-based improvement strategies and provide support in the evidence-based decision-making process.
Selecting Evidence-Based Practices for Low-Performing Schools External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF) This guide walks educational leaders through three action steps of the evidence-based practices selection process to ensure the evidence-based practices they select meet ESSA requirements and fit their specific needs.
Evidence for ESSA Database External link opens in new window or tab.

This database provides LEAs and schools with reliable, easy-to-use information on educational programs and practices that meet the standards of evidence in the ESSA.

What Works Clearinghouse External link opens in new window or tab. This database provides LEAs and schools with a centralized source of scientific evidence on what works in educational programs, products, practices, and policies to improve student outcomes. Included are special tools that allow users to compare interventions.
Center for School Turnaround and Improvement Library External link opens in new window or tab. This extensive library of evidence-based resources includes briefs, modules, publications, presentations, and tools aimed at supporting efforts to implement and sustain school improvement strategies.
Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development External link opens in new window or tab. This comprehensive registry of evidence-based youth development programs is designed to promote the health and well-being of children and teens. Programs in the registry are family, school, and/or community-based.
Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning Framework External link opens in new window or tab. This social and emotional learning (SEL) framework provides a foundation for LEAs and schools to apply evidence-based SEL strategies to their local communities.
Using Evidence to Create Next Generation High Schools External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)

This document from ED highlights six general evidence-based strategies to improve high schools and student outcomes.

Evidence-based Continuous Improvement Resources Rubric External link opens in new window or tab. (DOC) This resource contains a scoring rubric that LEAs and schools can use to determine the quality, relevance, and usefulness of a specific EBI.
Organizational Tool for Evidence-based Continuous Improvement Planning External link opens in new window or tab. (DOC) This organizational tool for LEAs and schools can be used to develop a plan for selecting EBIs.

 

Resource Equity

Equity is a critical component for the success of continuous school improvement efforts. These tools and resources can assist LEAs, COEs, and schools as they examine and implement various levels of equity within their organizations.

Equity Frameworks
Educational Partner Engagement and Leadership
Budgeting

Equity Frameworks

Resource Description
The Center for Transformative Systems for Equitable Educational Outcomes External link opens in new window or tab.
This California Collaborative for Educational Excellence center promotes three initiatives: to support LEAs in meeting goals for historically underserved students, identify and distribute promising practices of LEAs and COEs, and build up a system of support to improve education outcomes for all students.
Ways 2 Equity Playbook External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF; 4MB) This resource is a product of the California Statewide System of Support and draws on methods of continuous improvement in its approach to systems-based equity work. The resource includes an overview of major equity issues in education, and information, tools, and resources for LEAs and schools as they prepare for and engage in equity work.
Building Equitable Learning Environments External link opens in new window or tab. This comprehensive library of resources and recommendations is for educators, parents, and policymakers to use in creating classrooms where every student feels valued and can develop fundamental life skills.
Ten Dimensions of Equity External link opens in new window or tab. This equity framework includes 10 dimensions to equip users with a foundation for unlocking better, more equitable school experiences for students. The dimensions discussed in this framework include equity areas such as school funding, school climate, facilities, student interventions and supports, and instructional time.

Educational Partner Engagement and Leadership

Resource Description
Coaching and Developing Turnaround Leader Actions External link opens in new window or tab.
The goals of this module are to develop an understanding of the connection between educational leader competencies and the actions of successful educational leaders, and to learn coaching and development strategies. The resource includes a facilitator guide with handouts, PowerPoint presentation, and leadership plan.
Identifying, Selecting, and Retaining School Improvement leaders: How-to Modules External link opens in new window or tab. This resource includes materials to assist LEAs in recruiting, selecting, developing, and retaining school improvement leaders. The modules include facilitator guides with handouts and PowerPoint presentations.
The Engagement Playbook: A Toolkit for Engaging Stakeholders Around the Four Domains of Rapid School Improvement External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF; 1MB) This playbook focuses on capacity building and efforts to engage stakeholders across a system to support rapid improvement.
Educator Excellence – Equity Resources related to equity for teachers and administrators that are culturally diverse and are highly-qualified to meet California’s needs are available on the Equity tab of this web page.
Strategies for Equitable Family Engagement External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF) This resource provides guidance and examples across five major categories of evidence-based, equitable family engagement strategies for LEAs and schools as they work to ensure that equitable family engagement is included in their school improvement efforts.
Family Engagement Toolkit: Continuous Improvement through an Equity Lens (PDF; 2MB)

This toolkit provides LEAs with practical planning and evaluation tools that support efforts to engage families through an equity lens, particularly those of underrepresented and underserved students.

Local Control Funding Formula Priority 3 Family Involvement This web page contains various resources for engaging families of all students, including students with disabilities, in the educational decision-making process.
Elevating Student Voice, Agency, and Co-Creation External link opens in new window or tab. Student leadership and co-creation are crucial to racial equity in education. This resource looks at four essential elements of a successful student voice initiative and suggests ways to elevate students' perspectives and advance racial equity.

Budgeting

Resource Description
Support for Rapid School Improvement: How Federal Dollars Can Be Leveraged for Systematic Improvement External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)
This resource is part of the Four Domains for Rapid School Improvement series. It focuses on spending at the LEA and school levels and delves into often-overlooked federal funding sources that can be used to support local efforts to pursue rapid improvement.
Thought Leadership Forum Brief: Braiding Federal Funds Under Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF) “Braiding funds” means coordinating the use of multiple funding sources to support an initiative, in contrast to pooling, blending, or consolidating funds. This brief provides recommendations for braiding federal funds to support improvement efforts and a list of key resources.
Using ESSA to Improve the Fairness of School Funding External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF) This guide provides information and resources, including three action steps, to support educational leaders working to distribute funds fairly and to ensure funds are spent wisely, with the ultimate goal of closing achievement gaps and improving outcomes for all students.
Education Budget Strategies for Challenging Times: How California School Districts Are Addressing the Silent Recession External link opens in new window or tab. This resource describes how LEAs throughout California are addressing financial challenges and focuses on three existing budget strategies to ensure that limited resources are allocated to programs and initiatives that generate the greatest possible benefit for students.
Strategic Use of One-Time State and Federal Resources External link opens in new window or tab. This resource includes a three-part series of virtual learning sessions focused on how to strategically use one-time state and federal education investment funds in combination with ongoing resources to strategically invest in staff, plan for sustainability and transformational change, and ensure that funds are allocated and spent equitably.

 

Other

These tools and resources provide general information about the various supports available to assist LEAs, COEs, and schools in their continuous improvement efforts.

Resource Description
California’s System of Support
California's System of Support is one of the central components of California’s accountability and continuous improvement system. The overarching goal of California’s System of Support is to help LEAs and their schools meet the needs of each student they serve, with a focus on building local capacity to sustain improvement and to effectively address disparities in opportunities and outcomes.
Select Resources Available Through California’s System of Support This web page hosts a variety of useful resources from Lead Agencies, state agency partners, and the CDE that are designed to assist LEAs and schools in improving student achievement. Examples of resource topics include health and safety, social-emotional learning, career technical education, expanded learning, and support for all students.
California Collaborative for Educational Excellence (CCEE) External link opens in new window or tab.

The CCEE provides universal, targeted, and intensive supports and resources for LEAs through the work of their three Centers:

  1. The Center for Teaching, Learning, and Leading
  2. The Center for Innovation, Instruction, and Impact
  3. The Center for Transformative Systems

In addition to their personalized services, they conduct trainings and host a variety of resources on their web page.

Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) This web page provides LEAs with an overview of LCAP components and resources to support the planning, implementation, and evaluation of an LCAP.
Differentiated Assistance Protocols for LEAs Facilitation Guide External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF; 14MB) This guide produced by the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association was developed for LEAs identified for Differentiated Assistance under California’s System of Support. However, the protocols can be used independently by non-identified LEAs for support in Dashboard Analysis, Local Measures Analysis, System Analysis (which includes an LEA Self-assessment and the Schoolwide Integrated Framework for Transformation Fidelity Integrity Assessment [SWIFT-FIA]), and Root Cause Analysis into One Identified Area.
A Rubric for Assessing Schools’ Plans for Rapid Improvement External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)

This resource shares a rubric to help LEAs and schools create, organize, and assess improvement plans and efforts and help facilitate the creation of effective improvement plans. This rubric describes 12 key planning domains that support effective year-long or short-cycle school improvement plans.

 

Questions:   School Improvement and Support Office | SISO@cde.ca.gov | 916-319-0833
Last Reviewed: Wednesday, November 9, 2022
Recently Posted in Title I: Improving Academic Achievement
  • 2022–23 Public Release of Data File Letter (added 02-Feb-2023)
    Letter to County and District Superintendents of schools and Charter School Administrators for the 2022-23 Public Release of Data File letter.
  • 2022–23 ESSA Assistance Status Record Layout (added 02-Feb-2023)
    Field names and descriptions for the 2022–23 Every Student Succeeds Act Assistance Status Record Layout.
  • CSI Planning Summary (added 20-Jan-2023)
    Resource to assist local educational agencies (LEAs) in meeting Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) planning requirements.
  • Comprehensive Support and Improvement Webinars (updated 17-Jan-2023)
    Webinars related to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) grants for local educational agencies (LEAs) and county offices of education (COEs).
  • Final Apportionment for ESSA CSI COE FY 2020-21 (added 12-Jan-2023)
    Final Apportionment for Every Student Succeeds Act Comprehensive Support and Improvement County Offices of Education Fiscal Year (FY) 2020–21.