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Continuous Improvement Resources

Resources and tools to assist local educational agencies, schools, and local stakeholders as they plan and implement their continuous improvement efforts through their Local Control and Accountability Plan or other improvement planning processes.

The Continuous Improvement Resources Web page is dedicated to providing high quality, timely, and responsive resources and tools that are designed to assist all local educational agencies (LEAs) and their schools to meet the needs of each student served, with a focus on building capacity to sustain continuous improvement and effectively address inequities in student support and outcomes.

Suggested Use: The resources and tools provided below can be used to assist all LEAs, schools, and local stakeholders as they plan and implement their continuous improvement efforts through the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) process, or other improvement planning processes. At a minimum, the information, including resources and tools, can be used as discussion starters to support the continuous improvement process. The California Department of Education welcomes feedback on the resources and tools provided on this Web page so they may be updated and evolve to better address the needs of the users. Please contact the staff member at the bottom of the Web page with feedback and questions.

Resources by Topic

Continuous Improvement Frameworks

Utilizing Integrated Resources to Implement the District and School Improvement Cycle and Supports External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF; 1MB)
This practical guide has been endorsed by the Center on School Turnaround at WestEd and the Building State Capacity and Productivity Center as a way to braid key resources together to implement an improvement cycle within a broader system of support. Included are tools, templates, and coaching tips to assist LEAs through the 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—starting point that informs the LEA’s direction and structure. Can be included as one part of a more comprehensive needs assessment.

Four Domains for Rapid School Improvement: A Systems Framework External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF; 1MB)
A recent brief by the Center on School Turnaround at WestEd that shares, in practical language, the critical practices of successful improvement in four domains, or areas of focus, that research and experience suggest are central to rapid and significant improvement. The four domains are: (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. This tool can also be used as a framework for prioritizing and conducting needs assessments for improvement efforts.

Four Domains for Rapid School Improvement: Indicators of Effective Practice External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)
This document is intended to facilitate educators’ ability to take and track action within each domain and provides the specificity of indicators for each practice identified in the framework. The indicators presented in this document are expressed in plain language so school, district, and state teams can identify with greater certainty whether a relevant practice from the four domains is standard and routinely operational or whether more work is needed.

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)
The Engagement Playbook is built on the intersections between Leading by Convening, a blueprint for authentic engagement in school improvement developed by 50 national organizations and adopted by the National Center for Systemic Improvement, and the Four Domains for Rapid School Improvement, a framework developed by the national Center on School Turnaround (CST). This toolkit focuses on capacity and efforts to engage stakeholders across the system to support rapid improvement and is intended to support states, districts, and schools in their efforts to improve schools. Readers of this toolkit may use it to build capacity across the domains.

Continuous Improvement In Education External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF; 3MB)
This white paper provides a preliminary view into how three educational organizations have undertaken continuous improvement and includes the tools and methodology used in their efforts (Sandra Park, Stephanie Hironaka, Penny Carver, and Lee Nordstrum. Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, May 2013).

Toolkit for a Workshop on Building a Culture of Data Use External link opens in new window or tab.
This field-tested workshop toolkit guides facilitators through a set of structured activities to develop an understanding of how to foster a culture of data use in districts and schools. Supporting materials—a facilitator guide and agenda, a slide deck, and participant handouts—provide workshop facilitators with all the materials needed to lead this process in their own setting (Nancy Gerzon and Sarah Guckenburg. Regional Educational Laboratory Northeast and Islands, April 2015).

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Local Educational Agency Self-Assessment and Inventory

District Readiness to Supporting School Improvement External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)
Establishing conditions for improved student outcomes requires fundamental changes in district-level practice. This guide can assist the LEA and local stakeholders in assessing its readiness for bringing about sustainable systemic change.

Differentiated Assistance Protocols for Local Educational Agencies (LEAs): Facilitation Guide External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF; 9MB)
This guide produced by the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA) 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 Fidelity Integrity Assessment [FIA]), and Root Cause Analysis into One Identified Area.

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Needs Assessment and Root Cause Analysis

Tools created and adapted by the CDE’s School Improvement and Support Office for needs assessment and understanding root cause analysis.

Tool A:

Tool B:

Tool C:

Tool D:

Tool E:

Additional Needs Assessment Resource

Using Needs Assessments for District and School Improvement External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF; 1MB)
A tactical guide that describes the core components for developing and administering needs assessments for improvement.

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Selecting Evidence-based Strategies for the Continuous Improvement Process

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 the LEA with making evidence-based decisions to support their continuous improvement planning process.

Tools for Selecting Evidence-based Strategies

Tool A:

Tool B:

Additional Evidence-based Continuous Improvement Resources

Evidence-based Interventions Under the ESSA
The CDE’s Evidence-based Interventions Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Web page includes resources to explain and define “evidence-based” interventions under the ESSA, as well as useful links for selecting evidence-based interventions.

Results First Clearinghouse Database External link opens in new window or tab.
The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative, a project of The Pew Charitable Trusts and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, working with states and counties, created the Results First Clearinghouse Database to assist policymakers at all levels of government in identifying effective, evidence-based programs and making data-driven budget decisions. This one-stop online resource provides an easy way to find information on the effectiveness of various interventions as rated by eight national research clearinghouses. The database is not intended to serve as a comprehensive list of all interventions that are worthy of funding, but to assist policymakers as they consider the multitude of factors that inform budget and policy choices.

Evidence for ESSA Database External link opens in new window or tab.
The Evidence for ESSA Database was created by the Center for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins University to help identify programs and practices that meet the ESSA evidence standards. It provides a free, authoritative, user-centered database to help anyone – school, district, or state leaders, teachers, parents, or concerned citizens – easily find programs and practices that align to the ESSA evidence standards and meet their local needs.

What Works Clearinghouse External link opens in new window or tab.
The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) is an initiative of the Institute of Education Sciences, the independent, nonpartisan statistics, research, and evaluation arm of the U.S. Department of Education. The WWC provides educators, policymakers, researchers, and the public with a free, centralized source of scientific evidence on what works to improve student outcomes. Its goal is to provide educators and decision makers with the evidence that they need in order to make evidence-based decisions. The WWC focuses on the results from high-quality research to answer the question “What works in education?”

Specific WWC Web site sections or tools that may be of particular interest to decision makers include:

  • Find What Works, a comprehensive source for information about what the WWC’s systematic reviews of the research say about education programs, products, practices, and policies, with special tools that allow users to compare interventions. Also, a new tool allows users to seek out information on whether research on an intervention has been conducted with students similar to theirs.

  • Intervention Reports, which summarize existing research on a specific program, product, policy, or practice, and Intervention Snapshots, which present an intervention in an easy-to-access format.

  • Practice Guides, with recommended practices, based on an expert panel’s synthesis of reviews.

  • Reviews of Individual Studies, with a search tool that allows users to find individual studies that have been reviewed by the WWC. Search filters allow users to screen by topic area, study design, and WWC study rating, to create more precise evidence searches.

Best Evidence Encyclopedia (BEE) External link opens in new window or tab.
The Best Evidence Encyclopedia is a free website created by the Johns Hopkins University Center for Data-Driven Reform in Education (CDDRE). It provides summaries of scientific reviews of education interventions as well as links to the full text of each review.

Education Resources Information Center (ERIC) External link opens in new window or tab.
ERIC is a free, online library of education research, sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) of the U.S. Department of Education. It includes abstracts of research studies and some full-text documents.

Using Evidence to Create Next Generation High Schools External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)
This document from the U.S. Department of Education’s Next Generation High Schools: Redesigning the American High School Experience External link opens in new window or tab. Web page highlights six general evidence-based strategies to improve high schools: participation in rigorous curriculum, small learning communities/small schools of choice, career academies, dual enrollment, early college high schools, and college and career counseling. These strategies can be used to create Next Generation High Schools that improve important student outcomes, such as high school completion and readiness for college and career.

Everyone Graduates Center Roadmap to Evidence Based Reform for Low Graduation Rate High Schools External link opens in new window or tab.
This road map, currently under development by the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University's School of Education, is designed to provide a brief synthesis of what is known about the needs of low graduation rate high schools and evidence-based remedies that have been shown to work in them. Rather than a criteria-based practice guide like the What Works Clearinghouse, it will be an experience-based road map informed by the existing evidence base.

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Other Resources and Tools

California Collaborative for Educational Excellence (CCEE) External link opens in new window or tab.
The CCEE offers personalized, immediate, and evidence-based support to county offices of education, school districts, and charter schools in order to improve learning for all students. In addition to their personalized services, they conduct trainings External link opens in new window or tab. which are archived on their Web site, as well as provide a California Content Library External link opens in new window or tab. of vetted digital resources to equip school communities with the knowledge, skills and tools to understand the state's Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP), and California School Dashboard.

Local Agency Systems Support Office (LASSO)
The Local Agency Systems Support Office at the CDE is responsible for supporting districts in understanding the program planning and accountability requirements of the LCFF, including the development and implementation of the LCAP as articulated in statute and regulations.

Collaboration in Common External link opens in new window or tab.
Collaboration in Common is a Web site that connects California educators. Educators, teams, and organizations can discover colleagues and communities as well as curate, organize, and share resources to further professional learning.

Quality Schooling Framework
The Quality Schooling Framework (QSF) is a resource for California educators to find timely tools and practices that guide effective planning, policy, expenditure, and instructional decisions at all schools and districts. California’s QSF is a holistic conceptual model for gauging and supporting a school’s effectiveness. It connects critical dimensions of quality schools to help figure out what is, or is not, working to support student success. It provides practical research and evidence-based practices that can be used to plan and implement strategies to strengthen the human, fiscal, and organizational environments.

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. The California Scale Up MTSS Statewide (SUMS) Initiative External link opens in new window or tab. provides a process for LEAs to assess their strengths, coordinate supports to their LCAPs, and align their MTSS efforts with the eight state priorities. Awardees of the California SUMS Technical Assistance Grants work to develop, align, and improve academic and behavioral resources, programs, supports, and services utilizing a coherent MTSS framework that engages all systems leading to improved student outcomes.

School Leadership Interventions under the Every Student Succeeds Act: Evidence Review External link opens in new window or tab.
This report by the Rand Corporation describes the opportunities for supporting school leadership under ESSA, discusses the standards of evidence under ESSA, and synthesizes the research base with respect to those standards. The information can guide federal, state, and district education policymakers on the use of research-based school leadership interventions; help them identify examples of improvement activities that should be allowable under ESSA; and support the rollout of such interventions. This report was updated in January 2017 to include Appendix C and again in December 2017 to include Appendix D.

Principal Leadership Professional Learning Module External link opens in new window or tab.
This Coaching and Developing Turnaround Leaders Module is a professional learning module from the Center on School Turnaround at WestEd. The module’s goals are to develop an understanding of the connection between turnaround leader competencies and the actions of successful turnaround leaders and to learn strategies for coaching and developing turnaround leaders.

Identifying, Selecting, and Retaining School Improvement leaders: How-to Modules External link opens in new window or tab.
These how-to modules developed by a partnership between The Center on School Turnaround at WestEd, the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders, Public Impact, and the University of Virginia Darden/Curry Partnership can assist LEAs in recruiting, selecting, developing, and retaining school improvement leaders.

School Improvement Grant Technical Assistance and Guidance
Although this CDE Web resource is designed to assist California LEA sub-grantees receiving the School Improvement Grant, it also includes valuable resources for all schools and LEAs under the “Resources By Topic” heading. Topics include: Planning, External Partnership, Leadership Effectiveness, Teaching and Learning, Student Non-academic Support, Family and Community Engagement, and Support and Oversight.

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Questions:   Leigh Ann Sabicer-Chadha | | 916-319-0322
Last Reviewed: Thursday, November 29, 2018
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