“Improvement” … In the educational world, it is a word we hear a lot. From creating plans to measuring progress, it is intertwined with everything we do. And with the lack of resources most school districts face, it’s no surprise that improvement efforts are often met with some resistance from staff. Usually for good reason. That’s why it’s time for a slightly different approach: Continuous improvement.
What Is Continuous Improvement?
If you haven’t heard of continuous improvement before, put simply, it’s a way to make your current processes and practices as efficient and effective as possible. It gets to the root cause of a problem rather than just fixing the symptoms of it. There are a lot of ways to go about doing this, but the idea is that you are continuously making improvements when a problem is identified.
How Is Continuous Improvement Different Than Other Methods?
What sets continuous improvement apart from other improvement methods is that you learn past successes (or failures) and adjust your actions accordingly. The improvements you make can be small, gradual changes made when a problem comes up. Or they can be larger, more planned out changes that lead to significantly more savings in the end. The great thing about continual improvement is that it provides you with real results.
Here’s Why Every School District (Including Yours) Needs Continuous Improvement:
Time is a luxury your staff probably don’t have. This is especially true for your teachers. In addition to educating students, teachers spend numerous hours engaging with parents, completing paperwork, attend meetings, and performing other administrative tasks.
An American Federation of Teachers survey showed that time-pressure was ranked the highest everyday stressor teachers face in the workplace. Continuous improvement can help your district relieve that pressure by streamlining processes and making them as efficient as possible. This in turn gives your staff time to do the work that matters most.
Many times, when districts try to introduce improvements, staff don’t buy into it. If you’ve experienced this before, it’s likely because your staff didn’t feel included in the decision-making process. Continuous improvement, on the other hand, gives everyone the opportunity to be involved.
When your staff are able to participate in decision-making, they are less likely to feel like they are being told what to do. They will also be more likely to be engaged in the work they do which benefits both your staff and your district. By better engaging your staff, they will be happier at work, produce better quality work, and be less likely to leave their job,
Like teachers and other school staff, your students’ parents also feel overwhelmed and short on time. Even if they are not directly involved in the initial continuous improvement efforts, they are a stakeholder in it. More efficient processes for staff often means parents will reap the benefits too. When parents feel supported and feel like there is time valued, it will strengthen their relationship with your school district.
Student Achievement and Engagement
There are many factors that affect how engaged your students are. A big one is the level of connection and trust they have for school staff. If your students feel like their concerns are heard and that they have adults who genuinely believe in them, they will be excited and ready to learn. Unfortunately, despite their best efforts, many school staff simply don’t have the time to dedicate to each and every student. The time efficiency continuous improvement creates helps ease that obstacle for your staff.
How Will Continuous Improvement Benefit Your School District?
That’s up to you. Whether you have a small process problem to solve or a larger systemic challenge, continuous improvement is what your district needs.
Today, I challenge you to write down one specific problem your district is facing and explore how continuous improvement can help you solve this. Ask yourself:
- Will this be a smaller, incremental improvement or a larger, breakthrough improvement?
- Who else needs to be involved in the improvement discussion?
- What is the first step you will need to take to make this happen?