Approaches to Improvement

**Lewis, C. (2015). What is improvement science? Do we need it in education? Educational Researcher, 44(1), 54–61. Retrieved from

The author argues that improvement science may be a useful framework for school improvement efforts. Improvement science posits that for reform efforts to succeed they must address two types of knowledge, (1) basic disciplinary knowledge—or pedagogical practices—and (2) a “system of profound knowledge”—which refers to the variable contexts in which learning takes place. For instance, this system of profound knowledge accounts for variation in student and teacher knowledge and approach, differences in classrooms, schools, and districts. The improvement science framework forwards a Plan, Do, Study, Act cycle, emphasizing an iterative process. The author highlights two illustrative cases where improvement science has achieved measurable results: lesson study in Japan and the Community College Pathways Networked Improvement Community. 

**CORE Districts. (2017). A student-centered approach to math improvement at Fitz [Web log post]. Retrieved from

This article describes how a school in Garden Grove Unified School District implemented practices and principles of continuous improvement in their math classrooms. Teachers began by conducting empathy interviews with their students to better understand the issues in performance they saw. As a networked improvement community, they subsequently worked together to analyze the interview data, lesson plan, problem solve, and respond to the issues students identified. The teachers then began regular meetings and used rapid cycles of inquiry to continually monitor performance and adjust their teaching. The school has seen subtle increases in math achievement and plans to keep using improvement practices and assessing results.

CORE Districts. (2018). CIC 2017–2018 diagram version 3.1.  [Diagram of Core Improvement Community theory of action, provided by CORE Districts]. Available at

In this Theory of Practice Improvement—commonly known as a driver diagram—the CORE Improvement Community (CIC) has identified a theory of action to improve students’ math achievement and close the achievement gap between African American/Latinx students and White students. The theory identifies four primary drivers to improve math outcomes: (1) adoption of aligned curricular materials and resources; (2) classroom instruction that fosters student sense-making; (3) social and emotional learning, culture, and climate; and (4) teacher recruitment, hiring, and retention. The diagram also identifies several secondary drivers and change ideas as well. This is an internal working document.

CORE Districts. (n.d.) Draft CIC local improvement team arc SY 2018–2019: “Where the magic happens.” [Discussion version, timeline for the year, provided by CORE Districts]. Available at

The ARC of Learning for the CORE network shows how all the touch points and capability building efforts link together for the year. This is an internal working document.

Miller, R. (2017, June 23). CORE’s journey into the world of continuous improvement. [Presentation at California Collaborative Meeting 33.] CORE Districts. Retrieved from

These slides, presented at the California Collaborative on District Reform’s June 2017 member meeting, document CORE’s Journey into the world of continuous improvement while trying to improve math proficiency of African-American and Hispanic/Latino students, especially grades 4-8. The CORE Districts identified four potential drivers to improve mathematics outcomes: (1) aligning curriculum with assessments, (2) improving the quality of teaching in math, (3) integrating social emotional learning into math instruction, and (4) improving the human capital pipeline in mathematics. The CORE Districts started by looking at data growth and achievement in math performance to get a more complete picture of variation in school performance. They also used teacher and student interviews to identify six causes of the math gaps: self-perception and mindset, human capital challenges, teacher learning support, knowledge and skill of teachers and leaders, implicit and explicit bias among teachers, and curricular limitations. By looking at these data and using a continuous improvement approach, the CORE Districts continue to learn about the problem, how local systems contribute to those problems, and what makes for a solid theory of improvement for the performance gaps California students face in math.

WestEd. (2018). Math in Common evaluation [Web page]. Retrieved from

This excerpt from the Math in Common website provides an overview of the project and its districts. This community of practice is supporting districts as they implement the Common Core State Standards in mathematics and problem solve by using principles of continuous improvement. While every district is responding to issues specific to their context, the districts are all taking a system-wide perspective when viewing their issues and aiming toward district cultures that foster continual learning and improvement. For a full description of the initiative, please visit the link above.

**This document is considered a priority reading.