All posts by Jean Quigg

Standard 3- Focus on Systemic Factors-The Big Picture by Dr. Jean Quigg

            Have you ever heard a story and realized that you must not have heard the whole story? That is what we tend to do in school improvement efforts. We review or hear a few things that may be impacting performance and then start jumping to a solution that we heard worked in another school or school system. The result is failure. The work we do does not make sense because we have not taken the time to look at the big picture and identify the factors in the work, worker, workplace, and marketplace that are impacting performance. Therefore, the best solutions/interventions are not identified. Improvement does not happen.

            The work of Standard 3 focuses on uncovering and studying the multiple perspectives about the current situation in order to truly identify what is required for people to perform to the expected level and “get the doing done.”  This is a performance analysis. Then a cause analysis has to be done which means that we investigate and find the true reasons for underperformance and the barriers to reaching higher levels of performance. Once the causes are identified, then the most value added solutions can be found. This means studying and selecting the most suitable combination of performance interventions that will increase the odds that people can and will perform to the expected levels. For every problem there are at least three contributing factors or root causes and at least four possible solutions are required to fix the problem (Gilmore, 2008; Wile, 1996).

            I always told my staff that we had to take the time on the front side of planning in order to save time on the back side. If we do not focus on identifying ALL the factors impacting performance, do a cause analysis, and then identify a suite of the best solutions, time will be spent redoing and revising. Time is wasted in doing the work that is needed to improve student achievement. Our students do not have the time in their educational career for us to waste even a day in poor planning and implementation. Looking at the big picture before jumping to solutions will help to ensure that we efficiently and effectively impact student achievement!        



Maximizing ESSA’s 7-Percent Set-Aside for School Improvement by Carlas McCauley

Blog by Carlas McCauley, Director for WestEd’s
Center on School Turnaround

July 26, 2016

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) includes major revisions to the previous law in terms of how states design their accountability systems and provide supports to improve academic outcomes in their lowest-performing schools. One revision calls for Title I schools with at least one consistently underperforming subgroup of students, identified for targeted support and improvement (TSI), to develop and implement their own intervention plan that focuses improvement efforts on the particular subgroup(s) that caused it to be identified for TSI. The TSI plan must be approved and monitored by its district.

States must also identify at least 5 percent of their Title I schools for comprehensive support and improvement (CSI). Each CSI school must implement a school-specific comprehensive intervention plan that is developed by its district but is approved, monitored, and regularly reviewed by its state education agency (SEA).

ESSA eliminated the stand-alone School Improvement Grant (SIG) and replaced it with a required 7-percent state-level set-aside of Title I funds for school improvement, to be used for TSI and CSI schools. At least 95 percent of these school-improvement funds must go to local school districts, education service agencies, or consortia of districts, by formula or competition. Like SIG, the set-aside may be used to conduct a grant competition and permits an award for up to four years, which may include a planning year.

In this blog post describing the new regulations, Carlas McCauley, Director for WestEd’s Center on School Turnaround, helps SEAs navigate the new regulations to maximize the effectiveness of the 7% set-aside, including possible challenges and opportunities for states as they consider the best approaches to promoting and facilitating comprehensive, evidence-based activities that have the greatest potential to lead to success for all students.


Standard 2: Facilitate Deriving Meaning and Engagement by Ron Hurley, Kentucky Executive Coach

Guest Blogger, Ron Hurley

After analyzing data and making some judgments, I came to believe I had to get stakeholders “on board” with needing to make changes. My plan was to provide a clear picture, where the high school was in relation to growth and improving. I felt the only way to do this is to use the data and let stakeholders see the big picture through the lens of data.

I knew it was a must for everyone to be on the same page with the vision of where the school wanted to go and how to get there. I showed data to the teachers, administrative and community groups.  Marking out names and identifying data to protect individuals, I asked them to report how often they had reviewed data and then to formulate a plan after reviewing it.  This helped open some eyes. I divided data among groups that were either created or were already in place (subject areas, leadership team, community groups and a district team.)

I asked them to look for trends and patterns in the data. Once identified they were to provide a plan to improve what they had identified as a weakness in the patterns or trends. My idea was not only to make them recognize problems, but to make them a part of the solution. This would prove critical to the improvement that was going to take place at the high school.

Check back for the continuing story of improvement and how it happened.

Standard 1: Analyze and Apply Critical Judgement by Ron Hurley, Kentucky Executive Coach

“Mr. Hurley, the High School needs help to improve scores on the State Test.”

That was my greeting one morning from the Superintendent as I walked into my office.  She had been waiting for me to arrive.  As the Director of Curriculum and Instruction, I thought, she is correct.  So my response to her was “OK, what is the plan?”  Her response was “You are the plan. Let me know when you have the plan” and she walked of my office.

When the realization of my task hit me my mind started to go in a thousand different directions.  I finally realized I have to look at the high school data and make some judgements about what is working and what is not.

I started gathering data, all the data I could find that I thought would help! Test scores, attendance for both students and teachers, pass and fail rates, lesson plans, graduation rate, gap data, discipline referrals and anything else I could get my hands on.

As I poured over the data, I realized one source I had not looked at was teacher and administration views of what the problem revolved around or was their perception there was not a problem.  The “as is” state had to be defined.

I immediately began meeting with teachers and administrators to get their perception and ideas.  I also met with students and parents.  I knew whatever the plan was going to be had to have by-in from all stakeholders.  I found that for the most part both teachers, students and administration did not think there was a problem.  There was not an Instructional Leader, meetings for P.D. were social events, recognizing a need to change was not present and data was not driving instruction.  These were the four main issues I felt would have to guide my work and mold the plan to reach proficiency for the High School.

Stay tuned for my next entry to see how I moved forward

Standard 2- Facilitating Deriving Meaning and Engagement- The Child in All of Us- Dr. Jean Quigg

We have all been around small children at ages 2 and 3 and their favorite word is ‘why’? They are curious in exploring the world and trying to make meaning of all the things around them. We are constantly answering their questions of ‘why’. There were times when my daughters were two and three years old that I just wanted to say “because that is just the way it is”, but I knew that their cognitive growth in vocabulary and in concepts about the world depended upon my answers to them. How they handled future events in their lives also depended upon my answers and how they understood events and concepts in the world. There were times we had to dig into books and the internet to find the answers to their questions so that their understanding would be accurate and clear.
We are no different as adults. When we understand the things around us we can make better decisions and do a better job in the work we are doing. The same is true with facilitating school improvement. The research tells us that employees that are engaged are more productive and happier at work. When stakeholders understand the true “as is” state of their schools and the implications of their actions, they are more likely to ‘get the doing done’.
As school improvement facilitators we can help adults see that they may not have all the information needed for a valid decision or that what they perceive may not be totally accurate. Facilitating the gap between what they know or think they know and actual performance is a critical step for engaging others in the work. We have to create that curiosity to understand the current state, the performance factors affecting their work and the implications of their actions. We have to help them dig into the data and understand the data so that the ‘why’ of the work is clear. You will then increase the chances that stakeholders will understand what needs to happen next.
ESSA will require the engagement of all stakeholders in the planning process. How are you facilitating deriving meaning and engagement in your district or school?

Standard 1: Analyze and Apply Critical Judgment- Dr.Gale Hey

Dr. Gale Hey- Guest Blogger

A superintendent that I worked with for many years was fond of saying, “We are data rich and information poor.” That statement may resonant with you as you try to sift through all the data you receive practically on a daily basis. You are required to determine relevancy and urgency to your school improvement efforts. But how does one swim through that sea of data?

 Data tell us a story but not all of us see the same story. That is the down side of data; interpretation may vary from reader to reader. As a school leader, it is your responsibility to continuously drill down and ask questions. Never take the numbers at face value. Always provide your leadership team with the opportunity to lend their expertise in interpretation. Keep an open mind and remember you are looking for information that will light the path of your school improvement efforts.



Bibliography – Standard 1: Analyze and Apply Critical Judgment

  • Bambrick-Santoyo, P. (2010). Driven by data: A practical guide to improve instruction. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. (Chapter 4)
  • Bambrick-Santoyo, P. & Peiser, B. M. (2012). Leverage leadership: A practical guide to building exceptional schools. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Bernhardt, V. L. (2004). Data analysis for continuous school improvement. Larchmont, NY: Eye On Education.
  • Breidenstein, A., Fahey, K., Glickman, C., & Hensely, F. (2012). Leading for powerful learning: A guide for instructional leaders. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Croteau, R. J. (Ed.). (2010). Root cause analysis in health care: Tools and techniques (4th ed.). Oakbrook Terrace, IL: Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.
  • Datnow, A. & Park, V.  (2015). Data use for equity. Educational Leadership, 72(5).
  • Four Instructional Leadership Skills Principals Need. (2015) Blog posted by Concordia University- Portland, College of Education.
  • Hattie, J. (2015). High impact leadership. Educational Leadership, 72(5
  • Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers: Maximizing impact on learning. London: Routledge.
  • Hattie, J. (2014, August 28). John Hattie – Instructional Leadership.
  • James-Ward, C., Fisher, D., Frey, N., & Lapp, D. (2013). Using data to focus instructional improvement. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ASCD).
  • Marzano, R. J., Warrick, P. B., Simms, J. A., Livingston, D., Livingston, P., Pleis, F., Heflebower, T., Hoegh, J. K., & Magaña, S. (2014). A handbook for high reliability schools: The next step in school reform. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.
  • Marzano, R., Waters, T., & McNulty, B. (2005). School leadership that works: From research to results. Alexandria, VA.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
  • Murphy, J. (2011). Essential lessons for school leaders. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Corwin. Sinek, Simon. (2009). Start With Why. New York, New York, Penguin Group.
  • Sharratt, L., & Fullan, M. (2012). Putting FACES on the data: What great leaders do! Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press. (Chapter 5).
  • Stronge, J. H., Richard, H. B., & Catano, N. (2008). Qualities of Effective Principals. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development.
  • The Effective Principal. (2012) Mendels, P. JSD, The Learning Forward Journal, 33(1).
  • Tools for Learning Schools. (2015). JSD, The Learning Forward Journal, 18(2).
  • Wallace Foundation. (March 2015). Ensuring the Implementation of a Rigorous Curriculum in Every Classroom Prepared by the Georgia Leadership Institute for School Improvement for the Principal Professional Learning Community, as part of the Wallace Foundation’s Principal Pipeline initiative.


Standard 1: Analyze and Apply Critical Judgment – Identifying all the Pieces to the Puzzle – Dr. Jean Quigg

As a superintendent, I found that helping people determine what data was needed to analyze the “as is” state in their school had to be an intentional process.  I sometimes got the look that said, “Are you kidding me? What does THAT have to do with our school improvement efforts?” After the data was collected and analyzed in relation to its impact on the school and efforts to improve student achievement, the “aha” moment always resulted. It is important that a baseline be established by critically looking at all data to determine what has possibly impacted student achievement. In addition, it is not until all data is disaggregated in various ways that the puzzle pieces can be combined to reveal the whole picture.

Many times we forget that data other than test scores can impact factors that do affect what is happening with students, teachers, or the community. Although the school cannot control all the factors in a child’s life, intentionally identifying and analyzing those factors that are in or out of the control of the school can help in determining all the players and their impact so that interventions selected will have the best chance of success. Knowing all the factors in the school’s reality helps school improvement teams understand the barriers that are impacting the work.

The factors we cannot control cannot become excuses. They simply help the school work around those uncontrollable factors to still make a difference with all children. Just as we teach compensation skills to children with disabilities, we compensate for those things that we cannot control to improve, because failure is not an option in the business of educating children.

What data do you collect and analyze so that you have all the pieces to the puzzle in school improvement? Are you critically analyzing that data to determine a valid baseline so that progress can be determined?

Discussion Group- Standard 1-Analyze and Apply Critical Judgment

When you are working in a school or school system, you have to know the current or “as is” state and understand the performance gaps before you begin to engage others in the process of analyzing data and planning improvement. How do you facilitate the collection, analysis, validation, corroboration, and interpretation of quantitative and qualitative data regarding the multiple factors impacting student, teacher, leader, and school performance?  Share examples of your work in analyzing and applying critical judgment.


Joe Austin, Director of Accountability and Assessment, City Schools of Decatur,Georgia

LAUNCH!™ training has provided CSD participants with a collegial and risk-free environment in which they can reflect upon their past and current practices with their peers. This experience has allowed CSD leaders to pool their collective expertise into the creation of a highly functional learning community in which creative problem solving is valued.

In addition, we learned that as we enter new roles and positions the way in which we work must evolve.  This training helped us to understand that a building leader, central office leader and independent consultant must tackle   a school improvement task differently. Jean and Deb helped us to understand the difference between being a facilitator of school improvement vs a line administrator charged with the task of school improvement. The facilitation protocols and tools can easily be adapted for almost any situation.