Plans That Work: Tools for Supporting School Improvement Planning

Well-designed school improvement plans can guide and catalyze transformative practices in public schools. It is the direct responsibility of schools and districts to create and implement improvement plans for schools identified under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). State educational agencies (SEAs) often play a significant role by establishing rules or guidance about the form and content of these plans. For example, SEAs are required to monitor the use of school improvement funds in all districts receiving these funds, regardless of school identification. For schools identified for Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI), SEAs are required to approve improvement plans and monitor their progress.

Districts with one or more schools identified for CSI are required to develop, in collaboration with stakeholders, a school improvement plan for each identified school that:

  • is based on a school-level needs assessment;
  • is informed by all indicators in the State’s accountability system and performance against SEA-determined long-term goals;
  • includes evidence-based interventions;
  • identifies resource inequities, which may include a review of district and school-level budgeting, to be addressed through implementation of the improvement plan;
  • is approved by the school, district, and SEA, and upon approval and implementation, is monitored and periodically reviewed by SEA.

For many years, SEAs and district have recommended that school leaders use school improvement plans to directly inform and guide day-to-day improvement efforts. Some local leaders have used school improvement plans as the cornerstone of improvement efforts, spurring more strategic uses of data and collaborative implementation efforts. Districts are required under the ESEA to align their school improvement plans to identified needs to help ensure that school improvement plans are used as a meaningful tool for change.

SEAs can work to ensure that CSI school improvement plans are useful and meaningful drivers of change in how they distribute grant funds and monitor implementation. Districts can ensure CSI plans are useful and meaningful in how they manage needs assessments and select strategies for CSI schools.

This online tool provides practical resources that SEA and district leaders can use to refine and implement school improvement plans as part of ESEA-related activities. The graphic below shows the four stages of school improvement planning: Needs Assessment, Strategy Selection, Grant Fund Distribution, and Implementation and Progress Monitoring. This online tool includes promising practices, state examples, and additional resources for each of these four stages. Click on the Needs Assessment icon below to begin.