Keeping pace with the advancements of the world is one of the greatest challenges for schools. Given the constantly evolving field of technology, the need for discernment as news stories flood in from online sources, and the ever-growing pool of resources for knowledge, students are faced with more complex situations and decisions, both academically and socially.

Where schools used to be required to simply update textbooks every ten years, they are now faced with the formidable goal of preparing students to enter a world that moves much more quickly and expects much more.

Continuous Improvement for Schools

The responsibilities of an educational leader extend from budgets and material procurement to student behavior and community relations. All of these individual tasks, however, support a singular focus: student achievement.

One of the most powerful ways that schools can support academic success is by creating and following a school improvement plan. In fact, one Michigan public school system believes, “School Improvement is the single most important business of the school. It is the process that schools use to ensure all students are achieving at high levels.”

A strong improvement plan is the result when the principal, teachers and staff ask the questions that relate to six important steps:

  1. Where are we now? How well is our school functioning? How well are our students functioning?
  2. What do we believe about how we teach and how our students learn? What is our true mission?
  3. What are our goals? What do we want our students to know, do and understand?
  4. How is our current system helping or hindering our goals?
  5. How can the teachers and administrators help students achieve these goals?
  6. How will we know when we have succeeded?

The answers to these questions form the outline of a plan for specific, intentional changes in instruction, curriculum and process which can, in turn, lead to improved teacher effectiveness and student success. Without such a plan, schools will most likely continue to make unorganized attempts to improve with limited or no measurable success. The well-thought-out school improvement plan, guided by a knowledgeable principal, is essential for academic achievement.

Continuous Improvement for School Leaders

Even the best school improvement plan, however, loses impact if the school principal is burned out and ill-prepared to lead the process. According to Education Week’s Arianna Prothero:

“The principal’s job has been called both the most important in a school building and the loneliest, and the stress it places on individuals is illustrated by its rapid turnover rates, especially in high-poverty schools.

“School leadership experts say that robust and ongoing training can alleviate those issues and help keep principals on the job, but professional development for school leaders is often bypassed for other pressing needs such as teacher training.”

The importance of professional development for principals and other school administrators and leaders cannot be overstated. Unfortunately, the quality of the ongoing training that is available is questionable, at best. Joseph F. Murphy, of Vanderbilt University said, “Most professional development for principals is not consistent with our best understanding of how learning occurs.”

Murphy goes on to say, “But if you can get the content and the structure and delivery right, it can be huge.”

Continuous Improvement Programs

The Master of Arts in Educational Leadership Online at Eastern Michigan University is one program that meets the needs of leaders looking for meaningful professional development. It is designed for those who are up to the challenge of improving their leadership skills. It is specifically for school leaders or experienced teachers who are ready for the next step.

One of the hallmarks of this degree program is its focus on training and developing principals who “act as agents of continuous improvement.” Whether you are currently in a position of principal or school leadership, or you want to move into a position of leadership, this degree will prepare you to lead your school in the design and implementation of an effective school improvement plan.

Upon graduation, you will have “gained the knowledge you need to manage school operations and resources and the skills to engage families and the community in meaningful, reciprocal and mutually beneficial ways to promote each student’s academic success and well-being.”

Learn more about the EMU online Master of Arts in Educational Leadership program.


Vassar Public Schools: District School Improvement Plan

ASCD: Six Steps to School Improvement

Education Week: For Principals, Continuous Learning Critical to Career Success

Education Week: Principal Turnover Takes Costly Toll on Students and Districts, Report Says