In recent years, 'continuous improvement' has become a popular catchphrase in the field of education. However, while continuous improvement has become commonplace and well-documented in other industries, such as healthcare and manufacturing, little is known about how this work has manifested itself in education.
This white paper attempts to map the landscape of this terrain by identifying and describing organizations engaged in continuous improvement, and by highlighting commonalities and differences among them. The findings classify three types of organizations engaged in continuous improvement: those focused on instructional improvement at the classroom level; those concentrating on system-wide improvement; and those addressing collective impact. Each type is described in turn and illustrated by an organizational case study. Through the analysis, six common themes that characterize all three types of organizations (e.g., leadership and strategy, communication and engagement, organizational infrastructure, methodology, data collection and analysis, and building capacity) are enumerated.
This white paper makes four concluding observations. First, the three case studies provide evidence of organizations conducting continuous improvement work in the field of education, albeit at different levels and in different ways. Second, entry points to continuous improvement work are not mutually exclusive, but are nested and, hence, mutually informative and comparative. Third, continuous improvement is not synonymous with improving all organizational processes simultaneously; rather, research and learning cycles are iterative and gradual in nature. Fourth, despite being both iterative and gradual, it is imperative that improvement work is planned and undertaken in a rigorous, thoughtful, and transparent fashion.