There is no "silver bullet" for improving student achievement. It won't be found in a single initiative, program or strategy. Rather, deep and lasting improvements in teaching and learning that result in higher student achievement require building individual capacity, and school and district collective capacity to:

  • Create a culture of respect, caring and support balanced with a climate of rigor, responsiblity, and high expectations for student success;
  • Find, utilize, and draw meaning from student-level, school-level, and system-wide data;
  • Use multiple types of data to personalize learning to individual student needs;
  • Attract, retain and develop effective leaders at the classroom, school and district levels;
  • Develop professional learning communities where staff engage with one another to improve practice in the classroom

The articles and videos in this category will explore topics around how individual and collective capacity is built in schools and districts.


Over the past few years, the Michigan Department of Education, the Michigan State University Office of K-12 Outreach, the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators, and other partners worked to create the MI Excel Statewide System of Support (SSoS). In their role with MI Excel, MSU brought together a cadre of experienced and highly trained educators to mentor and guide Priority and Focus school and district personnel in their pursuit of higher achievement. The work was grounded in the research of nationally known scholars, including Joseph Murphy, William Parrett and Kathleen Budge, Franklin Campbell Jones, Lynn Sharrat, Rick Hess, Brett Lane and Bruce Wellman, all of whom were brought in by MSU to train the specialists and work with school and leadership teams from MI Excel schools and districts.

collaborative school improvementBook Author: Trent Kaufman,  Emily Grimm, and Allison Miller

Data-based decision making is standard practice in districts and schools across the globe. Often, school-level personnel find data-based inquiry to be challenging for a variety of reasons, many of which are beyond their control. Collaborative School Improvement is an examination of three districts' efforts to reform and support teaching and learning in their schools through an increased emphasis on building capacity at the school level to employ data-based inquiry into instructional reform strategies. The authors identify eight practices that districts can use in connecting with schools toward improving instructional performance.

Sharratt fullanBook Author: Lynn Sharratt and Michael Fullan (2009)

"There is no quick fix" to school turnaround, Lyn Sharratt and Michael Fullan say in Realization. Based on their research on a multicultural district in Ontario, Canada, Sharratt and Fullan developed the district's reform framework. The framework contains 14 parameters and reflects the premise that all students can learn. The 14-parameter framework creates a successful professional and student learning environment, where scaffolded learning supports practice and improvement moves from modeled to shared to guided to interdependent.

FullanBook Author: Michael Fullan (2014)

When posed with the question, "What type of school would you most like to teach in?" most teachers will cite two criteria at the top of their lists: the quality of their colleagues and the quality of their leadership. Although colleagues are crucial in establishing a working environment that a teacher wants to enter every day, it is the qualities and practices of the leadership that shape the progress and success of any given building. Principals are often called the second most crucial in-school influencer of student learning because they determine what practices to implement in order to maximize student achievement. The Principal: Three Keys to Maximizing Impact, by Michael Fullan, explains how the role of the principal needs to be repositioned to maximize the learning of all teachers and, ultimately, all students (pg. 6).

zavadskyBook Author: Heather Zavadsky (2012)

Efforts to improve school performance and student outcomes have traditionally focused on initiatives and strategies at the individual school level. Concerned about limitations of scalability and sustainability when focusing solely on one school, Heather Zavadsky’s School Turnarounds: The Essential Role of Districts explains the benefits of gaining a complex system vantage in addressing the priority functions of school turnaround. Zavadsky explores turnaround measures from a systems approach through examination of case studies of districts in Philadelphia, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Denver, Sacramento, and Long Beach. These case studies provide individual and collective support for the potential impact of involving central office in school turnaround efforts. In addition, the case studies provide analysis for diverse organizational structures and the manner in which they engage with state and federal policies. In School Turnarounds, readers will find how:

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