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.


As summer continues, school leaders are making their final preparations for the new school year in the fall. Summer is often the time where classrooms are scrubbed down, lockers are cleaned, and the hallways are stripped and waxed, but summer is also the time where leaders examine school efforts for the fall and map out their resources and supports for new and continuing initiatives. Hallinger and Heck (2010) suggests that along with strengthening leadership, school leaders must also improve the school's capacity for educational improvement in order to ensure that change interventions are successful.

The bottom line is ALL of us are committed to the success of ALL students, and ALL of us are willing to do things differently to achieve this.” (Comment from a Superintendent at the 2013 Focus Schools Summer Institutes.)

When a district leader makes this statement, it represents a marker in school improvement. It also reflects multiple levels of leadership from superintendent to principal to teacher levels and more. It implies a collaborative commitment across all general and special education staff, signaling a readiness to function systemically and holistically. It implies a willingness to take risks and step away from the old way of working. And it signals that all central office roles and functions are ready to support the improvement efforts. In short, it has the potential to create foundations for a culture of high expectations, shared leadership and real improvement in learning for each and every student.

Michigan’s struggling schools face a complex set of challenges. And while a school can take significant actions on its own to address these challenges, many are beyond the control of the school and require the intervention and assistance of the school district.

The Office of K-12 Outreach of Michigan State University’s College of Education is enjoying the seventh year of the successful Fellowship of Instructional Leaders program. The Fellowship provides educators tools they need to foster systemic improvement in their schools. Through the Fellowship, instructional leaders build their capacity to develop and focus substantive initiatives that improve student achievement.

Grant Chandler, Director of Professional Development for MSU MI Excel, Explains phase 2 of the Collaborative Learning Cycle.

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