Continuous Improvement is a set of principles and practices to help educators “get better at getting better.” Marshall’s Continuous Improvement team uses these tools to tackle intricate, systems-level problems in K-12 education. Currently, we support a multi-year Networked Improvement Community (NIC) to make dramatic gains for Black and Latinx students with disabilities experiencing poverty.
Marshall is a part of the Networked Improvement Community for Students with Disabilities (NIC). Made possible by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and alongside technical assistance providers SWIFT Education Center, NIRN, RTI International, and SRI International, the NIC’s goal is to systematically improve the way our education system serves Black and Latinx students with disabilities experiencing poverty and bring these solutions back to school systems everywhere. The pilot community is made up of 10 charter management organizations that collectively serve more than 75,000 students around the country.
Public schools across America struggle to meet the diverse needs of students, particularly those farthest from opportunity. When marginalization intersects with disability, students often face low expectations, are systematically segregated, denied access to college and career curriculum, and do not receive sufficient support to obtain a high school diploma and pursue their dreams. Nationwide, students with disabilities represent 13.7% of all enrolled students — totaling almost 7 million students in the 2017-18 school year.
As a network, we have the opportunity to change that story for these students by applying the science of improvement to identify positive deviants, share best practices, and scale solutions across the system.
The NIC pilot community collectively serves more than 75,000 students around the country. Learn more about our work.
The NIC Playbook is a practical guide to the continuous improvement process with illustrative examples, descriptions, and tools.
Read about our work with charter management organizations in our network.
Summit Public Schools has always valued research-based model design and improvement. In the 2013-2014, we began formally learning about improvement science through working with the Carnegie Foundation’s Student Agency Improvement Community (SAIC).
Two years later, we conducted our first fully-embedded internal improvement efforts to reduce the inequity in academic outcomes for our English Learners, which resulted in a 50% reduction in the “gap” of incomplete course grades across the network. This impact was recognized with the Carnegie Spotlight on Quality in Continuous Improvement.
Through our work with English Learners, we realized there was a more foundational issue to address. As we continued to grow our expertise in systems and structures for improvement, data collection and analysis, and synthesizing and disseminating actionable knowledge, we refocused our efforts on the population of students furthest behind grade-level in literacy and numeracy.
Today, we are honored to have the opportunity to provide support to others as they are beginning, or taking the next steps in, their own improvement journeys.
We use the tools of continuous improvement to identify students who are positioned furthest from opportunity within a system and partner with young people and community members to improve the system. This approach marries the technical and adaptive expertise of improvement science with the philosophy of targeted universalism to drive system improvements that produce more equitable learning environments and outcomes.
Because all communities are different, we must be adaptive to a range of needs. The specific roles and responsibilities, systems and structures, and processes and protocols must be tailored to the people they serve. Each community also has its own working norms, knowledge and expertise, relationships, and localized best practices that must be built into the Continuous Improvement process.
Improvement efforts start with a Problem Statement that defines a systemic problem experienced by students. We create a specific and measurable goal, or Aim, to guide our collective effort in solving the problem. Commonly understood and constantly revised Theories of Action guide where and how teams can introduce changes to reach their Aim. Through rigorous testing and measurement, we codify those learnings into Change Packages so that others can enact the changes as they spread and scale.
Marshall Street launched the Continuous Improvement initiative in 2019, using the learnings from Summit Public Schools. Since 2013, Summit has used the tools of continuous improvement to make sizable gains in student outcomes. Our work in reducing inequity in academic outcomes for our English Learners was recognized with the Carnegie Spotlight on Quality in Continuous Improvement.
As Marshall, we continue to grow our expertise in systems and structures for improvement, data collection and analysis, and synthesizing and disseminating actionable knowledge. Today, we are part of a nationwide networked improvement community for students with disabilities.
In the Fall of 2016, Summit launched a continuous improvement initiative focused on English Language Learners, resulting in a 50% reduction in the achievement gap. We share our learnings in this brief, originally published for the Aspen Institute.
Director of Improvement Programs
Our Networked Improvement Community is a unique collective of educators, school leaders, technical assistance providers and content experts unified in our Aim to improve learning experiences, environments and outcomes for our students, in particular our students at the intersection of race, class and ability. The power of our Network is our people, and the emerging best practices that are shared rapidly across the Network to ensure we are making gains each day for our students.
A veteran Special Educator and Structured Literacy Teacher, Stephanie brings her classroom expertise to her work every day as the Director of Improvement Programs at Marshall. Previously, she served as a K-5 Resource Specialist and Lead Teacher in San Ramon Valley Unified School District, where she was also a Board-appointed voting member of the Community Advisory Committee. Before that, Stephanie worked as an Education Specialist at Aspire Public Schools. Outside of work, Stephanie is passionately involved with the Junior League of Oakland-East Bay and currently serves on its Board of Directors.
A first-generation college student and a seasoned educator with over ten years’ experience, Nykeisha is dedicated to the vision of dismantling oppressive systems that permeate minority communities. Her desire to provide students with a type of holistic education — one that she was not afforded — drives her in her role as an Improvement Advisor with the NIC. As a young Black woman, she embraces her identity and the value of her voice. She graduated from Southern University and A&M College, the illustrious Baton Rouge HBCU, and began her career as an educator through Teach for America, where she developed her passion for education. Nykeisha is a lifelong learner who truly seeks to empathize and lead from the heart.