What is a School Improvement Plan?

What is a School Improvement Plan?
The Editorial Team February 6, 2013

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The task of educating the nation’s children is significant, and schools across the country face a variety of challenges in the pursuit of this mission. When a school fails to meet federal benchmarks in reading and mathematics for two years in a row, it is required to produce and implement a school improvement plan. Designed to address whatever weak areas a school suffers from, a school improvement plan is the first step in improving the quality of education that it provides.

What topics does a school improvement plan address?

According to the U.S. Department of Education, a school improvement plan must meet very specific requirements. It must encompass all areas where students are failing to meet requirements, and must address issues in a scientific and highly structured way. The following criteria, among others, must be included in a school improvement plan:

  • It must use strategies that are based on scientific research, strategies proven to improve the core academic areas in question
  • It must use policies that are the most likely to improve the areas in question, policies that also ensure that all groups of students will see improvement
  • The plan must establish benchmarks and measurements to verify that it is working. Objectives must be clearly stated and measurable
  • The plan must work to increase parental involvement in students’ schooling
  • The plan has to include extra activities when appropriate, such as after school programs and extensions of the school year
  • It must promote professional development for educators
  • It must include a teacher mentoring program

The Department of Education requirements for school improvement plans are quite extensive and detailed, and offer schools a road map on how to develop an effective approach to addressing academic challenges.

How long do the school improvement plans last?

It takes two years for a school to meet the requirements for needing a school improvement plan, and it takes two years for a school to work its way out of one. If the plan proves effective over a two-year period, and student scores meet the federal benchmarks, then the school is released from its improvement plan requirements.

Why do plans emphasize professional development?

Studies suggest that students learn more from highly qualified teachers, and professional development is necessary to stay on top of these requirements. Teachers who continue to stay up to date on developments in education are more likely to employ the best possible teaching methods, thus resulting in better educated students.

Why is teacher mentoring emphasized?

Statistics indicate that a large number of teachers never make it past their first five years of teaching. It is hoped that by pairing novice teachers with those who are more experienced, new teachers will remain in the profession longer. It takes time to become skilled at any profession, and teaching is no exception. The more skilled and experienced teachers that can be retained, the better quality education a school can expect to deliver.

Why do school improvement plans need parent involvement?

Studies show that students who have parents involved in their schooling perform better, and a school improvement plan works to emphasize this factor. Plans are required to explain how a school will encourage interaction between parents and teachers, as well as having parents involved in some of the decisions that are made in the school.

When parents feel invested in the education of their child, they provide a better foundation for the student to build from.

Who creates the school improvement plan?

The school will consult a variety of sources, including teachers, administration, parents, federal and state agencies and various experts.

When a plan is finalized, it is then reviewed by the Department of Education’s LEA before it is implemented by the school. When the plan is approved, the school will begin immediate implementation.

Effectiveness of the plans

For schools struggling to meet federal benchmarks for education in reading and math, a school improvement plan can prove to be very effective. By taking a close look at its weaknesses and determining scientific based approaches to addressing those weaknesses, a school can quickly improve the educational outcomes of its students.

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