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School Improvement

The Michigan Coalition of Essential Schools (MCES), a regional center for the Coalition of Essential Schools, aligns school change with the state School Improvement Framework by strengthening or creating a schoolwide professional learning community that collaborates, inquires, and reflects about teaching and learning.


The September, 2002 issue of Phi Delta Kappan includes a special section on school reform describing research from the Consortium for Policy Research on Education. The MCES School Improvement Model is founded on the elements for successful school reform described in the Kappan articles:  

  • There are clear and ambitious goals matched with such indicators of results as coherent education standards and sound measures of student achievement.
  • There is a change in the nature and organization of instructional practice (with instructional practice defined as the interactions of students-teachers-content-environment).
  • There is extensive investment in continuing professional development, strong curricula, and leadership in the school and system.
  • There are incentives and accountability providing a focus that increases energy devoted to instruction and increases personal satisfaction from increased student learning.

Improving student achievement is at the heart of the Coalition of Essential Schools (CES) Ten Common Principles and the MCES model. A framework supporting the principles is provided to examine and improve practices in four key areas: school organization, classroom practice, leadership, and community connections:  

  • MCES provides explicit training for the development of the school as a reflective learning organization focused on achieving clearly defined goals and indicators of success. The research by Newmann and Associates guides the building of professional learning community.
  • Research on classroom best practices will be studied and those practices will be appropriately adopted according to the needs of the students. The Michigan Curriculum Framework and Zemelman, Daniels, and Hyde's research on best practice, informs the changes in classroom practice.
  • Students, teachers, administrators, and community members must share in the leadership of creating and sustaining a culture of inquiry by placing students at the center of the educational experience.
  • Schools must develop and sustain meaningful, interactive relationships with their varied communities (i.e., parent, education, civic, business) so that all understand and share the vision and focus while taking an active role in helping the school reach high standards. MCES and our schools are members in the National Network of Partnership Schools (NNPS, Joyce Epstein, Director) and MCES staff members have been trained by NNPS on how to strengthen the parent connection in our Michigan schools.

Starting with the school's academic goals applying to all students, our approach is constructive, collaborative, reflective, and inquiry-driven. The purpose is to ensure high quality professional development as it has been identified in research and in the National Staff Development Council's guidelines. Effective staff development is:   

  • Results-driven and job-embedded;
  • Focused on teachers' immersion in subject matter and teaching methods;
  • Curriculum-centered and standards-based;
  • Sustained, rigorous, and cumulative; and
  • Directly linked to what teachers do in their classrooms.
Specific MCES Action Steps

Create a Vision of a "Graduate" and Future Citizen

-           Develop and endorse as a school community a vision of what students exiting the school should know and be able to do, and how well.


Engage in Data-Based Inquiry

-           Analyze multiple sources of data, including disaggregating data by race, gender, and income status that can provide a profile of student achievement;

-           Engage faculty in discussion of the Ten Common Principles;

-           Assess alignment of the School Improvement Framework with the Michigan Curriculum

-           Framework, the Content Expectations, and CES vision;

-           Set priorities and benchmarks for the school during the coming year(s), based on implementing CES model and aligning School Improvement plans.


Improve Teaching, Learning, and Assessment

-           Use the Michigan Curriculum Framework and Content Expectations as a base to set standards for what all students should know and be able to do;

-           Promote "habits of mind" that span all disciplines;

-           Look collaboratively at student work to assess student progress and improve and align curriculum and instruction with the state standards;

-           Assist teachers in understanding and employing the standards of authentic instruction and assessment as outlined in the Michigan Curriculum Framework.


Build a School Culture to Create a Professional Learning Community

-           Establish a shared decision making process;

-           Create teacher teams designed to examine student work and teacher practice;

-           Develop a process for teachers to visit and observe each other's classrooms;

-           Train and assist teacher teams to conduct action research.


Create Structures to Support Best Practices and High Student Achievement

-           Explore and implement organizational changes designed to better support high achievement;

-            Train and assist teachers in implementing best practices (and the structures that support them) of integrative units, cooperative learning activities, authentic experiences, and reflective assessment.


1 Zemelman, Steven, Harvey Daniels, and Arthur Hyde, 1998. Best Practice: New Standards for Teaching and Learning in America's Schools. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann

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