Continuous Improvement and Assessment

Systems of Continuous Improvement

Published: 4/16/2019 3:52 PM

Continuous improvement is a process used by an organization to improve its results through monitoring and analyzing data to create changes that improve future performance. Continuous improvement requires the alignment of a school or district’s goals, people and values. This process does not start and stop; continuous improvement is an ongoing process of learning, reflecting, monitoring and evaluating for success.

What is Continuous Improvement? “Continuous improvement is the result of a pragmatic system of continual improvement driven by customer needs, expectations, and requirements.” -Jim Shipley and Associates, Inc.

Seven Categories of High Performance

The theory behind continuous improvement is that usually when something goes wrong it is because a piece of the system needs to be fixed. There is a tendency to blame people and start over when a review of data and an improvement process could fix the problem instead.

Examining the relationships between the seven categories of high performance: Leadership, Strategy, Customers, Measurement, Workforce, Operations, and Results from Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence using a linkage chart is a good place to start taking a big picture look at processes and organizations. Additional information on the seven categories can be found on the Categories for Building an Integrated Management System website.

The video featuring Julie Huff, Curriculum Specialist at Pulaski County High School, discusses how the leadership team uses the systems approach from the 7 Categories of Effective Systems to carry out their school's focus and vision. Link to the YouTube Video featuring Julie Huff, Total time 3:45

Quality Tools for Continuous Improvement

This section provides explanations, templates and resources for several quality tools that can be used in the continuous improvement process.

A 30-60-90 Day Plan should document the primary work, or “big rocks” the school or district will pursue over the course of the next 180 Days as aligned to the Comprehensive School Improvement Plan and Comprehensive District Improvement Plan.  Each goal is broken down into action strategies which are assigned a leader, or “point person” and a method of effective communication of the strategy is determined.  A measure for outcome success and data collection is included for each “big rock” initiative.

Data Questions

Based on Edie Holcomb’s work, A Guide for Using the Data Questions, the data questions are an unemotional way to review data and information to inform decision making. They can be applied to any kind of data or information. They are currently embedded in the District and School Comprehension School Improvement Plans. 

The Data Questions YouTube video featuring Ms. Houchens and Ms. Salyer explain the purpose of Franklin Simpson's High School Data Day protocol. The teachers explain how the day has evolved, the positives they gain from the Data Day process, and how this particular process assists in their efforts to implement continuous classroom improvement. Total time 3:10.

Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) 

These are the steps in an improvement process.  PDSAs are about making processes better. They can be used to begin from scratch to build a process or to improve a process already in place.  PDSAs are a valuable tool for making improvements and monitoring the level of success.

PDSAs are a valuable tool for making improvements and monitoring the level of success. Teacher leader Kathryn Claiborne and Curriculum Specialist Amanda Hall (Pulaski County High School) share how teachers within their school participate in department PLCs to enhance student achievement by implementing the Plan-Do-Study-Act process. In the following videos, they describe each cycle of PDSA and the protocol followed by each of the PLC teams which create a culture of continuous improvement.

The YouTube video featuring Kelly Clark, ELA teacher at East Carter High School, explains how she uses a pragmatic system of continual improvement in her classroom by using PDSA. She highlights each cycle of the Plan, Do, Study, Act monitoring process in her classroom. She elaborates on the engagement of learning based on the classroom PDSA cycle being a student choice/student voice classroom monitoring tool. Total time 1:36.

Choose from several different PDSA templates to find the one that will work best for your school or classroom:

For additional information about using PDSAs reference the What is a Continuous Quality Improvement Solano County California website.


This tool is used to open communication and improve a process to make needed change. Deltas are to be used to improve a process and drive next steps in the work.

5 Whys Method

This is a cause analysis tool that helps come to an understanding of the true reason for underperformance and what is preventing stakeholders from reaching success. This simple tool is used by picking one identified factor preventing a desired performance outcome and asking, “why” that factor is occurring. The answer is recorded and subjected to the same question. The process is repeated until the question has been asked five times or the root cause has been found. For more information about the 5 Whys Method, visit the MindTools website.


This is a survey tool that visually depicts the perceptions of the group. This quality tool can be used as a pre-post-assessment to capture participants’ level of understanding of a concept or opinions about an issue.

Fishbone Analysis

Cause analysis tool that assists groups to see the relationships between what is the present state and the desired state and the contributing factors of these differences. The “large” bones represent key performance factors that have been identified as relative to the gap between current and desired performances.

Susan Greer
Office of Continuous Improvement and Support
300 Sower Blvd., 5th Floor
Frankfort, KY 40601
(502) 564-5130
Fax (502) 564-8149

Continuous Improvement & Assessment Puzzle Image

Related Resources

Linkage Chart Template

10 Basic Quality Tools for the Classroom

SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunity, threat) Analysis Tool

SWOT YouTube Video Segments:

The videos feature educators from across the state who came together to demonstrate an exemplary use of the SWOT analysis tool.

SIPOC (Suppliers Inputs Process Outputs Customers) Chart, a high level process map.

Instructional Rounds: A Model of Continuous Improvement

The Instructional Rounds Overview YouTube video features Denise Yonts, Director of Curriculum and Instruction for Letcher County Schools, explains principals’ growth as a result of Instructional Rounds. She shares how principals collect information and use what they learn to enhance instruction within their building. Total Time :52.

The Problem of Practice YouTube video featuring Scottie Billiter, Assistant Principal at Letcher County Central High School, explains how principals work together to share ideas through Instructional Rounds that benefit all students in the district. The video includes an explanation of how the Problem of Practice is identified, and how the Instructional Rounds process helps to address that Problem of Practice. Total Time 1:29.

The Benefits of Instructional Rounds YouTube video  featuring Assistant Principal Scottie Billiter, District Assessment Coordinator Jackie Collins, and Director of Curriculum and Instruction Denise Yonts (Letcher County Schools) discuss the benefits of Instructional Rounds. This video includes an explanation of how the district monitors growth through the use of 30-60-90 Day plans, and how Instructional Rounds help them to address their Problems of Practice. Total Time 4:49.

The Instructional Rounds Relation to the Danielson Framework YouTube video featuring Wendy Madden-Rutherford, principal at Letcher County Elementary School, shares how participating in Instructional Rounds has impacted her professional growth. She explains how the collaborative process has given her district a common vision and how it has helped to build trust and rapport. Ms. Rutherford describes how individual schools work toward increases in student achievement while also participating in a collaborative process to increase student achievement in the district.  The video contains information about how Instructional Rounds have impacted Letcher County by helping them to become more cohesive by establishing norms, expectations, and a common language. This video also includes information about how Instructional Rounds relate to the Danielson Framework. Total Time 5:47. 

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