School Improvement


School improvement is a vehicle for planned educational change that is concerned with raising student achievement. It involves a systematic, sustained effort aimed at change in learning conditions and other related internal conditions in schools, with the ultimate aim of accomplishing educational goals more effectively. It requires strategies for strengthening the school’s capacity for managing change and usually necessitates some form of external support. Learning how to successfully implement changes is particularly important now, in a time of a huge variety of initiatives and innovations and when there are competing reforms to promote in schools.

Successful school improvement initiatives involve:

  • using the school as the centre of the change

  • planning and managing improvement to take place over several years

  • changes focused not only on teaching/learning activities but also on procedures to support these teaching and learning processes

  • the harnessing and synchronising of the roles of teachers, headteachers, governors, parents, support staff and local authorities to the processes of school improvement.

This section gives advice upon how to implement improvements in schools.

Publications and Resources:

Clarke P, Harris A & Reynolds D (2004) 'Challenging the challenged: developing an improvement programme for schools facing extremely challenging circumstances'. Paper presented at AERA, San Diego, April 2004.

This paper describes a programme that was created to offer practical help to schools facing extremely challenging circumstances and its outcomes.

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Creemers B & Reezigt G (1997) 'School effectiveness and school improvement: sustaining links', in School Effectiveness and School Improvement, Vol. 8, No. 4, pp. 396-429

In this article the relationship between school effectiveness and school improvement research is explored, and ways of obtaining a more sustained and productive relationship between these two areas is discussed.

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Department for Education and Employment: 'The Road to Success'.

This paper examines case studies of how schools which had been found by OFSTED to require special measures had succeeded in turning themselves around.

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Department for Education and Skills: 'Schools facing extremely challenging circumstances' by Paul Clarke. 

This very extensive and useful document describes the aims and research behind the 'Schools Facing Extremely Challenging Circumstances' school improvement programme, offering much material to aid any school involved in improvement efforts. The paper is 125 pages long and so is broken up into three sections below:

                                    Part 1

                                    Part 2

                                    Part 3

Earl L, Watson N & Katz S (2003) 'Large-scale education reform: life cycles and implications for sustainability', a CfBT Research and Development booklet, pp. 1-50.

This report is intended to summarise information about the longevity of large-scale reform initiatives, to identify factors supporting and inhibiting the sustainability of such reforms, and to draw out implications for implementing and sustaining reform.

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Evans L & Teddlie C (1995) 'Facilitating change in schools: is there one best style?', in School Effectiveness and School Improvement, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp. 1-22 

This article examines the various ways prinicipals provide leadership for school improvement and the relationship of these 'change facilitator styles' to school effectiveness in the different contexts in which they work.

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Freiberg H, Prokosch N, Treister E & Stein T (1990) 'Turning around five at-risk elementary schools', in School Effectiveness and School Improvement, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 5-25 

This article presents a description of an instructional management system called Consistency Management and its implementation in five urban elementary schools in Texas.

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Gray J, Jesson, D, Goldstein, H, Hedger, K & Rasbash J (1995) 'A multi-level analysis of school improvement: changes in performance over time', in School Effectiveness and School Improvement, Vol. 6, No. 2, pp. 97-114

This paper describes a study based on three successive cohorts of pupils passing through 30 English secondary schools. It uses examination results as the outcome measure and includes a prior attainment measure amongst the variables used to control for differences between schools' intake. A multilevel strategy for conceptualising and modelling data on schools' changes in performance over time is offered.

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Hopkins D, Reynolds D & Gray J (1999) 'Moving on and moving up: confronting the complexities of school improvement in the improving schools project' in Education Research and Evaluation, Vol. 5(1), pp. 22-40

This paper describes the rationale for the fieldwork aspect of the improving schools project and presents four themes that have emerged from the first phase of the research that cast some light on the phenomena of the 'improving school'.

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Hopkins D & Reynolds D (2001) 'The Past, Present and Future of School Improvement: Towards the Third Age', in British Educational Research Journal, Vol. 27(4), pp. 459-475 -

This paper outlines the three phases that school improvement has been through since the mid-1980s, paying particular attention to the characteristics of the most recent improvement models. The authors argue that these models may be able to overcome the difficulties that past improvements have had in affecting outcomes.

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Leithwood, K & Jantzi J (1999) 'Transformational school leadership effects: a replication', in School Effectiveness and School Improvement, Vol. 10, No. 4, pp. 451-474

This paper describes the replication of an earlier study of the effects of transformational leadership practices on selected organisational conditions and students engagement with school.

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Reynolds R, Hopkins D & Stoll L (1993) ‘Linking School Effectiveness Knowledge and School Improvement Practice: Towards a Synergy’ in School Effectiveness and School Improvement, Vol. 4, No. 1, pp. 37-58

This paper surveys the 'paradigms' of the academic communities of school effectiveness and school improvement researchers, practitioners and scholars. It argues that the two paradigms are very different and that this has hindered the improvement of educational practice. Examples in which the two approaches (school effectiveness and school improvement) have been successfully blended to improve the quality of schooling are discussed.

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Reynolds D, Hopkins D, Potter D & Chapman C (2001) 'School Improvement for Schools Facing Challenging Circumstances: A Review of Research and Practice'. London: HMSO for DfES - Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland

This paper outlines what has been found in the research literature and in reports from practitioners about 'what works', universally, to improve schools that face challenging circumstances.

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Sammons P, Taggart B & Thomas S (January 1998) 'Making Belfast Work: Raising Schools Standards - Summary of the Full Evaluation Report'. Report prepared for the Belfast Education & Library Board.

This document describes the 'Making Belfast Work' project, its background and aims, how and where it was implemented and its outcomes.

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Stoll L (1999) 'Realising our potential: understanding and developing capacity for lasting improvement', in School Effectiveness and School Improvement, Vol. 10, No. 4, pp. 503-532

This article draws on research and development work in school effectiveness and school improvement. It is argued that internal capacity is vital in developing and sustaining the teacher and organisational learning necessary to promote and enhance student learning.

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Stringfield S (1995) 'Attempting to enhance students' learning through innovative programs: The case for schools evolving into High Reliability Organisations, in School Effectiveness & School Improvement, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp. 67-96

This paper explores the reaons why this generations' educational reform period is lasting much longer than previous reform periods.  It then asks what can be done and examines several 'promising programs' for improving students' learning, including high reliability implementation methods.

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Stringfield S & Teddlie C (1990) 'School Improvement efforts: qualitative and quantitative data from four naturally occurring experiments in phases III & IV of the Louisiana School Effectiveness study', in School Effectiveness and School Improvement, Vol. 1, No. 2, pp. 139-161 

In this article four naturally occurring, unguided by state or district, school improvement efforts are described, complete with 5 year follow-up data.  Comparisons are made to more formally planned school improvement efforts.

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