October 18, 2022 — SSoS District Communication
September 30, 2022 — District Communication After 2022 Accountability Data Release
May 18, 2022 — Spring 2022 Update on Plan Submission Requirements
March 6, 2020 — Narrated Overview on the Sustainable Improvement Process
Content coming soon.
June 9, 2022 — District Prioritization Submission Webinar Slides and Recording
District Prioritization Submission Guidance
District Prioritization Submission Template
Guidance is being updated for 2022-2023 to align with the Coherence Guidebook. Stay tuned for more information.
The strategic objectives and initiatives reflected in your sustainable improvement plan are the coherent group of overarching initiatives and key levers that your team identifies as most likely to lead to rapid improvement in your school. The specific strategic objectives and initiatives of the school's plan emerge from:
While providing the most detail for year one of implementation, the strategies should outline a multi-year roadmap that will guide the work of the school for at least the next three years.
The overall process your school takes will depend on how the planning process is shaped. The initial steps of taking all the preliminary needs assessment and root cause analysis work, brainstorming strategic objectives and initiatives, and then narrowing these down to a small, coherent set of strategies can be challenging and messy. However the time spent defining a few high-leverage strategies can pay off later when the school is able to focus on implementing those few strategies well, rather than trying to implement several big (or small) strategies at once.
In choosing which strategies are best suited for your school's unique context, look for cross-cutting themes that emerged from visioning discussions with stakeholders and from the analysis of assets and challenges. What 'big buckets' stand out? Those buckets should be addressed by the key strategic objectives of your school's sustainable improvement plan.
As you work to identify your school's key strategic initiatives, consider them through the lens of the four Massachusetts Turnaround Practices . The sustainable improvement planning process recommends that schools categorize key strategies by each turnaround practice. This framework reflects DESE's research finding that schools that effectively addressed all four of these turnaround practices succeeded in improving educator, student, and school outcomes, and, ultimately, exited underperforming status. However,
Reflecting upon and addressing the ways in which your key strategies align with all four turnaround practices will give your school a solid sense of how the work it is doing within each practice intersects with and reinforces the other three. Used back in the assessment of assets and challenges stage, the Guiding Questions Aligned to the Turnaround Practices Guiding Questions Turnaround Practices can also be a great resource to support schools in identifying strategies for implementation. Also, DESE has developed the MA Tools for Schools website as a one-stop shop for access to resources and tools aligned to the turnaround practices, which can help schools learn about successful strategies in other schools.
For instance, a school may ask: Do any strategies fall squarely under one turnaround practice? Or does the strategy span multiple turnaround practices, requiring actions related to all four practices? Ensuring effective instruction for English learners, for example, would have implications for school leadership and professional collaboration (Turnaround Practice 1), instructional practice (Turnaround Practice 2), student-specific supports (Turnaround Practice 3), and also for school climate and culture (Turnaround Practice 4). As your team looks at your key strategic initiatives from this lens, it will be clear that the four Turnaround Practices are not mutually exclusive, and changes in one turnaround practice are interconnected with and/or have ripple effects across the other three practices.
In order to meet both state and federal requirements, schools developing sustainable improvement plans must incorporate at least one strategy backed by evidence that meets the criteria from one of the top three evidence tiers as defined by ESSA :
DESE developed the How Do We Know? website to help schools and districts learn more about how to explore the research and evidence base to identify programs and practices that successfully address root causes similar to those they seek to address. See the Additional Resources section below for a more detailed description of the resources available on this site.
If your school chooses to select a new curriculum as a strategy to support sustainable improvement, DESE's Curriculum and Instruction team has generated several tools to assist schools in selecting high-quality, evidence-based curriculum.
In 2019's Our Way Forward Commissioner Riley launched a campaign to improve and expand deeper learning opportunities for students across the Commonwealth. As your school engages in the process of selecting strategies aligned to the turnaround practices, we recommend that your planning team visit DESE's deeper learning webpage. Statewide System of Support assistance staff are also available to help your school consider ways in which to incorporate deeper learning strategies in your sustainable improvement plan. Check back here frequently in the Additional Resources section for new resources as they are developed out by DESE.
As Massachusetts students become more diverse, and since diversity and inclusion is good for everyone, it is imperative that our schools and classrooms are inclusive of, responsive to, and reflective of all cultures and backgrounds. DESE has guidance that helps define cultural responsiveness, addresses its importance in our schools and classrooms, and provide resources to support this work. Schools should consider this resource while in the process of selecting strategies for plan implementation. Be sure strategies are selected that fully address challenges in student learning and school experience identified in your school's Assessment of Assets and Challenges & Root Cause Analysis process, especially for historically marginalized student groups.
As your school is identifying strategic objectives and initiatives, a critical step in the process is to assess what it will take to implement these specific approaches in your school. In addition to the evidence base, schools need to consider:
Determine how your school can reasonably scaffold the implementation of its selected strategies across multiple years (Year 1, Year 2, Year 3…), taking into account different phases of implementation (e.g., buy-in/capacity development, pilot stage, scaling up, etc.). We offer the following sample graphic organizers as resources your team may find helpful as it considers when specific strategies should roll out based on school context and implementation phase.
Sample Three-Year Implementation Plan Template
Sustainable improvement work is hard! Identifying challenges ahead of time can help your planning team proactively and strategically remove or reduce any anticipated barriers to implementation. Alternatively, reflecting on implementation challenges can help a school discern if a strategy is the right match for the context, or if another approach would be more effective. The 2014 Turnaround Practices Report includes side-by-side comparisons of strategies implemented in schools that made gains vs. schools that did not. Reviewing these comparisons can help schools anticipate challenges to implementation and make proactive plans to mitigate them. For the purposes of your school's sustainable improvement plan, focus on only the most significant challenges anticipated for each set of strategies and any initial thoughts on how your school might address them.
The challenges identified at this stage of the process can help inform the process for monitoring implementation and outcomes. Schools should reference the Goals & Benchmarks and Monitor Progress sections before finalizing the set of strategies for implementation.
Examples of some of the resources and protocols that SSoS Regional Assistance Teams frequently use with districts and schools they support appear in the Additional Resources at the end of this section.
Flexible Format Submission
While not required, these resources may be helpful as you engage in this stage of the sustainable improvement planning process:
For any questions, suggestions, or additional assistance with evidence-based practices, please contact Kendra Winner at email@example.com or 781.338.3129.
Last Updated: November 7, 2022
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