Improvement Toolkit

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The Carnegie Foundation is a pioneer in education improvement science. Each year, our coaches and partners join thought leaders and difference makers at the Carnegie Summit to share discoveries, success stories, and advancements in practices of excellence.

Organizations don’t improve, people do. When we invest in the collective brainpower and hook their hearts to our big aims, we can transform entire systems and make it stick.

– Pat Greco | Studer Education, Former Superintendent – School District of Menomonee Falls


Download the latest tools and resources shared by our team and partners at the 2023 Carnegie Summit.

Pre-conference Course

Leadership for System Transformation: Scaling Improvement into Practice for Impact

Three school districts learning how to hardwire improving systems. Leaders and improvement coaches guided participants through processes to grow and sustain their leaders, teachers, and students as their improvers. They demonstrated how to align core processes across the organization and improvement cycles to build coherence and accelerate impact.

Session Tools:

  • Nine Principles® Framework for Organizational Excellence
  • Evidence-Based LeadershipSM Approach

Improvement Science in Practice

Tackling Student Engagement as We Learn and Empower Each Other in School-Based Continuous Improvement

Join four leaders partnering from Jefferson County, AL, School District in their improvement journey, as they share their stories of shifting from a pandemic to addressing the socio-emotional needs of their students as the return to learning created new and urgent challenges. Learn how two Title 1 schools, Erwin MS and Minor MS, networked together around student engagement and continued to leverage school expertise that engaged and empowered people and created a culture of collective efficacy centered on student support. Explore data from their work building mentoring programs that led to positive outcomes for some of their most vulnerable students.

Session Tools:

  • Keep Doing/Stop Doing/Start Doing Worksheet
  • Jefferson County School Improvement Continuum
  • Nine Principles® Framework for Organizational Excellence
  • Evidence-Based LeadershipSM Approach

Leadership for Improvement

From the Principal’s Desk: Embedding Improvement Cycles School-wide for Results

In this session, school leaders from multiple districts will share their lessons learned from engaging teachers and educators in their schools to undertake disciplined inquiry around specific problems of practice, aligned to areas for academic focus. Each principal demonstrates how K-12 student achievement outcomes were positively impacted by improvement science as a mindset and as a set of classroom and PLC practices.

Session Tools:

  • PDSA Templates

Bonus Insight:

  • Bold Leadership: A New Age of Education Leaders

Making Everyone an Improver: How District Leaders are Inspiring Everyone to Improve, Including Students

Hear about the journeys of the Estacada School District and the Tea Area School District leadership and how they cascaded improvement work across all levels of their districts, empowering everyone from the boardroom to the classroom to be improvers. This session provides a roadmap to the why, what, and how the districts spread and scaled their efforts to develop educators and engage everyone in transformational work on behalf of students and their families.

Session Tools:

  • People-Culture-Strategy Template

Bonus Insight:

  • How One School District Hardwired Continuous Improvement Practices

Working Without Fear: Cascading Continuous Improvement from the Boardroom to the Classroom

It is tempting to press “pause” on change during challenging times such as the recent pandemic. However, continuous improvement work carries a sense of urgency that should not be paused, ever. This session is the journey from an inclusive new strategic plan begun as the pandemic hit in 2020, to leader skill development (“always behaviors” to drive the new plan to action), and to cascading the plan into scorecards to maintain momentum and intentionally drive the work. This district continued their quick pace and has fearlessly taken the work into the classrooms where continuous improvement cycles are improving student outcomes.

Session Tools:

  • Measuring What Matters in An Inclusive, Accountable, and Future-Oriented Environment

Executive Leader Panel: Building the Capacity to Live and Scale Improvement for Impact

Ensuring equity and access are core to our aims. Barriers live within our systems. Improvement is the engine needed to problem-solve across teams. Learning from our daily-work how to remove barriers and scale improvements across organizations. This panel is made up of county executive leaders who are actively engaged in tackling this charge within their own organizations and across their regions. They are building the capability of each leader and the capacity across teams to improve, and centering their efforts on measures that matter and building coherence in their actions. They will share their learning on how to lead systems to improve impact.

Session Tools:

  • Nine Principles® Framework for Organizational Excellence
  • Evidence-Based LeadershipSM Approach

Methods of Improvement Science and Networks

Leading the Transformation of Education Systems to Continuously Improve

Executive leaders play a vital role in creating the conditions for their organizations to develop the capacity for system-wide continuous improvement. The Carnegie Foundation’s publication Transforming Educational Systems Toward Continuous Improvement: A Reflection Guide for K–12 Leaders describes three domains of leadership for system-wide continuous improvement: dispositions, practices, and system levers. Participants will use a reflection tool grounded in the guide’s content to assess the current state of their leadership and their organization and hear key insights from two former superintendents on how to lead this kind of work.

Bonus Insight:

  • The Maturity Model – Phases of Improvement in Organizational Excellence

Poster Sessions

No Disruption in Service to Students: NIA’s Improvement Culture Survives Stormy Times

The COVID pandemic created issues of loss for students: loss of access to services, loss of significant and highly valuable seasoned teachers and therapeutic personnel, and even a loss of purpose. Northwestern Illinois Association’s long standing improvement culture did not see these significant losses; they actually strengthened connections and access for students and families because of systems in place for connections, communication, focus on improvement, and constant measurement of their organization’s outcomes. This poster will summarize the systems within the improvement culture that stood the test of the pandemic and include seven years of upward-trending employee engagement and customer service data to validate these systems and approaches.

Bonus Insight:

  • Case Study: Creating a Culture of Unmistakable Value at Northwestern Illinois Association

Next 100 Years from the Student View: Bringing to Life Identity, Values, and Equity Lens

This poster describes the journey Portage Public Schools undertook to identify common values, a vision for the future, and a lens through which we approach equity while incorporating student voice in the process.

Session Tools:

  • Honoring History, Remaining Relevant, Embracing Everyone: Starting with Student Voice to Build Strategic Commitments


Download This Toolkit


As leaders move from survey feedback to action, these other toolkits will be helpful in communicating about and executing on the feedback gathered through the survey process:


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