In Accountability, Alignment, Continuous Improvement, Leadership Tips, Process Improvement


Most leaders and organizations would agree it’s important to set goals at the beginning of the year and return to those goals at the end of the year to see if we hit the mark. Leaders often spend time building lengthy plans and collecting data. However, the strategies used year after year are relatively the same. Does this sound familiar?

At What’s Right in Education, Allison DeGraaf, Director of Learning and Innovation in Janesville School District, describes a common experience for organizations that plan to improve. In the presentation below, Allison outlines the six-step improvement plan process their team uses as follows:

  1. Diagnose
  2. Plan
  3. Implement
  4. Monitor
  5. Adjust
  6. Reflect

While Janesville schools were great at steps 1 – 3, like many organizations, they struggled with revisiting their plan and monitoring progress to adjust throughout the year. Previously, plans were at least 20 pages long. Often, they sat in a folder unopened until the end of the year.


Each school in the district created a plan using a different framework. This resulted in communication, collaboration and implementation barriers across the system. The team in Janesville realized if they wanted to make improvements come alive and drive their work, they would need to make some changes.

Implement a Common Template

To create plans that could be used as a tool for improving school and student success, a common framework was used across all schools. Three specific goals were identified, followed by just one strategy for each goal. This framework resulted in a dynamic, strategic focus that impacted results across all subject areas and removed the previous barriers to collaboration between schools. Less really is more by providing a clear focus to build alignment and drive progress.

Schedule the Mid-Year Progress Check

To connect the dots and continue to focus on the most important goals, it’s critical to monitor our progress on those goals and adjust when necessary. To do this, Janesville set aside specific time at the mid-year point to connect the dots at both the school and the district level. Then, leaders and employees analyze what their current data is illustrating. As a result, deep, authentic conversations enabled their teams to become more responsive to changes and adapt their strategies mid-year.

In the same presentation, Kurt Krueger, the Principal of Jefferson Elementary School shares how the mid-year progress check has impacted their school by explaining, “The permission to adapt and modify goals and strategies is what is most useful to myself as a principal. Because that permission allows me to take a risk, stretch our skills and nurture the belief that we are all lifelong learners. This supports the culture that I want to be a leader in.”

Watch Allison and Kurt’s presentation to hear more about implementing a plan to improve.


By using a simple framework to create an improvement plan and pausing to monitor progress, all of Janesville’s schools have clear goals to focus on and can better adapt to changes throughout the year. Now, improvement plans no longer stay in the folder, and goals are viewed as projects with a start date and an end date.

This month, as we approach the mid-year point for many schools, bring your improvement plan to life. Schedule time to monitor, adjust and reflect on the goals most important to your team. What does the evidence show?

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