Action Overview: Continuous Improvement

Action: Build Capacity through Continuous Improvement

This set of resources is designed to help organizations build capacity through a continuous improvement process within a standards-based system.


Continuous school improvement is a cyclical process intended to help groups of people in a system, from a class to a school district or even a network of many districts, set goals, identify ways to improve, and evaluate change.

The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) has identified a process with accompanying resources that can be used for continuous improvement. It is important that it be grounded in the mission, vision, core values and beliefs of the organization and should not be accomplished through a single meeting or person. It requires an organizational infrastructure that encourages coherence and connections. Follow these links to access these foundational documents on the MDE website:

· Continuous Improvement Home page

· One Page Description of the Continuous Improvement Process

· Continuous Improvement Framework Overview

· Continuous Improvement Resource Guide

Continuous Improvement Within a Standards-based Education System

Continuous improvement of a standards-based education system focuses on three specific levels: learning, instruction, and support systems. The Colorado Coalition of Standards-based Education summarizes the role of continuous improvement in a standards-based system (2012):

Being standards based means that every teacher, in every classroom, every day, through a continuous cycle of teaching and learning [a continuous improvement process], ensures students learn all standards and associated concepts and skills to mastery. Throughout every district, this takes focus and fidelity to a relentless cycle of teaching and learning along with hard work, persistence, and strategic use of time and resources.

The standards-based teaching and learning cycle continually answers four questions, adapted from Dufour et al (2006).

· What do students need to know, understand and be able to do?

· How do we teach effectively to ensure all students are learning?

· How do we know students are learning?

· What do we do when students are not learning or are reaching mastery before expectation?

The Portal utilizes the above guiding questions from the Colorado Coalition for teams to encourage intentional conversation about utilizing a continuous improvement process on three specific levels: learning, instruction, and support systems.

It is important to note that while the Portal focuses on supporting a standards-based system, other fundamental system components need to be in place to support the continuous improvement process. There must be system-wide commitment with focus, fidelity, hard work and follow-through with continuous monitoring and reflection (see MDE’s Continuous Improvement Framework Overview).


Develop a shared understanding of the need for utilizing a continuous improvement process on three specific levels: learning, instruction, and support systems.


Colorado Coalition for Standards-Based Education. (2012). Standards-based teaching / learning cycle: A guide to Standards-Based Education practices at the district, school, and classroom level (2nd Ed.).

DuFour, R., DuFour, B., Eaker, R., & Many, T. (2006). Learning by doing: A handbook for professional learning communities at work. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.

Minnesota Department of Education. (2018). PreK-12 continuous improvement process framework.