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What is the Purpose of a School Improvement Plan?

May 8, 2020

A female education leader stands in front of a whiteboard and points to three female members of her team.

Thriving schools with high student achievement rely on strategic leadership. For low-performing schools, implementing evidence-based school improvement plans is key. These plans aim to establish a unified vision for a school, assess its needs, and then outline a program to resolve all the issues uncovered. School administrators use these plans to close the achievement gap, address low performance, and create equity in classrooms. Louisiana State University offers an online Master of Education in Educational Leadership that prepares administrators to overcome the obstacles in the way of a school’s success.


Why Is a School Improvement Plan Important?

Because schools battle many difficulties in their efforts to give all students needed education, the achievement gap has long been a topic of conversation for those striving for equity in education. Today, schools struggle to address academic achievement disparities between students from low-income homes or minority backgrounds and students from high-income homes or nonminority backgrounds. Stagnant funding can choke a school’s ability to reduce classroom sizes, purchase needed resources, and provide teachers with valuable training. Schools also contend with meeting the needs of students living in poverty. According to a study from the Center for American Progress, nearly 10 million children attend schools in which 75% of the students live in poverty.

Solving such formidable challenges calls for innovation, which is why school leaders are turning to school improvement plans (SIPs). These comprehensive agendas are designed to ensure that all students, regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status, or any other demographic distinction, can study in learning environments that are equitable and deliver effective education. SIPs identify the hurdles students face, such as a lack of access to technology, and develop a plan to overcome those hurdles.


What Are the Parts of a Successful School Improvement Plan?

Effective SIPs include key steps and methods of implementation.

  • Diagnose the problem: Conduct a needs assessment to identify gaps and problems in the system. For example, if ESL students are struggling with low reading scores, what are the contributing factors?
  • Develop a vision: Identify ways to address gaps and problems. For example, establishing an afterschool program to support ESL learners and give more personalized instruction might improve scores.
  • Create a step-by-step implementation plan: List the steps to achieve this vision. This may include allocating a budget for the staff and technology needed for such a program, finding the teachers who will work after school, and selecting computer programs to support ESL learning.
  • Implement the plan: Communicate with teachers, parents, and administrators to get the resources to start implementing the plan.
  • Review the outcomes: Find ways to measure the success of the SIP and adjust it as needed. Have the reading scores of ESL students taking part in the afterschool program improved? How can the school motivate those who haven’t joined the program and are still struggling to participate?

Skills for Implementing a School Improvement Plan

To carry out a school improvement plan, school leaders need specific skills, notably:

  • Critical thinking and problem-solving skills to identify problems and think of ways to solve them.
  • Communication skills to communicate a vision for the school improvement plan to administrators and teachers.
  • Leadership ability to inspire and motivate change—for instance, motivating administrators and teachers to oversee new afterschool activities that keep kids productively occupied outside of normal classroom hours.

A Master of Education can cultivate such leadership abilities, along with other critical skills and knowledge specific to the field of education needed to implement a SIPs. To advance to senior-level positions that implement educational reforms through SIPs, such as school principals or senior-level administrators, educators must earn a master’s degree.

The median annual salary of elementary, middle, and high school principals was $95,310 in 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and for postsecondary administrators the median salary was $94,340 annually in 2018. Jobs for principals are projected to grow 4% through 2028, and jobs for postsecondary administrators have a 7% projected growth rate, according to the BLS.


The LSU Online Master of Education in Educational Leadership

The LSU Online Master of Education in Educational Leadership offers a comprehensive program that trains education leaders to carry out school improvement plans. The curriculum directly addresses how school leaders can affect change in schools in courses such as Introduction to School Improvement/Action Research and Advanced School Improvement/Action Research. The mission of the program is to provide teachers with the tools they need to advance their educational careers and to develop professionals with the skills they need to create strong educational communities for all.

Aspiring school leaders who are passionate about improving the education system so that students can thrive should explore LSU Online’s Master of Education in Educational Leadership. Start your journey to affect change in education by visiting LSU Online.

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