Effective Education Leaders Focus on Continuous Improvement

A lot of education leaders wait until there is a problem before they make changes. This is not the optimal way to respond to challenges. You have to be proactive and practice a philosophy of continuous improvement. Continuous improvement means that instead of waiting for problems to occur, you regularly work on perfecting and updating your practices and procedures, no matter how well they are working. Essentially, you are always trying to be better. However, this does not mean that you constantly change things. In some instances, you are just monitoring the situation or process, and watching for possible signs that it needs to be improved.

For example, if school discipline referrals are at a historic low in their high school, most principals would toot their own horn, publicize their success and keep using the same process for handling discipline issues. Then they are caught off guard when discipline referrals suddenly spike the next year. If they were continuously monitoring the situation, they would see that the drop in discipline referrals was due to the hard work of two veteran teachers (grades 9th and 11th), and a football coach (20+ years).

The teachers and the coach required that students adhere to a level of decency in their classrooms and all others. Although she knew that they had an impact on school discipline, she never recognized the extent of their influence, as she placed too much faith in her own self-efficacy. Well, to make a long story short, these educators retired and left a leadership vacuum that went unfilled.

If the principal had recognized this beforehand, she could have asked these teachers to coach up their colleagues, helping them to develop the same type of influence, through tried and true measures. During their final year, they could have led professional development sessions that focused on just that. This is what we mean by continuous improvement. Now the principal is stuck spending most of their day handling student discipline, instead of being the complete leader that they would like to be.

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