The KEYS-CSI Model
The KEYS-CSI model was developed to assist those who want to use KEYS as an integral part of continuous school improvement. It can be used in two ways: 1) as a step-by-step guide for those situations where a change process is not already in place, or 2) by making selective use of the KEYS-CSI materials in cases where an improvement process is already in place.
The following diagram illustrates the eight steps in the KEYS-CSI process.
In broad outline, the continuous improvement process is initiated when schools come together as communities to determine their school-wide goals, together with the associated values and standards. At the outset they also determine what assessments they will use to supply evidence of the desired student outcomes (including those assessments mandated by state and federal policy). Then, they examine the gap between their goals and the evidence of student outcomes and identify priority objectives for school improvement. Next, the school community examines relevant evidence and deliberates on what problems or issues are contributing to the difference between goals for student learning and assessed outcomes. Once the school has made a determination about the nature of the problem(s), a search for practices that might improve the results is undertaken that includes the identification of human and financial resources that would be needed to implement the most promising alternatives. Needed resources are developed, or plans for their development are initiated. Finally, members of the school community select and implement those practices that they believe will result in improvements and test their efficacy, modifying the practices as implementation proceeds. Then, the cycle continues.
Two features of this model are particularly important. One is reliance on evidence as the basis for forward progress. The model emphasizes that schools gather a range of evidence, particularly evidence of student learning, and use it to inform decision making. The second is the collaborative culture that supports this process. This culture is vital to the success of the model, so this may require some “reculturing” of the organization, as described in more detail throughout the Steps in the KEYS-CSI process.
The continuous improvement model specifies that schools begin with attention to goals, assessments, and the larger issue of “evidence.” This is common sense (you can’t plan a trip unless you know where you want to go), but in strategic terms, there may be a need to work carefully up to these matters because they represent a very high accomplishment in many schools, achieved against the drag of custom, tradition, and settled accommodations among faculty. In consequence, leaders—new leaders in particular—may want to adopt the philosophy of “small wins.” For example, a leader or leadership team may believe that tracking and grouping practices limit the opportunities of some students, but that immediate, school-wide attention to this issue might prove divisive. Consequently, the initial move might call for volunteers on the faculty to experiment with de-tracking in certain courses or grades, with reports to the full faculty on the results. “Small wins” simply means that leadership engages the school community initially on matters that do not stir up controversy and that will result in victories that the whole staff can celebrate. It also means taking the “temperature” of a faculty and other stakeholders in the school community to determine how cohesive is the group and what they perceive their needs to be, then devoting attention to fulfilling such needs in order to establish a base of good will.
“Small wins” are, of course, just the beginning. And, the press of external events or the severity of problems often require the pursuit of difficult-to-achieve goals. The important thing here is to focus on a limited number of priorities for improvement.