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Transforming Schools: Creating a Culture of Continuous Improvement


Allison Zmuda, Robert Kuklis & Everett Kline


ASCD (2004)


Teachers, administrators, board members, parents, community business and industry leaders, and other serious minded educational transformers!

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"How can a school become a place where all members of the staff are learning, growing, and working to increase student achievement?" The answer, according to Zmuda, Kuklis, and Kline lies in systems thinking and a true focus on continuous improvement – two concepts that are not new but have, perhaps, been overlooked for their power to transform professional development from something that people merely tolerate and endure to something that they actively pursue with the intention of changing (behaviors, attitudes, thinking, etc.) to create lasting improvements in teaching and learning.

Each chapter of the text is grounded in a set of operating principles identified to provide specific, practical guidance to school leaders. Through a fictional story six steps for continuous improvement are identified and defined:

  1. Identify core beliefs.
  2. Create a shared vision.
  3. Use data to determine gaps between the shared vision and the current reality.
  4. Identify the innovations that will most likely close the gaps.
  5. Develop and implement an action plan.
  6. Endorse collective accountability.

Rather than suggesting a single pathway for transforming a school's culture, this text reveals guiding principles for real and lasting reformation. It clearly aligns with the research that context (culture) not only matters but forms the crucial backdrop for any serious reform.


  1. If we know better, why don't we do better?
  2. What 'better' can we do beginning today?
  3. What is a competent system?
  4. How will we know (indicators) we are a competent system?
  5. What beliefs and assumptions define our purpose?
  6. What is our reality based on the data?
  7. What are the gaps between what we believe, what we do, and what we know is right?
  8. How do we close those gaps?
  9. What are our priorities?
  10. How are our priorities connected?
  11. How do we make it happen? First steps? Next? Then?
  12. How will we know when 'it' has happened?