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Sustainable Improvements

Educational Support Services

Dan Peverini

Director, Educational Support Services

“When patterns are broken, new worlds emerge.”  —Tuli Kupferberg

The Fall 2018 California School Dashboard will be made available to the public within the next few days. This year’s release will bring new indicators that give greater visibility to the results our school systems are producing.

Sustainable ImprovementsThe many indicators that compose the CA School Dashboard allow for a more complex analysis and comparison of the systemic choices we make. As we examine these indicators, it is important to recognize that our success, often measured/defined by the academic outcomes of students, is also enhanced by the conditions that support learning. For example, as we consider ways of reducing Chronic Absenteeism, Suspensions, and enhancing the pathways for students to be College and Career Ready, we are giving our students greater opportunities.  With that said, reducing suspensions  is not sustainable if we only stop suspending students. Other factors need to be explored. New supports, beliefs, and school/district culture might need to be explored and addressed in order to enable our students to thrive.

One of the opportunities the Dashboard provides is being able to look at what is working, or not, and consider some of the contributing factors to these outcomes. This lays the groundwork for posing questions such as:

  • What are the conditions that currently support success in a specific area?
  • If something is working, how will it scale-up if we consider expanding it?
  • What part of the system can we leverage to affect positive change?
  • How do we define success and measure incremental changes as we engage in a process of improvement?


Effectively changing a system, improving outcomes, adjusting practices, etc., is not something that happens quickly, or easily, if we intend for those changes to be sustainable. Researchers looked at 62 school leaders in the UK who managed a successful turnaround of their schools and in which the improvements were sustained once those leaders left. For each of them, it was clear that changing systems took time. Overall, test score improvements weren’t seen until year three, and continued to increase through year five and beyond.

Often times we feel the pressure to make changes quickly and broadly. Let’s acknowledge that there is a sense of urgency to the work that we do on behalf of our students furthest from success. Alongside that urgency, is the need to manage the expectations of ourselves, our staff, our boards, and the public. Effective changes that are sustainable require ongoing thoughtful inquiry/analysis, purposeful implementation, collective effort, and time.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” —Victor Frankl

Dan Peverini
Executive Director
Educational Support Services Department
San Luis Obispo County Office of Education

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