Cycle of Continuous Improvement

Stakeholders, school leaders, and educators engage in a cycle of continuous improvement to support growth of students and staff. The Office of Leadership Development and School Improvement uses the Four Domains for Rapid School Improvement as a framework for improvement. Each Domain includes key practices to guide the work throughout the improvement planning process.(1)  Interact with the Cycle of Continuous Improvement, in Figure 2, to download resources pertaining to each step or domain.

4 Domains of Rapid School Improvemen
4 Domains of Rapid School Improvement

Figure 1. Domain-Based Cycle of Continuous Improvement 
Developed by the Mid-Atlantic Comprehensive Center for the Office of Leadership Development and School Improvement


Merging Two Theories into Actionable Practices

The Four Domains for Rapid School Improvement and the Cycle of Continuous Improvement (2) are merged together to identify the Domain(s) in which evidence-based solutions can be implemented.   

For example, in "Defining the Problem of Practice," leadership teams use data from the needs assessment to determine current strengths and needs for their school. Once needs are prioritized, teams create SMART goals which will reveal under which Domain(s) the work appears most urgent, such as "Instructional Transformation". 

Once the Domain (i.e., instructional transformation) becomes an immediate focus, teams work to identify an evidence-based solution, develop an action  plan, and implement it to yield the desired outcome. Leaders monitor implementation of action plans to adjust implementation strategies as needed. 

Let's Get Started! 

Choose to: 

  1. Download the modifiable guide, "Planning for Continuous Improvement" which can help teams level-set when working with a diverse group of stakeholders, especially those new to either the Cycle of Continuous Improvement or the Four Domains of Rapid School Improvement. The guide includes terms and definitions, examples, and space to keep track of the work. and/or,

  2. Consider clicking on the hyperlinks in Figure below, beginning with "Define A Problem of Practice." The steps and the accompanying indicators align to the graphic shown above in Figure 1. 

Cycle of Continuous Improvement


Define a Problem of Practice

1a. Conduct a needs assessment for Title 1 and a Root Cause Analysis or

1b. Conduct needs assessment and root cause analysis for non-Title I.

2. Distinguish between existing & desired state outcomes.

3. Prioritize needs.

4. Create SMART goals for each need.


Adjust, Continue, or Stop

1. Use tools to ensure fidelity of implementation.

2. Monitor progress- frequency

3. Assess outcome to determine proximity to desired state.

4. Make adjustments as necessary.


Select Evidence-based Solutions

1. Justify solutions to fit each priortized need and context.

2. Determine professional learning, training, and resources.

3. Refer to SMART goals to establish implementation and student performance targets. 


Implement a Plan

1. Create Action Plan, steps, timeline, and responsibilities.

2. Determine resources and tools to check progress.

3. Decide what and how to use qualitative and quantitative data. 

Fig. 2 Interactive Cycle of Continuous Improvement

For guidance on establishing readiness for implementing evidence-based solutions, please visit Four Domains of Rapid School Improvement page.

For specific assistance with selecting an evidence-based intervention (strategy, program, practice, or strategy) visit the Evidence-Based FAQ page.