Spotlight on Quality in Continuous Improvement

Over the past 12 years, the Carnegie Foundation has been in the vanguard of an emerging movement in education by promoting the use of improvement science methods in the field and fostering the development of networked communities dedicated to addressing some of the most persistent problems in our nation’s schools. Thousands of school district leaders, principals, teachers, policymakers, researchers, and K–12 and higher education administrators here and around the world have begun taking up these methods. These educational leaders are challenging existing norms, learning new practices of continuous improvement, and reinforcing a collective commitment to improve the nation’s schools.

In light of the swift and enthusiastic take-up of these ideas by so many individuals and groups, Carnegie launched the Spotlight on Quality in Continuous Improvement program in 2017 to provide clear and powerful examples of the rigorous application of improvement principles, methods, and tools to solve educational problems. The Spotlight program seeks to:

  • inspire those educational leaders new to improvement science and wondering what its application looks like in practice,
  • support those already working on an improvement project but want to get better at how they pursue their efforts, and
  • celebrate and learn from those making real progress.

2019 Spotlight and Call for Applications

Building on the successful Spotlight on Quality in Continuous Improvement Symposium convenings in Washington, DC, and sessions at the Summit on Improvement in Education conference, the Carnegie Foundation once again seeks applications from enterprises that have achieved measurable improvement in outcomes and can share a compelling narrative of how they used improvement principles to achieve those outcomes. Applicants should fall in one of the following categories:

  • School Districts, State Education Agencies, and Charter Management Organizations that run or manage schools and use improvement methods and tools to make significant progress on a well-specified aim.
  • Improvement Networks made up of individuals, teams, or organizations working together to make significant progress on a shared improvement aim.
  • Professional/Technical Assistance Organizations that support educational enterprises and are applying improvement principles, methods, and tools to their own practices to improve the support they provide to schools and/or districts.

Of particular interest are applicants that have used quality improvement approaches to advance ambitious student learning goals or to attack longstanding disparities grounded in race/ethnicity or income in students’ progress through school and educational attainment.


Key Features of the Spotlight on Quality Program

Quality Standards for Early-Stage Versus More Mature Efforts

Without common points of reference that reflect quality at different stages of development and maturity, a large amount of activity may generate results that are highly variable. The Spotlight program will develop quality standards from initiating improvement efforts to expert practice, with operational definitions and descriptions of each. Such a structure will provide a strong starting point for an organization’s leadership to self-assess their progress and areas for potential growth.

Self-Study Guides, Tools, Resources and Educative Cases

Guides, tools, and resources will enable organizations to engage in a self-study process that informs and strengthens their work. Best practices—along with rich, descriptive accounts and educative cases—will send consistent signals about what quality looks like in practice, and how organizations and networks have moved in this direction over time.

Spotlight on Quality in Continuous Improvement Symposium

An annual invitational Spotlight on Quality in Continuous Improvement Symposium in Washington, DC showcases the exemplary work of organizations, networks, and project teams; signals and celebrates quality in the enactment of improvement principles, and the meaningful, measurable improvements we are now witnessing in many domains. Attended by leading policymakers, researchers, and philanthropists, the Spotlight on Quality Symposium provides an opportunity for Spotlight honorees to describe how they engage in improvement approaches to achieve substantial gains and reduce longstanding disparities in student outcomes.

Professional Network of Spotlight on Quality Leaders

The Spotlight on Quality program will cultivate and support leaders of Spotlight organizations, creating a professional network of honorees across cohorts for deeper engagement and shared learning. This professional network of emergent leaders will create and advocate for standards, and provide guidance and direction for the growth and development of quality improvement efforts over time.

Summit on Improvement in Education

The Carnegie Foundation Summit on Improvement in Education, representing a diverse cross-section of the field, has become a key institutional resource, poised to support the continued growth and development of this movement. By featuring Spotlight honorees, criteria, resources, and tools, Carnegie will continue to leverage the Summit platform to promote performance excellence and the shared learning of successful strategies and practices.