Transforming Educational Systems Toward Continuous Improvement: A Reflection Guide for K–12 Executive Leaders

This Reflection Guide summarizes the findings of a Carnegie Foundation project to understand how executive leaders in education transform their organizations to be capable of producing new levels of system performance through the use of improvement science principles. Described here are the key dispositions, core practices, and levers of transformation used by executive leaders and, within each of these categories, vital elements of successful executive leadership of such a transformation are identified. Each element includes a description accompanied by an illustration drawn from the experience of an executive leader. Some of these elements may be familiar, but others are likely to be new or offer “stretch goals” for leadership practice.

Few leaders in our field routinely incorporate all elements into how they lead, and learning to lead improvement, like improvement itself, is a never-ending journey. For this reason, each category concludes with questions to stimulate reflection and deeper learning to support leaders in self-discovering opportunities for changing their own thinking and behavior to advance continuous improvement in their own contexts.