Small System Cycles

The Blueprint’s foundational research is based on work in both education reform and improvement science. Small System Cycles function to intentionally integrate components from different systems and routines within the Blueprint. Educating students is a complex endeavor. Making sustained improvements in educational systems means seeing the interconnectedness of components, practices, and actions from a number of systems and routines to maximize the impact on leading, teaching, and learning. The example provided above outlines the interconnectedness of Instructional Infrastructure, Instructional Leadership Routines, Teacher Collaborative Routines, Performance Management, Problem-Solving, Communication, and Building and District Networks. 

One way that small system cycles shift the perspective of the Blueprint Framework is how performance management, problem-solving, and communication become interconnected as part of the feedback loop. District and building leaders collect data that is determined based on the focus of the small system cycle, and specifically, the actual results achieved. Comparing this data with the desired output, as well as information for how the process was implemented, is used to make decisions to improve the process in the next iteration of the cycle. This process is a more focused form of both performance management and problem solving where the protocol for selecting data and making decisions is specific to the focus of the small system cycle.  Additionally, districts determine how the decisions and changes to the process are communicated to educational staff including necessary professional learning, additional support, or actions that need to be taken to improve results.

There are several research studies that support the use of these iterative improvement cycles, including some of the foundational pieces used in the creation of the Blueprint. These include research on systemic improvements in curriculum and instruction for mathematics (Cobb et al 2013)), science (Penuel and Fishman (2011)), and writing (NWP, 2010). In all of these efforts that resulted in systemic improvement, researchers and district leaders used iterative cycles to focus on making gradual, and sustained improvements to curriculum, professional learning, and building routines. This research highlights the value of iterative cycles to improve outcomes for students and emphasizes the power of collaborative data analysis and decision making to clarify and refine leader and teacher actions that impact student learning. 

“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement and success have no meaning.” 

~Benjamin Franklin

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