“In the simplest terms, an asset-based approach focuses on strengths. It views diversity in thought, culture, and traits as positive assets. Teachers and students alike are valued for what they bring to the classroom rather than being characterized by what they may need to work on or lack.” (Source: An Asset-Based Approach to Education: What It Is and Why It Matters. Thought Leadership. New York University. September, 2020.)

Capacities are the set of skills, abilities, actions, attributes, resources, and beliefs that consistently lead to a desired set of outcomes. (Source: Measuring and Building Intermediary Capacity. Catalyst:Ed. March, 2021.)

An alteration to a system or process that requires testing through a PDSA cycle. (Source: Glossary of Terms Used in NILS. Carnegie Foundation. Undated.)

Climate refers to the qualities and culture of the school environment that are experienced by teachers, administrators, students, and other members of the school community. It is the feel of the school that emerges from the perceptions of these individuals as they experience school policies, practices, and procedures. Climate measures and surveys are used to support decisions at the school and classroom levels about programs and practices. (Source: Schweig, J., Hamilton, L. Baker, G. School and classroom climate measures: Considerations for use by state and local leaders. RAND Corporation. 2019.)

A process for addressing a specific problem of practice by developing, testing, and refining promising solutions. (Source: Golston, A. “4 Things We’ve Learned About School Networks.” Medium. 2018.”)

Culturally-responsive practices are those that understand and build upon the cultural assets of the community being served, that use a variety of support strategies rooted in diverse cultural practices, and that continuously question whether evidence bases are rooted in a white-dominant ideology or are founded on data and research grounded in the community being served. This article by Nikki Williams Rucker provides a practical starting point for those seeking to learn more about culturally-responsive practices.

A data sharing agreement is a written contract between two or more organizations that describes how information will be shared and protected between the organizations, and the purposes for which it can be used.

Leadership structure that recognizes and elevates individuals with different positions, skill sets, experiences, and perspectives, but who coalesce around a shared mission to spark and sustain a school-wide culture of learning and improved outcomes for students. (Sources: Midles, R. and Niccols, K. “Getting Through: Distributed Leadership.” Getting Smart, April 2020. and Bill& Melinda Gates Foundation. “4 Things to Know about Distributed Leadership.” May, 2017.)

A tool that visually represents a group’s working theory of practice improvement. The Driver Diagram creates a common language and coordinates the effort among the many different individuals joined together in solving a shared problem. (Source: Learning To Improve Glossary. Carnegie Foundation. Undated.)

Structured conversations geared toward surfacing narratives about the system as experienced by the stakeholders affected by it and intentionally designed to be asset-based, supportive, and affirming.

Relevant and shared measurement points which facilitate aggregation of reporting results across partners and a common vision of success, readiness to go to the next level of production or delivery, or milestones that might suggest shifting course. (Source: Twersky, F; Nelson, J; Ratcliffe, A Guide to Actionable Measurement. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, July 2010.)

Each plan-do-study-act (PDSA) cycle is akin to a mini-experiment. It begins with articulating the change and recording predictions about what we expect will happen (plan); attempting the change and documenting what in fact did happen (do); comparing the results to the predictions (study); and then deciding on what to do next (act). The goal is to learn fast, fail fast, and improve quickly. That failures may occur is not the problem; that we fail to learn from them is. (Source: Grunow, A. Improvement Discipline in Practice. Carnegie Commons Blog, Carnegie Foundation. July 2015.)

A central, coordinating entity that leads planning, coordination, and management of teams across sites and/or organizations who agree to work together to tackle common problems and work toward common aims.

A networked improvement community is an intentionally designed social organization with a distinctive problem-solving focus; roles, responsibilities, and norms for membership; and the maintenance of narratives that detail what it is about and why affiliating with it is important. A NIC is marked by four essential characteristics. It is:

  • Focused on a well-specified common aim
  • Guided by a deep understanding of the problem, the system that produces it, and a shared working theory to improve it
  • Disciplined by the methods of improvement research to develop, test, and refine interventions
  • Organized to accelerate diffusion of interventions out into the field and effective integration into varied educational contexts

(Source: Bryk A. S., Gomez L. M., Grunow A. Getting Ideas Into Action: Building Networked Improvement Communities in Education. Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. 2010.)

The use of multiple and varied data to drill down into a problem to uncover what is truly causing the negative effect, not simply the symptoms associated with the problem.

Agency is the capacity and propensity to take purposeful initiative—the opposite of helplessness. Young people with high levels of agency do not respond passively to their circumstances; they tend to seek meaning and act with purpose to achieve the conditions they desire in their own and others’ lives. (Source: VanderArk, T. 10 Tips for Developing Student Agency. Getting Smart. December 2015.)