A networked improvement community (NIC) is a group of individuals or organizations that uses principles of improvement science to learn about how different interventions work in varying contexts. In Michigan, the Department of Education (MDE) was interested in which supports worked in focus schools, or high achievement gap schools, to reduce achievement gaps between subgroups of students.
Throughout the 2015-2016 school year, REL Midwest and a group of practitioners convened a NIC to work on narrowing inequality in schools in Michigan with the largest achievement gaps. The group met in person each month to engage in a continuous improvement process in which they determined the root causes of inequality in focus schools, picked one factor on which to focus, and developed a theory of action and outcome measures to change that factor. The group coalesced on addressing students’ mathematics fluency skills with an intervention of daily practice for students in the bottom 30 percent of mathematics achievement. NIC members monitored the intervention they had developed throughout the year by collecting and reflecting on process and student outcome data.
As a result of this continuous improvement process, participants reported benefitting from the opportunity to work with individuals across various contexts to examine and address a focused problem of practice in their schools.