Establishing and Sustaining Networked Improvement Communities: Lessons from Michigan and Minnesota

Monica P. Bhatt
,
Deb Gurke

A networked improvement community is a collaborative research partnership that uses the principles of improvement science within networks of organizations to learn from varied implementation of new ideas across contexts. While the central work of a networked improvement community is to identify a specific and actionable problem and collectively address it through an iterative process of designing, implementing, testing, and redesigning promising new practices, the learning from these iterative cycles can be brought back and applied to the local contexts of the networked improvement community participants (such as classrooms, districts, and states), potentially affecting education practices more widely.

This report describes the process of forming networked improvement communities in Michigan and Minnesota after state education agency leaders requested assistance from Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest to support state-led efforts to use improvement science to raise student achievement and narrow achievement gaps in schools with the widest achievement gaps (focus schools). Throughout the process of establishing networked improvement communities in Michigan and Minnesota, the REL Midwest project team met regularly with colleagues with expertise in continuous improvement research to discuss the progress of each project and any challenges encountered.

The goal of establishing both networked improvement communities was twofold: to expose the state education agencies to a process that could be used to scale initiatives and to engage agencies at a level that would leave them able to use the process with other initiatives. This report aims to guide other researchers, state education agency leaders, and district leaders as they establish networked improvement communities in different contexts.

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