A report released today from Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) calls for a new approach to school improvement, one that balances a prescriptive content approach and a context-driven process approach.

In the coming months, schools and districts across the nation will potentially face severe sanctions — including closure, state takeover, or conversion to charter status — for failing to make adequate yearly progress toward meeting the goals of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

To improve student achievement and avoid such sanctions, the McREL authors write that educators need to balance the “science” of effective schooling with the “art” of creating school communities that are truly focused on creating high achievement for all students. McREL researchers have captured the “science” of effective schools through a series of five major research studies that identify school, leadership, and teacher practices that positively influence student achievement.

At the same time, McREL spent five years working with schools and districts in Indiana, Kansas, and South Dakota to develop and field test a process that captures the “art” of managing change and identifying the right school improvement “levers” to pull at the right time. The result of this effort is Success in Sight, a school improvement process that helps schools apply seven key principles for improvement.

Read the report, here