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4 Steps to Implementing Quality Improvement (QI) Process in Your School or District

4 Steps to Implementing Quality Improvement (QI) Process in Your School or District


How does your school or district measure up when it comes to including all stakeholders when trying to improve systems? How much do you let it happen (least effective) vs. help it happen vs. make it happen (most effective)?

School improvement is a science. Research shows that you reach your goals much faster when you take the “make it happen” approach. When you roll out a new school or district-wide improvement program and make it happen by creating guidance within the context of your school or district, it’s possible to reach full implementation within just three years. 

When we let things happen instead of being proactive, it can take 20+ years to reach full implementation– if ever. 

So how can we put this improvement science theory into practice? A research-based model for problem-solving and data-informed decision-making, the Quality Improvement (QI) Process engages all stakeholders in actionable conversations. Throughout the process, stakeholders participate in frequent discussions to evaluate and reflect on past actions and collaborate on the next steps and action plans based on qualitative and quantitative data.

In our recent webinar, Cincinnati Public Schools leader Lanisha Simmons and ThinkCERCA Success Manager Caitlin Vagedes shared exactly how to use the Quality Improvement (QI) Process to optimize and accelerate any implementation program's success. We’ve broken down their four key steps to QI Process success right here for you. 

The work of Quality Improvement should always be grounded in these three driving questions: 

  • What are we trying to accomplish?
  • What change can we make that will result in an improvement?
  • How will we know the change is an improvement?

The protocol for implementing the QI Process at all tiers is referred to as the 4-step PDSA process- Plan, Do, Study, Act.  PDSA is a reflection analysis protocol in which the different stakeholders at each tier participate. 

Here’s how it's done:

  1. Plan - During the initial planning stage, the PLC determines what the process measures are and what steps need to be taken to reach implementation of the chosen program. Stakeholders discuss how data will be collected and how often. The outcome measures must be numeric, clear, and specific, with a singular overarching goal. The process measures are the intermittent goals needed to achieve that overarching goal. These goals are the different layers of the action plan.

  2. Do - This is when responsible parties go out to do the work and collect the data based on whatever intervals or frequency has been established in the planning phase. This stage can take anywhere from a week to a few months, depending on whatever process measure is implemented during this cycle. 

  3. Study - The PLC gathers again to review and interpret the data collected. This stage involves the members deciding on the percentage of outcomes that were achieved and identifying any variables or outliers. The data is analyzed to determine what happened as a result of the strategies and interventions implemented. Members also reflect on any misconceptions or assumptions discovered during the analysis and consider how to address them.

  4. Act - During the Act phase, the PLC decides whether the intervention or the strategy attempted to implement should be adapted, adopted, or abandoned. This process is a constant and cyclical reflection. 

    Here’s a model of what the QI Process could look like during one of these PDSA Cycles:

    Screenshot 2024-03-04 at 1.54.57 PM

    The Quality Improvement Process is about establishing efficient systems and evaluating their effectiveness. If a system works well, it should be continuously scaled up. However, if it's not working, we should feel safe abandoning it and trying something else. This process helps us learn and make necessary adjustments to ensure students get the best we offer. 

    Be sure to check out the full webinar here for more helpful information about implementing QI Process in your school or district.  And don’t forget to check out our other blogs in our Agency for All, a thought leadership community focused on literacy as a means to empowerment and self-advocacy. 


Caitlin Vagedes
Caitlin Vagedes

Caitlin Vagedes is a ThinkCERCA School Success Manager, educator, author, leader, advocate, and explorer. In 2010, her career began at Hughes STEM High School, a year after its founding. Her experience as a secondary English teacher, Team Leader, Department Chair, Reading Specialist, and Instructional Literacy Coach has empowered her to empower the voices of others within her community.