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Organizing Schools for Success: 5 Levers for Improvement


It all comes down to people, processes, places, products, and time.


District and school administrators have the most rewarding jobs in education, but oftentimes the most challenging. Instructional leaders are charged with implementing rigorous instruction and creating supportive environments despite limited resources and myriad district- and schoolwide initiatives.

As a former educator, district leader, and now, the founder of ThinkCERCA, I've had the privilege of learning from the most innovative, joyful, and effective leaders in the field.

One of the biggest insights I've gained from leaders all across the country is that optimizing schools to achieve extraordinary results comes down to five key levers people, processes, places, products, and time.

These variables are the most powerful resources at every administrator's disposal and can serve as a simple organizing framework for organizing schools for success:

The Five Levers for School Improvement

People - Is your team designed to play to the strengths of each individual and supported in improving their own capacity and the capacity of those around them?

Processes - Have you set up clear and simple processes for operations, including leading instruction, monitoring student progress, responding to student needs, and improving teaching and learning?

Places - Are your buildings organized to create a safe, clean, and supportive community for learning with spaces that match desired learning outcomes?

Products - Are you leveraging technology and other resources effectively to achieve more and save time that can then be redeployed to support instructional leadership and improve your team’s own content knowledge, practice, and relationships with students?

Time - Is every stakeholder spending time where it matters most when it comes to having impact on student outcomes 

New Administrator Newsletter: Sharing Learnings on the Intersection of Entrepreneurship and Education

With the above framework in mind, the ThinkCERCA team will be sharing learnings from the wild on people, processes, places, products, and time in the new Educator + Entrepreneurship newsletter (see preview). This newsletter will highlight the brightest practices, lessons, and ideas from the crossover of education and entrepreneurship, all through the lens of these five levers. Please join an ever-growing community of administrators as we commit to improving instructional practices at scale.

Eileen Murphy
Eileen Murphy

Eileen taught English for 15 years and was the founding English Department Chair at Walter Payton College Prep as well as the author of 360 Degrees of Text (NCTE, 2011).

As the Director of Curriculum and Instruction for over 100 of Chicago’s highest performing schools, Eileen became passionate about the role technology could play in education in the 21st century and left CPS in 2012 to develop ThinkCERCA to help all students achieve career and college readiness. ThinkCERCA is one of the top Literacy Courseware Challenge winners (Gates Foundation).