School Improvement in Maryland

Key Understandings For CFIP

These key understandings will help school teams use the Classroom-Focused Improvement Process (CFIP) to improve teaching and increase student learning.

Collaborative School Culture Resources:


Critical elements

  1. Reflective dialogue: Members of the school community talk about their situations and the specific challenges they face. Together, they develop a set of shared norms, beliefs, and values that form a basis for action. Members of the community can use these discussions to critique themselves, as well as the institution within which they work.
  2. De-privatization of practice: Teachers share, observe, and discuss each other's teaching methods and philosophies. By sharing practice "in public," teachers learn new ways to talk about what they do, and the discussions kindle new relationships between and among the participants.
  3. Collective focus on student learning: Teachers are focused on student learning. They assume that all students can learn at reasonably high levels, and that teachers can help them, despite many obstacles that students may face outside school. This focus is not enforced by rules, but by mutually felt obligation among teachers.
  4. Collaboration: A strong professional community encourages teachers to work together to develop shared understandings of students, curriculum, and instructional policy. Collaboration also results in the production of materials and activities that improve instruction, curriculum, and assessment for students, as well as new and different approaches to professional development for the teachers themselves.
  5. Shared norms and values: Through their words and actions, teachers joined in a professional community affirm their common values concerning critical educational issues and in support of their collective focus on student learning.

Structural conditions to support a professional community

  • Time to meet and talk
  • Physical proximity
  • Interdependent teaching roles
  • Communication structures
  • Teacher empowerment and school autonomy

Social and human resources to enhance professional community

  • Openness to improvement -- support for risk taking
  • Trust and respect -- teachers honored for their expertise
  • Cognitive skill base -- effective teaching based on expertise in the knowledge and skills of teaching
  • Supportive leadership -- leadership that keeps the school focused on shared purpose, continuous improvement, and collaboration
  • Socialization -- mechanism for passing along the school's vision to newcomers to impart a sense that new teachers are integral to a meaningful group. The school culture must encourage positive behaviors and discourage negative ones, in a daily process aimed at working toward the school vision and mission.

Note: The article "Why School Teams Don't Analyze Data" is posted with the written permission of the publisher, School Administrator (AASA).

  • 10 Adapted from Kruse, S., Louis, K., & Bryk, A. (1994). Building professional community in schools, in Issue Report No. 6, School-wide Professional Community. Madison, WI: Center on Organization and Restructuring of Schools, pp. 1-4.