School Improvement, Strategic Planning, and Effective School and Schooling Policies and Practices

Building Strong Schools to Strengthen Student Outcomes—A Summer Review of Previous Blogs (I of IV)

Dear Colleagues,


While some of you are still working, most educators are off “for summer vacation.” But, let’s be honest. Most educators tire pretty quickly with the vacation part of the summer, and soon begin to “surf the web”—watching professionally-related webinars and other videos, and reading blogs and articles about new ways to positively impact students, staff, and schools.

Armed with new thoughts and perspectives, they think about the year just ended, and make plans to begin the new school year more successfully.

To help in this process, I have reviewed and organized virtually all of the popular Blogs that I have written over the past four years into four clusters:

  • School Improvement, Strategic Planning, and Effective School and Schooling Policies and Practices
  • The New Every Student Succeeds Act (ESEA/ESSA), and Multi-Tiered and Special Education Services
  • Students’ Mental Health Status and Wellness, and School Discipline and Disproportionality
  • School Climate and Safety, and School Discipline and Classroom Management

Starting with this Blog, and continuing during the summer with the next three Blogs (July 1st, July 15th, and July 29th), I will briefly overview each of the areas above, and then provide you with the Dates and Titles of past Blog messages—so that you can look up and read at your “summer leisure” those that particularly interest you.

As you know, I often incorporate and critique crucial national issues, reports, studies, and controversies into virtually all of my Blogs—“sprinkling in” my 35+ years of practitioner-oriented and common sense perspectives and experiences.

Much of my work has been synthesized as Project ACHIEVE—an evidence-based national model school improvement program (as designated in 2000 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration—SAMHSA). Project ACHIEVE components have been implemented in exemplary through “needs improvement” preschools through high schools nationwide; as well as in alternative, residential treatment, juvenile justice, special education, and other specialized school centers.

Significantly, these “implementations” are NOT “one-shot, drive-by deals.” Typically, I work with schools and districts for three or more years. Often, I help them secure grant funding so that they can implement our work together without the pressures of time and money.

And so, over the next four Blog messages, I will also describe different facets of Project ACHIEVE ( so that you will have a broader context for some of my Blog-related perspectives, beliefs, and recommendations.

An Overview of Project ACHIEVE

Project ACHIEVE is an innovative school reform and school improvement program that has been implemented in schools and school districts in every state in the country since 1990. To date, one or more of its components have been presented to thousands of schools nationwide—with the schools ranging from urban to suburban to rural, and from the lowest performing to the highest performing schools in the nation.

As noted above, Project ACHIEVE has been cited in SAMHSA’s National Registry of Effective and Promising Practices, and it has accrued numerous other national citations—including designation as a “select program” by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, Emotional Learning (CASEL).

Project ACHIEVE’s ultimate goal is to help design and implement effective school and schooling processes to maximize the academic and social, emotional, behavioral progress and achievement of all students. Project ACHIEVE has also helped schools to implement effective and efficient problem-solving and strategic intervention processes for students with academic and behavioral difficulties, while improving the staff’s professional development and effective instruction interactions, and increasing the quality of parent (and community) involvement and engagement.

In all, Project ACHIEVE helps schools, communities, and families to develop, strengthen, reinforce, and solidify children and adolescents’ resilience, protective, and effective self-management skills such that they are more able to resist unhealthy and maladaptive behavior patterns.

At its core, Project ACHIEVE provides implementation blueprints that are based on research-proven and empirically-demonstrated effective practices that have been woven together into an implementation process that works. Initially, schools complete a comprehensive needs assessment and resource analysis to determine their current needs, the approaches they are using that are working, the gaps that are preventing them from improving further, and the strategic goals and outcomes that are desired or indicated.

Project ACHIEVE then employs a whole school improvement process that has professional development and ongoing technical consultation as its foundation. The professional development process focuses on teaching staff (a) research-based information and effective instructional and educational practices that (b) translate into skills that are successfully implemented in school and classroom settings in a way where (c) staff confidence and autonomy develops over time.

Using its school effectiveness and professional development process, Project ACHIEVE places particular emphasis on increasing students’ social and conflict resolution skills, improving student achievement and academic progress, facilitating positive school climates and safe school practices, increasing and sustaining effective school and schooling processes, and increasing parental involvement and support.

Project ACHIEVE also teaches and reinforces critical staff skills and intervention approaches that focus on helping staff to strategically plan for and address the immediate and long-term academic and behavioral needs of all students. Project ACHIEVE uses an integrated process that involves strategic planning and the building of school and staff resources, internal capacity, and system independence. Formative and summative evaluations using “real-time” data help to determine whether Project interventions and procedures are improving student, staff, and home/community outcomes.

In summary, Project ACHIEVE is an innovative school reform and school effectiveness program targeting the academic and social development of all students. In doing this, Project ACHIEVE implements preventive programs that focus on the needs of all students. It develops and implements strategic intervention programs for at-risk and underachieving students. Finally, it coordinates comprehensive “wrap-around” programs for students with intensive needs.

Project ACHIEVE was the school improvement model for the Arkansas Department of Education’s State Improvement and Personnel Development (SIG/SPDG) grants for 13 years, and the state’s NCLB School Improvement Model for all School Improvement “Focus” schools. It has also received over $20 million in federal, state, and foundation grants since 1990.

Project ACHIEVE consistently embraces its mission: “Building Strong Schools to Strengthen Student Outcomes.”

School Improvement, Strategic Planning, and Effective School and Schooling Policies and Practices

As is evident above, the strategic planning process anchors virtually everything that we do within Project ACHIEVE, and that all schools and districts do as they plan and try to maximize all student outcomes.

Over the past three years, I have written a number of Blogs discussing the strategic planning process, how to make leadership decisions, how to build staff cohesion, as well as the impact of losing superintendents and teaching staff on (unfortunately) a routine basis.

Relative to topics that are routinely discussed in the “popular press,” I addressed such topics as corporal punishment, teasing and bullying in school, chronic absenteeism, reading and grade retention, the length of the school day and when it starts, and even the mindfulness “epidemic.”

Below is a list of the Dates and Titles of the Blogs addressing these topics. To find the Complete Blog Cited Below:

Here are the Blogs:

School Improvement and Strategic Planning

March 18, 2017: What Happens When School Leaders Make Decisions Not for the Greater Good, but for the Greater Peace: “You Can Please Some of the People Some of the Time. . . But You Can’t Please All of the People All of the Time”

March 5, 2017: The Revolving Door of the Superintendency: A Case Study on Resetting the Course of a School District. . . When Mission, Vision, and Values Count More than Resources, Requirements, and Results

January 17, 2016: The Seven C's of School Success (Part II): The Ultimate Staff Strategies to Build Strong, Cohesive Relationships and Effective, Productive Teams

December 19, 2015: The Seven C's of School Success (Part I): The Ultimate Organizational Strategies for School Success

October 3, 2015: Is Your Strategic Plan Focused on Outcomes. . . or Just a Direction? There are "Many Roads to Rome"- - But You Need an Address and a GPS to Get There

July 25, 2015: The Seven Sure Solutions to School Success: How Many do You Need?

May 31, 2015: School Improvement? The Questions your Department of Education Needs to Know

May 9, 2015: The Beginning of the New School Year Starts in April

April 4, 2015: Planning for Next Year's Successes THIS Year: Addressing Your Professional Development, On-Site Consultation, and Technical Assistance Needs at the System, School, Staff, and Student Levels

March 28, 2015: March Madness: How Effective Schools are Like Successful Basketball Teams

March 1, 2015: Stop Your Best Teachers from Leaving the Field: Breaking the Vicious Cycle of Recruiting, Training, and then Losing Your Best Teachers

December 13, 2014: Rich District, Poor District: Common Sense Practices to Maximize Resources and Improve Student Outcomes

November 8, 2014: A New Federal Report Documents What Low-Performing are NOT Doing to Succeed: 12 Questions that WILL Guide School Improvement Success

October 26, 2014: School Improvement Succeeds only with Shared Leadership: A Field-Tested Blueprint

Popular School and Schooling Policies and Practices

February 19, 2017: Federal and State Policies ARE NOT Eliminating Teasing and Bullying in Our Schools: Teasing and Bullying is Harming our Students Psychologically and Academically—Here’s How to Change this Epidemic through Behavioral Science and Evidence-based Practices

November 13, 2016: Beating Kids in Schools: How Corporal Punishment Reinforces Bias, Violence, Trauma, Poor Social Problem-Solving, and the Fallacy of Intervention. . . The Alternative? Eliminate Corporal Punishment by Preventing its Need, and Implementing Interventions that Actually Change Student Behavior

June 12, 2016: How to Improve your Chronically Absent Students' Attendance. . . During the Summer

March 20, 2016: Grade Retention is NOT an Intervention! How WE Fail Students When THEY are Failing in School

February 13, 2016: Reviewing Mindfulness and Other Mind-Related Programs (Part II). More Bandwagons that Need to be Derailed?

January 30, 2016: Reviewing Mindfulness and Other Mind-Related Programs: Have We Just Lost our Minds? (Part I). Why Schools Sometimes Waste their Time and (Staff) Resources on Fads with Poor Research and Unrealistic Results.

November 28, 2015: Start the School Day Later? How Students Use their After-School Time, Media and Smartphones, and Opportunities to Sleep

September 7, 2015: When Kids Can't Read: Policy and Practice Mistakes that Make It Worse

August 9, 2015: Donald Trump, Negative Campaigns, and Social Skills: Modeling Intolerance for our Students?

April 25, 2015: Extending the School Day? Is it Due to Ineffectiveness, Disengagement, or Enrichment?


I hope you find these Blogs important and meaningful to your work.

Meanwhile, I always look forward to your comments. . . whether on-line or via e-mail.

If I can help you in any of the areas discussed in this and these Blog messages, I am always happy to provide a free one-hour consultation conference call to help you clarify your needs and directions on behalf of your students, staff/colleagues, school(s), and district.

Please accept my best wishes for a safe, restful, and fun summer !!!