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​​​​​​​Seeing the Results of Our Hard Work​

Betheny Lyke, Ed.D. Director, Illinois Center for School Improvement

Although we all know the efforts we put into school improvement have a profound effect on our students, schools, and communities, it is encouraging to see concrete evidence showing that our approach works. 


At our recent stakeholders meeting, we shared initial data regarding ACT scores across the state. These data show that the work performed by the partnership of Illinois CSI and school and district leaders has resulted in improvements in student achievement. During the 2012–13 school year, the average ACT performance in nearly all Illinois high schools declined, as shown on the chart below. However, in the 2013–14 school year, although the downward trend leveled out for non-Illinois CSI supported high schools, Illinois CSI supported high schools' scores improved and have continued to steadily improve since that time.


An in-depth examination of statewide ACT scores, conducted by American Institutes for Research, showed that high schools in districts served by Illinois CSI improved at a faster rate than all other Illinois high schools taking the ACT in 2013–14 school year. 


ACT Test Trends: Illinois CSI-Supported Priority Districts Compared With Non-Supported Districts, SY 2005–06 to SY 2014–15




These early data demonstrated just one way that our collective time, commitment, and expertise are having a positive impact on students across the state. We look forward to sharing a more comprehensive report of results toward student achievement. Please share these data with your colleagues, and give yourselves a pat on the back for a job well done.​


Betheny Lyke, Ed.D.

​The Connectivity of Cultural Change in School Improvement

Guest Column: Illinois CSI Research Forum Wrap-Up

Anthony Muhammad, Ph.D.

Anthony Muhammad ​


Improvement and change are forever linked. This is especially true when it comes to school improvement. The most challenging change is not the manipulation of policy, structure, or systemic protocol; the most difficult challenge is convincing large numbers of human beings to change their behavior simultaneously. School reform in the United States has all but ignored the need to inspire, motivate, and prepare America's educators to embrace the challenge of improvement and to embrace the strategies that we know improve schools. Instead, we have experienced a mix of initiatives fueled by Draconian threats of punishment or weak attempts to incentivize educators to embrace change.

Change is a very complex process, and the most difficult form is cultural change. Cultural change involves addressing attitudes, beliefs, norms, assumptions, and human behavior.  Patrick Lencioni, in his book The Advantage, declared that the human side of organizational improvement was messy and most leaders choose to practice in the safer, more concrete world of measurable data and systemic policy (Lencioni, 2012). Great leaders realize that the organization is only as good as the commitment and skill of the people who work within it, and we have to get real about the development of healthy school culture if we ever want to improve school quality and eliminate academic achievement gaps.

On October 6, 2016, I had the pleasure to work with a wonderful group of educators in Springfield, Illinois, at the Illinois CSI Research Forum, and we tackled the tough hurdles to creating systemic improvement through cultural change. We focused on four key areas of influence. The first and most critical area was communication. People do not feel compelled to change if they clearly do not understand why they need to change. The second and most abstract of the areas of influence was relationship building and trust. People do not feel compelled to change if they don't trust the people who ask them to change. The third area of influence was professional training and support. People do not feel confident changing if they do not know how to perform the acts that we require. Finally, the fourth area of influence was accountability. If people are prepared to meet the challenge, we have to demand that they deliver—otherwise, change becomes a suggestion. If school leaders study and embrace the challenge of motivating educators to embrace change, it will greatly improve our trajectory toward creating an egalitarian system.


Lencioni, P. (2012). The advantage: Why organizational health trumps everything else in business. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.





Useful Resources


Dr. Muhammad has written three books on the topic of school culture:


Transforming School Culture: How to Overcome StaffDivision (2009)


The Will to Lead, the Skill to Teach: Transforming Schools at Every Level (2011)


Overcoming the Achievement Gap Trap: Liberating Mindsets to Effect Change (2015)



The Road to Transformation – Thornton Fractional School District 215


Like many school districts in Illinois, Thornton Fractional School District 215 has grappled with how to use resources to improve achievement among its diverse student population. During the past three years, the district has partnered with Illinois CSI to create a data-driven, collegial culture that enriches the learning experience of its students. Click here to view a video that showcases their efforts:​ 


Feel free to share this video with your networks. We are proud of the work Thornton Fractional has done. If you have a story of your work with Illinois CSI email us we'd love to write about it.



Illinois CSI Launches District Leadership Team Learning Network for Districts Receiving Focus Services


The District Leadership Team Learning Network (DLTLN) is a series of dynamic, interactive sessions that bring district leadership teams from across the state together as an extension of the coaching that districts receive from Illinois CSI. Participants establish a broad community of practice that connects and supports district leaders to deepen and expand their continuous improvement efforts.


Until recently, the DLTLN was available only to districts receiving Priority services. Now, as the leader in providing research-based coaching supports to districts receiving Priority and Focus services, Illinois CSI is excited to announce the rollout of the DLTLN to include districts receiving Focus services. All Focus districts can participate in DLTLN sessions as part of the services they receive from Illinois CSI. DLTLN sessions are tailored to meet Focus districts where they are in their improvement efforts.


Benefits of the DLTLN

  • ​DLTLN provides participants with research-based practices; practical tools and resources; and structured, collaborative networking opportunities with other districts in the same geographical area.
  • Illinois CSI staff guide districts receiving Focus services through its continuous improvement process, which is aligned across their district plans and efforts.
  • DLTLN attendees discuss best practices to enhance their effectiveness and network and problem solve with colleagues.
  • Eligible participants earn continuing professional development units for attending on-site DLTLN sessions.


Focus District Leadership Team Learning Network

We are offering four locations for the first session of the Focus DLTLN this year. For these events, our theme for Session 1 is "Strong Continuous Improvement Implementation With Fidelity." During the events, we will: ​

  • Examine how data-informed interdependent teams function to support implementation of district plans
  • Identify steps needed to strengthen the interdependence of teams
  • Collaborate with colleagues regarding how interdependence among teams advance district goals, worthy targets, and actions
  • Apply research that supports the district plan-worthy targets and actions


Online registration is required; DLTs are encouraged to bring up to four members to gain maximum benefits.


We look forward to seeing you at one of the following events:

November 1, 2016

Holiday Inn Chicago Matteson Conference Center

500 Holiday Plaza Drive

Matteson, IL 60443


November 2, 2016

Embassy Suites by Hilton Chicago Naperville

1823 Abriter Court

Naperville, IL 60563


November 8, 2016

President Abraham Lincoln Springfield

701 E. Adams St.

Springfield, IL 62701


November 10, 2016

Holiday Inn Mount Vernon

222 Potomac Blvd.

Mt. Vernon, IL 62864



Social Media Soundbites 


During the October Research Forum, many attendees shared their thoughts and photos on social media using the hashtag #ILCSIResearchForum. Here are some examples of what people are saying:



Let's Get Social

Join the discussion on social media by following Illinois CSI on Twitter and liking us on Facebook. We also encourage you to share your stories, photos and resources using the hashtag #IllinoisCSI.


Contact Us

1120 East Diehl Road
Suite 200
Naperville, Ill. 60563-1486