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Networked improvement communities: The discipline of improvement science meets the power of networks

Paul G. LeMahieu (Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Stanford, California, USA)
Alicia Grunow (Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Stanford, California, USA)
Laura Baker (New Teacher Center, Santa Cruz, California, USA)
Lee E. Nordstrum (RTI International, Edina, Minnesota, USA)
Louis M. Gomez (The University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, USA)

Quality Assurance in Education

ISSN: 0968-4883

Article publication date: 6 February 2017




The purpose of this paper is to delineate an approach to quality assurance in education called networked improvement communities (NICs) that focused on integrating the methodologies of improvement science with few of the networks. Quality improvement, the science and practice of continuously improving programs, practices, processes, products and services within organized social systems, is a still-evolving area in education. This paper is the first of seven elaborating upon different approaches to quality improvement in education[1]. It delineates a new methodology called the NICs model. Developed by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the approach is aimed at continuously improving the quality of practices, processes and outcomes in targeted problem areas in education systems.


The paper presents the historical development, theoretical foundations, core principles and adaptation of key elements of the NICs model for quality improvement in education. A case study specifically examines the problem of fostering new teacher effectiveness and retention in large public school systems in the USA.


The six principles underlying the NICs model are as follows: make the work problem-specific and user-centered, focus on variation in performance, see the system that produces outcomes, improve at scale what you can measure, use disciplined inquiry to drive improvement and accelerate learning through networked communities.


Few theoretical treatments and demonstration cases are currently available that examine the application of common models of quality improvement in education. This paper elaborates on one promising approach. In addition to examining the NICs model, the paper derives added value by allowing comparisons with seven widely used quality improvement approaches treated in this volume.



LeMahieu, P.G., Grunow, A., Baker, L., Nordstrum, L.E. and Gomez, L.M. (2017), "Networked improvement communities: The discipline of improvement science meets the power of networks", Quality Assurance in Education, Vol. 25 No. 1, pp. 5-25.



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