School Change

Our Theory of Action

A systems-based approach to change ensures that schools recognize their developmental stage and select developmentally appropriate interventions to support the school’s organizational growth, change teacher behavior and increase student achievement.

A Hierarchy of School Needs based on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs for IndividualsThe Antioch Center for School Renewal takes a developmental view of school improvement, building on the successful efforts of colleagues from a variety of agencies and programs, (including the Rural School and Community Trust, the School Reform Initiative, the QED Foundation, the Corporate Council for Critical Skills, and the Partnership for 21st Century Skills). Based upon Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which views human development as a progression moving from most basic survival, through social and relational development and up to full self-awareness, the Hierarchy of School Needs (Smith & Sobel, 2010) aligns a school’s needs with a professional development strategy to meet those needs. The Hierarchy of School Needs “emerged out of trying to make sense of where the school/ community change process worked well and where it met resistance! (It) suggests that physical space and social fabric needs precede the needs of comprehensive curriculum and community-based education approaches.  Certainly, school works on many improvement fronts simultaneously, but without a focus on the most essential tasks, headway is difficult.” (Smith & Sobel, 2010)

An accurate assessment of the needs of the school provides for intervention at the right time and maximizes the opportunity for powerful professional growth for teachers and principals.  Developing internal capacity will allow schools to become learning organizations, ready and able to meet the emerging needs of their students while deepening the connection within and between the school, the home, and the community.

Research shows that school improvement is a process, not a single event. (Hall & Hord, 2001)  Our approach is rooted in the knowledge that the key to sustainable, continuous school improvement lies in creating learning organizations (Senge, 1990) in which stakeholders are armed with the skills and processes necessary to recognize and meet emergent challenges.  We begin our work by matching schools with specific interventions via a 360-degree administration of the School Change Readiness Tool (doc).

ACSR provides external school coaching for the duration of the project.  We engage in an inquiry-driven process by which teachers and students will implement the intervention described and assess progress via re-administration of the readiness tool each spring.  By modeling this process of implementation and assessment, we will train and coach cohorts of teachers on-site as internal coaches charged with supporting the work beyond the scope of the project.

Systemic reform “centers on a vision of all students as successful learners of ambitious learning outcomes, integrates curriculum, teaching, assessment and school organization towards a shared vision, attends to professional development, curriculum development and organizational development, has structures and mechanisms for cross-role collaboration, incorporates ongoing inquiry and reflection.” (Education Commission of the States, 1992)(North Central Regional Education Laboratory, 1992) The Hierarchy of School Needs is based upon this conceptual model, with specific, effective interventions applied at each level.

School Change Research Report

Final Report on the Springfield, VT Professional Learning Project, 2009-2011

More Information

Visit our School Coaching page for more information about the ways that we support Schools and Districts in Need of Improvement, Instructional Improvement, Leadership Development, and Inquiry Driven (NECAP) Science efforts.
Download our School Change Readiness Tool and begin your own assessment of your schools’ needs.
Contact us at or 603-283-2302 to create a free, customized service proposal for your school or district.