National School Improvement Tool

What is it?

Comprised of nine domains, the National School Improvement Tool (NSIT) assists schools to review and reflect on their efforts to improve the quality of teaching and learning.

Using an evidence-based framework, the NSIT supports school-wide conversations about aspects of current practice, areas for improvement and evidence that progress is being made. When used as an ongoing reference point over a period of time, the NSIT also provides a basis for monitoring long-term improvements in practice.

The NSIT was endorsed by the Standing Council on School Education and Early Childhood (SCSEEC) at its meeting on 7 December 2012 and is available to all Australian schools for use in their school improvement planning.

©The Australian Council for Educational Research Ltd (ABN 1900 4398 145) (“ACER”). All rights reserved. 2016. You are permitted to download one copy for your personal, non-commercial use. No reproduction, communication, adaptation or exploitation is permitted without the written permission of ACER.

How can the NSIT help my school?

Research is revealing the powerful impact that school leadership teams can have in improving the quality of teaching and learning. The NSIT synthesises findings from international research into a practical framework that can be used to investigate and evaluate current practices in any Australian school.

By using the NSIT in the process of developing a School Improvement plan, schools can ensure they are adopting the practices displayed by highly effective schools and school leaders, and are supporting the development of their school improvement objectives with a solid base of evidence and research.

"The tool provides a powerful lens for examining and understanding world class teaching and learning."

Carmel Ryan (Former Principal)


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© The Australian Council for Educational Research Ltd (ABN 1900 4398 145) (“ACER”). All rights reserved. 2016. You are permitted to download one copy for your personal, non-commercial use. No reproduction, communication, adaptation or exploitation is permitted without the written permission of ACER.

What areas does the tool address?

The National School Improvement Tool consists of nine interrelated domains, which combine and overlap to provide a comprehensive framework for school improvement:

An explicit improvement agenda

The school leadership team and/or governing body have established and are driving a strong improvement agenda for the school, grounded in evidence from research and practice and expressed in terms of improvements in measurable student outcomes. Explicit and clear school-wide targets for improvement have been set and communicated to parents and families, teachers and students, with accompanying timelines.

Analysis and discussion of data

A high priority is given to the school-wide analysis and discussion of systematically collected data on student outcomes, including academic, attendance and behavioural outcomes, and student wellbeing. Data analyses consider overall school performance as well as the performances of students from identified priority groups; evidence of improvement/regression over time; performances in comparison with similar schools; and, in the case of data from standardised tests, measures of growth across the years of school.

A culture that promotes learning

The school is driven by a deep belief that every student is capable of successful learning. A high priority is given to building and maintaining positive and caring relationships between staff, students and parents. There is a strong collegial culture of mutual trust and support among teachers and school leaders, and parents are treated as partners in the promotion of student learning and wellbeing. The school works to maintain a learning environment that is safe, respectful, tolerant, inclusive and that promotes intellectual rigour.

Targeted use of school resources

The school applies its resources (staff time, expertise, funds, facilities, materials) in a targeted manner to meet the learning and wellbeing needs of all students. It has school-wide policies, practices and programs in place to assist in identifying and addressing student needs. Flexible structures and processes enable the school to respond appropriately to the needs of individual learners.

An expert teaching team

The school has found ways to build a school-wide, professional team of highly able teachers, including teachers who take an active leadership role beyond the classroom. Strong procedures are in place to encourage a school-wide, shared responsibility for student learning and success, and to encourage the development of a culture of continuous professional improvement that includes classroom-based learning, mentoring and coaching arrangements.

Systematic curriculum delivery

The school has a coherent, sequenced plan for curriculum delivery that ensures consistent teaching and learning expectations and a clear reference for monitoring learning across the year levels. The plan, within which evidence-based teaching practices are embedded, and to which assessment and reporting procedures are aligned, has been developed with reference to the Australian Curriculum or other approved curriculum, and refined collaboratively to provide a shared vision for curriculum practice. This plan is shared with parents and families.

Differentiated teaching and learning

The school places a high priority on ensuring that, in their day-to-day teaching, classroom teachers identify and address the learning needs of individual students, including high-achieving students. Teachers are encouraged and supported to monitor closely the progress of individuals, identify learning difficulties and tailor classroom activities to levels of readiness and need.

Effective pedagogical practices

The school principal and other school leaders recognise that highly effective teaching is the key to improving student learning throughout the school. They take a strong leadership role, encouraging the use of research-based teaching practices in all classrooms to ensure that every student is engaged, challenged and learning successfully. All teachers understand and use effective teaching methods – including explicit instruction – to maximise student learning.

School–community partnerships

The school actively seeks ways to enhance student learning and wellbeing by partnering with parents and families, other education and training institutions, local businesses and community organisations. Parents and families are recognised as integral members of the school community and partners in their children’s education. Partnerships are strategically established to address identified student needs and operate by providing access to experiences, support and intellectual and/or physical resources not available within the school. All partners are committed to the common purposes and goals of partnership activities. Procedures are in place to ensure effective communications, and to monitor and evaluate the intended impacts of the school’s partnerships.