North Chicago School District 187

1. The strategic plan should be grounded in research and best practice about what
works in schools.
North Chicago enlisted the services of McREL International to support the strategic planning process. Of
particular interest was McREL’s research-based framework describing the core focus areas common to high
performing schools and school systems. This framework, aptly titled What Matters Most, outlines five
components of effective systems:
Challenging, engaging, and intentional instruction. At the core of effective systems are teachers
who challenge students, develop positive relationships with them, and are intentional in their use of a broad
repertoire of teaching strategies.
Curricular pathways to success. High-performing systems guarantee that every student, in every
classroom, no matter what the aspirations, is provided with both challenging and personalized learning
experiences that prepare each of them for life success.
Whole-child student supports. Setting high expectations requires providing students with the
scaffolding they need to succeed—a just-in-time, personalized response to students’ cognitive, psychosocial,
and academic needs.
High-performance school cultures. Effective schools ensure high-quality learning experiences in every
classroom. At the same time, they develop a culture of high expectations for learning and behavior, which is
an even more powerful predictor of student success than socioeconomic status.
Data-driven, high-reliability systems. High performing school systems put data systems and
processes in place to ensure high-quality learning experiences for all students, as well as real-time responses to
student failures.
Fully explained in Simply Better: Doing what matters most to change the odds for student success (Goodwin, 2011), these
five What Matters Most components are the basis for North Chicago’s strategic plan; indeed, in meetings with
stakeholders, these five research-based components resonated as an appropriate focus and became the basis
for the district’s strategic planning efforts. Utilizing McREL’s What Matters Most framework ensured a strong
foundation for our thinking based upon research and practice.