Systems Leadership for Math Improvement

Practical Measures

Practical Measures are tools intentionally designed to be quick, frequent, and manageable measures to support teachers’ daily practice. Practical measures stem from the field of Improvement Science, and were originally developed by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching to address perennial challenges in education. Ideas about practical measurement emerge from the understanding that many large-scale reform efforts in education failed to deliver on the sweeping improvements they promised, in part because reformers are not using learning in a systematic fashion (Yeager, et al., 2013).

In contrast to tools designed for accountability or research, practical measures are focused on improvement within particular working contexts (Solberg, Mosser, & McDonald, 1997). Because they are easy to use and deliberately short in duration, they can provide teachers and school/district leaders with immediate information about student and/or teacher thinking and learning, and potential barriers to their learning.

Practical measures are developed as part of a design cycle that includes four stages beginning with identifying a problem of practice. Next, tools such as practical measures that support improvement are developed and implemented. The final stage is reflection on the tool’s design and implementation with the goal of making changes for further improvement (Berwick, 2008; Bryk, Gomez, Grunow & LeMahieu, 2015).

Key Features of Practical Measures

  • They are designed specifically to address an organization’s improvement goal.
  • The practical measure intentionally includes language and a focus that is meaningful to the practitioners working in the context in which it will be implemented.
  • The measure can be easily changed or adapted as the design cycle continues.
  • The data collection phase of the practical measure is not too demanding, and meant to be carried out in the context of daily practice.
  • The resulting data produced by the practical measure is relevant to practitioners and includes information that they can use to improve practice.

(Adapted from Bryk, et al., 2015; Yeager, et al., 2013)

Additional Reading and Resources for Practical Measures


Bryk, Anthony S., Gomez, Louis M., Grunow, Alicia, & LeMahieu, Paul G. (2015). Learning to Improve: How America’s Schools Can Get Better at Getting Better. Harvard Education Press.

Kochmanski, N, Henrick, E & Cobb, A. (2015) On the Advancement of Content-Specific Practical Measures Assessing Aspects of Instruction Associated with Student Learning. National Center on Scaling Up Effective Schools Conference, Nashville, Tennessee, October 8, 2015.

Yeager, D., Bryk, A. S., Muhich, J., Hausman, H., & Morales, L. (2013). Practical measurement. Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Stanford, CA.


PMR²- Practical Measures, Routines, and Representations for Improving Instruction

Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching

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Our Practical Measure