KEYS 2.0 — Keys for Excellence for Your Schools
School improvement is like a trip: you can’t plan it unless you know where you want to go. Keys for Excellence for Your Schools — KEYS for short — shows the way. And it puts the school community in the driver’s seat.
What is KEYS?
Developed by the National Education Association, KEYS is a comprehensive assessment and improvement process built around partnerships between local NEA affiliates and school districts. It’s effective because it gives teachers a voice and gets the entire school community involved.
Research demonstrates that instruction and teacher quality account for about 50 percent of improvements in students’ performance. The other 50 percent is directly related to communication, decision-making processes, and coordinated efforts — the very concepts KEYS measures.
How does it work?
The process begins with a time-tested, validated survey that reveals strengths as well as where improvement is needed — in particular, changes that can help raise student achievement and close achievement gaps. Schools and districts can use the survey as a stand-alone tool or in conjunction with an improvement process that is already underway.
Who foots the bill?
NEA covers the entire cost of the survey, as well as related training, resources, and technical support, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In return, schools and districts must commit time, resources, and personnel to the improvement process.
Built on decades of rigorous research leavened by real-life experience, KEYS is the product of collaboration among educators, administrators, parents, and community members — everyone with a stake in improving schools.
How was the survey developed?
NEA introduced the first KEYS survey in 1993 and KEYS 2.0 in 2000. But the effort began even earlier, when NEA embarked on a major research project to identify indicators of school quality.
The original KEYS survey assessed organizational conditions within schools that support teaching and learning. KEYS 2.0 added questions about teaching and learning directly related to student achievement — specifically, the quality of the school’s content standards, curricula, assessments, and instruction.
Who takes the survey?
The people who take the survey are those who know the school best: educators, parents, and community members. Responses are anonymous. The survey takes about half an hour to complete and is administered online. It can be taken in either Spanish or English and does not have to be completed in a single sitting.
Responses are compiled and analyzed by computer, yielding objective data on 42 indicators of school quality that have been empirically correlated with student achievement. These indicators are divided into six categories:
- Shared understanding and commitment to high goals
- Open communication and collaborative problem solving
- Continuous assessment for teaching and learning
- Personal and professional learning
- Resources to support teaching and learning
- Curriculum and instruction
What does the survey show?
NEA generates comprehensive, highly detailed reports for individual schools and entire districts. For ease of use, findings are graphically displayed. Schools and districts decide for themselves how to use them.
Among other things, reports show how each school compares to national norms, the degree of consensus among respondents for each indicator, and whether perceptions differ among groups of respondents — for example, parents and teachers. District-wide reports help pinpoint differences among schools and identify reasons for them.
NEA has developed the checklists below to help school districts and individual schools determine whether they’re ready for KEYS.
What must districts do?
To determine whether KEYS is right for your district, consider these questions:
- Do you plan to use the survey as a tool to make improvements?
- Is there consensus that this is appropriate strategy?
- Do key stakeholders — educators, administrators, parents, and community members — support the initiative?
- Can you secure resources — time, knowledge, skills, and money — to implement needed reforms?
- Have potential participants been fully briefed?
- Do you have a plan for sharing — and using — what you learn from the survey?
If you answered “yes” to the questions, you’re ready! Participating districts and NEA affiliates may be invited to a two- or three-day workshop designed especially for district-wide use of KEYS.