Appendix 6.5

Another Way to View Root Causes


School District:


School Building:

Problem identification and analyses help us think through the big picture and locate the reasons or root causes of problems.  Steps in solving problems, using multiple measures of data (adapted from materials created by Victoria Bernhardt), are shown below.  This process very closely follows the “Bringing It Together Implementation Framework” provided in this document, and provides further detail for individuals who may not be familiar with root cause analysis. 

  1. Identify the problem ¾ Identify and analyze symptoms
  2. Describe hunches and hypotheses ¾ break up observations about data
  3. Determine questions you need to ask to find out if the hunches and hypotheses are fact or fiction
  4. Analyze multiple measures of data ¾ Identify root causes
  5. Analyze the political realities
  6. Identify possible solutions
  7. Match possible solutions with root causes
  8. Develop an action plan for solving the problem
  9. Implement the action plan
  10. Evaluate the implementation
  11. Improve the process

Defining the Problem: 

Priority Area:
E.g., Special Education, Middle School Mathematics 



Description of Problem:
E.g., Turnover rate is excessive or recurring. 





E.g., To improve the retention of new teachers by 20% in the priority area.






What are the Symptoms (outward, observable evidence) of the Problem?
Use available data to document and explore symptoms. 





Hunches and Hypotheses to Get to Root Cause 

Priority Area:

Observation/Possible Cause

Questions about the Observation

Possible Data to Support

Is this a Condition or a Problem?







. . .
What Are Your “Ah=Hahs” from Your Analysis of the Data?





What Are the Root Causes?


Text Box: Adapted from: (2001) Comprehensive District Education Plan, New York State Education Department (