One of the most important responsibilities of a local school board is to set comprehensive goals for the school district. When done well, this practice helps clarify priorities for the district and focuses staff on improving student success.
At TASB, we’re often asked, “When is the best time to do goal setting for the district?” The answer is, when it makes the most sense for your board, staff, and community. Many districts choose to set goals during summer months, after the academic year has ended and before another begins. However, it just depends on how it best fits in your annual planning cycle.
The Texas Education Code says that schools must “adopt a vision statement and comprehensive goals for the district and the superintendent.” You can learn more about the board’s planning requirements in your policy manual starting with policies BAA(LEGAL) and BQ(LEGAL).
There are three important questions to ask and address when setting goals for your district.
1. Where Are We Right Now?
You can’t figure out where you need to go if you don’t know where you are. So, your governance leadership team's first step will be to assess where the district is on key measures.
These measures should be driven primarily by how well your district has done in educating all students. You have access to a wealth of information about this in your district at Texas Academic Performance Reports. You also have a variety of measures collected at the district level in academic and fiscal areas, among others. Talk with your superintendent, staff, and board about what local assessment tools and measures are in place.
Once your board, superintendent, and staff know where your district has succeeded and where it can improve, you’re ready for the next step in planning for the future.
2. Where Do We Want to Go?
Have an honest discussion with your board and superintendent team about which areas pose the greatest roadblocks to doing the best for your students. Some teams include key staff members in this discussion and others invite input from community members. Be sure someone takes notes during this discussion.
With your team, narrow down which topics the district should focus on in the next year or two. Once the team comes to consensus, you can establish clear goals for the district. Limit the number of district wide goals when going through this process, so that you can really focus on what’s important.
Your goals should be SMART:
3. How Will We Measure Success?
Once goals are set, you’ll need to determine how you’ll measure your progress. It’s important for the board to select measures, usually in the form of superintendent performance goals, within two months. This allows the superintendent and staff to have clear direction as they work to accomplish the district’s goals.
Having a focus on SMART metrics helps the board monitor progress of the district’s goals. One of the areas that many school boards can improve is in enhancing monitoring systems of district goals. Continuous communication about goals is essential to creating success and ensuring support from the board.