What the TASB's Effective Board Practices: An Inventory for School Boards Says about Comprehensive District Goals

The following excerpt is from the Effective Board Practices: An Inventory for School Boards, Planning and Governance section. The numbers in the subheads refer to items in the Inventory checklist.

Planning and governance

The primary way a school board governs a district is by setting direction for the district—articulating the culture it wants the district to embody, establishing the outcomes the board would like the district to achieve, and expressing and supporting the aspirations of the community for the future of its children. The most efficient vehicles for doing this are a clearly articulated vision and both annual and long-term goals. The goals give staff clear direction in achieving the district vision. Without a well-formed vision and goals there can be a lack of a clear sense of purpose and direction in the district. A clear district vision and goals coordinate the decisions and focus of the district staff.

It is important that the board and superintendent ensure that a vision and goals are in place for the district and that they use them to guide their own work and the decisions they make. In doing so, the board-superintendent team expresses its commitment to the vision and goals and ensures that they are used to coordinate the efforts within the district.


District goals are more specific than a district vision. They can be short- or long-term and are focused on the results the district’s leaders would like as part of the effort in achieving the vision. The goals address the issues the board would like the district’s staff to spend special time, effort, and resources on in the coming year and in the long term. The board uses these goals to assess its decision making. The administration should use the goals to set work priorities for itself and the staff.

When setting goals, it is important that the board look comprehensively at the needs of the district and choose priorities carefully. To do this, the board needs the input of the superintendent and staff when setting district goals.

In addition to goals, the board must adopt student performance objectives each year. These objectives are related to the measures in the Academic Excellence Indicator System (AEIS). These objectives address specific and important student achievement measures. While these student performance objectives are required by law, they may not fully reflect the board’s top priorities for the district. It is common for a district to have a set of district goals (three to eight is a common number) along with performance objectives related to the AEIS. Some of those goals may pinpoint aspects of the student performance objectives the board feels deserve special attention.

For each goal that is developed, there should be specific criteria included. These criteria help clarify what is expected by those charged in achieving them. Without clear criteria for achieving goals, staff may be become confused about what specifically is expected.

District goals can be developed in a number of different ways. They can be developed by the board and the superintendent and possibly the inclusion of some other key administrators. In some districts, other staff members and/or parents may be involved in the development of the district goals. In others, district goals are developed by the administration and given to the board for its consideration and adoption.

Regardless of how the goals are developed, it is important that the board be fully committed to them. To ensure that the goals consistently represent the priorities of the district, it is important that the board take some action on them annually. This can include the board’s reviewing, revising, and readopting the goals.


Achieving the vision and goals

The district’s vision and goals should be consistently on the board’s mind. The board should take no action on major items without first formally questioning what, if any, effect it will have on the district moving forward toward accomplishing its goals.

One of the ways the board can monitor the advancement of district goals is by focusing the superintendent’s evaluation process on the attainment of the district goals. To do this the board will want to develop superintendent performance goals. These performance goals clearly articulate what the board wants to see the superintendent focusing his or her time on to achieve the district goals. If the board is clear in its expectations, it is more likely that the superintendent will devote significant time in ensuring the district’s priorities are achieved.

As part of the process of developing superintendent performance goals, the board should request scheduled periodic reports from the superintendent. These reports are designed to give the board information on what the superintendent and staff are doing to ensure progress is being made on specific district goals. Another of the things the board must do to ensure the successful completion of district goals is to adopt a budget that adequately funds the district’s priorities. The board needs to ask questions about the adequacy of funding for district goals of the superintendent when he or she presents the budget. If the goals are adequately funded, the likelihood of their being achieved is far greater than if they are underfunded.

Below you will find items from Effective Board Practices: An Inventory for School Boards and their associated criteria about comprehensive district goals. You can review the entire Inventory and print out copies if you’d like. 

2.1 The board adopts or reaffirms a comprehensive list of district goals each year through formal board action.

You can check “Yes” for the above item if you check “Yes” to all the criteria below:

    1. The board formally adopted or reaffirmed a list of goals within the past 12 months.
    2. Workshop documents from the goal-setting process indicate the board considered a broad range of district issues and student achievement measures before limiting the goals to those included in its list.
    3. Each member of the board can state in general terms the substantive content of current goals.
    4. The board can point to specific, written criteria that will be used to assess whether the district is succeeding in reaching its goals.  

2.2 Mechanisms for disseminating the goals for the district are clearly identified and in writing.

You can check “Yes” for the above item if you check “Yes” to all the criteria below:

  1. Current goals are either posted in the board room or made available to the audience at board meetings.
  2. The goals are available on all campuses and the district Web site, and all staff members have been informed about them.

2.3 The board is familiar with administration’s written plans for accomplishing the goals. The plans include time lines for implementation, specific mechanisms for assessing the effectiveness of the plans, and specific times for reporting to the board on progress.

You can check “Yes” for the above item if you check “Yes” to all the criteria below:

  1. The board has looked at copies of, or been formally briefed about, the administration’s plans for accomplishing the current district goals.
  2. The written plans state what results the board will see after implementation and include time lines for implementation, procedures for assessing effectiveness, and a schedule for progress reports to the board.