This post is a follow-up to our first look at district strategy planning. In it we explored the importance of a well-communicated strategic plan and the six different categories a strategy can fall into.

How do school districts define and measure success? To answer this question, we looked at our data consisting of more than 100 school district strategic plans nationwide, with over 500 strategic plan goals and 340 distinct key performance indicator (KPI) measurements. From our research we found school districts tend to focus on improving their teacher-centric strategy that’s reinforced with sturdy back-end logistics. We hope these findings help bridge the gap between district administrators and education technology vendors so they will coordinate together to continue to improve their school districts. Here are the 3 common KPI measurement categories that we saw across the strategic plans:

#1. Teacher-centric perspective

Our first finding was that out of the six categories the goals of a strategic plan could fall into, the vast majority of them were in the category associated with a teacher-centric perspective on a student’s college, career and life readiness. Likewise, we see most schools focusing on improving their academic programs, their professional development opportunities, and their instructional support activities so that teachers have the tools and resources they need to better tailor instruction to their students’ needs.

#2. Back-end logistics and operations

The second most covered strategic category was the overall logistics & operations of a school district. In this category, school district goals tended to focus on the back-end administrative and business processes of the school system. Common goals we saw included efforts to sustain financial stability, to ensure efficient and effective procurement processes and to provide a safe and secure environment for all students and staff.

Within these two categories alone, it is clear that school districts put most of their attention and effort into providing students with the best educational environment possible, including the requisite services and support to ensure academic success.

#3. Quantitative metrics

Another observation was the extent to which school districts had clear and measurable metrics for assessing progress on achieving the goals identified in their strategic plans. School districts generally focused on measuring outcomes such as graduation rates, standardized test scores, SAT/ACT enrollment, school attendance and participation in advanced placement courses as indicators of academic achievement.

After academic achievement measures, the next two most frequently measured areas of performance were relatively equal: attracting and retaining top teaching talent within the school district and the back-end logistics and operations of a school district.

These three top key performance indicators coincide with the majority of strategic plans that identify college, career and life readiness and school district logistics & operations as their primary focus.

But this quantitative analysis doesn’t tell the complete story. Even though this data is representative of the strategic plans we reviewed, not all KPI measures are considered to be equal. For instance, it is much easier for a school district to measure numerical values such as test scores and graduation rates than it is to measure something less concrete like teacher development and community outreach. Though it should be noted that many school districts use surveys to capture data on topics considered more subjective in nature.

This analysis is important not just to district administrators but also to edtech vendors that hope to partner with schools. Our takeaways from this research include additional ways that we can tailor our solutions so that they are more relevant to school districts’ goals. Our personalized learning solutions place the student at the center of the education journey enabling school districts to encourage greater student ownership over their academic progress. Even further, with safety and security solutions provided by Blackboard, districts can ensure that vital information gets to the people who need to know it as they need to know it. Whether it be parents, board members, staff, students, or other community members, school districts can keep them informed and involved.

This post was written by Dan Blevins, K-12 Strategy Intern at Blackboard. During his time at Blackboard, Dan focused on market research and data analytics for K-12 school districts. He is an economics major in his senior year at James Madison University.

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