Improving district-level goal-setting with ‘SMART Goals,’part II


Don’t forget to check out Improving district-level goal-setting with ‘SMART Goals,’ part 1.

SMART goals are more specific… but can they really boost student outcomes?
When district-level SMART goals are set for student outcomes, they put a laser-focus upon addressing mastery and/or performance deficits amongst specific district populations learning specific subject areas. This is because SMART goals maintain their integrity as they cascade through district hierarchy. Conversely, vaguely and/or broadly written goals tend to lose focus due to misunderstanding, misinterpretation or intentional repurposing by lower-level, competing agendas. Upon reaching their implementers (typically the school teachers and administrative staff), the high clarity level of SMART goals makes them more easily converted into actionable behaviors. Likewise, it tends to be easier for personnel throughout the system to align their own professional objectives to the established SMART goals. Once this occurs, a powerful state of student-centric convergence can be established. If a district can maintain this over time, student outcomes inevitably trend significantly better.

Research has shown that when school boards and their associated district administrations engage in the following three SMART goal-setting best practices and then follow through on each with fidelity, they tend to see significant improvement in student outcomes:

  1. Work collaboratively with school board administration to set SMART goals for successful student outcomes
  2. Determine which of those SMART goals are non-negotiable
  3. Regularly monitor student outcomes to ensure steady progress toward SMART goals is being achieved

How exactly does one write a district-level SMART goal?

Firstly, a SMART goal should always embody the five attributes of the S-M-A-R-T acronym (referenced in part 1), regardless of the category or type of goal that is being written.

However, in the particular case of writing a district-level SMART goal for improving student performance outcomes, it should, at a minimum, have the following components and format:

“SMART Goal Format: “The state of {A} will move from {X} to {Y} within the time-frame of {Z}.”
a. {A} – A specific population of students (e.g. high school seniors in three lowest performing schools)
b. {X} – A baseline state / status (e.g. 40% passing EOCs a.k.a. ‘end of course’ exams)
c. {Y} – A target state / status (e.g. 80% passing EOCs)
d. {Z} – A designated time frame (e.g. within three years)

An example SMART Goal for student outcomes:

“Seniors in the Districts’ three lowest performing high schools, currently at a 40% passing rate for EOCs, will raise those passing rates to at least 80% within two years (by June, 20__).”

SMART goals are not that complicated to write. They merely take a bit of extra thought and analysis to generate sufficient degree of specificity and detail into the wording to avoid ambiguity. But the benefits which school boards can reap by adopting this goal-setting approach are significant.

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