Tell Your Story. Define Your Success.
The ability to articulate and substantiate a compelling story of student success and school quality ultimately speaks to the return on investment that schools provide the communities they serve. School quality and student success are a matter of definition. For years, federal policy has controlled the definition of student success and school quality as predominately how students perform on state assessments. As educators, we know there are many additional outcomes that predict student success and align closer to the values of local communities. The story of local school districts is more comprehensive than what state report cards capture.
The state report card is only part of the story – unless the missing parts are never told. Absent the rest of the story, the incomplete story told via the state report cards becomes the full story. The idea is to provide communities the full story.
Many districts are turning to the idea of a strategic dashboard to help tell their school district’s story by more accurately reporting the impact that local schools are having on their communities. Telling a compelling story rests on the degree to which a local school district’s dashboard is aligned to their vision for student success. A well-developed strategic dashboard helps superintendents and school boards align and direct resources toward what matters, resulting in better leadership and governance.
Measure what Matters
Strategic dashboards allow school districts to be more creative and scientific with regards to data indicators. Schools are no longer confined to metrics from state mandated data. Schools can now leverage any local data available to define more meaningful metrics that best measure the outcomes most important to their communities.
There is no shortage of data within school systems. The volume of available data can seem overwhelming, making it difficult to decide where to focus. As the adage goes:
“not everything that counts can be counted, and
not everything that can be counted counts”.
These are great words of wisdom to think about when building a strategic dashboard. There are likely outcomes that you believe matter, but cannot be reduced to a number. It is important to find creative ways to include these qualitative items. Equally important is to refrain from incorporating indicators of performance on your strategic dashboard merely because they are easy to report.
To Measure is to Sample
Building an effective strategic dashboard is a measurement challenge not unlike developing a mathematics test for students. Just as psychometricians start by defining the construct mathematics, and then sampling observable indicators in the form of test items, you must start with your district’s vision, and then sample observable indicators in the form of key performance metrics.
Your district may qualify for a free strategic dashboard through your membership in AASA or other professional organizations.