Setting and meeting school district goals can be hard, so this blog aims to troubleshoot any common issues district leaders or school staff may have in the upcoming school year. Firstly, we’ll highlight some common goals that are great milestones for school districts to strive to meet. Then, we’ll outline general goal-setting and achievement guidelines, so you can make sure you’re on the right track even in the planning stage.
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What are some common school district goals?
The possibilities for creating district goals are endless and really anything that can be measured could potentially be a target to hit. However, there are a few goals that are more common than others. Below is a list of common district goals and smaller goals that fit into them.
|Main goals||Smaller goals|
|Maximize student academic outcomes||
|Streamline expenditures across the district||
|Improve district <> school <> external stakeholder relationships||
|Increase supports for students with special needs||
|Increase the social emotional competencies of all students||
As can be seen in this list, school district goals could be student-oriented, finance-related, or even vanity metrics (such as the Twitter followers target). These goals can of course also be broken down even further, should you find that useful and necessary.
How to set goals
One mistake that people often make when thinking about goals for the future is that the most difficult aspect is achieving them, but this is not always the case. Oftentimes, deciding on which areas your goals should be set and creating appropriate metrics around them is one of the most difficult. It is also the most important step in goal setting and is key in determining whether or not you’ll meet them. Here are some of our top tips for setting district goals.
One big deadline, plus lots of little ones
Sometimes deciding on the deadline for goal setting is the first step, but other times it might come later. The differences between these scenarios are if your goal deadlines are apparent from the get-go, for example, if you’re working with your team to set goals for the new school year, or end of the semester, or by exam season. Then, once you know this deadline, decide on a few more deadlines between then and now.
For example, if your deadline is the end of the new school year, have deadlines for smaller targets at the end of each semester. Then add in more deadlines for even smaller targets halfway through each semester. This will keep everyone on track to achieving the overall goal.
Decide on the overall goal
One way to set goals for your school district is to decide on a wider goal and work inwards. Think about the bird’s eye view of the success you’d like to achieve by your deadline first of all, so that way you can break down each ‘stepping stone’ goal that will take you toward the bigger one.
It is very important that when deciding on a large goal for your school district you don’t set the goal too high or be too unrealistic with your expectations. This could make the goal too difficult to achieve and while you may think you’re pushing your team’s capabilities, you may actually just be setting them up to fail. This is bad for morale and will ultimately lead to unfulfilled goals.
It’s often a wise idea to use the SMART method of goal setting. This means setting goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. This is particularly useful when setting goals for students, as they may not be able to focus on longer-term, trickier goals. Nevertheless, being SMART about district goals even for educators and other staff could be a great way to get your district on its way to achieving targets.
By that same token, don’t forget to push yourself and your team just that little bit further! When goals are too easy, team members are unlikely to work hard to reach them, since they feel overconfident in achieving their milestones. It’s critical to find that sweet spot between goals that are too unfeasible and goals that are too easy. You can do this by looking at metrics and targets from previous years or school terms, finding growth (or depletion) patterns, and projecting them onto future years.
How to meet goals
Now that you’ve set your goals, it’s time to start working towards achieving them. Wondering whether or not you’ll meet district goals can be daunting, but feeling too overwhelmed with your targets may in fact hinder your ability to reach them. This is why it’s important to follow the advice given in the previous section of this blog so that your goals are tangible and do not stretch resources too thinly.
Stay up-to-date with your team
We often write here at Satchel Pulse about the benefits of communication in school districts, but we don’t just mean communication between schools and families. Strong, frequent communication should also exist between school staff, especially the team members who are working toward these district goals. As a leader, it’s important to frequently talk with other members of the team to make sure that everyone is on track, understands the overall goal, and is not facing any barriers that will stop the goals from being met. Staying informed means any hindrances that do occur en route to your milestones can be swiftly addressed and overcome.
It is also a good idea to survey your team members every once in a while with questions that give them the opportunity to feedback about how they’re currently feeling in regard to the district goals and how hopeful they are in achieving them. You can do this by using an easy-to-use online survey builder.
Staying informed means any hindrances that do occur en route to your milestones can be swiftly addressed and overcome.
Share with all community members
Of course, it is at the discretion of district leaders whether all or some goals are shared with external stakeholders such as parents and families. However, sharing targets and milestones with the wider community not only helps you stay on track but also keeps everyone informed and motivated for the new school year. Another benefit of this is that it will help your school district to build and maintain strong, communicative relationships with all community members.
Remember the end result
Sometimes we all need a reminder about the bigger picture and goal-setting is no different. Motivation and energy levels fluctuate, and that’s okay. When this happens, make sure team members, such as educators or SEL coordinators, are receiving the support they need to put a spring back into their steps.
You could perhaps motivate them by reminding them of the bigger picture, although this tends to work best with student-focused goals. For example, remind staff about the impact they’re having on the young learners in your district and the benefits these end goals will have on them as they grow and develop. For teachers, you can even remind them of the reasons why they became a teacher in the first place!
Remember the journey
Equally, remember how far you’ve come on the journey to achieving your targets. Think about where you were as a school district this time last year or last semester. Thinking about all the steps you’ve taken as a team can motivate them to carry on until the deadline.
Don’t forget to celebrate the wins! Whether you consider them small wins or massive accomplishments, be loud and proud about the successes your team, school, and district are enjoying. This is especially important if these are in relation to your district goals. For example, if your goal is to achieve an overall exam test rate of 90% over the whole school year and students achieve high test scores in mock exams in the first semester, celebrate that!