Measuring Progress of Strategic Initiatives

  • We should be measuring progress of strategic initiatives in schools so that we are satisfying our curiosity and to know that we are having the impact we intend

  • Measuring progress of strategic initiatives is a cyclic process of identifying strategic initiatives outcomes, designing monitoring tools, collecting data, looking at data, and then making changes or celebrating success

  • When measuring progress of strategic initiatives we must keep the end in mind and list out specific desired outcomes for our initiatives.

  • We can leverage different perspectives when identifying desired outcomes and create strategies for measuring the progress of our desired outcomes with our measuring progress planning tool.

  • Example from the field: Measuring progress of a new wellness program initiative.

Why measure progress of strategic initiatives?

In our drive to continuously improve our schools we regularly launch strategic initiatives but how do we know if these initiatives are truly making a difference?

Schools need strategies and clear ways to measure progress of collective goals and to satisfy the curiosity to see if our actions are leading to better learning for students.

By implementing this strategies of measuring progress schools are able to celebrate what is working, identify areas in need of improvement, and confidently know if we are achieving our intended goals.

So how might we go about doing this?

Cyclical strategy for measuring progress of strategic initiatives

As we consider measuring the progress of our initiatives, maintaining a cyclical mindset allows us to think of the data collected as we measure our progress as formative and helps us develop next steps in our work. As we reflect on data and progress we can adjust the initiative and the desired outcomes to better fit our community. The key part of this cycle is to make the initiative as well as the desired outcomes of the initiative crystal clear so that we can design the right measuring tools. With the right measuring tools we will be able to collect relevant data that will lead to identifying what changes we can make and what we might be able to celebrate.

Starting with the end in mind and clearly identifying crystal clear desired outcomes

Identifying the desired outcomes of the initiative

The most crucial part of measuring progress is to identify crystal clear desired outcomes of the initiative that we will measure progress towards. This mindset of thinking about what the school community will look like and sound like often gets over looked, however it can be one of the most satisfying aspects of the process. This is where we can dream up all the ways that this initiative will improve our community, help students be better people, and create a better place for learning! These desired outcomes become the success criteria for what we would expect when the the strategic initiative is fully operationalized.

Discussion starters for leaders to develop clear desired outcomes:

  • What will success look like and sound like?

  • What are our hopes for the way students will say about the initiative?

  • What would we expect to see change when fully implemented?

  • What are the true 2nd order cultural changes we will see once fully realized?

By answering the above questions we are not only measuring progress but defining our desired outcomes. With these outcomes in mind we can then devise creative ways to track, measure, observe, or realize them in conversations. At the very least know what our aspirational intentions are.

Keeping the end in mind

Desired Outcomes

Categorizing desired outcomes with different perspectives

There may be a need to dive deeper into what outcomes we are intending by taking on different perspectives such as programs, teacher learning outcomes and practice as well as the impact on students. The following categories are tied to discussion questions that are also included in our measuring progress planning tool.

Program/Policy Outcome

  • Were the program or policy changes implemented?

  • Was the quality of implementation as we expected?

  • Were resources allocated to support the changes?

Student Learning Outcomes /Impact on students

  • Are students learning new or acquiring new skills as intended?

  • What changes in attitudes/beliefs are in evidence?

  • What changes in behavior are in evidence?

Teacher Learning Outcomes (Skills/Dispositions)

  • What are teachers meant to be learning?

  • Have they learned it?

  • What changes in attitudes/beliefs are in evidence?

Teacher-Practice Outcomes

  • Are teachers implementing in their classroom/authentic contexts?

  • To what extent are strategies being implemented as intended?

Measuring Progress Towards our Desired Outcomes

Tools that measuring what we value

Once the desired outcomes are clear and observable, the next step is to design systems and tools that will measure the progress of achieving those desired outcomes. The tools that we select will depend on context, however we need to consider what we value and then intentionally measure what we value in connection to our desired outcomes. Schools generally value more than just test scores, so leaders need to think creatively on how they might gather the data that reflect the schools mission, vision, and values.

Caution: One of the downfalls of measuring progress towards strategic initiatives is that leaders often focus on numbers on surveys, attendance/graduation, and standardized tests. Of course, part of the way we measure progress is to see positive impact on measures that are numerical, but there should also be opportunities to measure the progress of our desired outcomes in conversation, observable behaviors, new routines, meeting outcomes, and cultural shifts that may not seem to be easily measurable. Data can be student exam results on a test, but it can also be themes that we have identified when talking to students.

Start with rubrics when designing progress monitoring tools

Once you have made it clear as to what your common goals and desired outcomes are, a rubric is the best place to start when designing your progress monitoring tools. Creating a rubric for each one of your success criteria or desired outcomes is a great way to start developing a measuring progress monitoring tool. Out of the rubric, teachers and leaders will be able to use the rubric to have a common language towards goals and create other measuring progress tools such as:

  • Specific look-fors during classroom observations , learning walks, and instructional rounds

  • Conversations with students, teachers, and parents

  • Observations and evidence of new routines

  • Pre and post perception surveys

  • Product analysis with pre-defined rubric

  • Progressions and classroom rubrics

  • Pre and post audits

  • Academic results related to desired outcomes

Measuring progress planning tool

The measuring progress planning tool is a way for leaders to consider different perspectives when considering desired outcomes. Once the desired outcomes are clearly outlined leaders can then identify tools and strategies to measure the progress of the desired outcomes.

Measuring progress strategies:

  • What tools or strategies will be used to assess progress. How will we know we are progressing?

  • When and how will information/data be gathered and by who?

  • Who is the audience of this collection of data?

  • When will we look at the results or gather information?

  • Why are we doing this and for what purpose?

What are we doing along the way?

Depending on your desired outcomes and tools for measuring progress you will have different types of collection methods. As we make observations around the school and collect relevant data we will be able to engage in conversations about what is happening we need to continuously be asking ourselves:

  1. What’s working?

  2. What isn’t working?

  3. How can we do even better for our students?

Example from the field:

Strategic Initiative:

Implementing a school wide Wellness Program

Desired outcomes:

  • Students are happy to be at school and look forward to being a part of the community

  • Stress level is decreased

  • Teachers will notice a boost in the overall morale of the school

  • At risk students will improve in academic areas and engage in after school programs

Measure progress tools and strategies:

  • We will survey students at the beginning of the program and again towards the end of the program about their wellness and see if we have shifted perspective in a positive way.

  • In discussion with students at lunch teachers will talk to students about the wellness program and report back their findings at meetings and we will record and identify themes from the discussions over time.

  • We will identify groups of students who we feel need support with their wellbeing and are struggling with learning and life. We will interview these students and see how the wellness program is impacting their academic life, social life, and personal life and how we could do better. We will discuss our qualitative findings in planned meetings throughout the year, identify themes and make adjustments based on our findings.