Joán Álvarez is presented with the 2019 Ryan Award

Accelerate Institute Releases New Report on Goal Management at Schools

Each and every school is a complex ecosystem with its own unique strengths, as well as challenges to overcome.

In our October 2019 “Hyper Focus” white paper, we discussed how transforming a school requires a strategic, systematic approach; meaningful change cannot occur as the result of a one-size-fits-all solution.

The Accelerate Framework serves as a foundation for setting a cycle of continuous improvement in motion. Within it, effective goals and data-driven processes are the key progress drivers.

But it goes deeper than that. In order to meet the school’s goals, leadership needs to engage in constant, data-driven progress monitoring.

The problem is, many schools are not setting a big goal and looking at their data with enough frequency to implement change when it needs to happen. And they also aren’t accustomed to taking immediate action when the data does show that current practices are not working. 

Even if schools are leveraging the 80/20 Rule to identify their highest priorities during the strategic planning process, without an effective goal management process linked to the elements of the Accelerate Framework, they are unlikely to truly achieve school transformation.

In our newest report, “Driven by Learning: How the Forcing Function Pushes Schools Toward Excellence,” we lay out how to effectively implement a goal management process at your school.

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OKRs and the Forcing Function

What do high-profile organizations like Google and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have in common?

The answer, is that they both subscribe to the “Objectives and Key Results” (OKRs) system. OKRs allow organizations to identify their top priories—and exactly how they’ll accomplish these goals.

At Accelerate Institute, we’ve modeled our own Forcing Function concept after OKRs to help schools create their goal management systems.

The Forcing Function requires schools to confront the data on student learning on an ongoing basis, and holds them accountable to whether their efforts are truly driving improvement: team accountability is judged not by what teachers have taught, but on what the data is saying students have learned.

The outcomes-based Forcing Function system includes:

  1. a main school goal centered around student achievement; 

  2. a Primary Metric to monitor progress toward the goal; 

  3. and a set of structures and norms that “force” the school to analyze what’s working to create action steps.

With the help of the Forcing Function, school leaders make strides toward transformation while simultaneously weaving through the six Accelerate Framework objectives.

In executing the drivers correlated with each Framework objective, leadership forges a connection back to its main school goal.

Effectively Data-Driven

The Primary Metric is the data point in the Forcing Function system that should indicate whether students are on track to meet the broader end-of-year school academic goal.

Without regular, high-level analysis of classroom-level data, it’s not possible to identify trends and determine how they relate to content areas, grade levels, or teachers.

School-wide data analysis should happen often enough that immediate change can take place. It must also be done thoroughly enough that there are no surprises as whether end-of-year assessments will show that students are meeting college- and career-ready standards.

Primary Metric data—and also attendance, discipline, and classroom walkthrough data—must be used as a monthly progress check toward the end-of-year school goal.

At the same time, teachers should be leveraging the monthly Primary Metric data to inform instructional practices, while also checking it against weekly and daily student data.

During monthly meetings, school leadership teams should analyze the patterns in their data:

  • Which classrooms and grade levels did meet the goal and why? Can their strategies be adopted in other classrooms?

  • Which classrooms and grade levels improved month-to-month and why? Can their strategies be useful for other classrooms?

  • Which classrooms and grade levels are not meeting the goal, and why?

Taking Action on the Data

Data collection is important. Analysis, equally so. But these steps mean nothing without real, concrete action based on your findings.

To effectively accelerate student achievement, data analysis must yield action steps that truly improve instructional practices.

Teams must be honest with themselves about whether the action steps were completed, and event more important: whether the steps had the intended impact on student learning

Driving Systematic Change

When it comes to closing the achievement gap in America’s education system, individual schools are the unit of transformation.

Principals are the catalyst for change. Their work in creating the conditions that are necessary for excellent teaching and learning to happen is paramount.

But systematic change must not end at the individual school level. The larger networks and systems that schools are a part of are often dysfunctional themselves.

In order to close the achievement gap, each level of the educational system needs its own objectives and key results in place.

They must be aligned to one overarching goal: making sure that every student in America—regardless of their ZIP code—graduates college- and career-ready.

With this goal is clearly defined, educators can then ask the two important questions that are necessary to make it a reality: 

“How can we measure progress to goals to ensure 
continuous improvement in our schools for all students?”

And 

“What actions do we need to take at each level to get us there?”



Does your school, district, and state have an effective goal management system?

  • What is the common overarching goal, and is it tied to getting all students on-track to to college- and career-readiness? Do you have a metric that tells you on a frequent basis whether your school is on-track toward the goal?

  • Are all stakeholders focused and aligned to the goal and objectives? Are objectives aligned across schools, districts, and the state?
  • What types of data are analyzed? Are they examined more than one-to-two times per year?
  • Is district, school, and classroom-level data used to identify priority levers for increasing students achievement?
  • Are resources allocated so that schools and classrooms have what they need to meet their priority goals?
  • Is the data monitored in a dashboard for correlations between the levers that were selected and the movement in student achievement? Are adjustments made if the data is not showing improvement?
  • Are course correction plans developed and executed?
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