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One of the Must Haves® for school districts and institutions of higher education (IHE) is to develop accountable and aligned leader evaluations to drive performance. This allows alignment of the district or institution’s strategic plan to core metrics and tools used for evaluating leader performance (to drive accountability). Organizations develop and use a dashboard to keep the core metrics/measures visible and “in real time” (or within 1-week lag).

What does this mean at the classroom-level or for individual student learning? Individual teachers or instructional coaches (or teaching teams or professional learning communities) review individual student-level data on 30-day learning target assessments.

Learning Gains Dashboard. On a bulletin board build a chart that includes each individual student at the school and shows their progress toward mastering grade-level learning targets for the current academic year. Baseline measures for each student are visible using a “red,” “yellow,” and “green” color system for low, middle/solid, high performance respectively according the student’s score on the state comprehensive test from the prior year. Likewise, the bottom level of the chart is red (low performing), the middle level is yellow (solid performing), and the top level is green (high performing). Percentages are attached to each level. Each student begins the year at his/her respective level. As the year progresses and skills are assessed, students are moved up (or down) on the chart. The students are grouped on the chart by teacher; thus, it is also possible to see how well individual teachers are “moving” students within their classes to higher learning gains.

Direct Instruction. The review of each student and the charting of his/her learning gains on a (visible) dashboard allows the educator(s) to identify the standards and/or sub-standards for which each student needs remediation. Instructional tools and lesson plans specific to the standards and/or sub-standards are developed so that teachers are “ready” for direct instruction based on individual student needs.

What does this mean at the school or organizational level? Leaders must choose data that are meaningful to them to include in the dashboard. If dashboard data are not meaningful, then there is no reason to track or highlight it. Studer Education piloted its first performance dashboard last week aligning our performance areas (or pillars) to internal and external services.

Choosing Meaningful Data. We are an organization in year 2; thus, in some ways we are still focusing and re-focusing individual and organizational goals as we realize our team’s strengths and potential. Our dashboard data choices align to 4 of our 6 pillars: Service, Quality, Growth, and Community; our “People” pillar goals are evident across the four. (Our Finance pillar goals are kept in a separate dashboard.) Our dashboard data include:

Simple Frequencies for initial contacts by phone or by email; “hits” to website or specific post or content; Business Development calls; Sales by type; Contacts with partners; etc.

Rolling Averages for individual surveys and for evaluations when conducting training/professional development.

Social Media Metrics for each of the company’s social media accounts.

Dashboard Light is “On.” In our pilot week our team gained awareness of what was happening across all Pillar areas and our “work” became meaningful in different ways. One example: We became aware of the actual number of individuals who were contacting us for “more information” or because they were interested in our program(s) and yet our program numbers have not historically reflected enrollment at a level of one-fourth of these individuals. We know these folks are qualitatively different in that they contact us so we began thinking about process changes to increase net enrollment from this group. Though we may have known there was some need for change, our ability for the entire team to see the data and own it individually allowed for a conversation about process change to happen. This “movement toward performance excellence” conversation occurring at the conclusion of our pilot week! A second example: The data allowed one high performer on the team to take a moment and reflect on his/her work, “I had no idea that I had made that many connections with students; that made me feel good!”

As discussed above, leaders and teams enjoy many real-time benefits from data dashboards for decision-making. Once established, dashboards are useful for the development of accountable and aligned evaluations to drive performance (see Evidence-Based Leadership and Service Excellence Results and Continuous Improvement: Strategic Plan Alignment for district level examples). The key in creating the dashboard is choosing/defining meaningful data to you and/or your organization.