Better School Metrics Helps Boards Make Better Decisions
The better data a school board has, the better job they can do. I write this as a school board president who has served on two school boards for over 10 years. I have been a teacher, but my background is in business. This is important because I understand board members are either unpaid, or get a small stipend, and cannot afford to put many hours per month into investigating what goes on at the schools. A school needs good data; school data that focuses on desired outcomes.
That is not as simple as academic data. A large part of your academic data is going to be from testing, and testing can have a big impact on school finances and in some instances in whether the school stays open or not. However, the academic results are dependent upon other factors, such as attendance, family support, stability in living situations, getting individual tutoring, and identifying gaps in knowledge and addressing them.
That said, school boards should spend less time focused on things that cannot be measured, and more time on things that can be measured.
What Should School Boards Review?
School Board Members should review financial reports that look at the dashboard details, related to cash on hand, account payables, enrollment trends comparisons, etc. School boards must also do a review of more detailed values. Unclear, individual line items on such financial reports can be good questions during a board meeting. Good fiscal oversight is the top job of a school board. Schools cannot succeed if they are not run well, or when fraudulent activity occurs.
While every state is different, boards should review testing, practice testing, and academic progress. A committee should meet once or twice a year to carefully review gap analysis and the methods teachers are using to bridge gaps that appear in testing. When the board asks to see this kind of clear-cut data, it also forces the school to take a careful and more detailed look.
Next, carefully review impact data points for your school. These data points will be based upon the type of school you are serving. For example, for a DOP school, earned credit hours are an important data point to show the school is helping students make progress towards graduation. For an elementary school, overall attendance is a more important data point. Breaking attendance down by classroom or grade is also important because it can help you identify problem areas and address them.
Getting More School Board Data
All of these board data points are crucial for overseeing a successful school. The problem for schools is in the less tangible issues that contribute to better academics, better enrollment, better attendance, and overall better school culture. When you do not have actual, measurable data, you tend to hear platitudes at board meetings. For example, when asking about school safety, one might hear of no major incidents, or perhaps only about the employment of a security guard. This is great, but it does not give you any data on how students and staff feel when they are on school grounds.
In the above example, if a school measures sentiment about school safety, your board might hear that there were 5 reports of feeling unsafe, 110 reports of feeling safe, and 52 reports of feeling very safe. Following up with those 5 people who report not feeling safe could reduce stress, reduce bullying by someone, and possibly head off a major incident.
If that data is flipped, and 52 reports come back of feeling unsafe, 110 reports of feeling safe, and 5 reports of feeling very safe, your school has a broader issue to address. A significant portion of the school does not feel confident about their safety when coming to school. This might mean adding more security or investigating the causes for the students’ safety concerns.
How Can a School Board Get Data Like This?
Doing a one-off survey can help. Unfortunately, a one-time survey does not provide trends. Trends in data allow the school to assess whether they are making progress on an issue, or if they are seeing new problems arise. Outstanda Pulse helps you automate the collection of key data-points each month and compares them over time. These surveys are delivered via SMS and can be completed in less than one minute. They deliver important data that help board members understand the underlying issues in the school and identify problems that need to be addressed.
In my years of school board experience, I can say with confidence, that more data presented in a clear, actionable way, has always helped school board members make good decisions. When we do not have clear data, school board members can break down into arguing about unrelated issues or guessing at what needs to be done. That situation is never good, but without data, it seems it is the only option.
Outstanda Pulse is designed to help school administrators get positive feedback. And when they get negative feedback, the data is actionable to help the school improve. It is also designed to be a great data asset for school boards to know what is happening in the school culture, and what problem areas should be addressed. Because of the data trends, a school can recommend an improvement plan and then see the effectiveness of that plan over time. When used properly, Outstanda Pulse is a tool that can improve safety, school culture, and achieve academic goals without guessing at school problems or needs.
School Boards that want to help schools more, need to have actionable data that is updated on a regular basis and allow for trend analysis. Outstanda Pulse is a system that helps you publish surveys for parents, staff, and students, and gives you access to valuable data that can boost school performance.