Thursday, November 28, 2013

Education leaders should take a page from the "balanced scorecard"

A few years back I was visiting Ferris State University and my long time friend Scott Thede show me how they were moving to Dashboards and Balanced Scorecards. Here is a summery of an article that will help us to understand what this means.

"Education leaders should take a page from the "balanced scorecard" approach that has reshaped how private- and public-sector firms have approached data and management. Making Data-Driven Management a Reality Today, even school districts routinely heralded as data-driven have rarely invested in the technology; hired the personnel; or developed the requisite expectations, feedback loops, analytic competencies, and accountability processes necessary for breakthrough management. Consequently, today many schools and systems are at the edge of their capacities when they seek to produce achievement data in a timely fashion. This is a problem. We do not term a hospital "well-run" because its doctors use diagnostic tools. We would instead reserve that label for hospitals where staff were competent and efficient, supplies were carefully tracked and promptly refilled, data files were up-to-date, personnel needs were quickly handled, and so forth. Yet, in schooling, systems that have embraced only the most basic tenets of professional practice are deemed paragons of modern management. What would it take for systems to start collecting data for breakthrough management? There are six steps. They form a rough hierarchy, so we will start with the most essential.

Step One: Accurate Collection of Basic Student, Financial, and HR Data. The first step for any organization is to collect the most fundamental data on what it does and how it spends its money. School systems are generally pretty good at this. Federal law now requires systems to test students and collect basic achievement data, while financial management requires districts to track spending, enrollment, attendance, and payroll.

Step Two: Data Linked across Time. Once districts have the initial building blocks, the key is to link them across time in order to determine how to improve performance. In general, a district that can collect its basic data accurately can also link them longitudinally. There are significant exceptions, however. Some systems do not maintain consistent identifiers across years for students or employees. One common problem is that organizational change is not accounted for in financial coding systems. Districts may assign costs only to offices (such as the Office of Instruction) and not functions (such as math professional development). The result is that when a district reshuffles its organizational chart, it cannot make comparisons over time.

Step Three: Customer Service and Satisfaction Data. Every company knows that its existence depends upon the satisfaction of its customers, and great companies measure customer service from several sources (internal and external) to diagnose potential problems quickly. Making such data managerially useful requires not just collection, but also ensuring that the data are routinely and systematically mapped onto processes and programs and analyzed.

Step Four: Data with Sufficient Granularity to Illuminate Units and Activities within Departments. Measuring efficiency and effectiveness requires measuring outputs and processes in units that are often overlooked. In regard to the role of HR, various measures might signal opportunities for improved productivity. Such measures might assess how long it takes an HR department to vet, interview, and hire or reject an applicant; how HR managers apportion their time; or the resulting quality and quantity of applicants. Typically, systems will know how much is spent on HR and the number of staff but not how much time the HR staff spends on recruitment or responding to the needs of teachers.

Step Five: Data Connected across Content Areas (and to Outcomes). Even if the efficiency of HR processes has improved and vacancies are filled more rapidly, more is needed to judge effectiveness. For instance, do the new teachers achieve better or worse student outcomes than the teachers that came before them? Do they stay longer? Answering these questions requires connecting the HR system data to student-level longitudinal test data to retention data to survey data. This level of data sophistication makes activity-based costing and cost-benefit analysis possible.

Step Six: Doing the Above in Real Time. Ideally, district management should be able to find out instantly which schools are waiting for textbooks or which teachers have received what professional development. Collecting and connecting these kinds of data allows school system leaders to determine which programs are cost-effective, how their system compares to others on a range of activities, and where they need to improve. Few or no school systems have all of these elements in place today. Most are currently at step two. Consultants or internal district analysts can--with enough time, manpower, and supplemental data collection--provide school systems with analyses that may push to steps four and five--usually on a project basis. Getting to step six is a whole new ballgame.

The Numbers We Need So what kinds of data should systems report on a balanced scorecard? We identify six essential domains. Unfortunately, even those that have been an ostensible priority have been shortchanged by a focus on what elected officials demand rather than on what will help leaders improve schools.

Domain One: Tracking Student Outcomes. The most important measures are those tracking student outcomes. Just a decade ago, most districts had abysmal systems for tracking achievement and school completion. Today, most can provide coherent data on how well students are doing on state assessments, but outcome metrics beyond state assessments can be difficult to come by.
Key data include: Performance of students on various substrands (for example, number sense or spatial relations on the math test) of state tests with results accessible to the classroom teacher. Item-level analysis at the individual student and classroom level. This allows teachers to analyze whether all or most of their students miss the same test items, and then to adjust their teaching strategies. Employment or enrollment status of students after high school.

Domain Two: Tracking Students, Staff, and Inventory. Monitoring the number of students and teachers, facilities, and district assets provides important operational base lines. Systems have historically been good at tracking these kinds of data, largely because state and federal requirements led districts to configure their data systems accordingly. Unfortunately, there has been less success ensuring that these data are captured with sufficiently useful granularity or are matched with expenditures, programs, and outcomes. Key elements would include: Authorized staff positions, the location of the positions, the purpose and reporting relationships of the positions, whether they are filled and by whom, and whether they are full or part time. District assets and materials, where they are located, and the transfer of assets between locations (for example, the delivery of textbooks). Students, which schools and classrooms they attend, and the teachers and staff in those classrooms. This should include not just the "teacher of record" for the students, but also aides, tutors, and other staff working with the students.

Domain Three: Finance. This is another case in which systems routinely track transactions but few have invested in tracking expenditures in ways that permit their impact to be assessed clearly. A management-friendly system for tracking expenditures would link dollars with programs, actual employee time, activities, and students. If a professional development coach or a gifted-and-talented teacher works at multiple locations, this should be readily trackable and linked to the teachers or students in question so cost-effectiveness can be assessed. Key questions rarely addressed well include: Are dollars being spent in specific schools and classrooms or are they being spent by a central administration and then "allocated" to school sites based on calculations and projections? Who decides which expenditures to make, and for whom does the expenditure take place? For instance, is a school-based professional development program purchased by the central office or by an individual principal?

Domain Four: Instructional and Curricular Operations. Instructional and curricular operations have received heightened attention as a focus on instructional leadership has led district leaders to devote more time to providing professional development and related resources. Nonetheless, there are few districts that collect and track instructional and curricular services in a manner that informs judgments about program efficacy and efficiency. Most tracking does not permit leaders to identify particularly effective tactics or personnel, or opportunities for cost savings. Key data should include: What professional development is delivered to which personnel, when, for what length of time, and by whom. What tutoring or afterschool programs are delivered to which students, when, for what length of time, and by whom. Which reading programs and which math programs are used by which schools and how well they are implemented, at what cost, and with what results.

Domain Five: Human Capital Operations. More crucial than any other element of school-system management may be human capital operations. Dramatically improving the quality of teaching requires that a system be able to monitor personnel; gauge performance; and competently manage hiring, transfers, benefits, employee concerns, and termination. The key is to develop metrics that reflect meaningful organizational performance, such as: The quantity of applicants for positions, how rapidly they are screened, and the rapidity with which successful applicants are placed and prepared. The satisfaction of employees with the support and responsiveness of HR to various concerns. The performance of personnel on various relevant metrics beyond student achievement (such as soliciting performance rankings of teachers by their principals and of other employees by their managers).

Domain Six: System Operation. Finally, it is essential to monitor business practices that facilitate system operation, such as procurement, IT, data management, and maintenance. The functioning of these elements is crucial to support school leaders, classroom educators, and school communities effectively. The key, again, is to measure these services not in terms of inputs but in terms of core metrics that accurately reflect performance. Key metrics would include: How long it takes the district to process a supply request, how rapidly supplies are delivered to the classroom, and how the system's cost per order compares to benchmarks. How rapidly school personnel are able to access the results of formative assessments, how satisfied they are with the user-friendliness of the data interface, and how intensively and extensively faculty make use of formative assessments and student data."

This is a summery from an AEI Article to help us understand what factors are needed in a Balanced Scorecard and for training technology people on what is needs to be understood in creating a system to help improve our system using all facets of our systems.

No comments:

About Me

My photo

I am the Director of Technology at a K-12 School system.