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Why SMART goals?

Why SMART goals?

Why SMART goals?

School administrators can attest that writing measurable annual performance goals from their school’s data is not an easy or quick task. So why do we do them?

Mar 27, 2024

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Thumbnail image: Designed by Freepik (www.freepik.com)

Why are SMART Goals Smart?

School administrators can attest that writing measurable annual performance goals from their school’s data is not an easy or quick task.

Specific, Measurable, Attainable yet Ambitious, Relevant, and Time-bound (SMART) goals have become a norm in educational planning, since they have been shown to increase motivation and performance. Rooted in Edwin Locke's research, the concept of goal setting as a driver for organizational improvement has evolved into what we know today as "Goal Setting Theory." This theory supports the idea that clearly defined and challenging goals can significantly enhance organizational achievements.

According to “Goal Setting Theory,” goals need to be specific and challenging, but possible to achieve.

The trick with SMART goals is to make sure your school staff believes they can reach the challenging goal. If the goals are too ambitious, no one will be motivated by them and leaders are less likely to be confident in achieving the goals. To find the right balance of developing a “stretch” goal - a goal that is challenging but attainable, is done by using your historical data. The creation of SMART goals also facilitates continuous assessment and adaptation by incorporating measurable targets and regular feedback mechanisms into the goals. This framework and practice creates an environment where educators and students are motivated to excel and achieve higher levels of success.

Yet the journey from conducting a needs assessment to understanding the data to writing a data-driven SMART goal is more complex and time consuming than anticipated. So why are school leaders required to use SMART goals when writing annual and long-term plans?

There is a reason school leaders are asked to make SMART goals: They work, when done right, to improve performance and employee satisfaction.

Setting effective SMART goals requires a deep understanding of the educational history, current context, and all involved stakeholders within the community. When meaningful and well-crafted goals are created and implemented, the impact can be multifold. So what is a “well-written” SMART goal, and what is their impact?

The goals have what Locke and Latham (2002) call “directive effect,” meaning that they direct clear attention and path towards relevant implementation action steps. Your staff cannot reach goals, if there is not a clear path of action based on evidence-based strategies.

The process of SMART goal setting naturally incorporates the use of data, not only to inform goal setting, but also to monitor progress and provide feedback (Camp, 2017). The use of data to monitor progress does several things: provide staff clear expectations and measurable milestones, allow for more strategic resource allocation and, makes possible adjustments to strategies based on real performance data. Camp’s research on staff feedback and improvement suggests that goal setting and awareness of the progress made is essential for improvement.

Education leaders can use the process of developing SMART goals to increase a culture of inclusivity and engagement by listening to the voice of various stakeholders, including parents, teachers, and students.

Most importantly, incorporating SMART goals into quality school planning has been linked to student achievement. A study by Keith Fernandez (2009) found that there was a relationship between the quality of school improvement plans and student improvement in math and reading, even when controlling for a variety of factors.

Some common pitfalls in developing SMART goals are setting overly ambitious goals or setting goals that are too easy to achieve.

Finding the right balance to create a well-defined, ambitious yet attainable goal can be tricky. Overly ambitious goals without realistic planning can result in frustration due to lack of resources or support, thus demotivating staff and students when the goals are unmet. On the other hand, goals that are too easy does not necessarily lead to improvement or growth, instead lead to complacency.

Furthermore, guessing at target goals, like aiming for a specific increase in school attendance without data to support the target, can result in misallocated resources and time, leading to missed opportunities for genuine improvement.

So how can school leaders ensure that they do not make these missteps in school planning?

Plan Forward can help: A tool that calculates SMART goals based on your own district data.

Investing time in crafting quality SMART goals is crucial for continuous and sustainable progress. Plan Forward suggests data-driven SMART goals and strategies by utilizing historical data to tailor SMART goals that are specific to your school or district’s needs. This not only shortens the time spent developing accurate goals, but also enhances the understanding of your data. With the ability to review and adjust these goals based on your school’s context, available resources, and stakeholder feedback, Plan Forward streamlines the goal-setting process, ensuring that your educational objectives are both ambitious and attainable.

To try a trial and get a sample of goals and strategies for your school district as you plan for the upcoming school year, reach out to us at info@k12planforward.com or visit www.k12planforward.com.

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Washington D.C.

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© Plan Forward | All rights reserved

Washington D.C.

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