School superintendents are faced with difficult resource allocation decisions. Where will I get the biggest bump in performance per dollar spent, they wonder. Below are examples from four very different school districts. Each demonstrates why wise school superintendents invest in strategic planning as part of their continuous improvement efforts.
Lockport dramatically increases its graduation and lowers its dropout rates
Lockport City School District superintendent Michelle Bradley is committed to the district’s Strategic Plan for Continuous Improvement. Updated annually, the plan includes explicit performance targets, immediate priorities and long-term strategies. Since initiating the Plan for Continuous Improvement, Lockport has seen a big payoff. Four-year graduation rates have increased from a low of 71% to 89% last year. At the same time, five-year dropout rates have declined from a high of 19% to the low single digits.
Lockport relentlessly focuses on achieving its target of 95% on-time graduation and 0% dropout rate. The district plan informs building plans. Resources are allocated. Clear accountability is assigned. Performance is communicated transparently to the entire community. Everything is progress monitored and updated annually.
Tiny Madison CSD implements college credit bearing courses
When Perry Dewey took on his first superintendency at Madison Central — a small rural school with fewer than 500 students — he was dissatisfied with opportunities for his high school students who were graduating at high rates but without the opportunity to pursue rigor and experience the challenge of college credit bearing courses. He initiated a comprehensive strategic planning process during which the district team identified the following strategic priority, among others:
Build a culture of excellence and increase academic rigor by raising expectations for student achievement at all levels.
On the final afternoon of their planning retreat, the district team agreed to the strategic action plan above. Aligned and energized, the team followed through. They sought and garnered board of education approval for funding to implement a distance learning room to enable high school students to pursue Advanced Placement and other college credit bearing courses. Madison is now forecasting that within a few years upwards of 20% of its cohorts will have the opportunity to graduate with a two-year associate’s degree.
Dryden’s commencement exam and graduation rates climb
In 2007, former Binghamton superintendent Jim Lee was hired as an interim at the Dryden Central Schools. The district was at a nadir in terms of performance. On-time graduation rates had dropped to 65%; dropout rates had spiked to 17%. Dr. Lee initiated a formal strategic planning process that current superintendent Sandy Sherwood has continued since her appointment in 2008. The impact of formal, sustained, and disciplined strategic planning is apparent: commencement exam pass rates have jumped to 87% and on-time graduation rates to 84%, a 19 point increase.
Dryden continues to target 95% four-year cohort pass rates on all five Regents commencement exams and 92% on-time graduation. Resource allocation decisions are carefully vetted against these and other strategic targets. The process is orderly, rational and respectful of the communities desire to achieve the highest payback on every tax dollar invested.
Brockport lowers subgroup dropout rates
Brockport Central School Superintendent Lesli Myers initiated strategic planning in January 2013, her first year in the district. Review of district performance showed a troubling increase in dropout rates, especially among sub-groups. Over the four year period ending in 2012, dropout among students with disabilities (SWD) had increased from 6% to 18%; among economically disadvantaged students, from 7% to 12%. As part of the strategic planning process, the district team set a target of 0% dropout for all students and for all subgroups of students. Improvement has been immediate. SWD dropout has plummeted to 0%; economically disadvantaged student dropout to 1% and the rate for all students to 1%.
“This strategic planning process could not have occurred at a better time,” said Dr. Myers back in 2013. “After reviewing school and district documents, it was clear that we needed to revisit our mission and establish a vision, core beliefs, and benchmarks. The Board of Education is already using the strategic plan to inform budget and resource allocation decisions. Additionally, the strategic planning process has helped revitalize our educators and community partners. Working with Prism Decision Systems has resulted in an immediate return on our investment.”
Interested in improving performance through a sustained, focused and dynamic strategic planning process that engages all key stakeholders? Please contact us.