In a typical year, balancing strategic goals with daily concerns is challenging. With COVID-19, it's more complicated than ever before. As School Head, you must re-examine your school-year goals.
In an ordinary year, your goals for the school year might include lowering attrition rates, increasing cash reserves, or implementing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. You may also have professional and personal objectives to make healthier choices or visit classrooms more frequently.
But, the 2020-2021 school year is unlike any other. Some schools have seen an uptick in enrollment as public schools fail to meet expectations for distance learning. Others have experienced a decrease as job losses and furloughs impact family budgets. Schools that once looked at financial sustainability as a long-term issue are now dealing with it as an immediate priority.
In addition to the stress of the pandemic and economic recession, there has been a divisive election and social unrest. These issues affect the school community's daily life—including faculty, staff, families, and you. These are prime conditions that lead to burnout for teachers, parents, staff, and academic leaders. Due to the challenges of this non-typical year, school priorities must change.
What Does ‘Strategic’ Mean in 2020?
As a result of the unusual conditions this school year, your goals may no longer be tied to your original strategic plan. Goals are only effective if you’re measuring their success. ISM's research has established 15 Stability Markers to help measure a school's sustainability and success. While the full explanation is available to ISM members, two of the most important markers right now are Faculty Culture and Student Experience.
Two major ISM studies have identified a positive and growth-oriented faculty culture as a key variable in school viability and success. Division leaders must see their primary responsibility as increasing the faculty's capacity to deliver the school’s mission to every student. To be successful, faculty need predictability and support from leadership, just as students need this from faculty.
The Student Experience
Further ISM research indicates that student performance, satisfaction, engagement, and enthusiasm are rooted in the faculty's ability to provide a predictable and supportive environment for them. Students experience predictability and support in teachers when they perceive a strong (and fair) rules and rewards structure. Responses from faculty, administration, and coaches need to be consistent, fair, and accurate to promote the most viable outcome for student success.
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How to Measure Success in 2020–2021
There is a direct line from the School Head to the faculty culture. Perceptions and characteristics of Head leadership have a considerable impact. Focus on setting measurable goals related to predictability and support. Then, follow-up. Be sure to see if you’ve achieved your goals. One way to measure student and faculty satisfaction is by conducting surveys.
For the faculty survey:
- Assess the level of predictability and support faculty receives from your administration.
- Allot part of your survey to allow your faculty to rate themselves and their colleagues on attitudes and behaviors that support (or hinder) a predictable and supportive environment for students. Analyze the ratings of colleagues—this is indicative of the culture as a whole.
For the student experience survey:
- Focus on how students perceive and understand faculty predictability. You can measure this quality with student and parent surveys.
- Your surveys should assess support and predictability by asking students direct questions. Ask them to rate statements such as:
- "My teachers have worked every day at helping me become a better, more ethical person, regardless of the subject they are teaching."
- "Our assessments have included exactly what my teachers said they would include."
Consider these other goals for the 2020–2021 school year:
- Create operational objectives that are not dependent on outside forces. For example, if increasing annual giving is no longer viable, set a goal related to creating stewardship opportunities. You can have weekly and monthly targets. This produces a long-term benefit that is entirely in your control.
- Build a routine you can count on. Structure ensures well-being, both within social groups and through a professional network like monthly lunch meetings with colleagues—local and national.
- Establish formal ways for the Board to provide and review support of your position, either through your Head Support and Evaluation Committee or through a task force installed for this school year.
Your goals might change this year but your mission has not. Adjust your approach to deliver excellence and provide the best school experience for your employees, your students, and your parents.
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