Accountability requirements for annual improvement of operating charter schools and the renewal of a charter employ the same level of rigor as the application process. For a charter school to be successful, the school, as an organization, must develop a systems perspective that aligns, connects, and reinforces efforts of continuous improvement. The school must develop the capacity to use data in a meaningful manner to evaluate improvement efforts. The school must be creative, adaptive, and flexible in order to take advantage of opportunities for improvement.
In general, improvement efforts should follow a cycle of:
- Needs assessment
- Planning, including design of processes, selection of measures, and deployment of requirements
- Execution of the plan
- Assessment of progress
- Revision of plans based upon assessment of findings, learning, new inputs, and new requirements
Figure 1: School Improvement Process
Figure 2: Continuous Improvement Cycle
The Office will assist in the analysis of data. This will ensure the reliability and validity of data and provide a uniform data analysis methodology for all charter schools. Central and crucial to the success of the concept of excellence is a well-conceived and well-executed assessment strategy. The characteristics of such a strategy should include the following:
- Clear ties between what is assessed and the school’s mission and strategic goals.
- Focus on improvement of student performance, faculty capabilities, and overall organization performance.
- Embedded, ongoing, assessment components with prompt feedback.
- Assessments that address key learning goals and overall performance requirements.
- Guidelines regarding how assessment results are used and how they are not used.
- Ongoing evaluation of the assessment system itself to improve the connection between assessment and student success.
Strategic planning is a process through which individuals knowledgeable about and intimately involved with an organization conduct an analysis of the organization’s strengths, weaknesses, position within the external environment, and opportunities for improvement in order to develop a long range plan for continual improvement.
- Gain knowledge of the system’s performance
- Provide long term focus for organizational improvement
- Align annual plans in order to achieve short-term goals
- Help everyone in the organization participate successfully in planned change
- Use new knowledge throughout the organization
- Accelerate organizational change
This handbook presents two surveys to assist charter schools with the strategic planning process. The first survey, Organization Profile (PDF), provides information on:
- The environment within the organization
- Key organizational relationships
- The competitive environment
- Key strategic challenges
- The system for performance improvement
The second survey, Baldrige Based Needs Assessment (PDF) provides the foundation for a needs assessment to identify opportunities for improvement within the seven categories of the Education Criteria for Performance Excellence.
Criteria for Performance Excellence
The Education Criteria for Performance Excellence of the Baldrige National Quality Program provides a systems perspective for managing an organization. A systems perspective means managing the whole organization, as well as its components, as a single, interactive entity. The Educational Criteria focus on results in the key areas of:
- Student learning
- Needs, expectations, and satisfaction of students, parents, and other stakeholders
- Budgetary, financial, and market effectiveness
- Needs, expectations, satisfaction, and development of faculty and staff
- Overall organizational effectiveness
- Leadership and social responsibility
Examines how school leaders address school values, directions, and performance expectations and focus on students and stakeholders, student learning, and faculty and staff empowerment, innovation, and organizational learning. It also examines the school’s governance and how the school addresses its public and community responsibilities.
Examines how the school develops and deploys strategic objectives and action plans and assesses progress relative to these strategic objectives and action plans.
Student, Stakeholder, and Market Focus
Examines how the school determines requirements, expectations, and preferences of students, stakeholders, and markets. It also examines how the school builds relationships with students and stakeholders, and determines the key factors that attract students and partners and lead to student and stakeholder satisfaction, loyalty, persistence, and improved educational programs and services.
Measurement, Analysis, and Knowledge Management
Examines how the school selects, gathers, analyzes, manages, and improves its data, information, and knowledge assets.
Faculty and Staff Focus
Examines how the school’s work systems and faculty and staff learning enable faculty and staff to develop and utilize their full potential in alignment with the school’s overall objectives and action plans. It also examines the school’s efforts to build and maintain a work environment and a faculty and staff support climate that are conducive to performance excellence and to personal and organizational growth.
Examines key aspects of the school’s process management, including learning-centered processes for the educational programs and services and key support processes that create student, stakeholder, and school value.
School Performance Results
Examines the school performance and improvement in key areas: student learning results; student and stakeholder focused results; budgetary, financial, and market performance; faculty and staff results; school operational performance; and governance and social responsibility.
Baldrige Needs Assessment
- Statements of the school’s mission, values, and beliefs should be documented
- Leaders should be able to clearly articulate the approach that is being used to communicate the statements and concepts
- Evidence should be available that employees throughout the organization are aware of the statements and understand them
- Evidence should be available that the statements are guiding actions throughout the organization
By conscientiously evaluating each statement, school leaders can determine the school’s areas of strength and areas in need of improvement. Understanding the school’s strengths and weaknesses allows leaders to determine opportunities for improvement that either build on an area of strength or address an area of weakness. The prioritization of these actions, leads to the development of strategic goals and annual improvement goals that are most likely to lead to increased organization effectiveness.
The Baldrige Evaluation Rubric is used to evaluate the organization’s level of accomplishment within each category. The rubric statements allows one to judge the level to which the program or activity is:
- Part of a broader system
- Deployed throughout the organization
- Evaluated regularly based on analysis of data
- Integrated with other organizational needs. By understanding in which areas improvement is needed, leaders can better focus annual goals and make required improvement
- No systematic approach to continuous improvement is evident
- No evidence of organization-wide deployment
- No objective data exists to determine student or organizational achievement
- Results are unpredictable
- Problem specific approach is utilized to address known deficiencies
- Some evidence of problem-based organization-wide deployment
- A minimum amount of objective data exists regarding student or organizational achievement
- Results exist for some for problem specific improvement activities
- A process based approach is used to address continuous improvement efforts
- Initial steps have been taken to systematically deploy improvement efforts
- Data are available regarding to document improvement efforts
- Results are reported for many areas of importance to key requirements
- An effective, systematic approach to continuous improvement is evident
- The approach is well deployed throughout the organization
- Data are available to drive fact-based, systematic improvement efforts
- Organizational performance results are positive and show sustainability
Once areas of improvement have been determine, the following criteria can be used to determine in which areas long range, strategic should be developed and which specific improvement actions should become annual improvement goals. The criteria are as follows:
- The extent to which the improvement in the selected category will positively impact key measures of school performance
- The present level of performance in the selected category
- The urgency for improvement in the selected category
Information from the needs assessment can be compiled and reported on the Baldrige Self-Analysis Worksheet (PDF).
Accountability Plan and Report
The improvement process is communicated through an annual School Accountability Plan (PDF) that sets forth improvement goals, linkage to strategic goals, background analysis, key measures of success, approach (methodology), deployment (activities), and data collection requirements. The results of improvement efforts are communicated through an annual School Accountability Report (PDF).
The following information is provided to assist schools in the development of annual accountability plans and reports which:
- Provide necessary information to guide school improvement
- Clearly report on the results of the school improvement efforts
- Build the school’s case for charter renewal
The internal analyses are derived from a periodic needs assessment and organized according to the six content categories of the Education Criteria for Performance Excellence: Leadership; Strategic Planning; Student, Stakeholder, and Market Focus; Measurement, Analysis, and Knowledge Management; Faculty and Staff Focus; and Process Management. Strategic goals set forth the long term growth and improvement efforts to be undertaken by the school.
Each annual goal should be linked to a strategic goal (PDF). The linkage is essential to focus the entire energy of the school on the identified need.
The background analysis provides the rationale for the goal and the initial data on which action is based. The rationale describes why the goal was chosen. The initial data provide the information necessary to specifically direct action and a baseline against which to assess improvement efforts.
The goal statement should answer the question: What is to be improved? In developing the goal statement one should also ask: Is the statement clear and understandable? and Is the desired improvement measurable?
Key Indicators of Success
Key indicators statements describe macro measures that answer the questions: Did the actions taken in regard to the goal lead to improvement? How much improvement occurred?
The approach is a statement of the program, methodology, or techniques that will be used to accomplish the improvement. The statement answers the questions: What program, methodology, or techniques will be introduced or improved? Why is it expected that this program, methodology, or technique will lead to improvement?
Deployment statements should answer the questions such as: What activities will take place to implement the approach and when will these activities take place. For example: What staffing level will be required? What resources will be required? What staff training will be necessary? What is the time table for deployment? How will information and concerns be communicated?
Data Collection Plan
The data collection plan answers the questions: What data needs to be collected to determine that key measures have been met? When will data be collected? How will these key indicators be analyzed? Who will analyze the data? What benchmarks will be used to track the deployment?
The results section answers the questions: What were the key results? What do they tell us about the improvement plan? What are the next steps that need to be taken to continue improvement in the area? An example of a well written school improvement goal is provided to assist with goal development (School Improvement Goal Example (PDF)).
The annual Accountability Report (PDF) provides a complete picture of the school. It begins with a school profile that summarizes the operation and leadership of the school, describes opportunities for improvement determined through the Baldrige based needs assessment, provides the strategic plan derived from the external and internal environmental scans, states annual improvement goals in detail, and tracks numerous school statistics. Wherever possible, cumulative results are presented to provide a longitudinal view. Analyses of student outcomes should be consistent with the measures specified in the accountability plan.
The Office will assist schools with the tasks of obtaining, organization, analyzing, and reporting of information. The Office will conduct annual satisfaction surveys with parents (PDF), students (PDF), and the school staff (PDF). The information obtain through these surveys will be analyzed and provided to the schools for use in the school improvement effort. The reporting of financial data must follow the guidelines set for in Financial Reporting Details (PDF).
Accountability plans can be amended throughout the school year if additional school improvement efforts are identified. It is to the school’s advantage to document all efforts. Accountability Plans and Reports will be reviewed annually by the Office and evaluated according to the criteria presented in Evaluation of Accountability Reports (PDF). Plans and/or reports deemed incomplete or unsatisfactory will be returned to the school for further work.