Developing and Writing SMART Goals
An important component to the superintendent evaluation process is writing SMART goals annually. SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. Aligning annual SMART goals to a superintendent evaluation provides an excellent opportunity to advance the multi-year school board and/or district goals.
Before establishing these goals, a superintendent and school board should ensure these goals are SMART.
The superintendent should define the goal unambiguously. A goal established with specificity provides clarity and easily lends itself to being measurable.
The superintendent and school board must define the goal’s success. Essentially, how will the superintendent and school board know the goal is achieved? What does success look like and how will it be measured? This could take the form of a deliverable (e.g. study, report, findings, etc.) to the school board or perhaps a quantifiable measurement. In the absence of defining what success looks like, this might potentially lead to differences of opinion on whether or not a goal is achieved.
As well-educated, experienced, and highly-functioning professionals, school superintendents tend to hold themselves and others accountable to high expectations. Therefore, it is important to temper this admirable quality to create goals which are achievable and realistic. For example, all superintendents and school boards might aspire to having a 100% graduation rate within the district. Although this is worthy and commendable goal, it might not be realistic or achievable for most public schools considering the current graduation requirements for all student without regard to the widely diverse abilities. Superintendents and school boards should establish achievable goals which can be accomplished. Additionally, they need to strike the balance between establishing a reasonable expectation that is not out of reach with a goal that is below an established standard.
The annual goals should be relevant and, ideally, a derivative of larger school board or district goals. These board and district goals are typically multi-annual goals. By establishing relevant derivatives of these goals, the superintendent advances these goals annually in alignment with the superintendent evaluation.
Superintendents and school boards should be cognizant of goals which can be measured within the timeframe of the superintendent evaluation process. For example, if a goal is tied to a student performance target which is measured by the state assessment this might not be a timely goal. In this scenario, the superintendent’s contract might call for the evaluation to be finalized long before the state assessment results are returned to the school. As a result, the goal cannot be measured and thus the superintendent evaluation cannot be completed. It is important the goal and the measurement are time bound to the annual superintendent evaluation process.
Finally, an important note for superintendents and school boards, particularly in New York State: the superintendent’s annual goals that are aligned to the superintendent evaluation are FOILable under New York’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). When writing these goals, keep in mind the goals will be delivered to the community in response to a FOIL request.
Aligning annual goals is an important component to a superintendent evaluation. Writing SMART goals advances district and board goals while positioning the superintendent and school board for success as a leadership team!