School Goals: Enablers or Impediments?

PossibleThose of us who work in the non-profit sector have known for a while now that much can be learned from the business sector in terms of management and administration, planning and the effective execution of practices aimed at educating all students. I recently read an article published by Leader IQ called Are Smart Goals Dumb? and thought I would take a shot at applying some of the concepts to education.

It’s true enough to say that the public education sector, and the business sector, are quite different in substantive ways. For example, businesses can choose those with whom to work and transact, and who they serve (target market). If a supplier sends poor product, they switch suppliers. On the other hand, public schools are expected to achieve high levels of learning for all students, and there is typically no ability to pick and chose the students who enter the front door. But there are interesting similarities in areas of leadership and management that are worth exploring.

Like business, a key to school success is the quality of the goals that direct all critical endeavors. A school’s goals and vision for the future should be much larger that those articulated via state law and DOE regulations.  The article referenced above looked at the degree to which traditional goal-setting exercises influence behavior and satisfaction among employees. The author argues that traditional goals built around elements that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound (SMART) may actually be impediments to success and encourage mediocre and poor performance. SMART goals seem to say “don’t push beyond your resources, don’t bite off more than you can chew, play it safe and stay within your limitations.”

If you accept the idea that the purpose of the goals-setting exercise is not to enable folks to achieve mediocre results but to help them achieve extraordinary results, then perhaps a new way to think about goals is in order. In my next post, I will explore further a new way to consider goals and what this could mean for schools and school districts.

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