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Creating Performance Goals and Measures for Your Charter School Essay

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This document is designed to provide guidance and assistance in developing sound goals and measures – both educational and organizational – for inclusion in your charter agreement with [Authorizing Agency]. The following guidance focuses especially on providing deeper guidance for developing strong educational goals and measures – i.e., those that will comprise the Academic and Student Non-Academic Performance indicators of your charter agreement. This task demands particular attention because educational performance indicators are often more challenging to state in meaningful, objective terms than are non-educational measures, such as those focusing on Organizational and Management Performance (the third category of performance indicators required for your charter agreement).

However, the principles for developing all of these types of goals and measures are very similar; thus, to the extent applicable, you should follow the guidance in these pages for developing your non-educational goals and measures as well. I. General Criteria for Goals Goals should be SMART:

Specific and Tied to Standards Measurable Ambitious and Attainable Reflective of Your Mission Time-Specific with Target Date

1. Specific A well-defined goal must be specific, clearly and concisely stated, and easily understood. Academic goals should be tied to academic standards that specify what students should This document was first developed by Margaret Lin as a guidance tool for the Charter Schools Office of Ball State University (IN) to offer to the schools it oversees. It has been adapted for distribution at the Annual Conference of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, Nov. 13-14, 2003, San Diego, CA. Many of the concepts, definitions and principles in these pages are adapted from the following sources: Measuring Up: How Chicago’s Charter Schools Make Their Missions Count, by Margaret Lin (Leadership for Quality Education, 2001); Guidelines for Writing Charter School Accountability Plans, 2001-2002 (Charter Schools Institute, State University of New York), http://www.newyorkcharters.org/charterny/act_guide.html; and “Some Expectations Regarding the Contents of Charter School Accountability Plans,” District of Columbia Public Charter School Board. know and be able to do, for each subject or content area and for each grade, age, or other grouping level. Equally important, academic goals should be developed with solid knowledge of students’ baseline achievement levels.

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2. Measurable A goal should be tied to measurable results to be achieved. Measurement is then simply an assessment of success or failure in achieving the goal. 3. Ambitious and Attainable A goal should be challenging yet attainable and realistic. Academic goals should be based on a well-informed assessment of your school’s capacities and your students’ baseline achievement levels. 4. Reflective of Your Mission A goal should be a natural outgrowth of your school mission, reflecting the school’s values and aspirations. 5. Time-Specific with Target Date A well-conceived goal should specify a time frame or target date for achievement. Ball State expects its charter schools to specify both long-term goals that each school expects to achieve by the end of its fourth year of operation, along with annual benchmarks that will enable the school, authorizer and other stakeholders to monitor and assess the pace of progress.

Definitions of Key Terms To develop adequate learning goals and measures, schools should begin with a clear understanding of a few essential terms: Goal: A clear, measurable statement of what students will know and be able to do in order to be considered “educated” after a certain length of time attending the school. Standard: A clear, measurable statement of what students will be expected to know (a content standard) or be able to do (a performance or skill standard) at a given point in their development, usually each year and at graduation. (Standards are usually defined grade-by-grade and subject-by-subject, and are thus more specific than – but necessary to support – overarching school goals.)

Assessment (sometimes also “measure”): A method, tool or system to evaluate and demonstrate student progress toward – or mastery of – a particular learning standard or goal. (Examples: A standardized test, or a portfolio-judging system) Measure: An application of an assessment that defines progress toward or attainment of a goal and indicates the level of performance that will constitute success.

(Example: “Students at the Successful Charter School will improve their performance on the reading portion of the Stanford-9 by at least 3% per year, on average.”) Assessments – and by extension, measures – should be valid, reliable, and demonstrate scoring consistency: • Valid: Assesses the skill or knowledge it is intended to assess. Reliable: Provides consistent results when taken repeatedly by the student at a given point in his/her development, as well as by other students at the same point in development. Scoring Consistency: Produces consistent scores, ratings, results or responses when a particular assessment tool, scoring guide or rubric is used by different evaluators to assess the same student performance or work sample.


II. Essential Principles to Guide the Development of Sound Educational Goals and Measures • Your mandate as the operator of a charter school is not just to teach well but also to demonstrate objectively – in ways that are clear, understandable and credible to a variety of external audiences – that you are doing so. Thus, you must measure and report academic progress precisely and extensively. Distinguish between goals and measures. Goals are the starting point, but require valid, reliable ways to measure and demonstrate that you have achieved them. Make sure that your goals are clear, specific and measurable. Your measures for attainment of those goals should describe how you will assess progress, and how much progress will constitute success. Educational goals must be connected to a well-defined set of learning standards for both content (what students should know) and performance (what students should be able to do).

Such standards should exist for every subject or content area and each grade, age or other grouping level in the school. Focus on outcomes and evidence of learning, not inputs. For example, participation rates or the number of hours spent on an activity are not sufficient measures of success. Participation and investment of time are necessary first steps, but they are inputs, not measures of learning and accomplishment. In developing goals for your accountability plan, focus on what’s most important.

Ten or fewer clear, well-chosen and carefully measured educational goals (for both Academic and Student Non-Academic Performance) should allow you to provide a convincing story of your progress and achievements – and will be more effective than listing a score of vague, trivial, redundant or hard-to-measure indicators. The measures you develop to assess achievement of each goal, if not based on standardized assessments, should be demonstrably valid and reliable. (The attached framework will provide some help in developing validity and reliability of assessments.)

A Note on Defining Standards: Milestones on the Path to Broader School Goals Educational goals must be tied to clear content and performance standards specifying what you expect your students to know and be able to do in order to graduate or be promoted to the next level. These standards need only to be referenced in your accountability plan, but they form the foundation of your school’s education program. As such, selecting and developing grade-bygrade, subject-by-subject standards is an essential component of accountability planning that goes hand-in-hand with broader goal-setting. Of course, many of your school standards will be Indiana state standards.

However, most schools have important aims beyond the state requirements, and developing these supplemental standards is a technically challenging task. It usually consists of several steps, including: 1. Articulating desired characteristics of “educated” students at a general level – or setting your school’s overarching goals; 2. Breaking these general qualities and goals into more concrete graduation or exit standards; and 3. Benchmarking these exit standards down into specific and measurable grade-age-level content and performance standards.2

III. Practical Steps for Developing Sound Educational Goals and Measures • Define a set of goals that describe what success will look like at your school. These goals should be carefully selected to reflect the breadth and depth of your mission, and should answer critical questions such as: How will you know if your school is succeeding (or not)? What will be important characteristics of “educated students” at your school? What will students know and be able to do after a certain period of time? Outline your goals in precise, declarative sentences.

Example: “All students at the Excelencia Charter School will be proficient readers and writers of Spanish within four years of enrolling.” Identify at least one and possibly multiple measures to assess and demonstrate progress toward each goal. These measures must indicate both (1) the level of performance you will expect your school or students to achieve, and (2) how much progress will indicate success. (It is not sufficient to say you’ll administer a certain type of assessment; you must explain how you expect your students to perform on it to demonstrate progress and success.)

Adapted from Accountability for Student Performance: An Annotated Resource Guide for Shaping an Accountability Plan for Your Charter School (Charter Friends National Network, 2nd ed., 2001), p. 5, http://www.charterfriends.org/accountability.doc.

You may develop different types of measures to assess (1) absolute achievement; (2) student growth or gains; or (3) achievement compared to other schools. (The box below provides an example of different ways to measure achievement of the same goal.) For every goal, choose means of assessment that make non-attainment of the goal as objectively apparent as success. That is, the assessment(s) should tell you (and external audiences) immediately whether you have achieved a particular goal or not. Make sure that your measures of student learning are based on knowledge of your students’ baseline achievement levels. Without such knowledge, your measures will not be meaningful or realistic. Set long-term goals as well as intermediate (typically annual) benchmarks to assess progress.

Administer assessments corresponding to this timeline to provide longitudinal data over the term of the charter. To have time to counter learning deficits that students may have upon entering your school, you may consider setting certain goals for students who have been enrolled in your school for a certain period of time, such as “students who have been in the school for at least three years.” For every measure you develop, ask yourself, “Will this measure be readily understandable and credible to someone who doesn’t spend a day or a week in our school getting to know us?”

Remember, your school will be judged by the media, community leaders and the public at large, in addition to your authorizer and parents. For measures not based on standardized tests, establishing external credibility typically requires demonstrating validity and reliability. (The attached framework offers an overview of one way for schools to do this.) Understand what data you will need to gather to support each measure. Remember, if you have no data, you have no case proving your school’s achievements. Likewise, if you have insufficient data, you have an insufficient case.

There is no single best way to measure achievement of a particular goal. As charter schools, you are free to choose measures that you prefer, provided that they are also meaningful and persuasive to external audiences. The following example shows how three different measures might be applied to a single learning goal. (These goals could be developed by one school or by three different schools that have the same goal.) Note that each measure describes how progress will be assessed and how much progress will constitute success. The third measure allows the school to assess skills beyond those measured on standardized tests, and would thus require some demonstration of validity and reliability or be used in addition to externally validated assessments.

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