School & District Management Opinion

Shared Accountability Critical to Achieving Bottom Line in Education

By Emily Douglas-McNab — June 13, 2012 2 min read
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Teresa Daulong, Battelle for Kids’ Strategic Measures Specialist, contributed to this post. Teresa works daily with large urban school districts across the country to help every employee understand their impact on student success. With 16 years of experience working with organizations to improve performance, she believes that creating systems of shared accountability is the key to success both at home and in schools everywhere.

Multiple measures of effectiveness. New teacher and principal evaluation systems. Progress versus achievement. We spend countless hours developing tools to more clearly identify and grow effective teachers and principals. But, what about everyone else who works in a school district? We don’t measure the success of our favorite football team by the number of passes the quarterback completes or how many extra points the kicker makes, but rather by the score the entire team compiles. So why don’t we talk more about the entire team in education?

It may seem clear that a late arriving bus shortens the learning day for students, but do bus drivers really understand their impact on student growth and achievement? We have heard some bus drivers respond, “I don’t affect student growth. I’m not a teacher. I drive a bus.” Similarly, do cafeteria workers understand that they are providers of services to a set of customers? Does the maintenance staff understand that a cold classroom or a hot office could affect a child’s ability to concentrate or a central office employee’s productivity? Does IT understand that when the computer system is down, a librarian can’t help a child locate a book or perform research for a report? Or, do clerks in the district’s accountability department understand that delays in student demographic reports impact funding available to schools? It is critical that all district staff-not just teachers and principals-know how their abilities, actions, and attitudes directly or indirectly affect student success.

Great teams and great leaders rely on systems of shared accountability. Sacks, passes caught, and more statistics are tracked, studied, and analyzed each week in football to drive improvement. Why not in schools? Everyone in the district needs to understand their role and how their job contributes to the bottom line in education-student growth and achievement. Student success does not happen by accident. What needs to happen for this to be successful?

• Aligned and Inclusive Strategy: Districts need clearly articulated and up-to-date strategic plans that link district goals to department goals and department goals to individuals. And, these plans need to include everyone. Too often, we see district strategic plans that focus solely on teachers and principals, leaving out what could amount (in large districts) to 30 to 60 percent of district staff! Teachers and principals can't do this work alone, they need support.
• Dedicated Champions: These individuals breathe, dream, talk, and walk shared accountability. They tackle critical and sometimes difficult conversations. They believe. They clear road blocks. They cheerlead. They see the importance of a strong team and work to ensure everyone knows how they affect the bottom line.
• Constant Communication: Open, honest communications with all stakeholders is critical to build trust and start the movement.
• Multiple Measures: The right data can help districts separate what they think is happening from what is actually happening. What gets measured, tracked, calculated, and/or reported gets improved. Strategic measures guide you from where you are to where you want to be. Developing the right measures points your team in the right direction.
• Knowledge of How to Use Data for Improvement: Simply collecting the right measures is not enough. Districts must analyze and respond to data to drive improvement. Don't react to data by placing blame-one person or department does not lose the game. As a team, work to find the root cause and develop steps for improvement. Whether you are using Lean, Six Sigma, Total Quality Management, Triz, balanced scorecard, or another data-focused customer-driven process improvement methodology, it is important to communicate your results and use the data to improve.

Planning, aligning, and measuring the contributions of every employee at all levels of a school district connects all staff to the same end goal-student growth and achievement. We are all on the same team, so let’s work together to track, study, analyze, and improve ALL parts of our game!

How are you ensuring your entire team is focused on the bottom line?

For more information on human capital, performance management, Lean, Six Sigma, data-driven continuous improvement, or shared accountability systems in education, you can follow Teresa Daulong (@TDaulongPerfMgt) and Emily Douglas (@EmilyDouglasHC) on Twitter.

The opinions expressed in K-12 Talent Manager are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.