District Leadership: Strategic Planning

The Broad Prize Framework for School District Excellence

Strategic Planning Requirements

  • The strategic plan is developed using a systematic planning process that engages relevant stakeholders.
  • The district strategic plan serves as a guide for the district and its schools, specifying vision, mission, performance goals, objectives, and benchmarks and the policies and strategies to achieve each strategic objective.
  • The strategic plan is effectively communicated, leads to understanding, support and action, and is evaluated for effectiveness.

Best Practice Strategic Planning Documents

Articulating Mission, Vision and ValuesLong Beach Unified School District
In Long Beach Unified School District, the superintendent and district staff encourage schools to write mission statements that reflect—and build on—the mission statement of the district itself. Cabrillo High School and Mission Middle School offer two examples of how schools approach this process differently, yielding valuable results both ways.

1 – Mission Statement - District
A promotional piece that describes the district’s mission, vision and values.
What to Notice
Long Beach put a considerable amount of effort into developing a clear and compelling mission for the district. Notice that both the mission and the vision are crisp, forceful and positive. The “Shared Values and Beliefs” emphasizes the well-being of teachers, parents, district staff, and—especially—students. The document itself is professionally produced and aesthetically attractive.
Questions to Ask
  • How did the district develop the mission, vision and values? Who was involved in the process? And how was a consensus reached? Who actually wrote the words?
  • How widely does the district distribute the one-pager? Do new employees receive it as a part of orientation? Do parents and students see it on the first day of school?
  • What kind of systems and processes has Long Beach developed to ensure that the district lives up to the lofty sentiments of the one-pager? How do board members and district executives model behaviors that map to this document? How is this document used to guide district decisions?
> Download Document (pdf)

2 – Mission and Values - High School
A description of the goals, values, and expected outcomes of Cabrillo High School.
What to Notice
The first page of this document describes the process by which Cabrillo High School develops its mission and ensures that it maps to the district-wide mission. Note that it has two groups—the Professional Learning Community and the Site Decision Making Committee—that evaluate and refine the mission. Parents, teachers and students are surveyed to assess whether the mission is working effectively to establish a strong school culture. And the school’s mix of programs is adjusted over time to better reflect the content of the mission statement. The following pages include a more detailed statement of values and expected outcomes.
Questions to Ask
  • Which members of the school team are involved in the district-wide process of evaluating and refining the district mission statement? How do these representatives communicate district-level issues to other school stakeholders?
  • How do the perspectives of the Professional Learning Community and the Site Decision Making Committee complement each other in the review of the mission?
  • What process is in place to develop measurable goals that link back to the list of outcomes?
> Download Document (doc)

3 – Mission by Department - Middle School
An articulation of the Hill Middle School mission, as well as department-by-department mission statements.
What to Notice
Hill Middle School took the mission statement process one step further, developing mission statements for each of the school’s 10 departments (including the school-wide steering committee). Note that many departments use words from the school-wide mission statement.
Questions to Ask
  • What was the process for developing the department mission statements? Who led the process? How inclusive was it? What questions arose during the process?
  • What are the benefits of doing department-specific mission statements? Do teachers refer back to their department missions in department meetings during the year?
  • Do the departments set performance goals that are consistent with their mission statements?
> Download Document (doc)

Communicating Values to StakeholdersBridgeport Public Schools
Creating a mission statement and vision is the beginning of a process whereby the district identifies and communicates its values. It is important, however, that the district also develop tools and processes that ensure district values are cultivated at the school site. Bridgeport Public Schools’ Home School Compact encourages individual stakeholders to consider their behavior in the context of broader community values and goals.

1 – Home School Compact
This document outlines the behavioral commitments of teachers, parents and students.
What to Notice
Bridgeport’s Home School Compact is a tool used to encourage teachers, parents and students to agree on behavioral commitments at the beginning of the school year. Note that the bullet points for each stakeholder group reflect a general set of values for all district stakeholders. The student section is age-appropriate, and the quote at the top of the page emphasizes “high academic standards” for all students. At the bottom, each stakeholder is expected to sign the document.
Questions to Ask
  • In what context do teachers share the Home School Compact with individual students and their parents? Is there a process of discussion?
  • What training do the teachers receive in how to use the tool? Are they required to use it? What percentage of district students and parents signs the compact each year? Does the district/school/teacher take any action when the behavioral commitments are not met?
  • Did the district see any noticeable change in behavior or achievement after the implementation of the compact?
> Download Document (pdf)

District-wide Consistency of MissionAldine Independent School District
Every school in Aldine adopts a mission statement that is consistent with and builds off of the district’s mission, vision, values and goals. Individual schools, like Ralph Goodman Elementary, develop language that is consistent with the district‘s mission but also reflects the unique needs of the school community.

1 – District mission, vision, and core beliefs and commitments
One-page mission statement for Aldine.
What to Notice
The district‘s mission and vision are stated in terms of “we.” The overarching vision of producing “the nation’s best” is embodied in the mission statement, focusing on critical thinking, problem solving and responsible citizenry. The core beliefs and commitments focus on key stakeholders —including employees and parents— as well as key strategies like goal setting. Notice the specific emphasis on equal access and the elimination of the achievement gap.
Questions to Ask
  • How did the district develop the mission statement, values and goals? Which stakeholder groups were involved, and how did the district collect community input?
  • How is the mission statement shared with key stakeholders, like parents, students and teachers? How is it integrated into the orientation process for new employees or the new student induction process?
  • How does the district operationalize these core beliefs and values in its policies and actions?
> Download Document (pdf)

2 – Ralph Goodman Elementary Mission Statement and Goals
Two-page mission statement for one district school.
What to Notice
Like the district’s mission statement, the mission statement for Ralph Goodman Elementary emphasizes that all students can learn, regardless of race, religion, or national origin and that students of the school are to become responsible members of society. In addition, Goodman Elementary’s goals echo the district’s core beliefs and commitments in that they refer to the importance of devoting resources to student learning and aligning faculty and staff efforts towards a common goal of student achievement. Notice that this school’s goals focus on the integral role of the faculty in carrying out the educational process.
Questions to Ask
  • How did Ralph Goodman Elementary develop its mission statement? What was the process for involving faculty and other staff?
  • How did the district’s mission and belief statements help guide the development of the school’s mission statement? In what areas did the school decide to distinguish itself from the district’s mission statement?
  • How does the school translate these broad goals into measurable targets for student achievement?
> Download Document (pdf)

Strategic Management of Teaching and LearningBroward County Public Schools
Broward County Public Schools uses clear and structured processes to achieve their well-defined vision and mission.

1 – K-12 Non-Negotiable Effective School Blueprint
Document illustrating various non-negotiables for schools in various stages of restructure.
What to Notice
This document provides a graphic organizer showing how the district manages its established practices (seven correlates, eight-step process, and nine high-yield strategies) with intervention strategies for low-performing schools. This is very useful, as many districts implement their interventions separately from well-established district practices. This chart clearly delineates expectations and roles by governance level (depending on their restructure phase), marking an “X” by designated practices that have full school autonomy. No items under the “7, 8 and 9” practices are granted full autonomy on this blueprint.
Questions to Ask
  • How were the designated areas of autonomy selected? How are the autonomies monitored?
  • What happens when a granted autonomy continues to show poor performance?
  • Do low-performing schools that are not in restructure have complete autonomy outside of the 7, 8 and 9 practices? How about average- to high-performing schools?
  • Who makes decisions for schools completely under district control? What supports are available for those schools?
> Download Document (pdf)

Strategic PlanningNew York City Department of Education
When Michael Bloomberg was elected mayor of New York City, he made school reform a key priority of his administration, hiring former U.S. assistant attorney general and Fortune 500 executive Joel Klein to lead the nation’s largest school system serving over 1 million students. In the early years of his tenure, Chancellor Klein launched an aggressive effort to engage the community in the creation of a strategic plan to transform the district and improve student achievement. Hiring a significant amount of new talent from outside the district and engaging teams of consultants to provide targeted support, Chancellor Klein sparked the process that would lead to the development of the Children First reform plan.

1 – Children First Overview
Describes the history and components of the district’s strategic plan, called Children First.
What to Notice
The document starts with a dramatic quote from the mayor of New York, identifying leadership, empowerment and accountability as the three pillars of the district’s reform plan. And—in big bold letters—the district identifies student achievement as the overriding focus. Notice that Bloomberg and Klein thought of their plan in two phases: (1) bringing stability to the system, and (2) empowering principals and holding them accountable for school results.
Questions to Ask
  • How long did the strategic planning process take? What kind of resources were required, both from within the district and from outside the district? How did the district ensure community involvement?
  • What kinds of resistance did Klein and his team face, as outsiders? How did they overcome these obstacles? Who were their allies in the reform process?
  • What major top-down reforms did Klein and his team implement? How were these received? Did these reforms conflict with the district’s goal of giving principals more autonomy and more accountability?
  • What was the district’s approach to parent involvement, student promotion and budgetary flexibility? How did Klein and his team make changes in these areas?
> Download Document (doc)

2 – Comprehensive Educational Planning Process
Describes the strategic planning process for regional districts—of which there are 12 in New York—and individual schools.
What to Notice
Pages one through three describe how regional districts in New York City create their comprehensive educational plans (CEPs), which set measurable goals for improving student achievement and tie budgetary spending to these goals. Notice that the process is focused on making instructional adjustments that will lead to measurable changes in student achievement. Pages four and five provide a similar overview of the planning process at individual schools. The School Leadership Team—made up of administrators, teachers, staff and parents—is responsible for using a data-driven approach to setting strategic goals for the school.
Questions to Ask
  • How does New York City link the overall Children First plan to the comprehensive educational plans of regional districts and schools? Are local educators encouraged to reference Children First in their plans?
  • Are these plans living documents? Are the major components of the plan shared with teachers and staff? Are the plans revisited throughout the year?
> Download Document (doc)

3 – School Improvement Plan - Elementary
Lays out academic goals and action plans for an elementary school’s 10 academic goals. Forms the core of the school’s Comprehensive Educational Plan (CEP).
What to Notice
The school improvement plan for an elementary school includes 10 school goals, six of which are focused on literacy and four of which are focused on mathematics. Separate goals address the performance of general education students, special education students and ELL students. Each goal starts with a measurable objective and then lists strategies to address the objective, including revenue sources, time devoted to the goal and accountable parties.
Questions to Ask
  • Who is involved in the goal setting process? How widely are the goals known among teachers, parents, and students? How does the district communicate this information?
  • How often does the school revisit its goals? Does the conversation start with the district’s Children First goals?
  • At the district level, who collects and reviews the school’s improvement plan? What kind of coaching and support does the school receive?
> Document Coming Soon

Strategic PlanningBridgeport Public Schools
Every school in Bridgeport Public Schools creates an education plan that links the district’s mission and vision to measurable goals at the school level.

1 – Education Plan - Elementary
Describes the mission and vision of Columbus Elementary, as well as measurable objectives for improvement of student achievement and fulfillment of NCLB requirements.
What to Notice
The cover page is a checklist, allowing the school to indicate that it has completed all required components of the plan. On page four, the school identifies its mission and vision, and these are linked to the district’s mission and goals. The document includes concrete action plans to address measurable student achievement goals, as well as a parent and community involvement plan. Later, the document provides full data for the school’s performance on the Connecticut Mastery Tests and compares the school’s current performance to the targets set by NCLB. Finally, there is a plan to meet NCLB’s highly-qualified teacher requirement.
Questions to Ask
  • How did the school develop its mission and vision? Was the process informed by the mission and vision of the district? Which school-site personnel were involved in the process? Were parents or community members involved in the process?
  • How did the school identify its measurable student achievement objectives? How often are these revisited?
  • Does the school benchmark its performance against any nearby schools with similar student populations?
  • Who is primarily responsible for increasing parent and community involvement? What is the baseline for involvement, from which the school is trying to improve?
> Download Document (doc)

Strategic Planning in a Collaborative EnvironmentBrownsville Independent School District
Brownsville Independent School District takes a very collaborative approach to strategic planning. The District Improvement Plan is developed by the District Educational Improvement Council (DEIC), which includes representatives from every school in the district. The planning process centers on creating student achievement goals that map to the district’s mission statement and creating the action plans that will allow schools to meet their ambitious goals.

1 – District Mission and Goals
One-page description of Brownsville’s mission and goals.
What to Notice
Brownsville’s mission statement explicitly targets higher education and responsible citizenry as student-oriented goals. In addition, the district provides specific goals that apply to key central office departments: curriculum and instruction, personnel, facilities and finance. These functional goals address the role of the district in creating healthy, high-functioning skills that offer students the best chance to succeed.
Questions to Ask
  • How and when was the mission statement developed? Did it come from the board or from management? What was the process for articulating the mission and collecting input from stakeholders?
  • How did the functional goals come to be? How did each of the four key district departments draft their own goals?
  • How would you translate these qualitative goals into measurable objectives?
  • How is progress toward goals tracked? How often do goals change?
> Download Document (pdf)

2 – Curriculum and Instruction Action Plan for Board’s Goals and Objectives
This is a supplement to the state-required “District Improvement Plan.” The document describes specific objectives and action plans tied to the district’s core goal around curriculum and instruction.
What to Notice
In the core area of curriculum and instruction, Brownsville has developed concrete objectives and action plans that address the board’s goal for curriculum and instruction. On page 69, notice that the seven objectives describe how the curriculum and instruction department hopes to achieve this goal. Each objective is further defined through a series of action steps that indicate the persons responsible, resources needed, timeline, and evaluation method.
Questions to Ask
  • How did the district go about translating the board’s curriculum and instruction goal into concrete objectives? How did the board participate in this process, or did the superintendent’s team take responsibility for this?
  • How widely is the document used? How are individual teachers and principals made aware of the academic goals and action steps listed in the plan? Who tracks progress against the action plans?
> Download Document (pdf)

Strategic Planning Process and ToolsLong Beach Unified School District
The Long Beach Unified School District applies a methodological approach to continuous improvement in everything they do. Their strategic planning process considers overall district goals, and then translates those goals into activities that are carefully documented, tracked over time, and then measured and improved after each iteration.

1 – District Strategic Planning Process
Chart illustrating the district’s strategic planning process. .
What to Notice
This color-coded chart provides a clear graphic representation of the steps and flow of the district’s strategic planning process. Each step is represented by an action verb (assess, validate, evaluate, etc.) that moves to the next step, forming a continuous feedback loop that refines the strategic plan based on evaluations of prior actions. The presence of the word “validate” in steps 3 and 4 illustrates the collaborative nature of the process. Seeing the steps on this chart, rather than in narrative text, makes the process easy to understand.

Notice that key actors for various steps are identified, as well as different “points of integration” with different stakeholders, like union leaders and parents.
Questions to Ask
  • How is this chart used? How does the district explain this chart to its intended audience?
  • What is the time frame for one complete cycle of this strategic planning process?
  • How are district personnel trained in the strategic planning process?
> Download Document (pdf)

2 – Strategic Plan Report to the Community for 2008-2009
District’s strategic plan report for 2008-2009.
What to Notice
This report communicates to the public the district’s goals and successes for the year in a concise, reader-friendly format. Each page lays out the goals at the top of the page, and then describes awards and honors associated with the goal, with pictures added to animate the content.

Sharing concrete successes tied to goals brings interest and credibility to the district. For example, Goal 1 focuses on student proficiency in core content areas. The text below provides several honors, such as the National Center for Educational Achievement spotlighting the district, and five schools winning a national Title I award. In addition to the prestige, the report demonstrates how the district has translated their goals into successful activities.
Questions to Ask
  • Who developed this report? How is it distributed? Is it written in any languages other than English? Who is the target audience?
  • How has the community reacted to the report? Has the report increased interest from families and students to move into the district?
  • How does the district translate the goals in this document into actionable tasks and objectives? How does the district monitor its progress on these goals?
> Download Document (pdf)

3 – District Reforms
Summary of district reforms from 2006-2009.
What to Notice
These documents describe the major reforms and milestones implemented by the district under the strategic plan for 2006-2010. It explains the purpose and design of each reform, lists milestones and progress, and describes next steps.

The description of each reform’s progression over time illustrates careful, strategic implementation of each initiative. Each reform begins with a planning year to focus on stakeholder engagement, performing a needs assessment, acquiring funding and/or building infrastructure, or conducting a small pilot. Based on feedback and data from the first step, the reform is expanded over the next year or more, depending on the size and goal of the reform. The final year involves another data review, and then forming next steps to refine, institutionalize and expand the initiative.

Taking the time to thoughtfully plan and implement reforms is important for ensuring the end result meets intended goals, gains stakeholder buy-in, and has necessary supports. This long-term strategic approach, along with the practice of benchmarking milestones is particularly important for ensuring that the district maintains focus and avoids the tendency to layer programs on top of each other, which can result in a lack of clarity and alignment to the original goals.
Questions to Ask
  • Does each initiative have someone to manage the planning and activities? How is that person selected?
  • How difficult is it to gain stakeholder support for new initiatives? What strategies has the district used to gain stakeholder support?
  • How are the initiatives selected? What stakeholders are involved in the process?
  • How does the district balance the need to roll out reform strategically and carefully with external demands to show more immediate change or progress?
  • Who decides on future steps for the reforms?
  • How does the health of the district’s budget impact its ability to implement these reforms?
> Download Document (pdf)