Change is scary. We must be brave. We must be willing to leave the mediocrity that we know so that we may explore the excellence we have not yet experienced.
There is an item on our upcoming June 13 meeting agenda introducing a vote to rescind TUSD's Strategic Plan. Although some schools have accomplished a great deal in the past two or three years, many more schools have far more potential than they have exhibited thus far. Leadership is key. A plan is essential. Strategy will get us to where we are trying to go.
A strategic plan should be developed by a process wherein stakeholders identify strategies to achieve a specific mission. A useful plan must include measurable goals, priorities for implementation, and plans for revisiting organizational strategies on an ongoing basis to measure effectiveness as internal and external environments change.
People seem to be up in arms at the notion that the TUSD's new Board will revisit TUSD's Strategic Plan--despite that it needs to be updated because it does not cite specific, measurable, achievable, results-oriented, time-bound goals. Instead, it provides amorphous activities that TUSD will participate in, such as: "TUSD will have classroom curricula, instruction, and professional development," and "TUSD will develop and implement a long-range Master Facilities Plan that supports and enhances student learning and achievement, and community partnerships." There is not a specific way to measure the success of these goals, which do not focus on student achievement or community morale results, but on TUSD's own efforts.
However, success does not depend on what TUSD does; success depends on what TUSD students are able to do at the end of the process (and how well TUSD customers report that TUSD serves them).
A brief example: If I try really, really hard to raise student achievement levels by doing a tremendous amount of work with great determination and effort, is my success guaranteed? Let's say, for example, that I spend the whole day digging a pit in my backyard, without stop, under the hot desert sun--will that help students achieve academically in TUSD? Does my hard work guarantee that students will succeed? I don't think anyone would try to argue that the answer is yes. That is where a strategic plan comes in.
Strategic planning is a leadership activity that is used to set priorities, ensure common goals, establish agreement around intended outcomes and results, and to assess and re-assess, adjust and re-adjust the organization's direction in response to a constantly changing environment. It requires concerted, disciplined effort focused on actions that shape and guide the organization, its constituents and customers, its activities, its reasons for existing--and strategic planning maintains a focus on future accomplishments.
As such, an effective strategic plan articulates both where the organization is going and the specific actions needed to get there, and--most importantly--how everyone will know if we got there, whether goals have been fulfilled and the plan is thus successful. All in all, a strategic plan is a document that is used to communicate with stakeholders an organization's goals, specific actions needed to achieve those goals, and other critical elements articulated during the planning exercise. Therefore, everyone can use the strategic plan to measure the organization's success against its own promises.
That is not the case at present with TUSD's Strategic Plan. TUSD's Plan sets out amorphous goals that do not focus on measurable results. Have you read it?
Despite its failings, at least one person has asserted that TUSD has accomplished a great deal because of the Plan. They say that TUSD has increased enrollment; increased minority student enrollment in AP, IB, and dual language programs; expanded Culturally Relevant Instruction; repurposed two closed schools; and more. But I have a hard time reconciling a few of these claims with available data, and I am not sure if the other claims have anything to do with the price of tea in China, if you will. For one, TUSD's enrollment went down again this year, following trends begun in 2012, I believe. And what does it matter if students are enrolling at higher rates in AP or IB or dual language classes unless we have data (proof) that demonstrate gains at the end of the process? Failing out of an AP class is likely more detrimental to the motivation of a student than succeeding in a grade level course. Unless a student actually benefits from an experience, such as an AP class, simply having the experience means nothing (or worse).
Achievement must be the focus. We must focus on what students are able to do and achieve at the end of the process. This is not about how hard TUSD works; it is about what students do and what they are able to achieve (because TUSD works smart).
Do you think TUSD's Strategic Plan is SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, results-oriented, and time-bound)? If yes, what data support your opinion? If not, how do you think we should update the Plan--what SMART goals can we add and what results would you like to see (in our students, in morale, in our facilities or spending)?
As always, I am interested in your feedback. After all, my ideas are a work in progress--like TUSD's Strategic Plan.
P.S. iVisions is indeed a new ERP system that could modernize our HR and Payroll Departments, but there is a lack of focus on SMART goals for those departments, which is why Dr. Trujillo just began working with these departments to digitize themselves, once and for all, hopefully by 2019. Until then, we continue to be plagued by the slowness and human error that accompanies doing everything by hand. Bureaucracy!! Of course, computer glitches will replace human error, but at least those tend to happen faster than the human kind.