KPIs: An Opportunity for Holistic Priorities?

As our K-12 accountability landscape shifts away from the No Child Left Behind act, which some complained was too narrowly focused on high stakes test scores and inadvertently incentivized educators to “teach to the test”, I am increasingly seeing efforts to redefine K-12 success in more holistic terms. Whether it’s the 11 civil rights organizations that wrote an open letter to President Obama calling for a focus on 8 features, which they assert are critical to building an effective accountability system, or the California DOE, which has named 8 key priority areas and directly tied those priority areas to district funding, the zeitgeist of the moment feels clear: data should be more than just test scores.

Factors that are adjacent to student achievement, such as student engagement and parental involvement are finding their way into the strategic plans of districts across the country. In researching these emerging trends and helping my team at Schoolzilla to develop a holistic and forthcoming set of KPI dashboards, I have encountered several examples of folks in the field who seem to be using KPIs well as well as a couple of white papers that provide guidance on KPI implementation for districts.


  • The now famous early adopters of the balanced scorecard system, Monroe County Schools in Georgia started using balanced scorecards back in 2002. Monroe County also uses continuous improvement plans to stay focused. These practices, used in tandem, have led to significant gains over the past decade.  
  • The CORE districts in California, which are a collection of 10 districts representing over 1 million students have banded together to focus on 8 CORE district metrics. This has allowed these districts to blend the benefits of benchmarking across common measures with the advantages of adopting a more holistic framework. This allows CORE districts to more easily see what drives results and collaboratively scale new strategies.
  • The School District of Philadelphia puts out school progress reports that break results out into 4 tiers (Intervene, Watch, Reinforce, Model) and cover categories such as Achievement, Progress (i.e., growth), Climate, College & Career Readiness, Progress on Equity and Educator Effectiveness. These categories highlight the importance of categories that are adjacent to student achievement and play a critical role in the overall success of the district.


  • Hanover Research put out a comprehensive report on Balanced Scorecard Best Practices, which can help you structure and implement Balanced Scorecards at your district.
  • The Alliance for Excellent Education highlights 4 important considerations to take into account when creating a holistic dashboard to manage district performance in this informative whitepaper.

If you have other KPI resources you’d to share with us or would like to learn more about the best practices we have encountered in the field, please reach out via the Talk to Schoolzilla link at the bottom of this page.

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