Developing Performance Targets

By Doug Eadie

One key to your school board performing as a truly high-impact governing body is for everyone to be accountable for their individual governing performance. Essentially, this involves your board setting performance standards and targets for itself, monitoring the achievement of those targets, and taking action to remedy performance shortfalls.

This is one of those less-than-scintillating functions that naturally falls through the cracks if it is not explicitly assigned to a board committee to manage. Of course, no superintendent in full possession of his or her faculties would tackle the job, although helping the board to do it well certainly falls within your superintendent’s bailiwick.

Many boards have found that assigning performance management to your standing governance or operations committee makes good sense, in light of the involvement of the chairs of those “governing engines” where much of your board’s detailed governing work is done.

The key to effective performance management is your board developing its own set of specific performance standards and targets that it has taken the time to think through itself, rather than relying on one of those handy little diagnostic checklists or questionnaires floating around these days. At a very basic level, a generic checklist can be useful for telling you whether the basic components are in place, such as whether your board annually evaluates the superintendent using a set of performance targets.

Beyond such basics, employing a standard checklist approach trivializes the process of board performance management because it misses the most important points. You also want to keep in mind that self-assessment can be unreliable as a gauge of a board’s actual -- as contrasted with perceived -- performance because of a natural tendency toward self-congratulation.

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