A handy guide to goal tracking for school boards

Jennifer Rose Hale

Goal setting is a crucial part of the school board’s role in the annual education cycle. Designed to set up schools, students, staff and communities for the best possible year ahead, school district goals inform the superintendent of priorities and help them determine where time, energy and resources are best spent.  

But for school boards, establishing goals is not a one-and-done process, and as the leadership team, school trustees share responsibility with the superintendent for ensuring that the district meets its goals. The most powerful way a board can support district goals and ensure their desired outcomes is through regular progress tracking.  

Your board may not yet have a system for tracking progress toward goals, or it may have one that is less efficient and more hit-or-miss. So, why should board members revisit their goal tracking processes, and what can administrators do to ensure they have the tools and information they need to review goal progress? 

Why tracking goal progress is necessary for school boards

Tracking progress on established goals is a critical function of school boards, important to the communities, and of particular use for the superintendent and key administrators. There are a few reasons boards and their supporters need to prioritize systemic goal tracking. 

Avoiding surprises

School and student performance is under the microscope in this post-pandemic period. The Nation’s Report Card from the National Assessment of Education Progress showed noteworthy declines in reading and math performance between 2020 and 2022.

Many boards are struggling to turn around COVID-19 losses, so being aware of ongoing assessments and work to turn around these trends is necessary — as well as being prepared to contextualize results for anxious communities. For the superintendent, whose evaluation hinges on meeting goals, ensuring that the board is continually informed is a professional responsibility.  

Impact on student outcomes

Monitoring student performance has been shown to positively influence outcomes. The Effective School Boards Initiative offers this thought on the role of the board to lead by example:

“If board members want a culture where teachers are open and reflective in their craft, they set the stage for that by demonstrating what it looks like for the board and superintendent to be open and reflective — grounded in student outcomes data — in their craft as well.”

(Including tracking indices in agenda materials is a linchpin of this strategy.) 


Open meetings requirements for public bodies ensure the public has a right to witness and be a part of the decision-making process for school boards. By making goal tracking — and materials related to goal tracking — part of open-meetings processes, the public remains informed of ongoing board deliberations, and regulatory bodies have a record of compliance.   

Board value

Many board members face regular elections, and those in appointed positions can be replaced if they are unable to set and support effective performance objectives for school districts. Commitment to yearlong, continuous goal progress shows the value and leadership school boards bring to the community. 

Challenges in goal tracking for boards 

So why isn’t every board already effectively tracking goals? Let’s consider these reasons. 


Circling around on decisions and investigating their progress takes time, and time is something board members and administrators never have enough of. The ​​Effective School Boards Initiative suggests that boards should invest at least 50% of their time each month (or regular meeting period) into monitoring progress, a challenging goal when new business issues or crises enter the picture.

Our article Using goal tracking to drive school budgeting covers how boards should handle information-gathering in a crisis. 

Goals that aren’t SMART

The concept of SMART goals (defined as Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely) traces back to 1981. Each of these factors make a difference to school success, but ensuring goals are regularly measurable is key to board oversight of management. Goals can be well-intentioned while lacking one or more SMART aspects. 

Unsupportive systems and processes

Not all boards have clear, documented processes for goal tracking as part of regular meetings, or the software to make progress review achievable. 

Best practices for school board goal tracking 

If your board already has a system for goal tracking, you may be realizing it isn’t accomplishing as much as it could. Consider these best practices for revisiting or initiating your board’s processes. 

Give your goals an IQ test

How SMART are your goals? If you find that some are too nebulous, too idealized and not directly tied to measurable outcomes, it’s time to revisit them. Goals can be reviewed and tweaked throughout the board’s year.  

Electronically record goals and related objectives

An accessible, centrally located document repository can ensure the entire board, senior administration team and other involved parties have a single source of truth for district goals. Learn more about the importance of tracking in the strategic plan process

Simplify access to records

Goals and objectives aren’t the only things that should be electronically stored and readily searchable. Meeting minutes, communications, timelines and tasks can be organized and findable in a modern digital board management system.  

Build a process that supports tracking as part of a strategic plan

Every board meeting should default to including an agenda item for tracking. Crisis response may preempt these items in extreme circumstances, but board members should be able to review materials related to goals in almost every meeting. 

Implement goal-oriented time management

Time is one thing that school board members do not have in abundance. Still, effective time management for boards has been proven to have a positive effect on school performance, motivation, efficiency, cooperation and more.  

Create a system for consistent, easy-to-read progress reporting

Templates, clear charts and pithy analyses should be the rule, not the exception for reporting. Board management software can provide templates and a simple user interface for contributors to build and submit materials. 

Unsurprisingly, the right technology solution provides support for all these best practices. Read more about the top considerations for goal-tracking software

The right tools for tracking school board goals 

Tracking progress toward goals for a strategic plan is a matter of having — and using — the right technology to support school board member experience. Look for a modern digital board management solution that supports the best practices of goal tracking and supports the board’s service to its community. 

Diligent is committed to helping school boards in their service to students and their communities. Explore Diligent Community for a modern board management solution that supports setting — and achieving — your board’s goals.