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The 3 step process the best school leaders use for selecting strategic priorities

June 22, 2017

It’s early summer and you’re faced with the daunting task of trying to plan for next school year while wrapping up the current year on a strong note. Selecting your strategic priorities or what we call “big rocks” can be an overwhelming project to tackle. Yet, the most productive leaders keep it simple to ensure success.

Derived from our BRES Effective Leader Framework, big rock 2a Selection & Prioritization, our 3 step process removes the guesswork. Whether you’re planning beachside or in a calm summer office, following this process will enable you to make the most of your summer planning time, ensuring your strategic leadership meets the mark.

3 step process for selecting strategic priorities:

1) Analyze various data points

Just like you would perform a baseline test before establishing student performance goals, similarly when selecting school big rocks you’ll want to gather existing school and student data to understand what you’re doing well and what areas need improvement. Since this is the first step towards narrowing your focus for the upcoming year, you’ll want to analyze data from multiple sources, such as:

  • End of year state assessment scores and internal interim assessments
  • Parent satisfaction surveys
  • Staff satisfaction surveys
  • Graduation and college acceptance rates
  • ACT and/or SAT scores
  • Discipline referral data

2) Gather input and recommendations from key staff members

Who possesses more knowledge of the school than those staff members interacting daily with students and parents? Data and insight on the day to day operation of the school is valuable information when selecting big rocks. Solicit input and recommendations from key staff members such as the leadership team, instructional coaches, grade level or content level leads and/or senior teachers.

Possible ways to solicit input and recommendations from key staff members:

  • Administering Surveys
  • Facilitating Focus groups
  • Conducting One-on-one Interviews

3) Pick the right number of strategic priorities

In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey explains it’s important to not overextend ourselves and focus on our highest priorities. The same idea also applies to running effective schools. When selecting your big rocks, it’s important to think about what you’re able to implement with fidelity. Select too few and the impact on student achievement may be too minimal. Select too many and you may end up spreading yourself too thin and unable to implement them effectively. We have found in our work that selecting between 2 and 4 big rocks is a good, manageable number.

Possible high leverage, strategic priorities:

  • School-wide and Classroom Systems
  • Data Driven Instruction
  • Observation & Feedback
  • Student Culture
  • Instructional Practices

Selecting your big rocks can appear overwhelming, but following this 3 step process will help. Remember to narrow your focus and select the right number of big rocks for implementation. After grounding your summer planning in this process, your team will enter the school year focused and strategic, ready to make big gains on behalf of kids.