What changes would we like to see in student outcomes as a result of this planning process?
Ask yourself this question. Everybody wants to see improvement in schools, but the evidence suggests (and we strongly believe) that it happens best when it is a personal and professional commitment of those teachers and others doing the work.
The goals and targets you are setting here need not be restricted to your What Works planning. They can and should also flow into parts of school strategic plans, such as literacy plans, and to your own professional learning plans.
When this happens there is likely to be a strong alignment between intentions and actions.
A goal is a general statement about what you want to achieve in student outcomes.
Suitable goals are things like:
Some would say, that a statement like ‘To improve the attendance of Indigenous students’ cannot be a goal, because it isn’t related to students’ educational outcomes. Rather, it is about participation levels. Given the centrality of concerns about attendance in many locations, however, we think that participation goals are appropriate, provided they are not the only goals and provided that you always focus on the improved learning outcomes you expect as a result.
Make sure that at least one of your goals relates to educational outcomes.
And don’t try to set too many goals. If you try to deal with any more than three goals at a time you are likely to spread your attention and energy too thinly.
A target is a specific ‘what by when’ statement of how you will measure achievement of a goal.
So if a goal is ‘to increase the numbers of Indigenous students graduating from Year 11’, then a suitable target might be ‘to have 95% of Indigenous students graduating from Year 11 in 2010’.
A target does not pretend to describe everything about the related goal or the educational process itself. It is merely an indicator of success.
Setting targets for achievement has not been a widespread practice among educators in the past. Some teachers thought they were too limited, given the complex nature of the educational endeavour. Some were suspicious about the uses to which data might be put. Others felt that available data-collection instruments were not reliable enough.
All these arguments have a point. However, we think targets can help you remain engaged and focused on what you want to achieve. At the same time, they are a way to deal with that bane of teachers’ lives: the inability to define the outcomes of their work.
If you can’t see the direct connection, your target is unlikely to be appropriate.
The best targets relate directly to improvements in educational outcomes. Other targets (about attendance or participation, for instance) can contribute to that.
In some cases a 25 percent improvement over the course of a year will be a reasonable target; in others, perhaps 5 percent. You’ll have to work this out for your own situation. But remember that targets are about what you think you can achieve if you try.