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Developing Goal Consensus

In high performing schools, all stakeholders--including teachers, education support personnel, administrators, parents and community representatives--have a shared understanding and commitment to high level outcomes for all students. The learning goals for students in high performing schools are clear and specific, help to establish high expectations for all students, and guide all actions that support high levels of student learning. The staff's collective commitment to the achievement of the goals also means they assume responsibility for the success of all the school's students, not just the students they teach.

This step, Identifying Priority Goals for Student Learning, includes three tasks:

A. Deciding on Priority Goals for Student Learning

B. Developing Consensus on Ways to Know Whether Goals are Achieved

C. Conducting Preliminary Analysis of KEYS Survey Data


Bringing about significant improvement in schools is, as Richard Elmore and Milbrey McLaughlin have observed, "steady work". It takes lots of energy over time and can be stressful and frustrating--as well as rewarding. To sustain improvement, it is important to keep the collective eyes of the school on the prize of student learning at high levels. Getting agreement on what that means, and how you know it when you see it, especially in schools with very diverse students, is challenging. Student learning is not the only goal of improvement. Collegiality, shared responsibility, and opportunities for professional learning are also important. But these "process goals" are sometimes easier to achieve than developing and sustaining a focus on high achievement for all students and these "means" or processes can become ends in themselves.

Clear and ambitious goals for students are essential if schools are to engage in continuous improvement because the collaborative analysis of any gaps between goals and actual student performance provide direction for almost all important decision making at the school and classroom level.

It is also important to develop consensus about how student outcomes will be assessed. Of course, some measures of student performance are prescribed by state or district policy.  But even in those subjects where tests are mandated, it teachers are likely to feel that the required tests do not deal adequately with the goals they have for student learning and development. The process of identifying ways of knowing whether goals have been reached often sharpens and clarifies the goals themselves because people may agree on a goal but hold different beliefs about what that goal involves.

Note: Click on the links in the left column for an interactive experience with this step of the process, or click the link below to download a Word version of this section. 

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