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Implementing An Education Scorecard: 6 Tips To Consider
Don’t underestimate the power of a properly implemented education scorecard. This article doles out 6 tips you can’t afford to miss.
The Balanced Scorecard has become increasingly popular over the last 15 years, with some prominent case studies created—like this one, focusing on Atlanta’s public school system—that speak to its importance in education.
We’ve worked with dozens of colleges, universities, and other schools over the years, and have pulled together six important tips you need to keep in mind in while setting up and managing your education scorecard.
1. Set up your scorecard right from the beginning.
When you begin the implementation process for your Balanced Scorecard, you’ll need to think about your ultimate outcome (i.e., whatever is placed at the top of your scorecard.)
If you’re in secondary education, your highest-level goal is likely something around “college and career ready graduates.” If you are in a university environment, it might be about your reputation or your students’ achievements. For example, in the state of Georgia, there are laws that allow for B-average high school students to get a state-based college education for free. So if you’re the University of Georgia, you may be focused first and foremost on giving in-state students a quality education. But if you’re Johns Hopkins University, a private school with a large research agenda, this might not be your primary focus.
You can see how this could be a lengthy conversation—and it can turn into a high-level debate that could derail your productivity. Our advice? Don’t try to build your scorecard without having your high-level objective already in hand. You’ll need to pose this question to the leadership of your institution, and once you have a clear answer, you’ll be able to move ahead.
2. Figure out what kind of scorecard you’re creating.
In an ideal world, your strategy is balanced between goals for academic achievement and goals for operational excellence. After all, the goal of a Balanced Scorecard is to capture the strategy of the organization at large.
But some education environments struggle to balance these two aspects and tend to create a scorecard that focuses on one aspect over the other. Often, the person championing the scorecard or driving it forward is usually biased. Perhaps the champion is the director of operations, or maybe they’re involved with curriculum and instruction.
Because of this, you’ll often see two scorecards being created in the educational field: one for academics and another for operations. We consider this a less-than-perfect solution, but it happens frequently as a workaround for this problem. And knowing which direction your scorecard is leaning will make your job a lot easier, as you’ll be able to get the attention and focus of those who need to be involved with it.
- An academic scorecard might have themes like curriculum, learning environment, or specialized support.
- An operational scorecard might have themes around facilities, transportation, or food services.
For example, in an academic scorecard, you could say that being well-balanced with your sport programs, fine art programs, and other extracurriculars is important. But maintaining your sports fields and having appropriate, up-to-date facilities are really important on the operational side of things.
Or, consider the “learning and growth” category of your scorecard. You may want to focus on training—but there’s a marked difference between “training for teachers in X particular areas” and “training the right people for facilities management.” You should be able to examine your scorecard, determine whether you’re focusing more on academics or operations (or a mix of the two), and move things around appropriately. If you don’t differentiate between these in your scorecard, it can become muddled and convoluted.
3. Determine your customer.
Your Balanced Scorecard has a “customer” section—so in an educational environment, you’ll need to decide who your customers are. Are they students? Parents? The community?
You may decide your customer is collective combination of these things, but we recommend picking the most important one and focusing on that customer. If you do well by the students at a university, for example, you’re likely doing well by the parents and the community. Or, you could make the argument at a high school, for example, the parents and community know more of what the students need than the students themselves.
Keep in mind that your teachers and professors are not your customers. They, of course, play a vital role in academic success, but they simply are not your customer.
4. Decide where funding should go.
Where your funding fits into your scorecard is determined largely by the type of institution you are and the role of your financials.
If you are a private school, you likely bring in funds through traditional fundraising efforts, diverse funding sources, endowments, sponsorships, and other sources. If this is the case, funding may play a role in the middle of your scorecard, because you need fundraising skills and processes, and you have fundraising outcomes.
If you’re a public school, you may have fixed funding from a particular source—possibly based on state, county, or local protocols. If this is the case for your institution, funding should be found at the bottom of your scorecard.
5. Determine how you’ll manage with your scorecard.
If regular management meetings are happening, you may want to consider changing the agenda of these meetings to clearly and specifically focus on your scorecard. This may not be an immediate or well-received change, but if you are patient and persistent—and are sure to move non-contributing items from the agenda so you can place more focus on those that are in your scorecard—you’ll see a great deal more success.
6. Ensure you have the proper controls in place.
In today’s academic world, there is some flexibility for incentive compensation tied to your scorecard. In fact, it’s a good idea to do so, because what gets measured gets done.
But you want to be sure your new incentive program doesn’t drive the wrong behavior. Thus, before you set this plan in motion, you must be sure you have controls in place to prevent cheating. The last thing you want is for anyone in your organization to change students’ test scores, fake performance, cut corners, or skip steps in a project.
Be sure you have a system of checks and balances internally, or bring in a third party to audit your scorecard to ensure the results are correct.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to tie your scorecard to an incentive program. You may not have that flexibility—and that’s just fine, as long as you have a way to recognize and reward those working on it and using it correctly.
There is great demand for defining your performance and having visibility therein. A scorecard can be an excellent solution when it is implemented correctly. Don’t underestimate the power of taking your time to ensure that your education scorecard is configured to run smoothly.