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Predicting End-of-Year Student Performance

Posted December 19, 2012 11:56 AM by Ted Jackson

I Can’t Get No…

How can you institute any level of pay-for-performance if you only track your measures once a year?

Not knowing where you stand at any given moment makes it that much harder to demonstrate your impact. If you’re off track or on track during the year, will you be the last to know? And how do you decide where to focus your attention: pull from a hat?


We use the Balanced Scorecard as a tool to manage strategy. The tool isn’t nearly as important as the practice in enforces. In the Learning and Growth Perspective, we say that if you only track employee satisfaction once a year, you’re making it difficult to impossible to gauge if actions you take throughout the year impact morale. Measurements throughout the year, even if they are measures of a smaller population, like a pulse survey, will ask whether you are making a difference or not. It sure beats a crystal ball, I think.


The Kids Are Alright

Let’s take this analogy to education: you need to test throughout the year to know if students are on track for the end of the year. If you have any children in school, you know that they are already taking a lot more tests than when you were in school. But are those test results being put to good use, or are kids just testing for test’s sake?


The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) takes testing to the next level. With more than 670,000 students across more than 750 schools, they see more than their fair share of exams. However, rather than become overwhelmed with information, LAUSD studies key tests and tracks progress throughout the year, across the board in various subjects and skillsets. 


However, LAUSD does more than idly present its results to school leadership once per year. Instead, LAUSD undergoes predictive analysis with test results. First they break the results down by student groups and compare populations in divisions and cohorts. Then, based on the score in the beginning and midyear tests, the District predicts how each student group will perform by the end of the year. Color status indicators (red, amber, green) visualize the predictions to school leaders to communicate with the teachers on where they should focus additional instruction to improve performance.


The hope in Los Angeles is to spend less time analyzing end-of-year results and more time working to improve performance throughout the year. While it may not look like a Balanced Scorecard in its true sense, LAUSD is leveraging one of the key principles of the scorecard process: focus on improving performance proactively rather than reactively. 


During our Mission-Driven Management Summit in March, one of the chief architects of the LAUSD system, Noah Bookman, will share his story about the successes and challenges of this implementation. Whether you are in education or another mission-driven field, there is a lot to learn about how to provide data and align a complex organization around performance.