Aligned and Nested: School Plans to Support a Balanced Scorecard

Maggie Glennon
If you ever get frustrated because school improvement plans do not align with district improvement plans, you are not alone. The number of separate plans schools and districts must create to meet state and federal mandates can be overwhelming, so it is not surprising that superintendents and principals sometimes lose focus.

The Monroe County School District in central Georgia resolved these frustrations by creating a system of aligned and nested school improvement plans. The district used a collaborative process in which district leaders worked with principals to define performance targets and then principals and school leadership teams had the autonomy to decide appropriate initiatives and action steps needed to reach those targets.

The major strategic goal areas were identified through the districtwide balanced scorecard strategic-improvement planning process. Then these goals were divided into smaller performance objectives that were mutually developed by the superintendent and principals. The performance targets that would measure how well the district and each school had met the objectives were defined by the superintendent with input from principals and school leadership teams. Schools were given autonomy and responsibility for creating initiatives and designing action steps to meet the objectives. This multifaceted process aligned with the balanced scorecards and created a systemic improvement framework for the district and each school.

The aligned and nested school improvement plans worked so well that the district took the step of aligning these scorecards with all other mandated plans. This alignment was done in two ways, depending on program requirements. Some plans, such as those relating to federally funded programs, had predetermined formats that simply cross-referenced the school plans. Those mandated plans that were more flexible, such as parent plans, were appended to the school plans.

Using the same format, with consistent strategic goal areas and performance objectives for each school and the district, not only helped the school’s inner workings; it also increased the capacity of school personnel to communicate with each other and align their work. For example, parent coordinators could see how their work aligned with that of media specialists, while counselors could draw a direct line from their work to that of graduation coaches.

In addition, the aligned and nested school improvement plans provided a platform for the work of horizontal and vertical alignment committees. As a result, the committee work was simplified, and the rate at which the objectives were accomplished was increased.

This system of aligned and nested school improvement plans was only one of the four major systemic school improvement tools Monroe County used to direct, manage and monitor performance in its six schools. The aligned and nested plans worked in conjunction with a set of balanced scorecards, annual reports to the school board, and a system of visual reporting to help the district make substantial and sustained gains in student achievement and other key organizational performance indicators.

Maggie Glennon is a performance consultant with the Georgia Leadership Institute for School Improvement in Atlanta. E-mail: