Making student-focused decisions involves meaningful intention, hard work and thought. Working in education means everything we do and every decision we make influences our students. At Choice Schools, we use a decision-making matrix that allows us to funnel all our decisions based on our core values, mission and vision. This matrix always starts with the same question, “How does this decision impact students?” We believe that beginning all conversations with students’ best interest in mind leads to excellent outcomes for everyone at the school! Below are five tips to help you make student-focused decisions in 2021!
1) Root your decision-making in your “why?”
As board members and school leaders, decisions must be rooted in your “why.” You may be reading this tip and think, “We are a school and we are here to educate kids.” It isn’t that simple. Dig deep into your purpose of existence and become very clear on your unique “why.” Families choose our charter schools because of the “why” they have that we fulfill. Continue to recognize the privilege we have in serving families who choose our services for their child’s education.
Actionable Tip: Start each school-related meeting with your “why!” Talk about how you see your organization’s values lived out, share success stories and talk about your “why.”
2) Live and over-communicate your vision.
Have you heard the phrase, “If you don’t tell your story, someone else will!”? In today’s noisy communication environment, people are bombarded with information. It’s on their Instagram feed, neighborhood Facebook page, friend group chat and TV headlines. As consumers of this information, you can relate to the picture it paints in your mind when you see something that may be exaggerated or not 100% correct. Now, more than ever, schools need to own their story to share their authentic experiences!
Actionable tip: Put yourself in the shoes of your audiences – board members, staff, and families – what would you want to know about the decisions you are making? How do you want them to feel about your school and the families in which you serve? Amid the pandemic, your families and staff want to know where you are headed and why!
3) Involve students in the decision-making process.
Today’s students are more involved and curious than ever before. They have access to new and emerging information faster than most of us because of the availability and quickness of their devices, helping them create their own opinions quickly. Involving students in the decision-making process gives you a better picture of what they need to succeed and how you can help.
Actionable Tip: Form a small student advisory group and host conversations relating to where you need their support. Start by focusing on a single topic that you need help with rather than asking about everything.
4) Find the data, then make the decision, not the opposite.
The world is a complex place and there are so many opinions when considering a decision that impacts students. It is easy to see how one can fall into the trap of making the decision first and then finding the data to back it up later. It is so much faster. But faster is not the same as, “Is this good for kids?” Before you jump to a decision, ask yourself, “Should someone else who has time to assemble a complete picture help me make this decision? If so, who should I work with to gather the data and seek feedback?”
Actionable Tip: When considering the decision, try to think of every person or group that you foresee being impacted by the decision, and come up with a reason that they’ll find compelling for committing to it.
5) Remember, one size does not fit all.
As decision-makers for the school, your mindset when determining the best route for all students is not a “one size fits all” approach. Remember that your families choose your school because of your ability to teach each learner and tailor the educational experience to their unique needs. You don’t have to do what your neighborhood school is doing. Serve YOUR kids!
Actionable tip: Ask yourself how you are receiving feedback from your stakeholders. Who are you asking for feedback? How are you gathering and addressing feedback you receive? Who are you comparing yourself with?
Bonus Tip: Create your own decision-making funnel
Start with what is most important (your students’ learning and development), then outline the next steps to make a sound decision. Does it align with your mission, vision and values? Does it pass the “gut check?” What is the short and long term impact?