The SGS Levers


1 // Create a shared definition of what a great school is


+ A school performance framework and management process are the foundation of a System of Great Schools. Together, these initiatives give you the data and decision-making framework you need to get more kids in better schools every year.

Scroll through this page for a quick overview of each Sublever in Lever 1. Check out the Quick Start Bundle for essential tools you can download to get started in your district. You can also search the Resource Exchange for more information and tools.

The work:

1.1 Establish a school performance framework.

1.2 Define a school performance framework policy.

1.3 Design a school portfolio review and planning cycle.

1.4 Build your team.

Scroll down to learn more

1.1 Establish a school performance framework


+ A school performance framework (SPF) is a tool used to assess the performance of schools across multiple, common measures. An SPF tells you and your stakeholders how schools are doing and provides the critical data you need to take school actions.

An School Performance Framework helps you:

Know your schools: The quality of each school will be clearly measured on multiple indicators and accessible to the district and community.

Define success: Expectations are clear and both the central office and schools can assess the quality of education provided to students.

Improve schools: The school system is managed with the overall goal of increasing access to quality education programs. This goal is realized by creating and expanding successful schools, and taking action to address struggling ones.

+ The Texas A-F framework offers a baseline for your local school performance framework.

You can build on the Texas A-F framework in one of the following ways:

Adopt the Texas A-F System: Use the existing state accountability system and letter grades.

Expand the Texas A-F System: Build upon the existing state accountability system and letter grades for academic scores by combining it with locally-developed metrics.

+ A high-level development and execution plan will start you and your team off on the right foot.

Select your team:

  • Pick a project manager and small team for initial design.
  • Collect existing district data that could inform the school performance framework.

Simulate data from previous years:

  • Develop test ratings to understand how schools will score.
  • Develop a year one baseline.

Form a working group:

  • Convene district staff who will work closely with inputs and/or outputs of the school performance framework.
  • Present the school performance framework to district leadership.

Engage with stakeholders:

  • Include district leadership, community members, school staff, and parents in discussions on the school performance framework.
  • Present different options to stakeholders.

Develop the final year one baseline:

  • Calculate proposed ratings for all schools.
  • Circulate ratings for one last test among district staff – do the ratings pass a basic “reality” test?

Rollout ratings on a test basis with schools:

  • Meet individually or with groups of school leaders to introduce and explain results.
  • Clarify that these are “no stakes” ratings at this point.
  • Ensure sufficient time for stakeholders to provide feedback and get comfortable with the ratings.

Launch a “no stakes” first year:

  • Clarify from the outset that the initial year will be a “test” and that no consequences will arise from year one ratings.
  • Present the results of the year one baseline school performance framework to local political and community leaders.
  • Consider holding rollout events at schools to explain the results.
  • Make district staff available to field questions.

+ It is critical to consistently engage with all stakeholders and present a clear and aligned message.

Engage the Community: Develop a coherent, consistent message about why school performance frameworks are necessary and communicate with key stakeholders. Highlight the benefits of the school performance framework for all interested parties.

Once the school performance framework is adopted, it is critical for districts to have a clear plan on how and when results from the framework will be reported to schools and the public. After the necessary data to run the framework become available, framework results should be released in a timely manner in conjunction with a clear communications plan.

Don't Surprise Schools: Present data from previous academic years aligned to the potential framework to show schools where they stand based on the new standards. Before the rollout of the final framework, it is critical to send framework results to schools and other key stakeholders for feedback and to review data integrity.

Check for Alignment: If your district employs other evaluation tools, such as teacher or leader evaluations, it is important to align your school performance framework timelines with the results from these other tools. Ideally, you will have available the results from all evaluation systems at approximately the same time so that a full data-set is available to inform your recommendations.


Dallas SPF

Camden SPF

New York City SPF

Click the "Curated Resources" button below for more examples


1.2 Identify school actions and develop guidelines for applying them


+ School action policies connect the output of your school performance framework to the actions you will take to ensure more students have access to better schools.

A fully articulated policy will include the following:

High-level analysis of district trends like school enrollment trends, budget projections, and major legislative changes that inform multi-year strategic goal and policy development.

A multi-year district goal articulating a measurable commitment to improving school quality.

Eligibility criteria and decision-making considerations that link school performance and other critical school data with school actions, providing guidance on when the district will take action and, as importantly, when the district will not take action in schools.

Engagement and communication plans for stakeholders on district goals, potential school actions, and supporting rationale.

+ School actions and guidelines for how and when to apply them should be tightly aligned to your school performance framework.

A clear, coherent relationship between the school performance framework and the policy guiding decisions about school actions will help ensure the actions of school leaders and teams, the district central office, and the communities they serve are aligned to the ultimate goal of getting more students in better schools.

+ You don't need sophisticated data tools or a big team to start making an impact - build on what you do now to improve schools.

Get started with the following steps:

  1. Build a high-level analysis of district context and trends.
  2. Engage leadership and other critical stakeholders in setting bold, achievable goals on school quality.
  3. Establish the full set of potential school actions and define for each: the supports provided, the expectations, the total lifetime cost, and the expected impact.
  4. Define eligibility criteria and decision-making considerations that align school performance and other school data with school actions.

Throughout the process, thoughtful stakeholder engagement and communication is required.

1.3 Develop a regular portfolio review and planning process


+ The planning and review process connects your school performance framework and policies to regularly assess school performance and apply your policy to determine what actions you will take to improve your schools.

This annual process helps district leaders and stakeholders understand the context, assess options, make choices, and develop initial high-level implementation plans for the set of major actions in schools that will be undertaken in each year.

Enacting an annual or regular school portfolio review and planning processes will empower families, district staff, and the broader community to act in the best interest of students.

A review and planning process:

Enhances the quality of decision-making by enabling integrated, data-driven decisions that benefit from the insights of all district functions and other key stakeholders.

Reduces re-work or decisions across district departments by ensuring decisions are sequenced appropriately and well aligned.

Improves potential for execution with fidelity and impact by building commitment and understanding among key stakeholders and by ensuring the requirements for successful implementation of decisions are incorporated into the decision-making process.

+ The product of a portfolio review process is a portfolio plan outlining what actions will be taken in what schools for a given time.

A number of interim outputs are produced along the way towards aligning on the final set of decisions, including:

Annual comprehensive school and neighborhood-level analysis, including school ratings, a refresh of data used to build out the school performance framework policy, and your district’s ‘big goal’.

Assessment of available resources for school actions including budget, central office capacity, school-level talent, facilities, and political capital.

Updated or narrowed list of potential school actions for this year.

Recommendations and supporting analysis on which schools will receive which actions to be reviewed and finalized by district leadership team.

Estimates of resources needed to deliver on decisions including implications for the district’s budget and school and central office capacity.

Stakeholder engagement and communications plans about decisions and their implications.

Draft implementation plans for school portfolio decisions.

+ Portfolio review is an annual process that follows a general rhythm of activity from year to year.

The specific steps may differ based on your district’s context, but overall you can expect the work to follow a general path:

Assess the current portfolio and district context and align on the most critical priorities.

Define the resources available to support school portfolio decisions and define the in-scope school portfolio decisions.

Explore scenarios, narrow options, and make recommendations on integrated portfolio decisions.

Finalize and communicate decisions which should directly inform the work of Lever 2 to create new schools and programs and replicate and expand existing successful programs.

Learn from the process and use this information to improve the next year.

1.4 Continue developing capacity to improve school planning processes


+ Executing a high-quality portfolio process will ultimately take a dedicated team with a diverse skillset, but you can start the work with existing capacity. The first thing to do is name a project lead.

As you build out your team, focus on the following capacities. This could be as few as two people or as many as ten, depending on the size of your district. See the Quick Start Bundle for a handout on portfolio roles and responsibilities.

Program Management: Organize and track the work plans, create the appropriate working and decision making processes, ensuring stakeholders are engaged, and supporting the work itself.

Analytics: Aggregate and integrate data from multiple functions and systems, design performance accountability structures, weights, trial run scenarios.

Change Management: Navigate the process as an unbiased facilitator through the organization to gain buy-in from multiple stakeholders, from the Board to schools.

Problem Solving: Create solutions for the product and process by adapting to feedback and other constraints, such as limited data, community voice, phrasing, etc.

Communications: Convey complex, technical information to a wide audience while balancing rigor and credibility with ease of understanding.

+ While many districts will build a separate portfolio team, this may not be for you. You don’t need to fill every position to start improving schools.

Primary Roles Related to School Portfolio Management

Role: Ownership of Portfolio Management

Position: Chief Innovation / Strategy / Portfolio Officer (CIO / CSO / CPO)

Primary Responsibilities:

  • Visible leader overseeing innovation in the district, including managing school performance.

  • Develops buy-in for performance management concepts among internal and external stakeholders, including liaising with senior stakeholders.

  • Ensures senior leadership visibility and support of performance management processes.

  • Supervises portfolio management staff.

Role: Execution of School Portfolio Management

Position: Executive Director; 2 levels from the superintendent, reports to CIO

Primary Responsibilities:

  • Serves as the primary point of contact for school performance management.

  • Oversees the development and engagement efforts for the development of the school performance framework, noting that on-going management of the school performance framework may sit on a separate team.

  • Leads the development and execution of processes and policies related to school actions and interventions based on the school performance framework.

  • Manages the new schools approval processes, including replications of existing schools and recruitment of external school providers, including charter schools.

  • Facilitates the annual portfolio review process.

  • Liaises with priority stakeholders to garner support for portfolio management decisions.

  • Supervises portfolio staff.

Role: School Performance Framework Management

Position: Senior Manager or Director; 2-3 levels from the superintendent, reporting to the Executive Director or Chief Innovation Officer

Primary Responsibilities:

  • Plans, implements, supervises the creation and operation of the school performance framework.

  • Collects and manages the data inputs to ensure the integrity of the process.

  • Communicates with school leaders and community stakeholders to build the credibility of the framework and share outcomes.

  • Interfaces with other district staff to execute school performance management actions to improve school performance.

  • Directs the development of local assessments to support school autonomy and oversee state assessments to ensure school leaders are administering correctly.

Role: School Performance Management Process Execution

Position: Senior Manager or Manager; 3-4 levels down from the superintendent, reporting to the Executive Director

Primary Responsibilities:

  • Manages the day-to-day actions of the school performance management process.

  • Project-manages tasks and deliverables to support the annual process of rating schools through senior leadership and board approval of actions.

  • Supports the Executive Director in collaborating with other departments to determine the available school supports to improve performance.

  • Assists the new schools process, including the creation of new school applications, reviews, and community input.

Role: Data Analysis / Process Support

Position: Analyst, Senior Analyst, or Manager; 3-4 levels down from the Superintendent

Primary Responsibilities:

  • Serves as the primary data analyst to support the inputs to the school performance framework and school performance management.

  • Organizes input files to capture required data for the analysis.

  • Prepares data visuals for the Analysis Manager.

  • Preferred: Posesses the ability to geocode student information and create mapping visuals to support conversations related to school performance managment in a regional context.