ASCD Special Report / Scoreboards for Schools - ASCD
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November 1, 1997

ASCD Special Report / Scoreboards for Schools

A new program developed by ASCD in partnership with Group Decision Support Systems, Inc., promises to enhance accountability and improve communication between school districts and the community.

Accountability is one of those motherhood and apple pie issues in education; everyone's for it. Unfortunately, almost no one has come up with a foolproof formula for success. Until recently, technology's contribution to accountability and reporting of student progress has been limited to desktop publishing and handcrafted Web pages. Now, however, some new, powerful tools offer the promise of exciting new opportunities to organize existing school data and communicate measures of performance to parents. One of the most promising is the Scoreboards for Schools project being jointly developed by ASCD and Group Decision Support Systems, Inc. (GDSS), a management consulting company in Washington, D.C. This service is now available to educators through ASCD.

Limitations of Current Reporting

  • Reports are not frequent enough to be useful for school improvement.

  • Data are not accessible enough for local accountability.

  • Achievement and financial reports are not integrated with classroom, school, or district initiatives, so what happens in the classroom is difficult to correlate to district efforts at school improvement.

  • Data overemphasize traditional financial measures, such as cost per student or the ratio of computers to students.

  • Current reports don't answer the question, "Are we measuring the right things?"

  • Perhaps most important for accountability, stakeholders like administrators, staff, and community members have little or no opportunity for input in the communication process.

New Reporting Tools

Scoreboards for Schools addresses these concerns and more by providing two approaches to accountability: a tightly linked set of strategic planning strategies for developing appropriate measures and technology-based tools that help stakeholders see and understand the links between daily activities and results. Based on the concept of the "balanced scorecard" (Kaplan and Norton 1996), Scoreboards for Schools provides a proven, best-practice approach to linking strategic goals to daily activities. By focusing attention on a limited set of key measures, this approach ensures that schools, districts, or state departments of education can better align their efforts at school improvement, using highly cost-effective technologies for analyzing data and communicating with staff and the public (Scoreboards will be available at a low cost per user).

For example, a school might select four to six measures of the degree to which students meet instructional goals on a daily or weekly basis; a district might choose indicators that show how many students are at or above grade level by subject area; and a state department of education might focus on more global measures, such as students' performance on standardized tests. Stakeholders—staff members, parents, and community members at each level—can access these reports continuously in many ways, from a graphic display on an Internet Web site to detailed reports online that allow viewers to see the original data.

Graphic Communications

The technology allows information from existing databases to be disseminated as narrowly or as widely as desired over the Internet in an easy-to-understand, graphic presentation, like the gauges on a car dashboard (see illustration). The gauges, which show the indicators of performance, are continuously and automatically updated from existing district data sources. Anyone on the school or district local area network or who has Internet access can view them with any standard Web browser, such as Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer. Viewers also have access to a variety of embedded communication tools, such as electronic sticky notes for comments, e-mail for questions, survey tools for opinion polls and data collection, search engines, or "drill down" capabilities to see the data behind the gauges. The result is both a management tool and a dynamic means of communication with the entire school community.

Strategic Planning Aids

Although technology tools are important, the underlying strategic processes are essential to the choice of the right measures. The Scoreboards for Schools development process helps school decision makers identify a limited set of key indicators to create a balanced set of academic and financial measures of performance at the school, district, or regional level. These top-level indicators form the basis for a continuing, technology-assisted dialogue within the school community, as well as a frame of reference for decision making within a school or district.

Working on a local area network or on the Internet, educators use Scoreboard's decision-support tools to help collect data, analyze student performance, collect research summaries and analyses, and build consensus. Operating together with powerful software—even at great distances—educators can plan strategically and link those plans to student performance indicators that will then appear on the Scoreboard graphics.

Using Scoreboards for Schools models best practice in performance assessment at the school and district level and makes the accountability process a force for continuous improvement. It enhances the work of teams within schools, districts, and states and enables instant communication with the community, as well as response to community needs. Above all, it has the potential to demystify and energize schooling by helping everyone see and understand the relationship among key aspects of the teaching and learning process.


Kaplan, R.S., and D.P. Norton. (1996). The Balanced Scorecard: Translating Strategy into Action. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Lingle, J. (May 22, 1997). "Designing and Cascading the Balanced Scorecard Through Your Organization." Paper presented at the International Quality and Productivity Center Conference on Performance Measurement, Chicago.

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