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SMART Goals May Increase Achievement

SMART Goals - By Dr. Gonzalez

SMART_Goals_-_By_Dr._Gonzalez iconSMART Goals - By Dr. Gonzaleztitle

Have you ever tried to lose weight?  I sure have. As a teacher or principal I loved it when parents would bring me foods like flan, pozole, tamales, enchiladas, and chocolate cake, and not to mention the class parties and school festivals.   I also love hamburgers, pizza, nachos, and my mother’s menudo.  These are foods that are, “once in a while foods” and not “all the time foods.”  Eating “once in a while foods” all of the time may be detrimental to my health.  Therefore my new year’s resolution (2014) is to eat healthier and lose weight.

Imagine if I’d try and lose weight without a scale. I wouldn’t have an idea if I was being successful in losing weight, nor would I know if my changes in eating habits were successful.  I would be a ship floating at sea, without a direction to go towards.        

In contrast, by using a measurement tool such as the scale, my progress toward attainment of my goal can be monitored.  For instance, if I weighed 250lbs and my goal weight is 215lbs the scale can be used to monitor progress in achieving my goal.  By constantly monitoring my weight, I will know where I am in this process, and if needed attend the gym more often, and eat healthier foods like salads, vegetables, chicken and fish.  Then after each week I can see my weight decrease but if for some reason my weight doesn’t decrease, I can reflect on why I didn’t lose weight that week and try different techniques to ensure that I have success in the upcoming weeks.  The scale will verify that I have success or help me see that I need to change my weight loss strategy.      

From the weekly progress monitoring, when I get to 240lbs I will reward myself, and when I get to 230lbs the reward will be even greater.  At 220lbs, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and I must work extra hard to meet my goal.  This will be a perfect reason for me to eat better and attend the gym on a daily basis.  When I reach my goal weight imagine the excitement that I will have, and of course I will reward myself with a trip to Hawaii. 

Applying this weight loss principle to education, can significantly increase student achievement.  By using SMART goals, the students will be provided with feedback and they will know where they are within the learning process.  SMART goals provide an opportunity for goal setting, and increase the depth of instruction and focus.  This is the primary purpose of SMART goals. They provide evidence that our instructional practices are working.  Many industries outside of education actively use SMART goals.  SMART is a mnemonic, giving criteria to guide in the setting of objectives in project management, employee performance and personnel development.  In education, SMART goals may be linked to student achievement.  The letters broadly conform to the words (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound). 

SMART criteria are commonly attributed to Peter Drucker’s Management by Objectives concept.  Peter F. Drucker was a writer, professor, management consultant.  Hailed by BusinessWeek as “the man who invented management,” Drucker directly influenced a huge number of leaders from a wide range of organizations across all sectors of society. Among the many: General Electric, IBM, Intel, Procter & Gamble, Girl Scouts of the USA, The Salvation Army, Red Cross, United Farm Workers and several presidential administrations. Throughout his work, Drucker called for a healthy balance—between short-term needs and long-term sustainability; between profitability and other obligations; between the specific mission of individual organizations and the common good; between freedom and responsibility.


Writing a SMART GOAL at Freeman Elementary School may have the following format (Sometimes this format will not be feasible and the wording may change):

The percentage of _________________ scoring proficient or higher in __________________________ will increase from ______% to _____% by __________ as measured by_______________________.  


Exemplar 1: The percentage of Dr. Gonzalez’ students scoring proficient or higher in multiplying many digits by 2-digits will increase from 35% to 83% by March 14th as measured by district benchmarks. 

Exemplar 2: The percentage of kindergarten students entering the 100 club will increase from 32% to 80% by March 14,  2014 as measured by teacher-created materials. 

Exemplar 3: The percentage of fifth-grade students entering the 28-club will increase from 35% to 90% by March 14th as measured by the school-wide 28 club assessment. 

It is important to note that SMART goals should be developed every 3-6 weeks, and should only focus on essential concepts that need to be taught.  Below are a couple of ideas on how to use SMART goals at Freeman. 

Math Topic Test or Any test:

  • Give the test first prior to teaching the material.  Tell the students that you haven’t taught the material, and if they do not know the answers to simply leave them blank. 
  • Next, have the students grade the tests or have a parent volunteer grade the test.  DO NOT LET THE STUDENTS SEE THE TEST UNTIL THEY TAKE THE TEST THE 2nd TIME.
  • Give each student their score.
  • Tell them that you want to see improvement (Value Added Score), and that you will be giving prizes for most improved score. (Now they must pay attention, and work extra hard to increase their score.  Their focus will increase.)
  • Again only give each student a percentage and do not show them the problems they missed. Tell them that you will be teaching this material throughout the next 3 weeks and they will have a chance to increase their score during that time.
  • To optimize their score they must do their homework, pay attention in class, no absences, and try harder.    
  • Next develop your SMART goal as a class:  
The percentage of Mrs. Pickett’s class scoring at least 80% or higher on the Topic 9 Math Test will increase from 10% to 90% by February 1, 2014 as measured by the topic test provided.

  • The 10% above came from the 1st test that was given (without instruction) and the 90% may be derived from the class’ discussion. The class decides what their goal will be, and the teacher makes certain to incentivize the goal. Ask students, “Currently only 10% of the class received scores of more than 80%.  What should our goal be?  Do you think that we can get 60% of the class to pass? Or 80% of the class? Or 90% of the class?"  (Note: Primary Grades may use actual numbers such as: The percentage of Mrs. Humphrey’s class identifying 10 sight words will increase from 3 students to 15 students by March 1, 2014 as measured by the SIPPS test). 
  • Be sure to add the SMART goal to your Data Wall so that it’s visible to your students.  After you are finished teaching, and the students have taken the test for the 2nd time, the class can see if they met their SMART goal.  If they did be sure to celebrate, and if not be sure to review the material.
  • At this time students are given both tests so that they may see improvement, and they may see the problems that they missed.
  • Remember formative assessment is more impactful when compared to summative assessments so students who were not successful must have more opportunities to take the test again.  Never give students their graded test without an opportunity to correct it.    
  • Ask students to share-out success stories (i.e. “I got a 10 percent the first time and now I got a 90%). Trust me you will see many glowing faces, and this will help increase student efficacy.   
  • Also feel free to use data folders for students to log in their successes (Data folders may need to be created for SMART goals but data folders provide way for students to track their progress.  (The data folders below were created by Mrs. Irma Lopez –Beamer Teacher) 

Typically, areas of focus must be identified through the careful analysis of data. Once those areas of need are identified it is important to use SMART goals for grade-level collaboration purposes.  For example, if I am a 4th grade teacher and I develop the following SMART goal: The percentage of 4th graders scoring proficient or higher on multiplying many digits by 2-digits will increase from 24% to 80% by March 3, 2014 as measured by benchmark assessments. 

  • All teachers will review their SMART goal with the class.
  • All teachers will give a short pretest (5 problems) and meet to discuss strategies. 

Question: How are you going to teach it?

Answer: I am going to use the traditional method.  If students still struggle with this concept I am going to teach them using the lattice method, and finally I am going to use peer-tutoring to see if the class may help each other in achieving their goals.    

  • Next, all teachers will write class SMART goals (as described above), and place the smart goals on the Data Walls in your classroom.
  • Teachers then bring the data collected to the grade-level meeting, and report to each other. 
Question:  How did your class do?

Answer #1:  My class increased from 13% to 95%. 

Answer #2: My class increased from 15% to 20%.  Let’s talk about the strategies that were used.      

When SMART goal data is used to structure teacher collaboration, instructional practices are shared, and implemented.  SMART goals assist in making the learning visible. This type of structure requires trust, an open mind to try new strategies. Ultimately by sharing instructional practices, we will increase the chances of our students experiencing academic success.