The consortium centers its benchmarking work on four strategic areas derived from research studies that correlate certain organizational policies and practices with improved student learning (see Cotton 1999; Fullan 1991; Newmann and Wehlage 1997; Schmoker 1999; Senge 1990; Sparks and Hirsch 1997). These studies suggest that targeted efforts in certain broad strategic areas can provide significant leverage in improving student performance. The literature also indicates that an abiding focus on student performance is paramount in achieving strategic improvement. Accordingly, the consortium benchmark statements are organized in the following four strategic areas:
This is the core of everything we do as educational organizations. It involves high standards, buttressed by a coherent curriculum. The standards and curriculum are well integrated into our daily work—at the classroom, school, district and community levels. It also involves continuous efforts to ensure learning for all students. This entails innovative practice that serves every student. Finally, it involves true integration of technology to personalize learning for all students.
This strategic area focuses on both organizational and human resource development. It entails continuous innovation to improve organizational structures and procedures throughout the system to enhance learning for all students. Further, it encompasses the full spectrum of human resource development—how we recruit, select, mentor, train and evaluate the performance of our teachers and staff.
This area allows us to look at the extent to which our school system is effectively using data and information. Skillful use of student achievement data is a central focus. Further, this area asks us to examine how we use multiple sources of data to improve instructional practice and to examine relationships between our investments, the outcomes they are achieving and the improvement strategies we are attempting within our schools and districts. The continuous use of these data is seen as central to accomplishing our mission to improve student performance.
This area focuses our attention on the extent to which we have strong and ongoing partnership connections with our communities. It treats the community as a valuable site for real-world learning. Equally important, it views the community’s understanding and use of assessment results as imperative to ongoing improvement in student learning. Finally, it focuses our attention on the leadership role of the school district in broader community development.
Consortium developers divided each of the above strategic areas into several key benchmarks and identified key indicators for each benchmark. These indicators are either “behavioral” or “support” indicators. Behavioral indicators include beliefs or actions that are evident in the system at each level. Support indicators include those things that support these behaviors, such as professional development, policy or resources.
Each benchmark has a guiding bottom-line impact question. Suggested types of evidence to document current status are provided for every indicator.