Some of these terms are pre-WWII and education organizations still use them. Let me explain to you what really works. The same principals apply to any person or group that wants to accomplish something. That includes schools, education districts or even a state education department.

We are performing very poorly with our high school graduates having an ACT Readiness that is less than 20% in Tennessee, and only 25% nationally. ACT Readiness means that they have only a chance to finish the first year of a non-engineering/science degree in college or a tech/vocational school. All those who are not ACT Ready, are close to minimum wage material at best who will be replaced by robotics in just a few years. Our education system is one of the worst among industrialized countries, or 36th of the top 65 nations in 2013 (OECD PISA tests). We were on top in 1970. Since 1995 to 2015, ACT Readiness, or the knowledge of our high school graduates dropped. At the same time many countries improved and passed us.

Maslow's Hierarchy of needs may be a very good tool to decide about the priority of objectives. I am sure that board members and the superintendent can come up with a long list of what they would like to accomplish. For an objective or a goal they all have to be measurable and they have to be prioritized. The most important areas in Maslow's Hierarchy for people are: 1. Physiological Needs are the physical requirements for human survival, and 2. air, water, and food are metabolic requirements for survival in all animals, including humans, and clothing and shelter provide necessary protection from the elements. THAT MEANS THAT EMPLOYABILITY OR HIGHER LEARNING FOR HIGHER COMPENSATION IS THE MOST IMPORTANT FOR OUR CHILDREN TO SATISFY THESE NEEDS MINIMALLY FOR A FAMILY OF FOUR, AND THE ACT IS THE MEASUREMENT OF WHAT LEVEL OF READINESS THEY ACHIEVED THROUGH HIGH SCHOOL FOR THAT PURPOSE. THE RESULT IS TERRIBLE AS THE GRAPH SHOWS.

We do not provide a world class public education and excellence for all children as the boards and superintendents claim. We are delivering a poor education destroying the future of most of our children. We are spending more per student than the great majority of the top 65 nations in education, and we do it with huge, bloated central management. That makes it very clear what three objectives, called Primary Objectives, and no more, we need for boards and superintendents. They are fundamental: performance (a specific ACT score), spending (not exceeding the approved budget and spending to achieve that ACT score objective) and maintaining normal management ratios as a percentage of all employees (e.g., ratio of total Central Management employees not to exceed 1% of all school district employees).

To date, boards of education set their own objectives and are evaluating their own idea of performance at year-end against the objectives THEY wrote. The superintendent drafts his own objectives and does his own performance evaluation, that the board approves. Objectives like "Facilitate High Quality Student Supports", "Build & Support Our Community of Learners", "Build & Support Our Community of Leaders", "Value Our Hardworking People", "Build & Strengthen Our "One Big Team", "Invite & Earn Stakeholder Feedback", are meaningless, and unmeasurable, so the results are poor. Their funding is guaranteed by law to be at least the same as in the previous year regardless of performance. There are no other performance requirements.

School results in the USA depend almost totally on parents pushing the child. If they do not, the results are poor. The majority of parents do not. The school system has a PR team that makes the public believe that all is well, and in reality the school system is performing badly. All this at a time, when our children need much greater knowledge, they will have to study much more during their lives than the prior generation for immunity from robots. In the US, teacher training is weak and management and teaching methodologies are very old. In the high performing countries, teachers have a Master’s degree in the subject they are to teach, have senior teachers as mentors, they have continuing education annually, schools deliver excellent results without parental push. That is why we need ACT objectives and major changes in our school system. Finland is an excellent example. So are the Success Academy Schools (42 in 2016), a charter school system in New York City who achieved top one percent results passing most private schools with poor, inner city black children.

When we propose to teachers that the ACT scores must go up 5-10% annually from the poor area where they are, they cannot figure out what we must do in each grade to improve test results to achieve the ACT objective. We heard teachers complaining that the text books do not provide the questions they should ask the students they are teaching. Hopefully these are in small numbers and not on the school boards. We simply will not improve without an ACT score objective that is at least 5% higher than the one actually achieved in the prior year. Organizational focus on the ACT objective under our circumstances is vitally important.

To increase the ACT scores, one does not start with first grade, then propagate for 12 years to see better results, as some people claim. One would improve teachers and their working conditions and give them more authority in order to increase performance through all grade levels, especially when one is facing an emergency as we do to improve.

Since 1970, spending per student skyrocketed but the test results went nowhere. Not one person in state leadership took action to change this poor outcome (to increase ACT or SAT scores) to date in more than forty years. NOT ONE PERSON! The public was dumbed down (ACT READINESS DROPPED). The school boards are elected by the public to oversee, in the case of Knox County, Tennessee, a school district with 9,000 employees and a close to half billion dollar budget today in 2016. Managing an organization this size to success is an enormous management job - by an elected board that has no training and experience anywhere near that level.

The idea promoted is that the local public knows best how the school should be managed. They are good people with the best of intent. They are the product of a dumbed down public education system since 1970 that we did not correct. The state does not even provide management guidelines to these poor people. They are paid $20,000 plus a car allowance plus expenses in Knox County, Tennessee, and such an amount is not only tempting but can be the only motivation to run for the board. There are no term limits. We have never seen a system like this.

Employers say 'The high school graduates they try to hire cannot communicate properly and cannot even do basic math!' The above practice GUARANTEES poor performance, it cannot be other than self-defeating, it destroys the future hopes for more than three out of four children (four out of five in Tennessee) and it lies to the public about its performance who pay for it all with their hard-earned tax dollars - for more than four decades now.

How can state leadership ignore this decade after decade? How can anyone back the existence of such an EDUCATION system that dumbs down the public and destroys our workforce? Employers are very concerned about this. Then we mentioned the $15 minimum wage in 2014. It just happens that a new family of robotics are coming on the horizon in 2016, replacing all those poorly educated people at a cost below minimum wage, doing a better job. Many of our children educated in our public schools will become unemployed - and more. Google MacDonald's robots, anesthesia robots as an example. I am ashamed of our political leaders.

That is why we need the objectives we specify here.

When performance is this bad, managing by objectives is your only chance. That is the method that can focus everyone in a school district on improving ACT or SAT results, in a competitive world. Let us not forget that companies, employers started resorting to robotics to replace our high school graduates who are not prepared to perform well enough on the job. When ACT Readiness gets closer to 80%, we can start changing to methods that the top international performers are using. People who performed poorly for decades, will not have the knowledge to come up with winning ideas, and will only increase expenses. We have already seen this behavior in our public education for decades.

Vision statements are not much value. They are the dream of what you would like to accomplish in the future. Unfortunately people use a lot of impressive words for a vision statement, that have no specific meaning in almost all cases. I would not pay much attention to them. In school systems that produce poor results, it obviously had and has no value.

Goals generally refer to what you want to accomplish in a certain period of time that is longer than a year. If there is no time period mentioned, then assume three-to-five years. Such a goal may be Our School System Shall Develop High School Graduates, 80% Of Whom Will Be ACT Ready by 2020, From The 24% ACT Readiness Achieved In 2015.

On the board and superintendent level one needs to have the most important measurable key indicator for performance as the first objective, that shows what children learned from grade one to twelve. That is the ACT score in several states including Tennessee and the ACT readiness percentage of regular diplomas. The ACT score objective should be a stretch higher than the last one achieved, and reasonably achievable (e.g., 5-10% higher than the last ACT score, when the ACT Readiness is below 50%).

The second objective for the board and superintendent needs to be that the budget approved before the school year started for the ACT objective above, shall not be overspent. This budget should be planned and detailed monthly with spending, year-to-date and annually, and this objective would mean that the budget will not be exceeded monthly as well as annually.

The third objective needs to be that central management and its support staff shall not exceed one percent of all school district employees, and that the office of the principal staff shall not exceed two and a half percent of all school district employees, in accordance with the research results of the St Johns University Graduate School of Education under Dean Dr. Allan Ornstein, per the fifth edition of his publication Education Administration. Dr. Ornstein published more than 50 books about education management and more than 2,000 research reports. The American Association of School Administrators wrote an article (Prodhoe) confirming the same figures.

The size of central management is generally 'hidden' in many school districts. Always ask for all employees by name and title who do not report to the chain of command of a school principal and are not performance reviewed under such a principal. By definition, all such people would have to be managed by Central Management. Also do not just look for administrators under central management, but instead look for those in Central Management who have people working for them. Titles can be changed. When Central Management is larger than what is absolutely necessary, they are smart people and will become very creative to justify their not only their own position, but also their need to hire more employees for themselves to 'improve things', many times hiring friends or relatives. Instead they will create problems, lower efficiency and poor morale and results.

We already required and had objectives in every school district for a long time. They are vague, unmeasurable, and therefore have no positive effect on performance. There are also too many of them. More than 3 or 4 objectives dilute the importance of each other. That is why they have failed.



THE FIVE YEAR STRATEGIC PLANS created in school districts are very beautifully designed documents, but they are not a roadmap to better results as history shows. What we need is a good annual operating plan that brings success.

A five year plan can be only a goal at best, because too many things change beyond one year to consider the five year plan a valid guide.

What is the huge problem we have been unable to solve? It is the poor preparation of our children for jobs or further education in a competitive world where more and more advanced robots will replace today’s jobs, and new technologies will open up many new jobs but our children will require more education for them.

Where is that job accomplished or not accomplished for our children? In our schools. IN THE CLASSROOM. There are schools and even countries that achieve very high results with minorities without any other help or parental involvement. Although our schools are different with varying needs, all important decisions are made above the schools centrally when the principal should be making those decisions. Principals are restricted and teacher authority is restricted even more. That has to change.

Who is to improve the education of our children? THE TEACHERS. Everyone else is to ensure that they are well supported, and helped - INCLUDING THE BOARD AND THE SUPERINTENDENT. IF TEACHERS ARE RESTRICTED IN DELIVERING MUCH BETTER RESULTS, EVERYONE IS A LOSER. Teachers must have more authority in the classroom. If they are not trained well enough, and many are not, then educate them. We have actually undermined their authority. If there is a discipline problem, it must be the teacher who rules immediately on the punishment, that must be tough enough to discourage any repeats. Automate the excessive paperwork. Raise their subject knowledge and do not switch teachers to classes in subjects for which they were not trained. Provide significant rewards and recognition for new ideas/methods any teacher created and used for two years to increase the average class GPA performance 10 % or more from a GPA base line that is based on the last three years average GPA achievement of the class attendees.

Some schools produced less than 10% ACT Readiness for more than 14 years, yet they get more than twice as much money to spend per student than better performing schools, yet their performance keeps declining to date. It should be obvious after two years that any change introduced does not work. Why are we not investigating what high performers are doing differently and learn that way? Stop such money wasting.


The operating plan must include three objectives for the principal and every supervisory and management position in each school.

Performance objective: needs to identify what monthly and year-to-date GPA class average needs to be achieved by year end to meet the school district ACT objective.

Spending objective: is the result of planning what every school employee must achieve by month and year-to-date to achieve the performance objective WITHOUT EXCEEDING the school’s budget.

Personal objective: any unique achievement that the specific supervisor or manager needs to achieve to improve his/her performance objective each month. This objective need not exist if unimportant in the opinion of their boss.

All the above objectives must be by mutual agreement of an employee and boss within the schools to raise the school district ACT performance by 5-10% over the previous year.

The most important task is to get everyone researching and thinking about how to improve class room GPA performance, by researching internationally the best performers and finding out how they do it. Both OECD and ACT have excellent publications about this subject.

The teaching work environment must improve. We must also understand that some teachers are excellent, while other teachers would be happier in a different work environment, after all we do not do any testing of potential teachers for the teaching vocation as some high performing countries do. Such testing would do a great service to both the school district and the teacher, if performance is in doubt.

What the best education systems are doing right,

What US can learn from higher performing countries


Boards of education hire superintendents to develop high school graduates with increasing ACT scores and increasing ACT Readiness percentages, so that we do not have more than 70% of the graduates qualifying for minimum wage jobs only, or close to it, like we do today. They will be replaced by robots and we wasted the money spent on their education. We need more than 80% graduates who can either be trained for a job that can support a family of four minimally, or go to a university to get the education for a job that will be in demand in the future.

When you (the board members) are the boss - and you are, you can be friendly to your employees, but you cannot be the friend of your employee. That includes the superintendent. Please read Be A compassionate boss, not friend, a very good explanation.

“A person must know his/her limitations”. You must focus on one thing, the most important indicator to improve the above stated result as fast as possible. Have an ACT objective that must be higher than last year’s X%, and keep your eye on how the superintendent keeps improving it - or not.

Anybody who is clever can throw a lot of information at board members, or can influence you if they make you believe that you are friends. Someone who works for you is not your friend. That will be their objective. That’s normal. But you better never forget that he or she works for you to accomplish great and specific results. He is paid a lot of money because he is supposed to know how to do that. I am sure that some of you disagree, especially if you have not managed other people. When you get too close and socialize together, you lose your objectivity. Help this person to improve and do his/her job, but do not excuse this person if he or she does not achieve the results we need. He was hired because he supposedly knows how to do that.

A common way to mislead board members is to present so many situations for board approval that you cannot get to discussing progress in more important areas like academic results, spending vs. the budget, staffing-related matters like reduction of too many administrators, or reduction of “friends” being hired into various departments who are not qualified with the knowledge required in that department.

When additional funding is requested, always request a written plan from the start, that is to show how much this plan will increase the ACT score, and by when. If it does not deliver the promised ACT results, reevaluate it every year for progress and if it is not delivering the promised ACT results, take out the amount provided with interest. Include this in writing in all such programs.

Your time is very valuable. Always make sure that no one loads you down with trivial things that could have been delegated to someone within the organization. YOU have to focus on academic results, spending within limits and having the right staff qualifications in the right numbers.

The typical person who wants to be on the board of education has no idea how well or poorly we are doing, doesn’t understand that today we compete worldwide, and that our high school graduates must be prepared as well as the top nations in education. They could research all this, but they do not. Then you get on the board, and years later still being there, improved nothing, hired the wrong superintendent who did not improve anything. This happens with the great majority of board members.

Copyright(c) 2008-2016 V. Spencer
This is a work in progress.