I recently read a great paper by Anthony Bryk in Educational Researcher discussing the importance of improvement science to public education. I agree with almost everything Bryk wrote, except his characterization of "performance management". He described performance management in the following way:
Goals are articulated for each district, school, classroom, and different subpopulations of students. Data, typically in the form of standardized test scores, are used to chart progress toward these goals. Educators are then held accountable for achieving these outcomes.
He notes that AYP is a "good known" example of performance management. I completely disagree that AYP is a "good" example of performance management. Sure, there are goals and data are used to chart progress. However, this is a weak form of performance management. Performance management, when done well, will make clear what the working theory of improvement is and measure whether the organization is making expected progress with respect to the drivers for change (not just the final outcomes such as student achievement). A good performance management system is not used for accountability, it is used to identify areas that are performing below expectation that need to be improved.
When implemented as a learning tool the Balanced Scorecard is a "good example" of performance management. The Balanced Scorecard has the following key attributes:
- The strategy for improvement is clearly articulated.
- Performance is measured across multiple perspectives (not just student achievement).
- Measurement is formative (quarterly or more frequently).
- The goal is to learn how the system is performing, not to punish or reward.
- It is focused. Should be a couple of pages representing a handful of indicators.
The Balanced Scorecard should: (1) describe the organization and (2) be used for action. You should be able to look at an organization's Balanced Scorecard and understand their strategy for success. The organization itself should be using the data generated from the Balanced Scorecard to make better decisions. The Balanced Scorecard is a tool that assists in understanding success and failure and helps us makes sense of systemic interactions with the ultimate goal of improving strategic decision making.
I think Bryk is right to criticize AYP and poor use of performance management. However, I also believe that performance management done well is perfect complement to the improvement science work that Bryk is describing.