Designing and implementing an academic scorecard

Darshika Sanghani

Quality evaluation is a sensitive issue in the educational sector, especially in India, where often intervention for improvement is regarded as interference.

I joined Indus Training and Research Institute as a Quality Evaluation Officer in July 2010. My primary task was to design an Academic Scorecard, initially for quality evaluation of the Indus Schools (Bangalore, Pune, and Hyderabad) and later offer it as a consultancy to other schools. The academic scorecard was to be designed based on the Balanced Scorecard (BSC) model.

To understand how to use a BSC model for quality evaluation of schools, one needs to first understand what a Balanced Scorecard is and why it should be used for quality evaluation.

What is a Balanced Scorecard – An Academic Scorecard (ASC) is an application of the Balanced Scorecard, used for self evaluation of a school.

academic-scorecard Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton (1992) in their Harvard Business Review article, “The Balanced Scorecard – Measures that Drive Performance” first introduced the concept of the balanced scorecard (BSC). BSC is a strategic planning and management system that is used extensively in business and industry, government, and nonprofit organizations worldwide

  • to align business activities to the vision and strategy of the organization
  • to improve internal and external communications, and
  • to monitor organization performance against strategic goals

A fundamental feature of the balanced scorecard is that it allows decision-makers to view organizational effectiveness from four perspectives simultaneously:

  1. Financial perspective (How do we look to shareholders?)
  2. Internal business perspective (What must we excel at?)
  3. Innovation and learning perspective (Can we continue to improve and create value?) and
  4. Customer perspective (How do customers see us?)

As such, it provides information from multiple perspectives while minimizing information overload by limiting the number of measures included.

Why use a BSC – Since financial results alone cannot give the true picture of an organization’s performance, BSC has been widely used in the business sector as a performance evaluation tool. The concept has recently been applied in the educational sector. Though the literature documenting the Balanced Scorecard implementation in this sector is not so rich, as compared to that in the private sector (Nistor, 2009), several research works and case studies in the area can be outlined.

BSC as a tool to assess the performance of an educational institution, is a growing concept. It is adapted to education based on the Baldrige Education Criteria for Performance Excellence, which provide a systems perspective for understanding performance management. They reflect validated, leading-edge management practices against which an organization can measure itself. With their acceptance nationally and internationally as the model for performance excellence, the Criteria represent a common language for sharing best practices among organizations. The Criteria are also the basis for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award process.
(Source: http://www.nist.gov/baldrige/publications/education_criteria.cfm)

School self-evaluation provides an opportunity for the whole school community, including students, parents, and all staff, to reflect on student outcomes in light of their goals, targets, and key improvement strategies from the previous planning cycle. This includes examining teaching and learning strategies, the performance and development culture and other aspects of school operations so that they can be strengthened and supported to improve student outcomes.

Effective schools consistently reflect on their performance as a matter of course. School self-evaluation merely formalizes this process and makes the process accessible to their school communities.

scorecard From BSC to ASC
Applying the BSC model to academia is a challenge. However, one cannot ignore the fact that designing an academic scorecard provides the opportunity to identify what really matters to customers and stakeholders: why the institution exists, what is important to the institution, and what the institution wants to be.

The traditional BSC model has four perspectives, as mentioned earlier. However, for an educational institute, the Key Performance Indicators (KPI) can be categorized into six perspectives, which are
a) Pupil achievement
b) Teacher effectiveness
c) Pastoral care
d) Leadership and community service
e) Staff
f) Administration/finance

The indicators have been chosen based on the following criteria:

  1. they have to reflect organizational values;
  2. they have to be simple;
  3. they have to meaningful;
  4. they have to be easy to represent visually;
  5. they have to facilitate organizational learning;
  6. they have to be measurable;
  7. they have to support comparisons – intra and inter, both within and outside the school; and
  8. they have to permit analysis over at least four years.

In short, indicators of organizational performance should be ordinary rather than exceptional, routinely applied to the rhythms of academic management. The scorecard will then reflect the true picture and will be useful only if the yardsticks used to measure the performance cover the four major areas, namely internal stakeholder, external stakeholder, growth and innovation, and financial performance of the institution.

Every Perspective (KPI) has around 6-8 measurable objectives. A target is set for each objective and reviewed at the end of every six months. For example, under the Leadership and Community Service perspective, one of the objectives is to ensure that all teachers and students put in certain hours of community service. Leadership and Community Service form an integral part at all Indus Schools. The performance of a student is not just measured by his/her classroom performance, but also by the number of hours put in community service and leadership assessment at the Indus School of Leadership. This ensures holistic development of the student. Similarly, under staff, a teacher’s appraisal is not just based on how she teaches in her class. It also considers the number of hours she puts into community service and her assessment at the Indus Leadership Camp. Hence, a 360-degree approach is adopted for measuring performance.

Under administration/facilities, various surveys can be conducted to understand the satisfaction level of parents, students, and staff regarding various facilities provided, e.g., food, transport, etc. The survey results are then interpreted to check for the traffic light attained (red, amber, or green) and an action plan is then formulated for improvization.

An Academic Scorecard serves as a road map for an academic institution and enables it to focus on its actions, resources, policies, and priorities in order to achieve its mission and strategic goals.

Indus International School will be the first in India and probably Asia to have used an Academic Scorecard for Quality Evaluation of its schools. This scorecard was designed at the Indus Training and Research Institute (ITARI), a training wing of Indus International School, managed by the Indus Trust.

The author has been an educationist for the past 9 years. Currently she is pursuing her Doctoral Program from Jain University in Human Resource Management. Her areas of interest include, Adult Learning Principles, Team Building and Leadership, Performance Management Systems, Needs Assessment and Training Matrix. She can be reached at darshikasanghani@gmail.com.