Target Setting for Student Achievement - Key Factors to Understand

Target Setting for Student Achievement

targets setting for student achievement student in classroom

If you don’t know where you want to go, then it doesn’t matter which path you take

-Alice in Wonderland.

In education, this quote means a lot when it comes to student data and setting targets for student growth. There are several important factors to consider when embarking on target setting for student achievement and the overall goal-setting process.

Targets are “doable with a stretch” commitments that push to academic achievement based on formal and formative assessments and could include graduation rates, growth, and college and career readiness measures.

These targets are set and owned by the principals, leadership teams, teachers, and students and will be the basis of actions and commitments.

How do you set targets for student achievement?

High performing non-profit organizations have discovered that nothing helps to increase performance more than targets set for activities. One reason targets help is that they literally provide the aiming point.

Without a target, most of us hallow the process and let the results fall where they may. 

When setting student targets keep in mind the following:

1. Set targets that will be widely seen as constituting academic success.

In general, these should deal with test scores, not with rates of absenteeism, discipline, or other factors that may well affect academic performance but must be its equivalent. If failure is defined by the state or your district in specific performance terms, you must focus there, of course. 

2. Limit your targets to those most critical to achieve.

For example, if your state bases academic achievement on tests taken in certain grade levels, target just those grade levels to get started. You can expand to other grades later. And overall, don’t shoot for the moon. You can’t do it all in one year. 

3. Set targets relative to a baseline. 

Two baselines are equally important. The first is how you performed in the target area last year. The second is how you are predicted to perform without a turnaround intervention next year. 

4. Keep in mind the trends. 

This builds on the analysis of your diagnosis. If, for example, the targeted test scores trended upward 5% for each of the past four years, a target of 5% increase would not appear to be anything more than what you would achieve in any event.

On the other hand, if scores dropped 15% for the past two years, just getting them to hold even with last year might be a significant improvement over what would have happened without a turnaround.

What is the role of target setting in school? 

When school leaders begin to focus exclusively on issues of performance and set outcomes against which to measure it, they move beyond simple accountability and begin to build the positive energy and commitment that ensures long-term gains for all children. 

Once the principal has committed to his or her school’s targets, it is important to work on setting milestones for interim goals as well as the activities needed to achieve them. This does not simply mean monitoring, but rather providing the information necessary for course-correcting so that student achievement is met.

Why is it important to set goals for students? 

Student target setting is intended to enable and encourage change. Most plans are static and linear and imply that people behave that way as well. Target Setting assumes that while a “plan” might be “set” up front, for it to be useful, people must be enabled and encouraged to learn and course correct.

When a student and a teacher focus on the assessment data, it gives them the opportunity to review the test in depth making sure the student knows where they currently stand and how close they are to making grade.  It lets them both ask questions and set an attainable goal.   

Once the goal is set student review testing standards to determine what needs to be worked on; identify what change(s) the student will employ to hit their target.  Going through this with a teacher, gives the student the opportunity to discuss and identify the support they will need at school and from home.   

Encouraging students and empowering students can occur more easily if teachers set goals with students. By working through the process of setting their own targets, students walk away feeling vested to work towards their own academic success.

What factors contribute to student achievement?

There are many factors that contribute to student achievement – race, gender, teacher, school, community, parent involvement, the ability to learn.  

When it comes to setting targets for student achievement, it is important to remember where the student comes from and look at the needs, he/she may need.  

Important factors to remember when setting up student goals:

  1. State standards must be accessible and usable in the hands of every teacher, student, and parent.
  2. Assess how students are doing with regards to meeting standards;
  3. Student knowledge of what the assessment data is saying.
  4. Lay out steps for each student on what they need to learn or re-learn next.
  5. Empowering the student to set their own goals.
  6. Setting up a more attainable database that speaks volumes and knowing how to use this data
  7. For change to seed deep roots, the change agents and capacity must be owned at the school and community level.

All these steps go hand in hand when striving for student success.  School Turnaround has been working with low-performing schools for over 20 years employing their ST6 Methodology to empower principals, teachers, and most importantly students to take control and attain academic success.  

Schedule a call to discuss how School Turnaround can help you and your school accomplish academic achievement and most importantly show you how to become durable with those results.



  1. […] is clear: people with targets outperform those who pledge best efforts to do better. It has been discovered that nothing helps to […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.