District Benchmarking Outside the Classroom

Benchmarking is a process and tool for comparing both the performance and practices of organizations that perform similar services and functions. Benchmarking is just beginning to be used broadly in education and many existing approaches use high level benchmarks, such as food service spending as a percent of total in Food Services, that only lead to the need to do more measurement and data collection.

Benchmarking’s highest value, however, is in the details. The power of this detail is that it reveals the key factors that are behind differences in performance. By delving through high level benchmarks and reaching deeper measures such as non-financial and operating measures, we are able to overcome many of the issues with comparing districts of different sizes, demographics and related factors. Why? Because of the level of detail and types of ratios that have been developed using benchmarking across multiple private and public industries.

Establishing the standards then is how districts begin the benchmarking process. Identifying, reaching, and maintaining district goals can, but doesn’t always start ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????with benchmarking against other districts. Many times it starts with benchmarking against yourself, or your own local standards. What goals, both financial and non-financial do you want to accomplish? What is defined as success at your own district? At other times, this may be identified through a universal, regional or industry-wide standard. The fact remains though, conjuring the standards for an individual district is crucial. Benchmarking then enables you to take the next step — identifying and stretching your district to reach new efficiency and effectiveness levels, thereby syncing your actions as part of the continuous improvement process.

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