Driven by Data

Selecting KPIs to Track Your School’s Operations

Data dashboard, data tools, data visualization, data-driven decision making — data everything is all the rage in education. And for good reason. Timely and understandable data, appropriately used, can have an incredible impact on outcomes for kids. 

There’s little buzz, however, about data on the operational side of schools. A strong operations function is like a house’s foundation: invisible, unglamorous, but absolutely essential. The ability to accurately assess performance, target problem areas, and drive operational improvement is as critical for a school’s long-term success as great curriculum and effective pedagogy. To kick-start a data-driven approach to operations, we suggest developing an operations dashboard.


While there are many ways to design a dashboard (check out this short piece on how to design actionable ones), the first step is determining which key performance indicators, or KPIs, to include. Our other advice can be boiled down to: keep your dashboard short, choose metrics that matter, and make sure you can accurately and quickly measure them.

If you are ready to start developing an operations dashboard, here are some of our favorite operations KPIs for you to consider.  

Student Attendance and Punctuality

  • Daily attendance rate
  • Tardy rate
  • # of students with >10 unexcused absences 
  • % of students with >X unexcused absence

Student Recruitment and Retention

  • % enrolled to goal by 8/1 (or other key date)
  • % enrolled to goal by 10/5 (count day or other key date for your school)
  • # of enrolled students with completed paperwork
  • % of re-enrolled students 
  • % of student attrition during the year

Staff Attendance and Punctuality

  • Staff attendance rate
  • Staff tardy rate

Staff Recruitment and Retention

  • # of vacancies
  • # of vacancies on first day of school
  • % to full enrollment
  • Time to fill rate on teaching position
  • Time to fill rate on non-teaching positions
  • Average staff tenure

Food Service

  • % of students eating NSLP breakfast
  • % of students eating NSLP lunch
  • % of food waste

Compliance submissions

  • % of required documentation submitted on time

Facilities

  • Facilities walkthrough score
  • % of facilities tickets addressed within 24 hours

School Safety & Incidents

  • # of required drills completed (e.g., fire, tornado, active shooter)
  • # of staff safety incidents
  • # of student safety incidents

Customer Satisfaction

  • Internal staff satisfaction survey scores on school operations
  • External customer satisfaction surveys scores (e.g., families, students, community) on school operations

Student File Maintenance

  • % of families who returned quarterly contact information updates 
  • % of students with required immunization records
  • % of students with updated allergy/medical information 

Student Discipline / Suspensions

  • # out-of-school suspensions
  • # in-school suspensions
  • # of expulsions

So much operations data, so much fun to be had! Just remember that having a large number of KPIs is not alway helpful. A better process is to pick a few focused KPIs, begin collecting that data, and from these results, work to create processes to achieve desired outcomes.

And speaking of, how do you go about selecting which KPIs are the best to begin with? 

  • Review school goals and operational priorities. Your team may already have individual and team goals, so start by looking at these areas. For instance, if your school typically has enrollment challenges, and enrollment goals already exist, choosing a KPI around enrollment probably makes sense.
  • Start brainstorming all potential areas for which you’d like to see improvement (Use our “kitchen sink” of KPIs above as a starting point). Think about putting together a focus group of academic leaders and operations staff where every party can bring forth their priorities. 
  • Consider getting the board involved. If your final audience for the dashboard is the school’s board, it can oftentimes be a good idea to have a board sub-committee that can provide their initial high-level feedback.

From these lists, weed out any metrics which are impractical to implement (e.g., not enough data available, data is too difficult to gather) or not of high enough impact.  If you’re feeling overwhelmed or are wavering on a particular metric, know that it is ok to keep it off the first pass. It’s better to get a dashboard up-and-running with five really solid metrics, than to have a dozen which you’re struggling to keep up with.

[This post contributed by Kim Swenson, Finance Manager.]