For the past five years, Allovue has been working with school districts and administrators across the country to innovate K-12 finance. We’ve worked with superintendents and CFOs, principals and school secretaries, food services and athletic department heads, budget analysts and accountants, grants managers and special education leaders, board members and parents.
We’ve worked with large urban districts and small rural districts. We’ve helped with professional development, research and analysis, policy and practice. We’ve done much of this work through implementing and using our Balance software platform alongside our district partners who are managing over $25 billion in education resources.
While there are many distinct characteristics across all of our partners and the students they serve, we also discovered common threads: five, to be exact. Every administrator we’ve talked to in the past five years is facing a challenge that fits into at least one of five common pathways.
As a teacher, I was swimming in rubrics, standards, benchmarks, best practices, and evaluation tools for instructional practices and student achievement. However, in the world of school and district administration and operations, there are precious few indicators or benchmarks of progress and success. The benchmarks that do exist are primarily operational and do not place student success as the goal of district resource strategy. Short of not being in deficit, what does great district financial strategy look like? And how does it compare to peer districts? Audits are necessary compliance tools, but they don’t reveal anything useful about the equity or effectiveness of district resource strategy.
Allovue’s SMART Pathways for Student Success, is a district financial management and strategy rubric with five Pathways and 48 indicators of success. The rubric is designed to move districts to holistic and sustainable financial management practices in 3-5 years, depending on their baseline diagnostic. The five Pathways are as follows:
Budget owners have control over the dollars spent at their location and are provided the corresponding professional development needed to ensure their success.
The district has the right processes, people, and tools in place to ensure that budget owners are held accountable and prepared for strategic spending.
Alignment of Spending to Goals
The district has clearly articulated outcomes-based goals that are tied to dollars, with the appropriate infrastructure in place to monitor and update resource allocation decisions regularly.
Dollars are allocated to schools based on student needs. The allocation methods are transparent and updated annually to account for changing student populations.
Every district stakeholder has access to district’s allocation method, site-based budgets, and actual expenditures. This information is easily accessible and understandable for the school and district community.
Beyond benchmarking progress and success, SMART Pathways helps create professional learning communities around common challenges and circumstances in order to elevate best practices in district financial strategy across the country.
About the Author
Jess Gartner is the founder and CEO of Allovue, where edtech meets fintech - #edfintech! Allovue was founded by educators, for educators. We combine powerful financial technology with education data, giving administrators the power to connect spending to student achievement. Jess has been featured as one of Forbes Magazine’s 30 Under 30 in Education (2015, 2016 All-Star), The Baltimore Sun’s Women to Watch (2013), and Baltimore Magazine’s 40 Under 40 (2013). In 2014, she was recognized as the Maryland Smart CEO Innovator of the Year in the Emerging Business category. Before founding Allovue, Jess studied education policy at the University of Pennsylvania and taught in schools around the world, including Thailand, South Africa, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. As a Teach for America corps member, she taught middle school humanities in Baltimore City and received her M.A. in teaching from Johns Hopkins University.