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Three Keys to Successful K-12 Strategic Plan Implementation

By: Dana Britt on April 25th, 2023

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Three Keys to Successful K-12 Strategic Plan Implementation

Education Elements  |  Strategic Planning  |  School Leadership

I’ve gotten into strength training recently. I never thought this would be the path for me, a cardio lover, but after a recent foot injury, I needed to step away from running and try something new. I explored apps and training plans, trying to find the right fit for my schedule and preferences. As a consultant who has helped dozens of districts design and implement strategic plans, I also knew I could apply some of the principles we use when supporting districts to my weightlifting journey. In our work, we’ve found that the successful implementation of a strategic plan comes down to three key areas:

Fidelity - Are we doing what we said we’d do in the plan?

Effectiveness - How well are we doing what we said we’d do?

Impact - Is what we’re doing leading to our desired outcomes?

In my weightlifting journey, here’s how fidelity, effectiveness, and impact come into play:

Fidelity Effectiveness Impact
  • Have I found a training plan?

  • Do I have the equipment I need or a gym membership?

  • Have I identified time in my schedule to lift weights?

  • How many times per week am I lifting weights?

  • Do I enjoy the training plan I found? Does it motivate me?

  • Which exercises am I doing? What muscle groups am I targeting?

  • How many sets am I doing? How much weight am I using?

  • Am I progressively overloading (adding more weight)?

  • Am I able to lift increasingly heavy weights?

  • Are exercises getting easier? 

  • Do I have more energy?

  • Do I see muscle definition?

  • Am I running faster?

  • Am I more disciplined and motivated to lift weights?

When we work with school districts to implement their strategic plans, we use these same principles. Let’s say, for instance, a district has a priority in its strategic plan to increase student-centered learning. Here is how we would lead conversations around fidelity, effectiveness, and impact with that district.

Fidelity Effectiveness Impact
  • Have we created professional learning opportunities for teachers to learn more about integrating student-centered learning?

  • Do teachers have time to collaborate and plan for student-centered learning?

  • How many times per week are teachers incorporating student-centered learning practices?

  • Which student-centered learning practices are teachers using?
  • How well are teachers using student-centered learning practices? (We could use a guide like this to help!)

  • How can we see these practices in action, give feedback, and spread best practices across classrooms?

  • Are students more engaged in learning?

  • Do students have a sense of agency, voice, and choice?

  • Do students know what they are learning and why?

  • Do students report an increased sense of belonging?


In year one of strategic planning implementation, we can divide the year into three quarterly phases or “sprints.” Here’s what a focus on fidelity, effectiveness, and impact can look like through those sprints.


Sprint 1: 


July - October

Key Activities

  • Establish fidelity sprint goals

  • Select 2-3 key initiatives to be the focus of year one implementation

  • Dive deeply into the work of the plan with school administrators

  • Form implementation/initiative teams

  • Determine roles and accountabilities

  • Determine communications and project planning documents and processes 

  • Collect baseline data to show future growth (consider administering a survey like the Tripod 7Cs)

  • Celebrate the creation and launch of the plan and share the timeline and goals of the three upcoming sprints

  • Measure progress towards fidelity sprint goals

Sprint 2: Effectiveness

November - February

Key Activities

  • Establish effectiveness sprint goals

  • Communicate progress made in fidelity sprint with community and key constituents through updates to the district website, newsletter, or board updates

  • Review project planning documents and determine pivots to implementation systems and structures

  • Conduct learning walks and/or empathy interviews focused on fidelity and effectiveness of practices

  • Measure progress towards effectiveness sprint goals

Sprint 3: 


March - June

Key Activities

  • Establish impact sprint goals

  • Conduct learning walks and/or empathy interviews focused on impact

  • Collect and communicate stories of impact through community updates, videos, board meetings

  • Collect data to measure progress (consider redelivering a survey like the Tripod 7Cs)

  • Conduct a retrospective on year one of implementation and determine key priorities and pivots for year two

We hear from our district partners that working with us feels a lot like working with a personal trainer. We help to develop the training plan, make sure you show up to work out, correct your form, and help measure and celebrate your successes. If a strategic planning personal trainer would help your district, I hope you’ll reach out. Meanwhile, I’ll be signing off to go practice my deadlifts.

About Dana Britt

Dana Britt is an Associate Partner focused on leading innovation in the state of New York. Prior to joining Education Elements in 2015, she worked in the District of Columbia Public Schools for six years, first as a high school English teacher, then in the district office as the manager of educational technology. In that role, she supported the district-level rollout of blended learning across 111 schools and built up a particular expertise in designing district-wide professional development and selecting, purchasing, and adopting new digital content and tools. At Education Elements, Dana has supported schools over 100 schools in 16 states. She has led the implementations of Fulton County Schools (GA), Syracuse City School District (NY), Marion Central School District (NY), and Waterloo Central School District (NY). Dana holds a B.A. in English from Wellesley College and an Ed.M. in Technology, Innovation and Education from Harvard University. When not thinking about personalized learning, Dana enjoys rock climbing and training for her next marathon in Washington, DC.

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