Our Process

It’s More Than a SMART Goal!

Districts and schools everywhere use goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, results-oriented, and time-bound. While we’d like to take a little bit of credit for this widespread use as a result of our work and our books, we are the first to say that SMART School Improvement involves much more than the use of goals that address our SMART criteria.

Our approach is different in two fundamentally important ways:

1. The S in SMART also means strategic. That’s why the S is squared in our logo and trademark protected.

2. SMART Goals are one part of a much larger process of SMART School Improvement.

The SMART School Improvement Process*

The SMART School Improvement Process involves a number of steps, beginning with reflection on appropriate data to determine the Greatest Area of Need (GAN). GAN informs our goal-setting, which prompts a search for effective practices and the identification of applicable professional learning. The Process is a continuous improvement loop aimed at increasing learning for both the adults and the students in the system.

SMART School Improvement Process Steps 2000 wide





  • The SMART School Improvement Process

The SMART School Improvement Process takes visual form using the data-logic steps shown here. We also express the steps in our Teacher and Student Goal Process. The steps in these processes inspired the corresponding steps in our logo.

We describe the steps in the SMART School Improvement Process in More Than a SMART Goal and The Handbook for SMART School Teams 2nd Edition.

* The SMART School Improvement Process is protected by a Service Mark (SM).

Standards for Professional Learning

The SMART School Improvement Process, and our collaborative work with Districts, Schools, and Teams to implement the Process, both reflect and actualize the Standards for Professional Learning from Learning Forward.


Discover more about the alignment of our Process and the Standards for Professional Learning in the new Handbook for SMART School Teams 2nd Edition.

Handbook 2nd Edition Cover


This is a lot more than being SMART about data, although it is surely that. Even more compelling, it is about using data in humane and productive ways: to inspire rather than perspire; to bring together rather than pull apart; to highlight our commonalities and potentials rather than separate us by our failures.


This emphasizes people and what motivates them, and gives us wonderful tools – data-based and other – by which to meld inspiration with evidence. This is as good as it gets!


~ Mark Van Clay, Solution Tree Author and Consultant and former Superintendent and Educator, in response to learning the Process during an Illinois SMART School Coach Academy.