Improve District Finances Using SMART Pathways

Another new year, another set of new year’s resolutions unintentionally abandoned by February. Despite our best efforts, many of us fail to achieve our goals for various reasons; either they weren’t realistic, we failed to keep track of our progress, or we just forgot about them. Research has shown that we stand a better chance of achieving our goals when we set SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.

The same can be said when it comes to tackling and accomplishing goals related to school district finances. They too, need to be SMART; but not in the same way. The SMART Pathways for Student Success rubric is specifically tailored to help school districts and district administrators advance efforts to reduce inequities and encourage fruitful conversations between districts and their communities. When goals are set and tackled using our proven pathway indicators, it helps school districts attain holistic and sustainable financial management practices. Aligning a district's school budgeting plan to the goals set by the district becomes easier to acheive and track.

When districts work with our experienced district partners improving the pathways of Site-Level Autonomy, Management, Alignment of Spending to Goals, Resource Equity, and Transparency, over time, they become better equipped to tackle operational and administrative challenges proactively. Districts are always seeking to provide staff and school sites with more than just arbitrary benchmarks. Focusing on the various facets of the SMART Pathways, districts are more likely to see higher student achievement tied to actionable insights, providing a clear picture of the efficacy and effectiveness of the district’s spending patterns.

But just as with our personal goals, we don’t want to burn ourselves out by setting goals that are unrealistic, difficult to track and measure, or are altogether forgettable. Many districts have benefitted from tackling the “Management” pathway first, as this solidifies that they have the right processes, people, and tools in place to ensure that budget owners are held accountable and are prepared for strategic spending. Once districts have a clean chart of accounts and can identify their financial strengths and areas for improvement, they are better equipped to set realistic goals that will maximize and advance equity and opportunities for their students and communities.

Cheers to the new year!

It’s never too late to give your district a fresh start and what better time to start than the new year! Questions about the SMART Pathways or how to get your district on a path to sustainable financial management practices? Give us a shout at

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About the Author


Allovue provides innovative education finance technology solutions to educators nationwide to help them budget, manage, and evaluate school spending. The company also provides districts with supplemental services including funding equity analysis, diagnostic surveys, and financial management training. Allovue’s flagship product, Balance, is an online software platform designed to help K–12 administrators access, understand, and control their financial data.