Setting Goals for Students

Data-literate educators can set meaningful goals, invest in those goals, and celebrate successes to focus instruction and motivate themselves, their students, and their families.
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About this Micro-credential

Key Method

Using historic evidence, diagnostic data, and other knowledge of students and the community, the educator sets meaningful student goals that are ambitious and feasible.

Method Components

Successful data-literate educators have clearly articulated goals for students. Although the goals may vary widely, they have a few common components:

1. Excellent student goals are measurable.

Have students met the goal? How specific is the plan for measuring students’ achievement of that goal?

  • For reading growth, for example, a goal could specify expected growth targets in levels, include the name of the specific reading assessment, reference the student’s baseline reading level, and account for the “ceiling” associated with the specified assessment.
  • When measuring mastery of state or national standards, a goal should clearly articulate the assessment system on which it will be based (e.g., a state test, a set of district interim assessments, a set of assessments co-designed by the science faculty, or another assessment), to what degree the assessment adequately measures the relevant standards, and how the scores will be reported (e.g., growth-based vs. measures of absolute achievement).
  • When measuring writing growth (or rubric-based growth in other subjects or topics), a goal’s measurability may be enhanced by a rubric that measures growth and gives samples of anchor work typical of each rubric level to benchmark against.
  • When measuring growth in perseverance or other traits, a goal should explicitly reference an externally validated student survey for the given trait and specifically describe the average growth on this measure for the class and for each student.

2. Excellent student goals sit at the nexus of ambitious and feasible.

The goal should be both aspirational—When it is achieved, will students have achieved something remarkable? —and feasible—Is there a real chance that students will meet the goal, with hard work and commitment?

  • When determining if the goal is appropriately ambitious and feasible, an educator can leverage historical data (e.g., each student’s prior academic level or historic averages for the measure), diagnostic or baseline data from the current year, or data from other groups or communities (e.g,. for a standards-related goal, the highest-performing district in the state).

3. Excellent student goals are meaningful to the students and their families.

Will this goal make a difference for students? Will students and their families be invested meeting in the goal? Why?

  • For example, is there compelling research that suggests that meeting the goal will position students differently for success in school or life?
  • Does the goal align to larger school, district, network, or community goals?

Research & Resources

Supporting Research

  • Morisano, Dominique, Jacob Hirsh, Jordan Peterson, Robert Pihl, and Bruce Shore. (2010). Setting, elaborating, and reflecting on personal goals improves academic performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95(2), 255–264,
  • Senko, C., C. S. Hulleman, C. S., & J. M. Harackiewicz. (2011). Achievement goal theory at the crossroads: Old controversies, current challenges, and new directions. Educational Psychologist, 46(1), 26–47.


  • Farr, Steven. (2010). Teaching as Leadership: The Highly Effective Teacher’s Guide to Closing the Achievement Gap. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Collins, James. (2001). Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap—and Others Don't. New York: HarperBusiness.

Submission Requirements

Submission Guidelines & Evaluation Criteria

To earn the micro-credential Setting Goals for Students, you should provide relevant teaching context (optional), submit two goals, and demonstrate how the goals meet the characteristics common to effective goals.

  1. The first goal should be assessment-based. Assessment-based goals could include reading growth goals, goals associated with mastery of state or national standards, performance on standardized assessments (e.g., state end-of-grade assessment, AP test), etc.
  2. The second goal should NOT be assessment-based, but should concern other student character traits—for example, attendance, behavior, attitude, motivation, non-cognitive/character growth, etc.

Part 1. Overview questions

  • OPTIONAL: Describe any important context that would help an external observer better appreciate the goals or their particular teaching context (100-word limit).

Part 2. Setting student goals

Please use the template at to submit two student goals and evidence that they are measurable, ambitious and feasible, and meaningful.

Your goals will be assessed according to the rubric below. You must earn a (3) Proficient or (4) Exemplary score on this portion of the submission in order to earn the micro-credential.

Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under:
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)


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