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Have You Conducted a SWOT Analysis?

Updated: Jun 5

How K-12 Leaders Can Leverage SWOT Analysis for Strategic Planning 

A SWOT analysis is a powerful tool for summarizing and reflecting upon the “glows and grows” of your school-community. This structured framework equips school leaders to assess their school's current state and chart a course for future success. K-12 leaders can utilize a SWOT analysis to identify Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats to determine key areas for support and establish achievable goals for the upcoming academic year.

Understanding the Framework:

A SWOT analysis is a systematic process that examines four key internal and external factors impacting a school's performance:

  • Strengths: These are internal attributes that give a school a competitive advantage. Examples include a rigorous academic program, dedicated faculty with a passion for teaching, a strong culture of parent and community engagement, or innovative teaching methods that cater to diverse learning styles.

  • Weaknesses: These are internal areas for improvement. These might encompass an increase in student referrals, high student-teacher ratios that hinder personalized attention, stagnant student growth scores, or curriculum materials that are not research-based.

  • Opportunities: These are external factors that present potential benefits for the school. Examples might include new funding opportunities through grants or partnerships with community organizations, advancements in educational technology that can enhance learning experiences, or curriculum revisions that align with evolving state standards.

  • Threats: These are external factors that could potentially hinder the school's progress. Possible threats include teacher attrition that makes it difficult to want to invest in their training and growth, budget cuts that necessitate resource reduction, changes in standardized testing requirements that place undue pressure on students and teachers, or a new school opening in the area that could impact enrollment.

Applying SWOT in Your School as an End of Year Practice

Education leaders can use a SWOT analysis at the end of the school year to reflect on the past year's performance and to plan for the future. Here's how they might apply it:

1. Building a Collaborative Team:

A successful SWOT analysis thrives on diverse perspectives. Assemble a team of stakeholders who represent the school community. This could include teachers across grade levels and subject areas, administrators with expertise in different domains, parents involved in school activities, and even student representatives (depending on their age and maturity). This collaborative approach ensures that a comprehensive picture is formed, encompassing the experiences and insights of all stakeholders invested in the school's success.

2. Chart out SWOT


  • Identify areas where the school or educational institution excelled during the past year. This could include high student achievement, effective teaching practices, strong community partnerships, or successful implementation of new programs or initiatives.

  • Recognize the strengths of individual teachers, staff members, or departments that contributed to the overall success of the school. For example, what does your walkthrough data tell you? 


  • Evaluate areas where the school faced challenges or underperformed. This could involve issues like poor programming outcomes, insufficient resources, ineffective communication between stakeholders, or areas where student achievement fell short of expectations.

  • Assess any internal factors, such as mediocre Tier 1 instruction, lack of training for staff, administrative inefficiencies, or poor internal systems that may have hindered the school's performance.


  • Identify opportunities for improvement or growth in the upcoming school year. This could include adopting Universal Design for Learning within planning, instruction, and assessment, changing programs or initiatives, implementing a stronger student referral system, or tapping into community resources for additional funding or support.

  • Consider emerging trends in education, such as research-based strategies for strengthening Tier 1, standards-based grading, or social-emotional learning, and explore how these could be integrated into the school's programs.


  • Anticipate potential challenges or obstacles that the school may face in the future. This could include declining enrollment, budget cuts, changes in educational policies or standards, or external factors like natural disasters or public health crises.

  • Assess any competitive threats from neighboring schools or educational institutions that could impact student enrollment or community support.

SWOT analysis

3. From Analysis to Action:

Once a comprehensive SWOT analysis has been completed, the team can leverage this valuable data to:

  • Set SMART Goals: Translate identified strengths and opportunities into achievable, measurable performance goals. Ensure the goals are 

  • Specific (address a clear and well-defined area for improvement), 

  • Measurable (allow for progress tracking through data collection), 

  • Achievable (realistic and attainable within the school's resources and capabilities), 

  • Relevant (aligned with the overall mission and vision of the school), and 

  • Time-bound (have a specific timeframe for completion). 

For example, using the image above, The Union Park School had a high Hispanic population. Poor parent communication resulted in low parental involvement. Therefore, the district decided to create this SMART goal: Develop and implement a bilingual communication strategy, including translated materials and culturally relevant outreach initiatives, to increase parental involvement from the Hispanic community by 20% within the next school year.

  • Develop Support Strategies: Identify the support necessary to meet the SMART goal. Union Park School decided to secure funding so that they could pay staff for the development and implementation of a bilingual communication strategy, including translated materials and culturally relevant outreach initiatives.

  • Prioritize Strategic Initiatives: Prioritize goals and initiatives based on their potential impact and feasibility within the school's resources. Consider factors like urgency, resource allocation, and potential return on investment when prioritizing initiatives.  Union Park School prioritized the bilingual communication strategy during the summer so that they could hit the ground running in September, starting with a parent-kick off celebration a few days into school.

  • Monitor Progress and Adapt: Regularly monitor progress made towards goals established through the SWOT analysis. This might involve collecting data on student performance, teacher satisfaction, or parent engagement. Be adaptable and adjust strategies as needed throughout the year. The SWOT analysis is a living document, and unforeseen circumstances may necessitate revisiting the analysis and making adjustments to goals or action plans. The Union Park School regularly monitored progress toward the goal of increasing parental involvement from the Hispanic community by collecting data on participation rates and feedback from parents. This occurred through surveys, emails and phone-calls during dedicated parent engagement time.

Implementing a SWOT analysis as part of strategic planning in K-12 schools can provide invaluable insights for informed decision-making and effective resource allocation. 

If you want to dig deeper into the evaluation of a particular program, consider enrolling in my step-by-step school-program evaluation guide. With this course, you'll learn how to evaluate any program, curricula, initiative, or systems with ease and confidence. Click here to access the course and take the guesswork out of what's working, what's not, and what next steps should be.

In this 60-minute training, you will:

  • Learn how to evaluate a school-program to make more confident budgeting decisions.

  • Develop a stress-free and timeless evaluation plan that can be used for any program with examples of each step.

  • Master the 6 Key Decisions that every leader must make to evaluate a school-program.

  • Build an evaluation team with buy-in and motivation. You won't do this alone.

  • Determine if your money and human resources are going to the right places.

  • Share data-driven results to get what you need to further support your school-community.

Empower yourself and your team and use data to back the decisions you make for your staff and students. 

And if you haven’t already done so, follow me on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram for more.

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