Eight characteristics of effective school boards

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More than 90,000 men and women are members of local school boards in the United States, all serving as important trustees of the nation’s public education systems. According to the National School Boards Association, these public officials serve on 13,809 elected or appointed boards in the U.S.

Most of the public knows that school boards do things like set the budgets, establish school boundaries and set school policies. But does school boards’ work affect student achievement? The higher media visibility of teachers and principals in the push for better learning, while important, has led some to question whether school boards matter.

From a research perspective, it’s a complex question. Isolating what makes an effective board – that is, one that impacts student achievement — involves evaluating virtually all functions of a board, from internal governance and policy formulation to communication with teachers, building administrators and the public.

But the answer is: Yes, they do. In this research brief, NSBA’s Center for Public Education looks at indicators of school board effectiveness. From this research, it is clear that school boards in high-achieving districts exhibit habits and characteristics that are markedly different from boards in low-achieving districts. In the most dramatic examples from this research, scholars compared districts with similar levels of poverty and disadvantage to determine factors that separate high-performing districts from those with low performance. In many cases, these differences included the approaches taken by local school boards.

So what do these boards do? Here are some examples:

-Boards in high-achieving districts are more likely to engage in goal setting and -They are increasingly data savvy – identifying student needs and justifying decisions based on data.
-Board members possess detailed knowledge of their district, including initiatives to jump-start success.
-Board members have crafted a working relationship with superintendents, teachers, and administrators based on mutual respect, collegiality and a joint commitment to student success.

Click here to read the full report Effective School Boards.

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