Effective boards work extremely well with the superintendent and district leadership teams (Alsbury & Gore, 2015). This module describes the characteristics of effective boards of education as well as the board leadership practices support that teaching and learning. Topics include the important role effective boards of education have in the following domains:
- setting a district vision;
- using data to set goals, establish accountability, and monitor progress;
- engaging the community in supporting district goals;
- developing policies focused on student learning; and
- committing time, energy, and resources to district improvement efforts.
Unfortunately, across the nation too few boards manage to focus their attention on teaching and learning. There are many reasons—some of them considered in the module. However, the module’s embedded videos highlight Ohio superintendents and board members as they consider the relevant leadership practices—practices that affect teaching and learning—within their districts. These educators demonstrate that some school boards in Ohio do use their governance role to support teaching and learning and that many more can do so as well (Alsbury & Gore, 2015; Campbell & Fullan, 2019). In fact, this module exists to help leadership team members and school board members work together to improve teaching and learning
This module aligns with Ohio’s Leadership Development Framework (BASA, 2022):
- Area 6 Board Development and Governance Process
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Ohio's Leadership Development Framework describes the role of the board as the "keeper of the vision" with a focus on committing to continuous improvement for student achievement. How focused is your board on the primary objective of student achievement? How successful is the board in articulating the vision to students, teachers, parents, and the larger community? In what ways does the relationship between the board and the administration function to keep the board focused on student achievement? In what ways does that relationship limit or interfere with the board's focus on student achievement? What are the strengths of the board-administration relationship? What are its weaknesses? How might improvements in the board-administration relationship influence the ability of the board to remain focused on student achievement and on communicating that focus to students, teachers, parents, and the wider community?
Examine the goals of two neighboring school districts. Compare their goals with your district's goals. What are the similarities and differences? What insights do you gain about your district's expectations for school performance from the comparison of your district's goals with the goals of the two other districts?
"Recent research suggests that effective school boards, in collaboration with district leadership and the community, establish a few reasonable, specific, non-negotiable goals for student achievement and instruction and allow district staff to be responsible, within certain established parameters, for the methods to accomplish these goals (Danzberger, 1994; Delagardelle, 2008; Goodman, Fulbright & Zimmerman, 1997; Leithwood & Jantzi, 2008; Marzano & Waters, 2009; McAdams, 2000; Murphy & Hallinger, 1988; Rice, D., et al., 2001)."
What goals established by your district are non-negotiable? Why did the board and administration identify these as non-negotiable goals? What goals are more flexible? Why did the board and administration see these as negotiable goals? Can you imagine a circumstance when the board and administration might want to renegotiate a goal that previously was considered non-negotiable? What would be the consequence of altering a non-negotiable goal?
Many of the suggestions offered in this module focus on collaboration at several different levels-team, department, building, district, and board of education. Circumstances at each of these levels, however, are different and require sensitivity to different needs and issues. What are some issues and dilemmas in your district that could be addressed effectively through the direct involvement of Board of Education members? In shaping the organizational culture of your district, what role does the Board currently play? Under ideal circumstances, what role might the Board play to foster improvements in your district's organizational culture?
This module presents a model for effective and cooperative board leadership that specifies the following important practices: (1) Setting the Stage, (2) Creating a Vision, (3) Using Data, (4) Setting Goals, (5) Monitoring Progress and Taking Corrective Action, (6) Creating Awareness and Urgency, (7) Engaging the Community, (8) Connecting with District Leadership, (9) Creating Climate, (10) Providing Staff Development, (11) Developing Policy with a Focus on Student Achievement, (12) Demonstrating Commitment, and (13) Practicing Unified Governance. Is your Board of Education using all of these practices? Which of these practices is your Board using in a concerted manner and which is it using in a more haphazard manner (or not at all)? What have been the consequences of the Board's neglect of one or more of these practices?
Partnering with Board Members
Brainstorm a list of opportunities for board member participation in quality professional development that is aligned with district priorities. Invite one or two board members to serve on the District Leadership Team and/or a Building Leadership Team. Write a letter of invitation and include meeting dates.
Review the board minutes from the three previous meetings. With a copy of the district goals for student achievement in front of you as your focus, how much of the board's business and decisions are in alignment with the district's goals? Where do they depart? What is needed to get back on track?
Reporting Student Achievement Data
If you were making a plan for reporting student achievement data to the Board of Education, what would be some of the logistical issues you would want to consider (e.g., who would present the data, what kind of presentation would work best, and so on)? How would you identify the types of data that would make sense to present? How would you prioritize the data that you would want the Board to review? What types of data might be inappropriate or unwise to share? What circumstances might keep you from sharing certain types of data?
First identify sources of conflict in your district that implicate your Board of Education; then anticipate how these sources of conflict might get in the way of efforts to involve the Board in a school (or district) improvement process. How will you address each of these sources of conflict in order to make it possible for the Board to play a meaningful role in the school (or district) improvement process? What resources from previous modules and from relevant education literature and what assets in your community can you draw on to manage existing and potential conflicts, promote effective problem-solving, and build consensus? What steps will you take in order to keep dialog focused on relevant school improvement issues? Develop a plan specifying which personnel will be responsible for developing capacity in conflict management, problem-solving, and consensus building. Also indicate how the district might draw on the expertise of personnel who have received special training in these leadership skills.
You can earn credit and contact hours for modules, webinars, and podcasts completed on the OLAC site.
For more information, visit the Credit Corner. If you’re seeking credit for the Gifted Education Professional Development Course or the Culturally Responsive Practices Program courses, you can find that information on the course overview pages.
A School Board Member and Superintendent Discuss Their Roles in Improving Outcomes for Students
Changing District Culture to Improve Learning for All Students
Introduction to Board Development and Governance Process
The School Board's Role in District Goal Setting