Sunday, February 27, 2011

School Board Practices (Part 18 of 18; the summary): Shaping Governance for Success

Summary

The importance of developing practices that engage the school board in acts of data-driven decision making and strategic planning toward the goals of increased student achievement was depicted here. Two broad educational governance school board tasks were revealed: Attention to the strategic planning and decision making that impacts student achievement. Traditionally, school boards have focused on setting policy and overseeing administration. School boards must demonstrate accountability by measuring their progress against this set of standards. The school board association creates a framework for good governance which outlines school board standards and notes indicators of those standards so that school board members can measure their progress. This has been expanded in today’s society to include developing a vision, a structure for continuous improvement, accountability, effective decision making and advocacy for the students.

A superintendent’s responsibilities to student achievement are immense, and the finding in recent research supports that school boards must understand the need to retain a quality superintendent. It is evident that the turnover rate of superintendents across the country is another factor contributing to the challenges school boards face. Yet, the leadership of the superintendent is required to sustain healthy practices that will create the climate necessary for school staff to perform so that children receive the education they deserve. Boards must recognize that a collaborative culture can have an impact on the culture of the entire district which, in turn, can positively impact student achievement. They should perform in a manner that reflects service to the community on behalf of students by conducting district business in a fair, respectful, and responsible manner. The expectation of operating under a framework of healthy school board governance, first and foremost, is on the importance of creating structures that allow for professionals to accommodate the needs of all learners.

School Board Practices (Part 17 of 18): Shaping Governance for Success

Understand Decision Making

All decisions made by leaders of the district should reflect a focus on what is best for student achievement. To do this, school board members should always consider what is best for the entire district first followed by what is best for each building. These considerations must occur before thinking about teams and departments, and certainly before making decisions that will benefit individuals. If this is clearly communicated by the school board as an expectation to all stakeholders of the district, there will be a clearer understanding of how decisions are made.

School boards generally make decisions when problems arise, but this should begin with the need to identify the problem so that they may concentrate on whether or not a problem really exists. They must gather data to make informed decisions about a problem or its solutions. A necessary step is to involve a recommendation by the superintendent; perhaps there are going to be consequences to solving the problem.

Decisions that impact student achievement should consider how students learn. When making data-driven decisions, school board members must begin to understand what is known about kids and how they learn; decisions must reflect the best practices of teaching. They should pursue expertise from sources outside the district, such as information about exemplary programs and practices. School board members engaged in successful governance are clear about their decision making process in terms of study, learning, reading, listening, receiving data, questioning, discussing, and then deciding and evaluating. Then, they can prioritize needs first and then wants to successfully make use of all possible resources. It is the vision and mission of the district that will shape all decisions; decisions must align with these.

The effective governing school board will make decisions based on what is best for the entire district while avoiding conflicts that may come about from their own personal agendas or outside influence. The school board needs to make its decisions near the child realizing the school is the real delivery system for instruction. It is data that will keep the school board focused on the right path; data, being the deciding factor in decisions, keeps all honest in their professional approach to making decisions.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

School Board Practices (Part 15 of 17): Shaping Governance for Success

Be Accountable

Measurement, evaluation, feedback, and all other methods of accountability can create anxiety in the minds of teachers, but we live in a technological age where data is at the fingertips of everyone. Rather than allowing this to put stress on districts, evaluation techniques should be seen as opportunities to get better. States, school districts, and schools must be accountable for ensuring that all students, including disadvantaged students, meet high academic standards. Regardless of the time it takes to accomplish this, it is imperative that the school board recognize that student achievement is most important, and the evaluation of the district should reflect this.

School board members should review school-level progress on goals and consider revisions for annual performance targets based on evidence of progress. This district-wide systemic approach to strategic planning must involve specific feedback so that they can engage in professional development to make improvements.

Being accountable to NCLB, our legislature, the department of education and our school board is mandated to collect evidence of learning. Successful school boards know that data is going to shape decisions as to how to grow professionally and serve children. They know that it is accountability that provides schools the capacity to organize themselves into professional learning communities where teachers are planning, creating solid environments for learning, engaging students in the instruction, and creating the means for further professional improvement. With data, school boards will know that teachers and principals are engaged in discussions about ways to assure all students are successful.

This starts with a school board that holds the superintendent accountable to gathering data that reflects the impact the school district is having on achievement. It should also be the expectation of the school board that the superintendent holds everyone else in the district fully accountable to collecting data and analyzing it for improved instruction that leads to expanded learning opportunities. School boards should lead the accountability movement by example.

7 SKILLS STUDENTS NEED FOR THEIR FUTURE - TONY WAGNER

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