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Government & Politics        < Previous        Next >


Traits of Good School Boards


Q. How do we evaluate how good of a job our school board is doing?



Educators will give you a list like this one, drawn from an article based on educator views, "5 Characteristics of Effective School Boards":


         A focus on student achievement


         Good allocation of resources to needs


         A demonstrated return on investment of education dollars


         Use of data from solid measurements, not opinions, hunches or even educator experience


         Engagement with parents, students, employees and patrons



Parents and taxpayers would no doubt add these:


         Nationally-standardized test scores that match or out-do the demographics


If the community the school serves is upper-income with lots of educational attainment among parents, the test scores should be among the highest in the land. If the community is low-income, with many single-parent families and relatively low educational attainment by parents, then a lower test score average is acceptable and understandable. If your district's ACT and SAT test score averages are below the average for your state, and you don't have many low-income students in your district, you probably have an underachieving school board that should be switched out next election.


         Spending per pupil per year that is at or below the state average


Cost-effectiveness requires board leadership that doesn't cave in to every educational fad, but requires accountability from school employees for why they should get to spend what they want to spend.


         Minimal evidence of groupthink, arrogance, nepotism, corruption, sweetheart deals, featherbedding and self-dealing


Whenever you have fallible human beings in charge of a pile of somebody else's money, you're going to have this kind of stuff, but there shouldn't be much. Be realistic, and look for signs of health or sickness. Do fewer than 50% of high school parents show up for parent-teacher conferences? They may not feel engaged. That's a bad sign. Is there never, ever, a split vote on that board? Maybe nobody feels "safe" about conflict, or maybe school administrators are running that elected board, or maybe both. Follow the money. If your district's spending is 'way above the state average, that's a red flag of financial mismanagement and some of these other organizational problems.



Homework: Read more about how educators define quality leadership in the article, "Five Characteristics of an Effective School Board," on



By Susan Darst Williams Government & Politics 11 2008

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