Board Dysfunction Relates to Decreased Student Achievement

By Phil Gore, PhD, TASB Leadership Team Services

Board at conventionIt may not be news to you that dys­function among a district governance team often relates to decreased student achievement. Two profes­sors, David Lee and Daniel Eadens, published a research article on this in 2014, which found that “effective school districts maintain superintendent and school board collegiality.” In the International Journal of Educa­tion Policy and Leadership, Lee and Eadens wrote that collegiality among the team fosters not only connectedness but also district success.

They began their studies after finding inspiration in the research of Mary Delagardelle and Tom Alsbury, whose work helps inform TASB’s eXceptional Governance (XG) Proj­ect. Lee and Eadens observed 115 school board meetings and evaluated their effectiveness. They found that high-performing school districts:

  • Had more orderly board meetings.
  • Spent more time talking about student achievement.
  • Respectfully and attentively engaged with all speakers.
  • Did not have members trying to advance their own agendas.
  • Had effective relationships among the team.
  • Had all trustees thoughtfully consider input from the superin­tendent.
  • Did not have just one or two members talk excessively throughout the meeting.
  • Focused on policy items.

On the flip side, they found that low-performing districts did not check off all of these boxes. Lee and Eadens suggested that in districts where students are not reaching their full potential, the board needs “refined and target-enhanced” school board development that can lead to lasting governance success.

While other forms of training are effective and necessary, when we maintain a laser focus on student achievement, it becomes clear that school governance practices are the foundation for districtwide success.

School boards need to focus on what matters most—student achieve­ment. They need to ensure there is alignment between board priorities, superintendent actions, and learning in the classroom. They need to be intentional about their governance practices and vow to come together.

eXceptional Governance begins with the culture of the school board and its actions and inaction at the board table. Help is not far away. E-mail today.

Interested in learning more about how your board can improve its governance practices? The XG Summit (January 10–11, 2019, in Austin) is an opportunity to hear from thought leaders, including David Lee and Daniel Eadens, presenting the latest research and school districts sharing current best practices. For more information about the XG Project and the upcoming Summit, visit