What Matters Most

By Phil Gore, PhD, TASB Leadership Team Services

Trustees at WGS 2019 in front of TASB signFor almost three years, TASB has been providing a validated board self-assessment (eXceptional Governance [XG] Board Self-Assess­ment) for Texas school boards to help them evaluate their governance practices and consider areas for improvement.

We contracted with education governance expert Ivan Lorentzen to analyze the assessment re­sponses, so we can learn from this information. His analysis identified differences in governance practices between boards in districts that have improving student achieve­ment and are closing achievement gaps and boards struggling to do that. It also emphasized com­monalities and themes that led to success.

There is a large effect size in three areas:

• Setting goals for the board’s improvement

• Aligning the system with high expectations for achievement

• Ensuring resources are focused on supporting high achieve­ment

 Three other areas have a medium effect size:

• Involving the community and families in selection of instruc­tional materials

• Communicating an expectation that all classrooms will have effective instruction

• Publicly celebrating efforts in schools to improve learning

It’s important to realize this could look different in each district. The specific practices may or may not be as important as the culture the board is leading to support this type of work taking place.

Finally, thirteen areas were found to have a small effect size, four of which are:

• Following an effective process for responding to questions, concerns, comments, or feed­back from citizens

• Ensuring the public is well in­formed of the board’s roles and responsibilities

• Seeking community and staff input in its decision making to gain support

• Carefully considering communi­ty and staff input in its decision making

Notice the repeated themes of community engagement and building collective will within the community. It seems that across Texas, boards that are involving their community and building high expectations for student learning are experiencing improved student achievement and closing achievement gaps.

This is eXceptional Governance. We are currently seeking to under­stand better and more specifically what some of these governance practices look like around the state, so please share your district’s governance practices by e-mailing board.dev@tasb.org.