Complexity in the Board Room

By Douglas B. Reeves

In my April 2011 column, I considered how board members could accelerate their expertise in tackling the tough issues they face. But no matter how great your expertise and education, many education issues are complicated by competing theories and multiple data sources.

The arena of American politics sometimes breeds an impulse to reduce issues to sound bites, but we should heed Albert Einstein’s admonition that everything “should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Education policymakers regularly deal with complexity, and this article suggests three ways to acknowledge it without being overcome.

First, critically evaluate claims of cause and effect by considering alternative causes. Second, insist that the data on which you make decisions include both quantitative and qualitative information. Third, lead your communities to pursue goals that inspire students, teachers, and leaders to be better than the sum of your test scores.

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