Developing Performance Targets
One key to your school board performing as a truly high-impact governing body is for everyone to be accountable for their individual governing performance. Essentially, this involves your board setting performance standards and targets for itself, monitoring the achievement of those targets, and taking action to remedy performance shortfalls.
The Board President-Superintendent Partnership
What can superintendents do to ensure that their relationships with board presidents are close, positive, and productive? Very early in the relationship, the superintendent can sit down with the board president for a detailed, explicit discussion of the basic division of labor between the two and the fundamental ground rules.
The Secret of KIPP's Success
What characterizes KIPP schools and, more importantly, their ability to make inroads with underperforming urban students? Called the Five Pillars, they are the following rules: setting high expectations for students, giving school leaders autonomy, increasing instructional time, focusing on results, and reminding everyone KIPP is a choice and a commitment.
Surviving an Academic Audit
Why should any school board audit the district’s academic programs? The answer is simple for failing districts: The patient is sick and needs a complete check-up. A curriculum management audit is like the engine of a freight train. The first few minutes of movement are slow. And then the steam builds.
Coping with Restructuring
Public school system restructurings – incremental or wholesale, academic or financial – have become familiar occurrences around the country. What most restructured districts have in common is that school officials often lack the depth of understanding they need of their finances and operations.
How to Turn Schools Around
Educational reformers are abuzz over school “turnarounds,” a simple idea with undeniable appear. Turnarounds offer the opportunity to take familiar educational institutions and improve them through coaching, mentoring, capacity building, best practices, and other existing tools. Yet while turnarounds are doubtlessly an appealing idea, making them work is far more complicated.
School Reform Challenge
Why doesn’t school reform always work? Put aside the programs and strategies that are flouted as solutions, and the reason is as simple as it is brutal: Reform is a tough slog, with a long list of financial, political, and administrative booby traps along the path.
Learning How to Make the Right Decisions
Why do school leaders get little or no training in decision-making? Many of us believe that all we need to make good decisions is common sense and experience. Those are vital tools, but alone they are not enough. Today’s leaders need training and the right tools to help them make decisions.
Are You a Servant Leader?
Service is a powerful metaphor for thinking about school boards. School boards are a visible expression of American citizens who are willing to step up in service to their community and future generations. As school boards take responsibility for helping our public schools plot a course forward, they demonstrate the importance and power of servant leadership.
Getting the Schools We Want
Imagine a school bus with a dozen steering wheels and a dozen drivers, each with a different mental map of the day’s route. That bus would go nowhere. Almost every school in America is like that bus. The engine may be running, but the school isn’t going anywhere in particular.
The Board President and Superintendent Relationship
What can the board president expect the superintendent to do to ensure that their very precious working relationship is healthy and productive? In my experience, the closest and most productive partnerships are promoted and supported by board-savvy superintendents who want the board president to be a close “governing ally.”
A Healthy Partnership
A board can help keep the board-superintendent relationship healthy by making a strong commitment to ongoing management of the relationship with their superintendent, and by reaching agreement with their superintendent on the ingredients of an effective communication strategy. High-impact school boards take responsibility for maintaining productive partnerships with their superintendents.
Performance Evaluations Are Powerful
You will not be surprised to learn that some superintendents will not welcome a dialogue with the board on CEO-specific leadership targets. But they've got no choice if they really want to have a strong, mutually satisfying relationship with their school boards.
Making Education Research Work for You
School leaders are inundated with research findings they can't sift through. Making matters especially difficult is talk of "data-driven decision making" and "scientifically based research," implying that translating research into policy is a relatively straightforward matter of latching onto the right solutions and making them work. If only it were that simple.
An Interview with Daniel Domenech
Former Fairfax County (Va.) Schools Superintendent Daniel Domenech returns to Washington, D.C., as the new executive director of the nation's largest superintendents association. Known for his hands-on style, Domenech wants to have a bigger seat at the table as Congress continues its work on the revision of No Child Left Behind.
Ways to Make Your Board Meetings More Efficient
Most school boards try to do too much with their agendas, keeping a watchful eye on all sorts of district activities yet failing to accomplish the board's most basic functions. The difference between board and staff business is primarily, but not exclusively, a matter of ends and means.
Training for New School Board Members
With the average board member serving either one or two terms, periodic turnover is inevitable, as is the need for training those joining your board. But who should conduct the training? And how do you ensure new board members are getting the training they need?
Taking Risks for Reform
When ASBJ asked education consultant Deborah Meier to name some failed and successful school reforms of the past three decades, she e-mailed back this short reply: "In fact, the successes have also been the failures." Let's take a look at what has worked, what hasn't, and why.
Doing Your Superintendent's Performance Evaluation Right
School boards around the country have taken very practical steps to ensure that the very precious, high-stakes--but oh, so fragile--working relationship with the superintendent remains close, positive, productive, and enduring. Easily the most important step is implementing a well-designed and executed process for evaluating superintendent performance.
Health and Your Older School Employees
Employees over 50 are extremely valuable. They tend to be more loyal, have more experience and better attendance, be more punctual, have lower job turnover, hold a stronger commitment to quality, maintain a willingness to be mentors to new hires, and use better judgment on the job. That is, except when it comes to their own health.
Crafting a Contract with Your New Superintendent
Superintendent contracts often are much more than a legal document that specifies employment terms. In most cases, they are a symbol of the desired relationship between the board and superintendent, and they are very local in nature.
How Can You Support New Principals?
Diversity, reform initiatives, accountability demands, scarce resources, and other changes have put more demands on the principal than ever. We also know that principals are important to the academic success of our students and our schools. But how can we help our principals if we don't support them?
Implementing Board Committees
If organized and run properly, committees are a proven tool for high-impact governing. Getting these powerful "governing engines" up and running takes two major steps -- a set of detailed guidelines to govern the operations and a staff support structure and process.
The Value of Travel
Many young people do not travel with their families, and because of that, they are not being prepared to assume a constructive role in our increasingly global society. That's why school-sponsored educational travel is critical to a complete education. School boards that offer these opportunities are giving students life-changing experiences.
Rudy Crew's Lessons Learned From the Miami School Chief
An interview with Miami-Dade County Public Schools' superintendent Rudy Crews, 2008 National Superintendent of the Year.
School Board Committees Enhance Effectiveness
If you'd asked me about the importance of board standing committees 20 years ago, I would have advised you not to pay much attention. Well, experience has educated me, as it always should, and now I number well-designed committees among the top three determinants of board effectiveness. Committees help the board divide the work of governing into "chewable" chunks.
Your Unions: Harmony or Strife?
When striking teachers display a giant inflatable rat outside a school—and name their new mascot after the surperintendent—it's clear that relations between school leaders and the teachers union are not good. Another clue: Teachers are spitting on cars crossing the picket line.
The Merit Pay Conundrum
After a series of marked failures in the 1980's, salary reform efforts in America's school districts are experiencing a resurgence. Increasing numbers of school districts and states seem more willing to make adjustments to teacher pay to achieve better educational outcomes. Teacher buy-in is only one part of an extremely complex enterprise.
Teacher Contract Negotiations
Negotiating a new teachers' contract can be daunting. Whether your board is planning to subcontract or lead its own negotiations, you will be up against a seasoned union veteran trained in negotiation strategies. You likely can't match your opponents in experience, but you can take steps to increase the likelihood that you will come away with a deal that is acceptable to the board.
Rescuing Schools in Distress
NCLB has affected state departments of education as much as any other type of institution. Looming in the legislation was the knowledge that any school that repeatedly failed to meet academic standards could be subject to state intervention. This was a new direction for the Arizona Department of Education. We were just as nervous about the concept of state intervention as the schools.
The Secrets of My Board Success
Ask yourself, "Do I enjoy being on the school board?" If the answer is "no," you need to make a change. Modify how you handle the job or remove yourself from the board. Life is too short to voluntarily do something you don't enjoy. (Includes the list, "Top 10 Secrets of Successful School Board Members.")
Interest-Based Bargaining Helps Boards and Teachers
What's the difference between traditional and interest-based bargaining? Traditional bargaining is power-based; each side aims to win. Interest-based bargaining encourages the parties to work in partnership to solve mutual problems. Why should you consider using interest-based bargaining? For one thing, it starts with the facts.
The Importance of School Board Policies
From a legal standpoint, school boards exist for one reason: to govern K-12 schools by exercising their power as a policymaking body. A good policy can save a district's hide. The challenge for boards and the administration is making sure no reality gap exists between what is explained on paper and daily practice.
Return on Investments for School Board Service
As a most likely unpaid volunteer who dedicates considerable time and energy to your school board's governing work, you have every right think about your return on investment (ROI) in terms of nonmonetary compensation for the hours you devote to the job. The governing experience should be enjoyable and relatively pain-free--at least a good deal of the time.
Developing Your Governing Capacity
Every school board and superintendent have a clear choice in determining your "governing design"—the board's role, structure and processes. You can inherit the board of the past, taking the path of least resistance and minimum pain—or you can take the initiative in developing your board's governing capacity.
The Challenges of Supplemental Educational Services
Successfully implementing supplemental educational services, or SES, is challenging—and local officials play an essential role in deciding whether students receive the quality tutoring they are entitled to under the law. Still, it's not clear that school boards are taking that responsibility to heart. Only 14 percent of the 3.3 million students eligible for services receive assistance.
The Importance of School and Parent Partnerships
Despite a lingering national perception that schools are rigid, they have become pretty adept at adapting to change. As a whole, though, schools are struggling to connect with the one group that has the biggest impact on a student's academic career: parents.
Newsmaker: Retiring AASA Chief Paul Houston
Paul Houston started his education career as a "wayward English major," became a principal by age 25, and hasn't looked back much since. But, on the eve of his final conference as executive director of the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), Houston took some time to reflect on his 40-plus year career in education and the organization he has served since 1994.
Do You Need a Strategic Change Portfolio?
The leadership "gold standard" for school boards is making strategic decisions that address critical issues facing your district. Here is the good news: Your district can take advantage of a dramatic advance in the field of strategic planning. Known as the strategic change portfolio, this tool makes it possible for your board to play a meaningful, high-impact role in leading change in your district.
Change is a quality every district must have for public education to remain viable in the 21st century. And if that sounds like an overstatement, consider this: Today’s school leaders are under increasing pressure to raise student achievement, often in the face of criticism—warranted or not—that they work for immovable bureaucracies.
School Transitions Made Easy
Unfortunately, not all schools understand the importance of creating a well-organized and well-thought-out plan to help ease the transitions kids make, especially between two of the most critical junctures in K-12 education: the move from elementary to middle school and from middle to high school.
Are Mayors Threatening to Take Control of Your Schools?
The threat of mayoral and state takeovers is real. Today, takeovers are permitted by statute in about half the states, and they’re allowed by some city charters. The question is: Do takeovers work? Despite political criticism, posturing, and rhetoric from public school opponents, research on the financial or academic impact of takeovers remains sparse.
Keeping Your Employees Healthy
As medical expenses continue to soar, school districts are discovering that health promotion and intervention are sure strategies to contain cost increases. However, district officials and educators are motivated by another factor: Preaching a healthy lifestyle to students is ineffective if the adults around them aren’t doing it, too.