A study by a University of Southern Mississippi professor is complete and finds that there is a direct correlation between school board members’ behavior and attitude and the academic achievement of the students under their governance.
However, the leader of the organization here in Mississippi tasked with training school board members says it is a complex issue that is affected by a number of factors including the differing roles of board members and superintendents, elections/turnover and — ironically — education.
Dr. David Lee, an associate professor of educational leadership at USM, led a research team that observed more than 150 school board meetings across the U.S. in attempt to quantify the importance of effective school boards as it pertains to academic achievement.
“The purpose was to see how boards operated in both low- and high-performing school systems,” Lee said. “There was a big difference in the way boards in high-performing systems conducted their board meetings and what they focused on. They followed their agendas, did not cave in to special interest groups, focused on student achievement and instruction, set clear expectations on learner outcomes, paid greater attention to the curriculum and received frequent updates from their superintendent on academic progress. They focused on what was taught and how it was taught.”
Lee added, “School board members are leaders, and they have to act like leaders.” He said school board associations are generally doing an excellent job with training, but too often there is a disconnect between “knowing and doing.”