Articles in the Key Work of School Boards category

Video: NSBA’s Massey discusses leadership for new Discovery Education webinar series

Watch the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Immediate Past President C. Ed Massey discuss “adaptive leadership” — the first talk in a new school leadership webinar series by Discovery Education designed to feature innovative leaders in K-12 education. The webinar took place on Jan. 16 and is available online. Massey has served on the Kentucky’s Boone County Board of Education for more than 17 years.

Adaptive leadership is a new form of leadership and governance that accepts and embraces – rather than recoils from — change.

“Adaptive leadership means that we have to have the ability to lead through change,” Massey said.

Massey discussed the many challenges facing education leaders today, his personal take on adaptive leadership, and how educators can foster this style of leadership within their own schools.

Watch the webinar now.

Alexis Rice|January 23rd, 2014|Categories: Announcements, Key Work of School Boards, Leadership, School Boards|Tags: , , , |

Gentzel: School boards needed for strong American democracy

A strong public education system–governed by locally elected or appointed school boards–is necessary to continue our nation’s prosperity and our democratic society, National School Boards Association Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel told attendees at a symposium titled “Improving Schools through Board Governance.”

NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel speaks at the University of Georgia on October 22.

NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel speaks at the University of Georgia on October 22.

Gentzel was keynote speaker at the Oct. 22 event, which was sponsored by the University of Georgia and designed to bring together school board members, superintendents, community members and other educators to discuss school governance issues.

The nation’s 90,000 school board members are committed to student achievement and helping guide the next generation to fulfilling and productive lives, Gentzel said.

He also discussed NSBA’s framework, “The Key Work of School Boards,” which guides school boards toward better leadership skills and ways to improve student achievement through governance.

Gentzel also lauded the “Vision for Public Education Project,” which was created by the Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA) and the Georgia Superintendents Association. The project built a framework based on seven core principles for improving the educational experience for public school students. GSBA also has written standards for the state’s school boards, which have been adapted with some revisions by the state board of education.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|October 25th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Key Work of School Boards, Leadership, School Reform, State School Boards Associations, Uncategorized|Tags: , , , |

NSBA President: Effective school boards will improve students’ success

David A. Pickler, the 2013-14 president of the National School Boards Association (NSBA) and a member of Tennessee’s Shelby County School Board, wrote this column for the October 2013 issue of American School Board Journal.

How can school boards become more effective?

Through our work at NSBA and the state associations, we’ve seen many good examples of school boards that function well and show results through student achievement. We’ve learned through NSBA’s Center for Public Education (CPE) that school boards in districts with high student achievement are different than school boards in low-achieving districts.

So this would seem to be a fairly straightforward matter of identifying what makes school boards work effectively. But teasing out the tangible areas where school boards can make a difference is still an emerging area of research, and the question is more complex than it initially appears.

I recently spoke at a media event in Seattle, hosted by the Alliance for Education. This nonprofit group is working with the Seattle school board to improve academic achievement and guide student success in the district — and to sustain those actions over time. We talked about CPE’s recent report, “Eight Characteristics of Effective School Boards,” as well as other research by the Iowa School Boards Foundation and NSBA’s Key Work of School Boards. Researcher Thomas L. Alsbury, a professor at Seattle Pacific University, also discussed the important role that a school board holds as “one of the few remaining vestiges of accessible democracy.”

So what do we know about effective school boards — those that are making progress in student achievement across all sectors of their student population? CPE’s research shows that some of those characteristics include:

  • An ability to set goals reflecting high expectations for students and monitoring progress toward goals, an understanding of student data and how it can be used
  • A relentless focus on student achievement and spending less time on operational issues
  • A comprehensive understanding of the needs of the school district, and strong relationships with the superintendent, other administrators, teachers, and other key stakeholders, and
  • Perhaps most importantly, everyone in the district is committed to success.

More information about the eight characteristics can be found at CPE’s website.

Student success should be the core mission for any school board. We cannot focus on a single issue but must be committed to a comprehensive plan that will support all our students and their needs, Alsbury noted. Board conflict and turnover ultimately will harm student achievement. We must not get mired in micromanagement and organizational details.

As school board leaders, we must lead, and we must model these characteristics for the district staff, students, and the community. We must ensure that every child is prepared for the 21st century and beyond. We know that we are living in exponential times of change—in just the last few years technology has changed our work and our lives in ways we never imagined. The generation of students that we are now educating will be taking on jobs that don’t yet exist.

This work becomes even more important in light of the new landscape of education policy, where we as school boards are being forced to justify our existence more frequently.

Not every school board has an organized group like the Alliance for Education to monitor our work, so we must take it upon ourselves to learn from this research, taking a hard look at our inner workings and continuously striving for improvement. We also could look for community and business partnerships with like-minded groups such as the Alliance. If we use our ability to lay a foundation and set the culture for the school district, our students will benefit for years to come.

Our students need—and deserve—the best we can give.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|September 11th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Center for Public Education, Educational Research, Governance, Key Work of School Boards, Leadership, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Reform|Tags: , , , , |

State school board leaders to attend NSBA retreat on leadership

This week dozens of state school board leaders will meet in Memphis, Tenn., to discuss school governance trends and hone their leadership skills at the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) annual Presidents’ Retreat.

NSBA President David A. Pickler, a member of the Shelby County, Tenn., school board, is hosting the retreat in his hometown from August 15 to 18 for more than 80 state school boards association presidents, past presidents, and staff directors.

The retreat is focusing on transformational leadership, Pickler’s theme for his one-year term as president.

“We are living in a world of exponential change, where technology is reshaping the way we work and communicate,” Pickler noted. “As school board leaders, we will oversee the transformation of public education to ensure that every child is prepared for the 21st century and beyond. This event will give us the opportunity to learn as well as explore ideas with our peers.”

The school board members also will participate in a highly interactive training event with staff from the Crew Training International, a Memphis-based company that offers training to develop the skills used by U.S. military aviators to accomplish complex missions. The facilitated training will explore several scenarios and allow participants to use CTI’s specialized hands-on, computerized training.

Representatives from the National Governors Association, Northern Kentucky University, and several state school boards leaders will speak about current topics in leadership and K-12 education policy.

And in a Sunday morning address, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Maj. Gen. Patrick Henry Brady will speak about leadership and his experiences in the Vietnam War and longtime career with the U.S. Army.

“Each year this retreat gives our state association leaders a chance to reflect on the fast-changing landscape and learn from their colleagues,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “We look forward to organizing a fantastic and productive event for our state leaders.”

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|August 15th, 2013|Categories: Announcements, Board governance, Governance, Key Work of School Boards, Leadership|Tags: , , , , , |

Education Talk Radio previews NSBA’s 2013 Annual Conference

Kanisha Williams-Jones, Director of Leadership & Governance Services at the National School Boards Association (NSBA), was a guest today on Education Talk Radio providing a preview of NSBA’s 2013 Annual Conference. Thousands of school board members, administrators, and other educators will be coming to San Diego to take part in the April 13-15 event.

Listen to the broadcast:

Listen to internet radio with EduTalk on Blog Talk Radio

The conference will feature more than 200 sessions on timely education topics, including federal legislation and funding, managing schools with tight budgets, the legal implications of recent court cases, new research and best practices in school governance, and the Common Core State Standards. A series of sessions will focus on school safety and security.

Expanded education technology programming will include site visits to the University of San Diego and Qualcomm’s Mobile Learning Center to explore its research laboratory on mobile learning; Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography to examine the technology in science education and STEM; Encinitas Union School District to view its One-to-One Digital Learning Program; and the San Diego Zoo to learn about the cutting-edge learning tools used to teach at-risk students. U.S. Navy SEALs will show leadership and team building skills during another workshop.

The meeting also includes one of the largest K-12 educational expositions, with some 300 companies showcasing their innovative products and services for school districts.

General Session speakers include Academy Award winning speaker Geena Davis, who will be speaking about her work off-screen as founder of the non-profit Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. Davis works with film and television creators to reduce gender stereotyping and increase the number of female characters in media targeted for children 11 and under. She will explain how media plays a key role in children’s development, and how her organization is making a difference.

Television star Neil deGrasse Tyson, one of the world’s most engaging and passionate science advocates, will headline Sunday’s General Session. From PBS to NASA to Presidential Commissions, organizations have depended on Tyson’s down-to-earth approach to astrophysics. He has been a frequent guest on “The Daily Show”, “The Colbert Report”, R”eal Time with Bill Maher”, and “Jeopardy!”. Tyson hopes to reach “all the people who never knew how much they’d love learning about space and science.”

Monday’s General Session features acclaimed researcher and author Diane Ravitch, who has become one of the most passionate voices for public schools. Her most recent book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, makes the case that public education today is in peril and offers a clear prescription for improving public schools.

Learn more about the common core standards, new research on differentiated learning styles, and teaching “unteachable” children at the Focus On lecture series. Learn about new technologies for your classrooms as part of the Technology + Learning programs.

It’s not too late to register, visit the Annual Conference website for  more information.

In June’s ASBJ: California or Connecticut — when it comes to school leadership, a little humility goes a long way

Something felt different in Southern California, and I’m not just talking about the beaches, the palm trees, or the bird of paradise flowers that don’t generally sprout here in Washington.

I admit it — I love this place. Many years ago, I went to college out here, and I can still remember my freshman roommate muttering in his sleep one predawn morning as our room shook like it was tethered to a roller coaster:

“Go back to sleep; it’s just an earthquake.”

Just an earthquake.  It was — and here’s a California expression I learned that year — “No big.”

So when I visited the Long Beach Unified School District last spring to do a story on why this highly diverse, seaside district is one of the top-performing urban school systems in the nation, I was predisposed to like the place. But it wasn’t just palm trees and nostalgia. After spending hours talking to teachers, administrators, and other school leaders, including the superintendent and a school board member, I concluded: These people are good: They’re engaged. They’re focused. Dedicated. Not in it for themselves, it seems, but for the district’s mission itself.

For lack of a better term, I referred to the atmosphere as one of “relaxed professionalism.”

Kimberly Hough, who has a piece in ASBJ’s June issue, has another word for what produces this kind of working environment: “humility.” It’s something we don’t often talk about, but it’s enormously important to being an effective school leader.

“Humble people are curious people,” writes Hough, an assistant superintendent with West Virginia’s Berkeley County Schools. “They feel comfortable admitting what they don’t know and with finding the answers. They are able to simultaneously recognize their own strengths and see their own weaknesses. They are open to feedback and making adjustments.”

Hough has done research that measures school leaders’ humility and its correlation with student achievement in math and English. She arrived at humility – or the lack thereof – by comparing leaders’ estimation of themselves with the estimations of those around them. Not surprisingly, the in-agreement self-raters (as opposed to the over-estimators and under-estimators) correlated with the highest student achievement.

Pretty interesting stuff – and it pretty much nails the leadership culture I saw at Long Beach Unified, which has been widely recognized for its success.

“One thing I appreciate about this school district – they celebrate,” says Long Beach school board President Felton Williams. “And then they go back to work.”

Or, as my roommate might have put it: “No big.”

Lawrence Hardy|June 8th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Board governance, Data Driven Decision Making, Governance, Key Work of School Boards, School Boards, Urban Schools|Tags: , , , |

NSBA comments on U.S. Chamber of Commerce report on school boards

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce may not agree on everything regarding K-12 education, but when it comes to basic recommendations for improving school board governance they can find some common ground.

Consider School Board Case Studies, a new report by the chamber’s Institute for a Competitive Workforce, which was released May 15 at a forum in Washington. Among the report’s findings:

  • School boards are most effective when they have clearly defined, and limited, responsibilities
  • Superintendents play a key role
  • Effective training and board development can make a difference
  • Caliber and commitment of individual board members matters

“Frankly, that’s what we call The Key Work of School Boards,” said NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant, one of several panelists asked to comment on the report. NSBA’s Key Work is a framework of eight interrelated action areas to focus and guide school boards in their efforts to improve student achievement.

The chamber’s report looks at case studies of 13 mainly urban school districts across the country that are experiencing varying degrees of success, from the internationally recognized Long Beach Unified School District in Southern California to more challenged school systems in Detroit and Newark, N.J. The report emphasizes the role that business can play to create — as panelist Andrew J. Rotherham, co-founder of Bellwether Education Partners, put it — “urgency and context for reform.”

Rotherham said that business leaders and other concerned parties need to encourage well-qualified people to run for school boards. He said recruiting the right people doesn’t mean finding someone who shares your political views as much as choosing citizens who are up to this increasingly complex job.

“The reality is — it’s the type of habits and skills that people have” that are important, Rotherham said.

Bryant agreed. But she pointed to the 2011 report by NSBA, the Iowa School Boards Foundation, and the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, School Boards Circa 2010: Governance in the Accountability Era to counter some of the claims in the report, including a claim that school board elections are driven by special interests that are pouring money into races. School Boards Circa 2010 found that nationally, 74 percent of school board members said they spent less than $1,000 on their most recent race, and 87 percent spent less than $5,000.

Bryant also noted that two-thirds of board members surveyed for the report saw an urgent need to improve student achievement. As a group, the board members were also well-educated; 75 percent had at least a bachelor’s degree. And they typically aren’t using the board as a stepping stone to other positions, as some critics charge. When asked what prompted them to serve on a school board in the first place, just over 50 percent of respondents reported that their first motivation was to ensure that schools were the “best they can be,” 22 percent said “civic duty,” and only 1 percent said “developing their role as a public leader,” according to School Boards Circa 2010.

Bryant emphasized the need for collaboration, but also warned that strong partnerships take time and work.

“ We know from experience that our most successful partnerships start by building a culture of collaboration,” Bryant said. “This is hard work and any business or local chamber of commerce needs to understand that it takes time not only to build partnerships but to recognize their schools’ strengths and challenges. We’ve seen many partnerships flounder when a business coalition comes in and tells a school what to do without understanding how schools work and what the levers of real long term change are.”

Another panelist, Don McAdams,  chairman and founder of the Center for Reform of School Systems, criticized the report and said the 13 case studies were used to advance opinions rather than represent a snapshot of national findings.

The audience also heard from former U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, now president of the chamber’s U.S. Forum for Policy Innovation. She said that business people need to have more of a presence at school board meetings, which she said are typically attended by vendors, teacher unions, and others with special interest in the proceedings.

 

 

Lawrence Hardy|May 15th, 2012|Categories: Board governance, Data Driven Decision Making, Governance, Key Work of School Boards, Student Achievement, Teachers, Urban Schools|Tags: , , , , , |

Workshop examines board and superintendent roles

The voices of 120 urban school leaders rose in disbelief when Brian Perkins, formerly of the New Haven, Conn., school board, said his longest board meeting in seven years as president lasted one hour and 20 minutes.

“We would start board meetings promptly at six, and shortly after seven, we were on our way out.”

How did he manage that?

The agenda of each board meeting was carefully crafted to keep the board on task, he said. And to make certain that the board didn’t get distracted in a lengthy discussion with community members who wanted to raise concerns with the board, Perkins made sure there were district administrators on hand to take care of matters.

“If you don’t have people who can make decisions and help your parents, you’re going to spend 20 minutes listening to a parent going on and on,” he said.

This was just one thoughtful observation offered by Perkins, director of the Urban Education Leadership Program at Columbia University’s Teachers College, during a Saturday workshop on the roles of urban school boards and their superintendents.

Much of the workshop centered on hypothetical case studies that participating school leaders debated in small groups, with follow-up observations by Perkins. Many of the case studies highlighted the concepts in NSBA’s The Key Work of School Boards, which outlines the roles and responsibilities of school boards.

One scenario raised by Perkins involved a superintendent search that had gone bad—with controversy arising over the school board’s favored candidate.

After listening to a variety of responses shared by the audience, Perkins noted that there was no right or wrong answer about the best course of action—but he seized upon one apparent lapse of the hypothetical school board: “Where are the people in this scenario? What we are missing, first and foremost, is we didn’t have the community involvement.

It might be hard for board members to accept, but some of the controversy may be a consequence of the community’s concerns about the board’s behind-the-scenes work. It might be time for that board to step back and admit its mistake: “We’re late, but at least we’re saying … the message is … we value the community’s input here.”

Such mistakes happen, Perkins noted. School boards have to accept that they’re going to lose sight of the real issues. With so much to do—an so much “noise” surrounding their work—board members can focus on the details rather than the big picture. “A lot of times we find ourselves treating the symptoms and not treating the problems.”

Another scenario debated by school leaders involved a newly elected board member who decided to observe a teacher’s classroom and write up a lengthy evaluation—and demanded the principal take action against the teacher.

Asked by Perkins how they would respond to such a situation, his audience offered a variety of thoughts: Some board members suggested sitting down the offending board member and explaining the proper roles and responsibilities involved in board governance. Others suggested a letter of reprimand. One board member suggested, if still a teacher, she would have thrown the board member out of her classroom.

One thought, Perkins suggested, was that the board look at its orientation for new board members—and whether it has a clear policy on board visits to a school.

“This could be just one of those things … [a board member] probably well intentioned but clueless,” he said. “We just don’t know the real story, but we do know where the lines should be drawn.”

The workshop was prologue to the CUBE Summer Issues Seminar, scheduled July 26-28 at Teachers College, Perkins said. As part of the seminar, Perkins and his colleagues will lead a CUBE Leadership Academy in organizational leadership, using similar case studies to help board members learn how to lead organizational change in their districts.

Del Stover|April 21st, 2012|Categories: Key Work of School Boards, NSBA Annual Conference 2012|

NSBA, AASA leaders look back, ahead

The relationship between school boards and the superintendents they hire is continuously evolving, with built-in opportunities for issues to be fruitful, fractious, or both. But the leaders of the two national organizations serving these groups believe working together is more critical than ever.

Anne L. Bryant, National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) executive director, and Dan Domenech, who holds the same position for the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), discussed board/superintendent relations and many other topics during a 60-minute session at AASA’s annual conference in Houston.

The annual session originally was titled “The Changing Nature of School Board Governance and Leadership,” but the AASA audiences knew it would be another edition of “The Dan and Anne Show.” (Billing is reversed at NSBA’s conference.) And while that changing landscape was covered during the 60 minutes, the informal conversation also served as an overview of Bryant’s NSBA career.

Bryant, who was the executive director of the American Association of University Women prior to coming to NSBA, said she is proudest of three things during a 16-year tenure that will end with her retirement in September:

The Key Work of School Boards, an eight-part framework for governance launched in 1999.

• The creation of the Center for Public Education, created in 2006 to “translate research that’s not Democrat, not Republican, not spin, but telling the truth in public education.”

• The organization’s advocacy work on Capitol Hill. “We have a strong lobbying team,” she said. “When we send out an alert and 6,000 to 8,000 school board members e-mail their members of Congress, that’s power. And we need that grassroots advocacy now.”

Both Bryant and Domenech expressed concerns with Congress’ failure to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act as well as increased “federal intrusion” into local schools.

“It’s awful. It’s terrible,” Bryant said of the politics that have seeped into public education since she came to NSBA in 1996. “It’s gone from bantering to bickering, from back slapping to back stabbing, and there’s a meaner sense out there. … On my pessimistic days I wonder if we’ll ever get a good reauthorization of ESEA. On my good days, I think we might.”

Domenech agreed with Bryant that “clearly we’re at a point where politics is doing more harm than good.”

“A lot has to do with the fact that the politicians who are trying to lead the charge of education reform are not focusing on the very things they value,” said Domenech, who was superintendent of school districts in New York and Virginia prior to coming to AASA in 2008.

Other highlights from the session:

• Bryant discussed her interview with the search committee, which was seeking a successor to Thomas A. Shannon. “I said I wanted to know if they were an organization that was about defending school boards or an organization that wants to make school boards more effective, and they asked me to leave the room,” she said.

“When I was asked to come back in the room, the committee members said, ‘We’ve been an organization about defending school boards. We want to be an organization that’s about effective school board governance.’ And the board has never waivered from that. They have been absolutely committed to the concept of effective governance, and that is what has driven me and driven our board.”

• After taking the job, Bryant met with state association executive directors, presidents, the NSBA staff and board of directors. She also met with executive directors for the various education organizations that are based in the Washington, D.C. area.

“I wanted to know why school board members run for office, what keeps them there, what motivates them, what keeps them satisfied, and it became clear after hundreds of conversations that they cared deeply about student achievement,” she said. “They really wanted to talk about student achievement.”

She recalled talking to Paul Houston, AASA’s former executive director, after the Key Work’s release, noting that he pulled together ten superintendents to work on creating a section of the guidebook that focused on the board/superintendent roles in creating a vision for districts.

• Collective bargaining can be one of the most contentious issues for school boards and superintendents. Bryant, noting that each state is different, said she is “very proud of how our state school boards associations have gone out on a limb and taken a lead role on this issue.”

“There is a fine line between protecting the jobs of teachers and some of the protections that were hurting education,” she said. “There’s a different culture in every state, and what we’ve got to focus on … is collective bargaining for student achievement.”

• Domenech noted that AASA was founded in 1865 — 75 years before NSBA — and “for many, many years was the only game in town.” Today, both executives are active in the Learning First Alliance, an organization of 16 education associations that meets monthly to discuss key issues affecting K-12 public schools.

“There’s this growing sense that there needs to be a voice for public education,” Bryant said. “We’re trying to do it, very often very individually, but we don’t have the resources that unfortunately that the critics of public education seem to have and bring to the table. It’s so important to come together and speak with one voice. We have to do more of that.”

Both Bryant and Domenech, who will have one more segment of this show at NSBA’s annual conference in April in Boston, said they are looking forward to a merged conference between the two organizations starting in 2013.

“I think it will be important,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to show that our organizations are in sync and working to make sure the board and superintendent see itself as a team.”

Glenn Cook|February 20th, 2012|Categories: Center for Public Education, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Programs, Key Work of School Boards, School Boards|Tags: , , |

Common Core ‘flying under the radar’

Roberta Stanley, NSBA’s director of federal affairs, has had a long career in public education, and she knows many key players at the state and federal levels. So when she says something is “flying under the radar” — as she did Monday at the Federal Relations Network (FRN) Conference when referring to the Common Core State Standards Initiative – she knows what she’s talking about.

In case the signal you’ve been receiving is a little faint, here are some basics, which Stanley provided at her National Issues session: the Common Core State Standards were released in the summer of 2010 and are, at current count, being adopted by 47 states and the District of Columbia. Internationally benchmarked and designed to be clearer and more rigorous than the patchwork of state standards, the standards are scheduled to be implemented, complete with new computerized assessment systems, by the 2014-15.

While Stanley thinks that date might be overly ambitious, she said the important point is that a big change is coming to K-12 standards and assessments. For the most part, these are good changes, designed by some of the nation’s best experts in the field, she added. It’s just that not a lot of people know about them.

But school board members should. In fact, as Stanley put it, now is no time to “wait for the state” to come up with policies and curricula that align with the Common Core. Among the steps districts should be taking now:

# Partner with local colleges and universities for professional development, curriculum alignment. Information sharing, and the sharing of placement tests.

# Survey local businesses on what they think about the Common Core and what they feel high school and colleges graduates need to know,

# Reach out the members of the community for their ideas

#Check national updates, such as those from NSBA’s Center for Education Policy.

The standards released in 2010 included math and language arts. In addition, 26 lead states are working with Achieve, the National Science Teachers Association, the National Research Council, and other groups on common science standards.

Lawrence Hardy|February 6th, 2012|Categories: Assessment, FRN Conference 2012, Governance, Key Work of School Boards|Tags: |
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