New study examines school board leadership

Mar 27, 2014

A national study released by the Fordham Institute in Washington takes a look at school boards. The study titled Does School Board Leadership Matter? determined if local school board member’s focus on academic improvement is likelier to "beat the odds" in classroom performance.

As part of our Focus on Education reporting, WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley finds the study surveyed 900 school board members in more than 400 districts.

"A lot of folks will say, you know, the only thing that matters to teaching and learning is what happens inside the classroom, and that is certainly where the rubber meets the road, but it turns out folks who are overseeing school systems do matter, " said Michael Petrilli, executive vice president at the Fordham Institute. 

Fordham Institute study on school board leaders.
Credit Photo from the Fordham Institute

This study looked at how well school board members know their districts. The study found that board members knowledge about their district when it comes to finances, teacher pay, and collective bargaining and class size don't always have enough knowledge about the academic standards. 

"And if they are more focused on raising student achievement they tend to get higher student achievement. Now that might seem like common sense, but the problem is there are many school board members who have other things they are focused on," said Petrilli.           

And Petrilli noted that focus is often on politics when an individual is seeking a school board seat.

"Getting jobs for people they know, building a political resume because they want to run for higher office," noted Petrilli.                      

Petrilli said boards dysfunction boards that fight with a superintendent it will stand in the way of what is happening in the classrooms.

"So we have to make sure, first and foremost, that we get people elected to these boards who are focused on doing right by kids," said Petrilli.

Petrilli said district's need to focus on the best and brightest of a city, town or village for their school boards.