January is “School Board Recognition Month.” This is an excellent time to show your community how your board and your school district are working to improve student achievement.
School boards support student achievement by focusing on: vision, standards, assessment, accountability, alignment, climate, collaborative relationships and continuous improvement. Through their actions in these eight areas, school boards place student achievement at the center of what they do while engaging educators and community members.
District staff and board members may want to use School Board Recognition Month to underscore the value of public schools, the issues they face, and the importance of board involvement in resolving those issues. Use the following suggestions to engage your community and educate the public about the work of the school board.
The Key Work of School Boards
- Create district and community consensus on achievement objectives.
- Clearly define expectations for what students should know and be able to do.
- Quantify those expectations and set agreed-upon measures for achievement.
- Alert the Chamber of Commerce and local service clubs about School Board Recognition Month and encourage them to recognize school board members during their regular January meetings and in their organization newsletters. Send each group a copy of the district’s strategic plan and annual goals, along with a brief explanation of the school board’s role in developing this vision of student achievement for your community. Take these opportunities to invite the members of these groups to become involved in their comprehensive planning process.
- Ask the county or city governing body to declare January “School Board Recognition Month” in your community. Use the signing of the proclamation as a chance to publicize the board’s leadership role in telling the community about the clear expectations for high student achievement.
- Kick off a series of community forums about your school district. Use the eight areas that make up the key work of school boards as the topics for the forums.
- Recognize the school board for their efforts to engage the entire community in a comprehensive planning process for the school district that has student achievement as the top priority.
- Establish clear standards for student performance and communicate them continually.
- Base standards on an external source that has credibility in the community.
- Disseminate standards clearly and widely to students, staff and community.
- Write a series of articles for district and school newsletters which clearly explain the board’s standards for student performance. Express appreciation to board members for working to understand state and national mandates, to researching what people in your community expect from the schools, and to determining what students should know and be able to do at key points in their school careers.
- During a school board meeting, arrange for several students from a variety of grades to demonstrate to the board how they are meeting district standards.
- Prepare displays for each school building, the central district office and other public places throughout your community, showing the district’s standards for student performance, how students are doing in relation to those standards, and the steps taken by the school board to ensure that the standards relate to state and national norms.
- Tie assessments are to established standards.
- Use multiple, ongoing assessment measures.
- Explain assessments to the community.
- Encourage your local news media (newspapers, radio stations and television stations) to interview school board members for special stories during School Board Recognition Month. Provide information about the key role of school boards and suggest that reporters and editors discuss with board members how schools measure student achievement in your district.
- Use reader boards to proclaim how well students are doing in your schools.
- Create a brochure with board members’ pictures, profiles and an invitation for comments or questions. Include an explanation of the district’s assessment program; describe how the board uses the results to make decisions for the district. Tell people how they can become involved.
- Measure the performance of all school staff members, administrators and the school board itself against student achievement objectives.
- Continually track progress and publicize the results.
- Make a special effort to introduce board members at school functions during January. At each function, reiterate the board’s determination to be accountable to the community, what efforts the board has made to track students’ progress, and where people can read the results of those efforts.
- Distribute to each board member written comments from students about their school and the school district.
- Schedule school board members to speak to social studies classes studying local government about how a school board governs a school district.
- Align resources to ensure students meet standards.
- Include the community in the review of the district’s budget and management process.
- Ensure that resources support parents in helping their children with schoolwork.
- Create a climate that supports the philosophy that all children can learn at high levels.
- Empower staff to meet the needs of all students.
- Model mutual respect and professional behavior in school board meetings and with the school district superintendent and staff.
- Build collaborative relationships with political and business leaders to develop a coalition that advocates for student success.
- Communicate regularly with federal and state officials about student achievement.
- Model behavior that emphasizes trust, teamwork and shared accountability.
- Encourage businesses to sponsor radio public service announcements acknowledging the work of the school board and the ways the board collaborates with groups in the community to support student achievement.
- Invite local elected officials and other community leaders to an “after-work” reception for the school board. Encourage board members to mingle with the crowd and to invite people to join with them in working on student achievement issues.
- Commit to continuous education and training on issues related to achievement.
- Use data on student achievement to set priorities for allocating resources.
- Adjust your strategic plan on the basis of data and community input.
- Arrange for board members to participate in radio or television talk shows to discuss district successes and planned improvements. Ask the host to remind listeners that January is “School Board Recognition Month.”