What is the role of a school board, and how can they help improve student achievement?
It’s a question that was asked by many during the election period last year, as Chilliwack voters were faced with a list of 17 potential trustees. Now, the B.C. School Trustee Association have answered that query in the latest issue of their newsletter, The Education Leader.
In an essay titled ‘Student Success: Boards of Education Can Make a Difference,’ the BCSTA reminds the reader that legislation states: “A board is responsible for the improvement of student achievement in the school district”.
“Beyond responsibility, it turns out that there is considerable evidence that boards of education can and do positively affect student success and well-being.”
It highlights some of the work that the board and district staff have been doing in the Sea to Sky School District (48). That district began developing a strategic plan in 2013 meant to “inspire and guide great learning.”
Their efforts resulted in a push toward nearly a 100 per cent six-year graduation rate, including a 95.3 per cent aboriginal grad rate.
Dan Coulter, Chilliwack’s board chair, said the district has had Sea to Sky’s superintendent of schools come to talk to them in regards to strategic plans, guiding visions and principles.
“That’s what we’re trying to do and we need to get a good buy-in to the strategic plan,” he told The Progress. “They (SD 48) have a team working together.”
Coulter said they have been busy crafting a strategic plan, and those are presented by the superintendent and assistant superintendent regularly at board meetings.
“Our strategic plan is a good strategic plan,” he said. “It is that kind of a document, where staff is always reporting back to us. We do have some new trustees, and we need everyone to have buy-in to the strategic plan.”
The BCSTA’s report also states that the most important job a board can do well is the hiring of its superintendent.
“It’s the board’s only employee,” Coulter explained. “You need to be able to trust the superintendent; they’re executing the strategic plan, and most of the information flows from the superintendent.”
The BCSTA reports that effective boards of education:
• Commit to a vision of high expectations and high-quality instruction for all learners and align district goals towards that vision.
• Share strong beliefs about what is possible for students and their ability to learn and the system’s ability to teach all children at high levels.
• Spend more time focused on policies to improve student learning.
• Commit to collaborative relationships and actively engaging staff and the community in the goal of improving student achievement.
• Expect evidence and embrace data, even when negative, to continue to strive for continuous improvement.
• Align and sustain resources, especially professional development, to meet district goals.
• Lead as a united team across the district with strong collaboration and mutual trust.
• Actively engage in their own learning to build shared knowledge, values and commitments.
To read the full report, visit the BCSTA online.