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School districts see better results when school board members have an academic focus

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Elle Moxley
KCUR 89.3
A 2014 study found that individual school board members can come from various backgrounds, but those more focused on academic achievement contribute to a district's chances of outperforming others with similar demographics.

A 2014 analysis pinpoints the characteristics of individual school board members that improve a district's chances of outperforming similar districts.

A school board's makeup affects the educational outcomes of a district, says Arnold Shober, professor of government at Lawrence University.

In a 2014 study, "Does School Board Leadership Matter?", Shober and his coauthor found that half of board members around the nation were focused on academics. The other half took a more "whole child" approach, prioritizing factors such as "love, support, encouragement." The districts with academically focused school board members got better test scores.

Other characteristics that are favorable to a district's performance are board members who are selected in on-cycle elections and are informed about things like district finances and class size.

One disappointing discovery according to Shober was that board members who had served as long-time teachers or administrators "were not actually very good at assessing kind of where their district really was."

  • Arnold Shober, professor of government at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin.
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