School Boards Circa 2010: Governance in the Accountability Era
School Boards Circa 2010: Governance in the Accountability Era is a groundbreaking report released in February 2011 by the National School Boards Association (NSBA), the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, and the Iowa School Boards Foundation (ISBF) that gives new insights into the workings of America’s nearly 14,000 school boards.
School Boards Circa 2010: Governance in the Accountability Era is the first comprehensive national survey of school boards in nearly a decade. It provides national data on who serves on school boards, what board members think about a number of school reform initiatives, how they do their work, how school board elections are carried out, and the nature of the relationship between the school board and the superintendent.
The report, authored by researchers Frederick Hess and Olivia Meeks of the American Enterprise Institute, compiles responses of more than 1,000 school board members and superintendents from all types of school districts—urban, suburban, and rural.
Among the report’s findings:
• Two-thirds of those surveyed see an urgent need to improve student achievement, and nine out of 10 are concerned about an overly narrow focus on achievement.
• School board members and superintendents have similar goals for preparing their students for college, the workplace, and, above all, "a satisfying and productive life."
• School board members, especially those in large districts, are more representative of the communities they serve than state legislatures and members of Congress. Boards now include women (44 percent are female) at more than twice the rate of the U.S. House Representatives (17.5 percent) and Senate (17 percent). In large districts, 21.8 percent of school boards members surveyed were African-American and six percent were Latino.
• School board members tend to be well educated—nearly 75 percent of members surveyed hold at least a bachelor’s degree—and most describe their political views as ideologically moderate. Only 17.6 percent have ever been affiliated with a teachers union.
• A major concern for school board members is dealing with the economic downturn and decline in local real estate values and state revenues. More than two-thirds of board members ranked their funding and economic situations as extremely urgent.
• More than 88 percent of board members report that they almost always or often turn to their superintendents to get information to make decisions, giving the superintendent a crucial role.
Hess previously collaborated with NSBA on the release of School Boards at the Dawn of the 21st Century in 2002. This survey builds on some of that data but also provides more extensive research about the inner workings of school boards as they focus on accountability and student learning.