Driven by Data

Board Governance of Academic Performance (Part 1)

As recommended by Education Board Partners in Standards for Effective Charter School Governance, the top priority of effective boards should be to ‘focus relentlessly on student achievement.’ Schools are in the business of providing top-notch education to students, and school boards should prioritize this principle in their work.

Board Governance Structure 

Within most school boards, common committees include a Finance Committee, Facilities Committee, Executive Committee, Development Committee, and Strategic Planning Committee. These committees tend to be popular because board members often come from professional backgrounds with transferrable experience in these areas. 

If a school is truly focused on academic performance and results, they often have a School Performance or Academic Committee as well. One can argue that this committee is the most essential since academic achievement is often the core mission of many schools. Despite this fact, schools struggle to fill this committee or even establish altogether.

The common responsibilities of this group are to

  • establish and monitor school performance goals
  • hold school leadership accountable for student achievement, and
  • assist in the broader education of the board on academic progress.

This governing body often includes school leader(s) or board members with former educational or data/research backgrounds. The existence of the School Performance or Academic Committee is often a marker of high-performing boards / schools / networks.

The National Charter School Resource Center provides an overview of the responsibilities of a School Performance Committee in Toolkit for Board Members.

Committee and Board Meeting Planning 

Once the Academic committee is established, it is critical to create a calendar for reporting on and reviewing school performance. Like most committees, this group will meet during a specified period of the month in advance of a board meeting to discuss relevant school performance data that might be reviewed at an upcoming meeting. The chart below provides a common list of topics often covered throughout the year related to school performance.

The development of a calendar should factor in other committee topics and critical events of the year. At a minimum, strong boards have a check-in on school performance quarterly or incorporate an update into each month’s meeting for consistency, which we will discuss further in Part 2 next week. We will cover common metrics that boards should monitor and visualizations that can help boards easily understand the student performance data.

[This post contributed by Dan Wick, Regional Data Manager (NY).]