Our time working in the trenches has taught us that high-performing charter organizations are set apart from others because of their strong Board-CEO partnership, engaged trustees, effective meetings, and keen focus on results. When boards and CEOs work together to accomplish these, they are able to strategically manage the various resources of their charter organization to achieve long-term academic results. Additionally, these boards are able to grow, sustain, and replicate.
BoardOnTrack was thrilled to see that the recent study published by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, released on September 29, 2016, corroborated these findings; we were even more thrilled that they cited our work building strong boards and a national community. In the foreword to the study, they noted, “Outfits like…BoardOnTrack help build strong boards by assembling rosters of talented individuals whose skill sets are matched to particular schools and boards in need of them. They figure out who might best contribute to and mesh with existing school and board leadership and provide them with ongoing professional development.”
Co-written by a charter school founder and board member, the study, entitled “Charter School Boards in the Nation’s Capital,” is the first analysis to strictly study board members. Its focus is to give insight into the actions and practices of high-quality boards in Washington, D.C. so that boards around the nation can work towards implementing similar practices and propelling their board towards success and sustainability.
After analyzing the charter boards in D.C., the key findings of the study state:
- Charter board members in D.C. tend to be affluent and well-educated. The study discovered that only 4% of D.C. board members did not graduate from a 4-year institution and 79% had an advanced degree. Board members were said to be successful, civic-minded, and education oriented. A large percentage of board members were liberal or moderate in terms of political views. 51% of board members reported earnings of over $200,000 per year. A slight majority of members were white and one-third were African-American. One-third work in, or have worked in, education. 50% of board members have served for 2 years or less.
- Board members of high-quality charter schools are more knowledgeable about their schools. These board members have a better understanding of school finance and their school’s financial outlook, teacher pay, class size, collective bargaining, performance rating, and demographics, among other factors. 79% of survey responders were able to choose the correct tier rating for their school.
- Board members of high-quality schools are more likely to participate in training, engage in strategic planning, and meet monthly. Specific training, such as learning to develop a school budget or learning how to comply with legal and policy issues, equates to a higher quality school. Additionally, schools which give their board members training in professional development also foster board member growth and are linked to higher academic student achievement.
- Board members of high-quality schools are more likely than their peers to evaluate their school leaders. In these evaluations, board members are also more likely to use staff satisfaction as a factor.
- Charter school board members have a lot in common, regardless of the tier of the school that they are in. This study found that high-quality board members share an understanding of the school’s financial practices, have similar beliefs about academic achievement, and understand their roles and responsibilities as board members. They are also involved in monitoring their own performance, holding effective meetings on a regularly scheduled basis, and share the same priorities.
We could not agree more with these findings, especially when it comes to the importance of training, evaluation, and knowledge leading to high-quality board members. Much of what BoardOnTrack tries to share with others is predicated on the idea that Knowledge + Actions = Results. The addition of quality training for boards promotes and accelerates excellent governance practices. Simply put, sustainable systems are built from a mix of training and tools.
If you would like to learn more about the best governance practices of strong boards, or if you would like to assess your board’s knowledge of and alignment with these best practices, you might also be interested in our free board assessment and/or our trustee skills inventory and recruitment planner.
About the Thomas B. Fordham Institute:
Both the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the researchers who work there are known as experts when it comes to research about academic excellence. According to their website, “The Thomas B. Fordham Institute is the nation’s leader in advancing educational excellence for every child through quality research, analysis, and commentary, as well as on-the-ground action and advocacy in Ohio. It is affiliated with the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation.” Many studies completed by the nonprofit educational policy think tank seek to promote excellence for children by analyzing and identifying issues in the current state of education reform. By noting those problems, the Institute hopes that they, and others, will be able to advocate for helpful practices and policies to strengthen our nation’s educational system. For further information, please visit their website at www.edexcellence.net .