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What’s an Academic Excellence Committee?

Academics are at the very heart of your organization, and your board is focused on ensuring nothing short of excellence.  

The Academic Excellence Committee is absolutely essential to providing the necessary level of support and oversight required to successfully govern a multimillion-dollar public organization.

Key Responsibilities of an Academic Excellence Committee

The committee’s primary responsibilities are to:

  • Ensure that the full board and the CEO have a shared vision of academic excellence and a clear road map to achieve it
  • Ensure that all trustees understand the academic promises in the charter and accountability plan — and how well the organization is performing against those promises
  • Educate the full board to conduct proper oversight of the academic program

Sample Academic Excellence Committee Goals and Tasks

As with any committee, your Academic Excellence Committee’s work should be organized around goals and tasks.

One of your committee’s primary goals might be:

Develop a process to educate and train the full board on proper academic oversight by March 1st. submit growth plan to authorizer by March 1st deadline.

And, to ensure you meet that goal, you might assign specific committee members the following tasks:

    1. CEO and leadership align on key academic indicators of success.
    2. Chief Academic Officer {CAO} drafts presentation outlining the academic vision of excellence and key indicators of success.
    3. Committee reviews presentation at its next committee meeting and discuss training/education plan.
    4. CAO and committee chair reserve time on next month’s board meeting agenda for training.

Best Practices for Making Your Academic Excellence Committee a Success

Understand the role and functions of this committee.

The main purpose of the academic excellence committee is to measure the academic results of the organization against the goals established in the organization’s charter, accountability plan, and annual CEO goals.

In one sense, the Academic Excellence Committee is similar to the Finance Committee. Both exist to monitor performance against stated goals. For the Finance Committee, this means measuring financial results against the budgeted goals. For the Academic Excellence Committee, this means measuring organizational outcomes against stated goals for metrics such as:

  • performance on state tests,
  • performance on nationally normed standardized tests (e.g., the TerraNova, SAT 10, etc.)
  • performance on interim assessments (e.g., Achievement Network tests, the STEP, the DIBELS, or interim assessments created by the school).

In addition, this committee may look at budgets to actuals on metrics such as attendance, student and staff retention, and family and staff satisfaction surveys.

Focus on outputs rather than inputs.

One of the biggest pitfalls for Academic Excellence Committees is to engage over inputs—the means by which the organization pursues its mission, rather than outcomes — the objective data used to assess how well the organization is meeting its mission.

Inputs are management-level issues, which should be handled by the CEO.

Outputs are what the board should be focused on and governing towards.

The best Academic Excellence Committees help CEOs set clear goals for the year, by building on outcomes that are related to the mission. They then set up check-ins throughout the year, at which they meet with the CEO to monitor progress towards those goals.

Your committee members don’t have to be educators.

While it can be useful for some members of the Academic Excellence Committee to have a background in education, it is by no means necessary in order to participate meaningfully.

Many effective Academic Excellence Committees don’t have educators on the committee.

We find that the key functions of the committee — helping the CEO to set ambitious goals and then monitoring data to assess progress towards those goals — are often well met by people with strong analytical skills. These people need not be educators.

The best Academic Excellence Committee members are those who are very analytical, are great at digesting data and asking good questions, and do not have to have an academic background.

Keep your focus on board-level work; not management level.

Academic Excellence Committees should not be involved in management-level work like:

  • evaluating teachers
  • selecting, designing, or reviewing the quality of curricula
  • planning professional development for teachers
  • interacting with teachers or other staff members on a regular basis (i.e., daily or weekly)
  • interacting with families or students on a regular basis (i.e., daily or weekly)
  • presenting themselves as an outlet for staff, family, or student complaints or concerns that have not first been formally addressed to the CEO

Your organization strives for academic excellence. Having a strategic Academic Excellence Committee in place provides the necessary support for optimal growth.

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