The true power of school boards resides in their ability to craft and adopt reform policies. Policies are the “law” of a school district. Compliance policies are often designed to comply with the state or federal or local laws and to create stability within a school system. The beauty of policies is that they are hard to pass and hard to change, usually requiring several public readings in either case.
Reform policies are those that are designed to drive change, just the opposite of compliance policies. Most school districts have zero—yes, 0—reform policies. Instead, boards across the country vote to approve programs that commit the district to massive expenditures and changes of direction. These programs can easily be changed by a new administration or change in leadership because they are not in school district “law”.
Reform policies focus on improving student achievement. These policies might make clear how much of the curriculum content is required for all children and how much is left to a local school or teacher to decide. Reform policies might also direct the hiring, qualifications, training, and staffing of teachers across the school system.
At the Center for Reform of School Systems (CRSS), we believe that school board training is required for boards to understand the importance of reform policies and develop the skills to direct such policies.
Together, with a reform-minded superintendent who will actually turn reform direction by the board into reform policies, school boards can exercise one of their most important roles.