Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

The Editor's Page: Boards Gone Awry

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

The Editor's Page: Boards Gone Awry

Article excerpt

I have to resist the urge to jump up on my desk and scream when I think about school boards.

I used to serve on my local school board. During meetings that dragged on for hours, I often kept track of how many minutes--minutes!--the board discussed teaching and learning. It was not comforting.

At some meetings, the board spent far more time talking about doors and windows than what went on inside those doors and windows. Setting clear goals for student learning was never on the agenda during the years I served my local district.

Shame on me--and shame on us. Too often, American school boards--the first layer of accountability in our system--have avoided making student learning their priority and have not steered school districts in the direction of high performance.

The most egregious example of school boards gone awry has been the inability, or perhaps refusal, of local schools to close the learning gap between white students and students of color. That local failure created an opening for state and federal governments to assert more and more authority over school operations. If local officials had done their jobs, then state and federal officials could never have mustered the political support for such control.

Of course, teachers and administrators bear some responsibility for achievement gaps. However, school boards exist to provide the oversight to ensure that tax dollars are spent well in the service of student learning. Period. There is no other reason for them to exist. When school boards fail in that responsibility, they jeopardize the entire structure of local control and make all districts vulnerable to control by others. …

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