What Should School Boards Focus on?

Do Alaska school boards contractually require school superintendents to improve learning? And what is the recourse when that does not happen?

The immediate reaction to the question regarding what should school boards focus on is probably students and their achievement.  But how much time do Alaska school boards spend on assessing and improving student achievement?  If one reviews the agenda of the Anchorage School Board, one will note that the majority of time is spent on finances, budget, school bonds and other items not directly related to improving student achievement.  Who is accountable for improving student achievement?  The school board?  The district superintendent?

The ASD does have a Six-Year Instructional Plan which is the “Destination 2020” plan.  This plan if fairly comprehensive but the “how” to achieve these goals needs to be more detailed and the “what if we don’t meet the goals” remedial action needs to be addressed as well.  ASD and other Alaska school boards are not alone when it comes to not focusing enough attention on the real mission of education-ensuring each student reaches maximum potential according to his/her abilities.  Here is an article from Brookings: Brown Center Chalkboard titled “School Superintendents have no Contractual Obligation to Improve Learning:

“The framers of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) predicted that transparency would spotlight effective educational practices, encouraging less effective public schools and school systems to copy their more successful peers. The transition from NCLB to ESSA is a good time to reflect on why the former brought only modest change.

We do not discount other factors, but argue that just as Congress is the keystone of the Washington establishment, school boards are the keystone of public education. School boards have considerable power over their local school systems, which they may choose to exercise in matters real or symbolic. Some evidence suggests that where boards focus on academics, students learn more. This motivates our question, do school boards use their power to promote student learning?”

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