Dr. David Lee Receives Publication of Research

Research by Dr. David Lee, associate professor of educational leadership at The University of Southern Mississippi, and his research team have linked the behavior of school boards with student achievement in their districts. This ground-breaking study suggests that school board behavior does matter, and if gains are to be made in low performing districts, behaviors must change at the board level. Lee will make a presentation on his team’s work to the National School Boards Association Annual Convention in April. He offers his assessments of what has been examined so far through the study in the following article.

School boards have been virtually overlooked from recent sweeping accountability movements. Much is expected of school districts, individual schools, teachers, and administrators, but those who potentially most impact the quality of a school system, in regard to policy, seem to have been almost ignored.  Unfortunately, sometimes school boards actually hinder and become barriers, thus preventing meaningful school change in a district.  This could be related to board members’ political and personal agendas or because collectively, as a governance team, members are ineffective at knowing and making quality decisions. 

Our research team has observed more than 150 school board meetings across the country.  The purpose was to see how boards operated in both low and high performing school systems.  There was a big difference in the way boards in high performing systems conducted their board meetings and what they focused on. They followed their agendas, did not cave in to special interest groups, focused on student achievement and instruction, set clear expectations on learner outcomes, paid greater attention to the curriculum and received frequent updates from their superintendent on academic progress. They focused on what was taught and how it was taught.