The academic board committee for public charter schools serve a very important role. Not only are they responsible for academic oversight of the school; but they are also responsible for being a high-performing academic board committee. In visiting public charter school boards across North Carolina, I rarely meet board members that feel they are obtaining academic oversight satisfaction. The most common roadblock in this area for boards are that they can’t figure out what their actual role in academics is supposed to be. Let’s explore effective tips for high-performing academic boards and how best they can serve the charter school they govern.
While it is common to find boards that have a retired teacher or principal as members, it is certainly more likely to find people with skill sets and career backgrounds in areas like real estate, accounting, law, and other fields too. Board members gravitate toward tasks that match their strengths such as budget oversight, policy review, and development planning. Many of these tasks are beyond the scope of school personnel but are important areas for the board to exercise their expertise.
So, what really is the most important responsibility of the Board? It is to ensure that students are learning! So how is a public charter school Board that is mostly or completely comprised of non-educators supposed to govern the academic excellence of the school? They need to understand and take action on five tenets of academic oversight for high performing public charter school boards.
Academic Oversight: A High-Performing Board
A high performing board must understand that they are responsible for ensuring that all students are learning at their highest level. That means, regular classroom instruction is strong, there are systems in place to accelerate students that work ahead, remedial services available for those who need extra help.
The board also should agree upon goals for academics and understand how the school will use data to measure academic progress. The End of Grade (EOG) and End of Course (EOC) data is not enough for a school to make decisions throughout the school year that will impact students. The data that the teachers gather may not make sense to a non-educator, but the board can ensure that the data is being used to drive instruction, intervention, and curricular decision making.
Finally, the board must work together with the lead administrator to understand the resources needed by staff to serve all students. If you build your budget by spending the most money on what is most important, the Board should always think of academic needs first.
Four Questions Every Board Member Should Answer
While every board member does not have to be an expert in the field of education, they do need to have a baseline understanding of how their school approaches educating its students. Every board member should be able to answer a few important questions about the school’s academic plan. As a board member, you should be able to talk to your community about what sets your school apart. It is important to know the special programs that your school uses to boost performance, monitor progress, and provide enriching daily instruction.
Understanding the School Report Card
The School Report Card grade is based on performance on standardized tests taken at the end of specific grades and courses.
There are End of Grade (EOG) and End of Course (EOC) tests in reading and math in grades 3-8, science in grades 5 and 8, and in high school for Math 1 (usually 9th grade), English 2 (usually in 10th grade), and Biology (usually in 10th or 11th grade).
The proficiency figure depicts the percent of students that scored at or above grade level . For example, if the school delivers 100 total EOG tests, and 60 of those tests are graded at a Level 3, 4, or 5, then the school is 60% proficient.
The other measure that contributes to the School Report Card is growth. Growth is calculated by assigning a change in percentile rank for each student from one year to the next. For example, a student that scores in the 40th percentile one year, then scores in the 50th percentile the next year contributes positive growth to the school’s overall growth score.
When all of the students’ individual growth scores on all of the EOG and EOC tests are added together, the result is a raw growth score, which is then converted to a growth score between 50 and 100.
Growth and Proficiency Relationships
The board is responsible for hiring, supporting and evaluating the school leader they put in place to implement the mission and vision of the school. Additionally, they are responsible for verifying that the systems they are using to meet academic needs are producing results that match the board’s goals. If there is a gap between the goals and the results, this guide can help ask the right questions to get the plan back on track.
Structuring Your Board’s Academic Committee
It is every board member’s responsibility to ensure that the highest level of learning is occurring at their school. A committee of the most qualified board members, school staff, and outside partners should meet each month to discuss the school’s academic progress. On your board’s outcomes based calendar (click HERE to download the template), the board should expect its Academic Committee to present to the full board at least quarterly.
Ultimately, the board’s role in the academic excellence of the school is to set and monitor progress towards academic goals. By following these guidelines, any board member can contribute to the academic excellence of their organization by having enough background information, asking the right questions, and understanding the responsibilities of the school operations team.
This blog was written by Leaders Building Leaders consultant Geoff Gorski, a former charter school principal and teacher, and current charter school dad. Please email Geoff@leaders-building-leaders.com for a free 60-minute consultation to discuss and develop your Board’s approach to academic governance. Click Here to visit our virtual Board development workshop.