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The Role of School Boards

The local school board is a critical public link to public schools. Whether elected or appointed, school board members serve their communities in several important ways.

  • First and foremost school boards look out for students. Education is not a line item on the school board’s agenda—it is the only item.
  • When making decisions about school programs, school boards incorporate their community’s view of what students should know and be able to do.
  • School boards are accessible to the public and accountable for the performance of their schools.
  • School boards are the education watchdog for their communities, ensuring that students get the best education for the tax dollars spent.

Below we provide information that builds public understanding about the roles and responsibilities of school boards. It also provides materials and links to information identifying qualities of effective school boards that are successful where it counts—the achievement of their students.

What makes an effective school board?

Iowa Lighthouse Project. A multi-year, multi-state research initiative of the Iowa Association of School Boards that identifies the characteristics of effective school boards.

The Key Work of School Boards. A framework developed by the National School Boards Association identifies eight essential key action areas that focus and guide schools boards in their efforts to improve student achievement.

Five Characteristics of an Effective School Board. Today, the relevance of school boards is dependent on doing what matters.  This article outlines five characteristics identified by a panel of educators and corroborated by experience.

More reading

School Boards at the Dawn of the 21st Century (PDF). Results from a 2002 national survey of U.S. school board members by Frederick Hess, School of Education and Department of Government, University of Virginia.

Local School Boards: Reflections of American Democracy.  An essay by NSBA lobbyist and former school board member, Reginald Felton.

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