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Poll Finds School Chiefs Lukewarm on School Boards
Education Week
By: Lesli Maxwell
October 01, 2013

Most of the nation’s superintendents do not issue strong approval ratings when it comes to judging the ability of school boards to govern districts, according to new results from a Gallup/Education Week survey.

While school district chiefs were more likely to express confidence in their own school boards’ success at governing, only a small sliver—just 2 percent—said they strongly agree that districts across the nation are effectively governed at the board level.

“These are our most visible, vocal school leaders coming out to say we could definitely do better with our boards,” said Brandon Busteed, the executive director of Gallup’s education division. “School boards are reviewing superintendents, everyone is reviewing teachers, but no one is really reviewing boards, or having conversations about the need to have really competent governing boards.”

While school boards in some districts are appointed by mayors or governors, most board members are elected by local voters. One of their main duties is to hire superintendents.

The Web survey, done between June and July of this year, drew responses from 1,169 district chiefs.

It’s the second in a series of Gallup/Education Week polls of district chiefs’ thinking on major issues facing the K-12 field. ("Gallup-EdWeek Poll: What Superintendents Really Think," July 10, 2013.) Before the inaugural survey earlier this year, Gallup invited every superintendent in the nation to participate in the ongoing panel. About 20 percent agreed, but they are not a nationally representative mix.

In other key survey findings, only 1 percent of superintendents strongly agree that student bullying is a major problem in their districts. But nearly all of them reported that their teachers are trained to prevent bullying.

Also on the topic of school safety and climate, more than 60 percent of respondents said their districts do not have armed security personnel or police officers in schools. Of those superintendents, 28 percent report that they are considering adding armed personnel.

On the subject of teachers, just 16 percent of district chiefs said that value-added models of student achievement are “very effective” measures of teacher performance.

A majority of the respondents, however, said they agree with the statement that students are able to identify which teachers are effective. But despite that confidence in their students’ judgment, only 17 percent said they strongly agree that they give regular consideration to student feedback when making decisions for their districts.

When asked about their districts’ collaboration with colleges and universities, 78 percent of the respondents said that K-12 leaders, and not higher education officials, are leading the alignment of precollegiate courses with the academic demands of colleges and universities.

Mr. Busteed said the finding that only 4 percent of superintendents think their districts do well at teaching about entrepreneurship does not bode well for the economy.

“We are missing a huge spectrum of our talent pool by not doing more to develop entrepreneurship in kids,” he said.

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