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Board members and school leaders: Are these groups working together?

This blog doesn’t grapple over whether school leaders affect students’ outcomes—they do. This is noncontroversial. In fact, the research has largely moved away from whether leadership matters. Researchers moved on from this question in the 1970s and 1980s.


Instead, researcher and practitioner attention has focused instead on what effective leaders actually do.

More specifically, what conditions or actions do effective school leaders create or execute that lead to improved achievement and other school outcomes?


Because these roles are so impactful, we have several tools that can help you measure:

A) Are leaders all oriented toward the same goals?

B) Is everyone staying in their lane?


Most recently, we began rolling out the Administration and Board Pulse Check Survey, taken by both your board members AND district/school leaders. This survey is organized around establishing a shared vision, climate and support, working relationships, data and decision-making, and community connections.


Below is a description of each of our leadership tool surveys. Each measures to what extent you’ve achieved the areas we know each group must do to lead your schools effectively.

 Administration & Board Pulse Check Survey 

Taken by:

Board members AND district/school leaders


You can have a strong school board and effective administration, but unless they work closely together, you will struggle to improve. Collaboration between these two groups is essential to ensure educational policies are well-informed, resources are effectively utilized, and the needs of students and the community are met.


  • Do you have a process to establish shared goals between your board and leadership team?

  • Are the roles and responsibilities between your board and leadership team clearly defined?

  • Is there a consensus on which of your schools’ practices are strong and where resources and focus are needed?

Sample items:

  • We have clear roles and responsibilities for the administration and school board.

  • We come to meetings prepared.

  • Trusting relationships exist between the administration and school board.

  • We clearly communicate our goals and performance with staff.

  • Our community believes the district is a responsible steward of financial resources.

Need more info?

Click here.

Annual Board Development Tool

Taken by:

School board members only


The Annual Board Development Tool was designed on the principles of The Key Work of School Boards. This tool allows board members to individually reflect on their work, quickly discern where your board is aligned and where differences remain, and review with all members the array of board responsibilities.


  • Do you have a process in place to help establish annual goals?

  • Are your school board’s planning priorities aligned?

  • Are your new school board members knowledgeable about their roles and responsibilities?

Sample items:

  • We manage by facts, and our decisions are data-driven.

  • We have an effective orientation process for new board members.

  • We have a process to annually review the district’s facility/maintenance needs.

  • I understand the basic principles of school finance, including state, federal, and local sources of income and the school district budgeting cycle.          

  • We are successful at attracting and retaining high-quality employees.

Need more info?

Click here.

 School Leadership Planning Tool

Taken by:

District and school leaders only


No matter your school district’s size, good leaders build strong teams where everyone is working on accomplishing shared goals. This tool will help align your planning efforts and, as a result, help create an environment where students can thrive.


  • Do you have a process to establish shared goals with your leadership team?

  • Is there a consensus among your team on how to accomplish your goals?

  • Which of your schools’ practices are strong, and where are resources and focus needed?

Sample items:

  • We provide helpful and actionable feedback through our evaluation system.

  • We provide staff access to the data they need to make decisions for students.

  • We spend time in classrooms for non-evaluation purposes.

  • We value differences of opinion and do not let them degenerate into personality conflicts.

  • We hold meetings that are constructive and well-run.

Need more info?

Click here.


In sum, school boards do not “create learning.” Rather, they do their work via employees by creating conditions that promote learning for children. Despite this degree of separation, the actions, practices of, and relationships among school board members do, indeed, impact student achievement—for better and worse.


At the same time, school administrators affect student achievement levels. In fact, the positive association between successful leadership and student learning is second only to the impact between classroom teaching and student learning. School leaders also affect a great deal more than just achievement. Administrators have significant effects on improvement processes; mission, vision, and goals; the use of evidence; appropriate instructional guidance; professional development; district-school relationships; and the quality of parent-school relationships.


Are your leadership groups performing their roles and responsibilities effectively?


The School Perceptions Blog and Resource Center features the voices of our team members. This post was written by Rob DeMeuse, Research Director.


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