Why Effective School Boards Are Data Savvy

Lena Eisenstein
5 min read
Effective school boards lead to high-achieving students and schools and the boards of high-achieving districts are progressively data savvy. These boards leverage information to make strategic decisions toward district success.

Effective school boards gather, process, and make use of data to identify student needs, assess the performance of the district, and recognize areas of growth and improvement for local public education. When school boards utilize data the decisions they make for students and the district are more informed and intentional.

Data savvy boards are more effective, and studies have linked board effectiveness to lower dropout rates, a higher percentage of students matriculating to college, and higher test performance than those districts with less effective school boards.

It is imperative for school boards to have access to information in order to continuously process new data, to be collaborative in the processing of data, and to embrace data ' even if it negatively reflects on the district.

Data Savvy Boards Accept and Monitor Data

Boards can leverage data to identify areas of growth and improvement for the district, making changes that benefit local public education. Board members must be open about regularly discussing and monitoring data on difficult topics like dropout rates, test scores, and student needs.

When school boards continuously monitor data, it gives an idea of where the district is starting to see progress and where more attention is needed. It is not enough to simply review data, but boards must be willing to accept information and make changes to accomplish goals set for district improvement.

Effective school boards use data, even when it may reflect negatively on the school district, to drive continuous improvement. Boards of high-achieving school districts understand that negative data is useful and can be leveraged towards improving varying areas of the district, teaching, and learning.

Embracing and utilizing data related to local public education is vital for school boards as they can rely on concrete facts rather than focus on anecdotal experiences, which some boards have been found to do. In lower-performing districts, board members have been found to rely on personal experiences or narratives rather than referencing data.

Data savvy boards understand the importance of information that accurately reflects the performance of the district, even if it is not a glowing assessment. These evaluative methods provide district leadership with an honest look at where local public education needs to make progress to support student development and achievement.

Collaborative Data Processing

Two characteristics of effective boards over districts with high student achievement are those who are data savvy and focused on cultivating and fostering a positive relationship between the board and superintendent. School boards and superintendents can leverage data to empower district staff and students.

In districts with low performance, there is often an issue of control regarding what data gets released and who it is released to. Some superintendents attempt to control the reactions and decisions of the board by limiting the data that is released to board members. However, some board members automatically play the 'blame game' when data is provided that does not paint district performance in the best light.

When collaboratively processing data, the superintendent shares accurate information to encourage the board in evaluation, engagement, and strategic decision making to find resolutions. And, the board members of these high-achieving districts understand that the information provided is an assessment tool, not immediately giving in to an emotional response or pointing fingers.

Research has found that school board members in low-achieving districts are more inclined to have a 'blaming' perspective when processing data. These board members may identify administrators, teachers, students, and families as the source for low performance. Being aware of the data should encourage district leadership to react and engage for the betterment of the district, and to leverage the information as a tool to identify and evaluate areas for progress and growth.

Collaborative leadership and engagement between the school board and superintendent is vital as they make the necessary changes to improve student and district performance.

Access to Information

For data savvy boards, accessibility is imperative to strategic decision making. Modern school boards understand that data is ever-changing and they may need to seek updates on information regularly.

Leveraging the right technology, board members can have access to the latest data regarding student, school, and district performance. As school boards set goals, establish the vision for the future of the district, identify current and future student needs, and develop a strategic plan for local public education it is essential for board members to stay abreast of the information that directly impacts their decision making process.

Leveraging the right technology, a school board management software like Community by Diligent, supports school boards who embrace data through the ability to securely maintain and access pertinent board information from any location or device. Community allows school boards and other district leaders to easily access these materials from any device with internet access, anytime and anywhere. This level of accessibility supports the board and district leadership in better managing effectiveness, which can lead to greater student achievement.

Utilizing a tool like Community, boards can be supported in their effectiveness and efficiency to perform their best work for local public education. School board members can be empowered in their roles through seamless, streamlined access to important materials and documents to make more strategic and timely decisions towards accomplishing district goals.

Technology can be a valuable tool that can support school leaders in local public education in performing their best work and encourage data savvy boards. The right technology is key to school boards, and their districts, performing efficiently, effectively, and successfully.

However, access to data is just one of the first steps. Boards must embrace data and use it in the implementation of new policies, procedures, goals, and strategic plans. Boards of high-achieving districts continuously accept and monitor data, even when it does not positively reflect on district performance.

It is essential that school boards recognize the importance of accepting and continuously monitoring data, but also using that information to strengthen local public education. School have more opportunities now than ever before to develop their effectiveness and to become more data savvy through tools and technology. This growth in the board itself supports the development and progress of the entire district and its students.