The Center for Public Education published a report which indicated that school boards or committees in high achieving districts exhibit habits and characteristics that are not only much different from their counterparts in low achieving districts but result in a much more effective governing body. The eight characteristics specifically identified are:
- A commitment to a vision of high expectations for student achievement and quality instruction; defining clear goals toward that vision
- Strong shared beliefs and values about what is possible for students and their ability to learn, and of the system and its ability to teach all children at high levels.
- Accountability driven, spending less time on operational issues and more time focused on policies to improve student achievement.
- Maintains a collaborative relationship with staff and the community and establish a strong communications structure to inform and engage both internal and external stakeholders in setting and achieving district goals.
- Data savvy - they embrace and monitor data, even when the information is negative, and use it to drive continuous improvement.
- Aligns and sustains resources, such as professional development, to meet district goals. According to researchers LaRocque and Coleman, effective boards saw a responsibility to maintain high standards even in the midst of budget challenges.
- Lead as a united team with the superintendent, each from their respective roles, with strong collaboration and mutual trust.
- Takes part in team development and training, sometimes with their superintendents, to build shared knowledge, values and commitments for their improvement efforts.
Alternatively, there have been some indicators of 'ineffective' school boards mentioned in the literature. These indicators include:
- Members are only vaguely aware of school improvement initiatives, and seldom able to describe actions being taken to improve student learning
- A focus on external pressures as the main reasons for lack of student success, such as poverty, lack of parental support, societal factors, or lack of motivation
- Left out of the information flow; little communication between board and superintendent
- Quick to describe a lack of parent interest in education or barriers to community outreach
- Looks at data from a “blaming” perspective, describing teachers, students and families as major causes for low performance
- Slow to define a vision
- Did not hire a superintendent who agreed with their vision
- Little professional development together as a board.