State ESB Toolkit | Effective School Boards

School boards can be a powerful lever for creating the conditions to improve student outcomes. But that requires that they behave both professionally — which the vast majority of school boards do, conducting themselves in a manner that allows for the business of the district to be accomplished — and effectively — conducting themselves in a manner that is intensely focused on improving student outcomes which most of them do not. Several states (like TX & ND) have begun the process of more intentionally supporting not merely the professionalism of school boards, but the effectiveness of them as well. This outline describes how additional states can better support school board effectiveness, and in so doing, better create the conditions for improved student outcomes.

Build a Team

An initiative like this works best when the state agency and the school board association (the “partners”) work collaboratively. Steps in team building include:

  • Identifying an initiative owner from each partner organization (the “champions”) who will be responsible for guiding their organization’s role in the partnership
  • Identifying a 3rd party facilitator who will guide the team through the process and provide examples from implementation in other states
  • Identifying a near-term and then long-term funding source
  • Scheduling a time for the champions to attend a 2-day orientation workshop if they haven’t already
  • Scheduling standing every other week champion check-in meetings for the next six months

Build a Pilot Plan

Host an initial partner meeting — senior leaders and the champions, if those are different people — with the facilitator to discuss goals, roles, and timeline. Key steps in the process include:

  • Writing a set of SMART goals for the pilot
  • Writing a draft timeline and draft budget
  • Planning for development of the instrument and manual
  • Recruiting potential coaches to pursue certification
  • Planning for the launch of a state-wide leaderboard
  • Researching a set of aligned incentives for school boards to participate

Implement the Pilot Plan

Implementation steps in a two-year exemplar pilot include:

  • Co-developing a board self-evaluation instrument and implementation manual
  • Creating an exemplar pilot program for highly regarded, highly professional school board/superintendent teams
  • Identifying a team of existing coaches for the exemplar program
  • Identifying a cohort of in-state coaches to pursue certification
  • Developing the exemplar application with an eye toward extreme exclusivity / high standards
  • Receiving comprehensive feedback from all participants at the end of the pilot
  • Writing a final report at the end of the pilot that summarizes all learnings — what worked, what didn’t work, what’s recommended next

Build a 5-Year Plan

Once the partners are six to twelve months into a two-year pilot, it’s time to plan for the future. Steps in a 5-year implementation planning process include:

  • Treating year two of the pilot as year zero of the 5-year plan
  • Reviewing the team to ensure the right people are at the table for a 5-year implementation plan that builds on the initial learnings of the pilot
  • Identifying how many coaches will be needed to implement the 5-year plan
  • Identifying which aspects of the plan require partner support vs legislative and/or regulatory support
  • Developing a 5-year strategy that includes the ongoing implementation of this work by state/national school board associations and national certification of coaches by Effective School Boards
  • Adjusting the program materials based on the pilot's final report

Implement the 5-Year Plan

Once the pilot is complete and learning is synthesized into a revised 5-year plan, it’s time to pursue implementation at scale.

Next Steps

EffectiveSchoolBoards supports statewide teams with designing and implementing strategies for supporting the effectiveness of local school boards. To learn more about EffectiveSchoolBoards’ work and begin the process of supporting school boards in making the transition beyond just professionalism and into effectiveness — into becoming student outcomes-focused — contact us at