ILLINOIS SCHOOL BOARD JOURNAL
The Journal Guidelines for Authors
About the Journal and its Readers
Illinois School Board Journal is published every other month by the
Illinois Association of School Boards and mailed to some 6,000 members of
local school boards. Each edition also goes to about 2,500 school
administrators, state and federal government offices, college and
university officials, organization leaders, and interested citizens.
The Journal's mission is to serve school board members with information and
insights that will help them be effective. The Journal's focus is on
school board performance and anything that affects it.
The editors assume that Journal readers are lay citizens who:
- genuinely wish to do the best job possible for school and community;
- have no formal instruction or experience in education or government;
- have access to limited resources addressing the specific concerns of
- have many competing demands on their time, including a full-time
vocation in a field other than education;
- do not have much time to read and will not read material that is not
both easy to read and directly relevant to their needs.
Therefore, the editors try to make reading the magazine as easy and
rewarding as possible for busy school board members.
One more important assumption is that the school board fills a special role
that is different from all the other roles in public education. The
Journal addresses the needs of public bodies whose job it is to adopt
school district policies and monitor the results.
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Appropriate Subject Matter and Treatment of Articles for Illinois School Board Journal
Journal readers seek several kinds of help from their magazine. Surveys
show their major interests are:
1) Basic knowledge of school governance, including laws, financing, and the
duties and powers of school boards;
2) News of current events affecting school boards;
3) Leadership in achieving high standards of school performance;
4) Facts and ideas that help avoid or solve school board problems.
Each edition of the Journal typically contains a number of articles dealing
with a single subject, plus individual articles on a variety of other subjects. The editors look for subject-matter that is currently making news
as well as subject-matter that ought to be making news but isn't.
Regardless of subject-matter, a Journal article must be treated in a way
that reveals its importance to the job of the school board member. Thus,
an articles must achieve at least one of the following:
1) Show school boards how to be successful in conducting meetings, dealing
with the public, setting policies, evaluating the results of their
policies or other aspect of school board work.
2) Provide insights into the substance of a complex or controversial school
board policy issue.
3) Help school board members understand the board's role in school
governance and inspire them to higher levels of performance.
4) Help school boards better understand and deal with problems, overcome
weaknesses and capitalize on strengths.
5) Convey information that will help school boards deal with state and
federal policies or other forces bearing on their schools.
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How to improve your chances of seeing your article in Illinois School Board
Following are some of the most common reasons articles are rejected:
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1) We have recently used an article on the same topic or have article(s)
in the works.
Solution: Check the Journal index to determine whether we have
recently covered a topic. A call to the Journal editor can
determine quickly whether we are in the market for a given topic.
2) Material is not directed toward school board members. For example, the
Journal receives -- and rejects -- many articles written for teachers.
Solution: Read the magazine and other IASB material that will help you
understand the school board viewpoint.
3) Either the subject matter or the way it is presented reveals that the
author has not read the Journal. Occasionally, the editors work with
authors to rework an article -- but only if the material is quite
Solution: Read the magazine.
4) Article is too general, lacks specifics, is too global in nature. The
Journal generally does not use "bright idea" pieces unless backed up
with examples and facts. Similarly, opinion pieces are used sparingly.
Solution: Focus your material sharply. Back up generalities with
examples, statistics, research, expert opinion.
5) Article is too narrow, focusing on a single program or idea.
Solution: Broaden the appeal by locating similar programs, suggesting
specific ways they can be adapted by other school boards.
Also: A brand-new program or practice that has not yet produced
reportable results or outcomes might warrant a mention in our news
columns, but generally not a full article.
6) Article is not written in the journalistic style used by the Journal.
Solution: Read the magazine. Learn to write in magazine style or find
a co-author who can.
Writing an article for Illinois School Board Journal
Rules of thumb
1) Avoid specialized terminology and elaborate footnoting.
2) Define the topic and approach carefully -- it's usually better to treat
a narrow topic in depth than a broad topic superficially.
3) Be direct. Put it in writing for the Journal the same way you would
explain it verbally to someone you were trying to help rather than
The Journal is written in journalistic style. This differs in many ways
from academic writing. Among the ways are the following:
- Generally, academic papers begin at the beginning and build up to
the conclusions. Journal articles begin with the most interesting
or compelling point and proceed with points of descending interest
or importance. (This is called inverted pyramid style.)
The major idea may be a combination or summary of several ideas. The
writer must quickly convey to the reader why the article is important.
Essential background information should be presented later in the article
or even in a companion article.
Many writers find that once they've identified their most important message
and stated it as an opening paragraph, the rest of the article almost
- The Journal does not use elaborate footnotes nor does it cite
references in academic fashion. Rather than " statement...."
(Jones, 1992), write "statement..." says John Jones, based on 1992
- Cite research only if it is directly relevant to the point being
made. Surveys of research generally are not appropriate for the
- Journal articles are written in language that is correct, but less
formal than most academic papers.
To evaluate both the subject-matter and the opening of your article, ask
yourself these questions:
1) Will school board members consider the issue important?
2) If not, can I reveal its importance by relating it to something that is
of known concern to school boards?
3) Is the gist of the article--and its importance to the reader--made clear
in the first two or three paragraphs?
Like a person's legs, an article should be "just long enough to reach the
ground." That is, it should get the job done--no more. Journal articles
range from 1 to 20 pages in length.
Note: Readers have a special fondness for articles that cover just one
page. Therefore, editors do too. One page in the Journal means about 750
The Journal does not use material in research report formats. That is,
Journal articles do not begin with an introduction and proceed through
methods, findings, conclusions, and recommendations. One difference is
that the research report treats all of the researcher's findings with some
deference; the Journal does not.
In converting a research report into a Journal article, the major idea of
interest to school board members usually will be found somewhere in the
findings, conclusions, or recommendations. It should be moved to the
opening sentence and the article built around it. Only research that
directly supports the central idea should be cited.
The Journal eagerly seeks illustrations of all kinds if they tell a story.
Photographs, drawings, diagrams, tables, etc. should be clearly labeled
with explanatory captions and submitted with your article.
The Journal uses a number of brief news items based on releases from
organizations and other sources. News may be an event that happened or is
about to happen or what someone said about an important issue. Many of the
news items appearing in the Journal are taken from research reports that
contain nuggets of interest or value to school boards.
News items are written by the Journal staff and represent the staff's point
of view. Thus, a news item about a research report represents a third
REPORTING AND REVIEWING
The Journal also invites writers interested in book reviews and news
reporting to get in touch with the editors.
1) Put down in writing a theme, abstract, or statement of purpose for your
article. For example:
"Most school boards hear only from individuals or pressure groups with
axes to grind. Here is how they can learn what the majority of their
2) Make an outline. This will serve as a roadmap and simplify the writing
job. This is where you evaluate the necessity of including various
aspects of your topic.
3) Check your outline and abstract (or theme) with the editors. You may
be able to get a commitment to publish before you write the article.
You also will find out how the editors feel the article should be
treated. This can be important because the Journal has space for only
a fraction of the articles we receive.
4) Write a rough draft.
5) Revise into a finished draft. Writing should be clear and
straightforward. However, more important than highly-polished writing
is that articles be clear, complete, accurate, and useful to school
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Submitting an Article--and What to expect
1) Articles should be presented double spaced on one side of the page.
Have mercy upon the editors' eyesight -- use a good printer. If you
are using a dot-matrix printer, be sure it has a fresh ribbon. Leave
generous margins. Make sure manuscripts are clear and easy to read.
If you can submit the article on diskette, that is helpful and
appreciated (but not necessary) -- use MS Word, text or generic
word processing format on a 3.5-inch diskette.
An alternative is to submit your article as a file attached to an e-mail message to Editor Jim Russell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2) Be sure your name, title, address and telephone number (as well as a
fax number if available) appear on the first page.
3) Give your name exactly as you wish it to appear on the article, and
provide a brief author identification blurb that includes your title
and any special qualifications that pertain specifically to your
article. This should be no more than one or two sentences long. The
Journal does not list degrees or use the title "Dr."
4) Keep a copy of the article for your files.
5) Send your article to:
Illinois School Board Journal
2921 Baker Drive
Springfield, Illinois 62703
WHAT TO EXPECT
Journal editors will acknowledge receipt of your article immediately. A
decision on the disposition of your article will take one to two months.
In many instances, there is a lead time of up to a full year before your
article appears in print.
In some cases, the editors will ask you to revise your article and will
Your article will be edited to conform with Journal style. It also will be
edited-- even reorganized where needed -- for increased clarity and
appropriateness for school board needs and interests.
Your edited article will be returned to you for corrections and final
approval prior to publication.
The Journal carries the by-lines of authors and reporters.
Authors receive complimentary copies.
The Journal almost never pays for articles.
THE JOURNAL RECEIVES MANY UNSOLICITED ARTICLES. YOURS WILL HAVE A BETTER
CHANCE OF BEING ACCEPTED IF IT FOLLOWS ALL GUIDELINES.
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Although the IASB Web site strives to provide accurate and authoritative information, the Illinois Association of School Boards does not guarantee or warrantee the accuracy or quality of information contained herein.