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ILLINOIS SCHOOL BOARD JOURNAL


The Journal Guidelines for Authors
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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 school boards;
  • 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 Journal

Following are some of the most common reasons articles are rejected:

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 compelling.

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.

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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 impress.

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 organizes itself.
  • 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 research.

  • Cite research only if it is directly relevant to the point being made. Surveys of research generally are not appropriate for the Journal.

  • 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?

ARTICLE LENGTH
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 words.

RESEARCH REPORTS
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.

ILLUSTRATIONS
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.

NEWS ITEMS
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 party's interpretation.

REPORTING AND REVIEWING
The Journal also invites writers interested in book reviews and news reporting to get in touch with the editors.

SUGGESTED PROCEDURES

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 voters think."

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 board members.

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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 jrussell@iasb.com.

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:

The Editors
Illinois School Board Journal
2921 Baker Drive
Springfield, Illinois 62703
Phone: 217/528-9688
FAX: 217/528-2831

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 offer suggestions.

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.

COMPENSATION
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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