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November-December, 2008

IASB can help boards focus on student learning

The question for this issue is answered by IASB Targeting Achievement through Governance consultants Debra Larson and Steve Clark.

Question: Our board never thought we needed IASB's Targeting Achievement through Governance (TAG) program. But now we're focusing on achievement for all students. Most of our students are doing well, but one of our subgroups is not making AYP. How could TAG benefit our district and our school board in looking at achievement for all?

Answer: An effective school board adds unique value to its public schools by ensuring that it meets the community's expectations to provide the best possible education, modeling a culture and practice of continuous learning, as well as leadership and resources for student learning and achievement. IASB's Targeting Achievement through Governance (TAG) program is one tool designed to help boards move toward accomplishing those goals.

The program curriculum addresses the schools board's role in student learning and achievement. The majority of the training is offered in-district and includes a series of workshops, training and coaching sessions to assist boards in meeting federal No Child Left Behind requirements and state legislation. The program curriculum is offered in two phases, both of which are 18 months in length.

Boards of education in districts or districts with schools not making adequate yearly progress for two consecutive years are eligible to participate in the TAG program at no cost to the district. Boards that do not have schools or the district currently in status may participate on a fee-for-services basis.

Phase One focuses boards on their leadership and policymaking roles. This phase includes four key components: Board Governance Review (BGR), School Board Leadership workshop, Targeting Student Learning (TSL) workshop and process coaching sessions, and School and District Improvement Plan training.

The BGR (i.e., board self-evaluation), offered at the beginning and end of Phase One, provides boards with the opportunity to assess their performance against effective governing standards identified in IASB's Foundational Principles of Effective Governance.

The School Board Leadership workshop, offered regionally, provides boards with the opportunity to discuss and experience effective as well as ineffective ways to improve their unique governance role as they sit in trust for the community.

The key component of the TAG program, however, is the Targeting Student Learning workshop and the in-district process coaching sessions that follow. TSL training provides a process and tools to enable boards to systematically look at their board policies through the "lens" of student learning and achievement. The training gives boards the opportunity to engage in meaningful, high-level conversations focused around student learning issues as they fulfill two of their primary roles: defining, redefining and articulating the district mission, vision, and goals; and focusing on policymaking

The School and District Improvement Plan training helps boards put a process in place that will focus on their appropriate role in approving school and district improvement plans without micromanaging or rubberstamping.

In Phase Two, boards of education have the opportunity to develop a customized program that best meets the unique needs of the board and district. In addition to a third opportunity to participate in a BGR, boards can build on the work they accomplished in Phase One by selecting other IASB training options, such as district goal setting and planning, monitoring district performance, effective superintendent evaluations, etc.

You might wonder what boards think about the program. Keeneyville School District 20's board joined TAG in March 2005 and has completed both phases.

"I can't think of a single school district that couldn't benefit from the TAG program offered through IASB," said Carol Auer, Keeneyville's superintendent.

And beyond the district benefits, board members who participate in the TAG program are eligible to receive Master Board Member as well as LeaderShop credit from IASB.

For more information on the TAG program, contact Steve Clark at the Lombard office at 630/629-3776 ext. 1210, or Deb Larson at the Springfield office 217/528-9688 ext. 1149 for further information.

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