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IASB, four other states honored for TAG program
February 1, 2010

The IASB Targeting Achievement through Governance (TAG) Program and the Five-State Policy Project: Targeting Student Learning have been awarded the 2010 Thomas A. Shannon Award for Excellence in School Board Leadership, according to the National School Boards Association (NSBA).

The award recognizes the staff and leaders from the Illinois Association of School Boards, California School Boards Association, Maine School Boards Association, Pennsylvania School Boards Association, and the Washington State School Directors' Association for their vision of possibilities and collaborative work to support local school board members in defining what is excellence in local school governance.

"These teams took a leap of faith and what a pay-out," said Sonny Savoie, NSBA president. "Your work is so powerful and its progress tells our story: local school boards - with the necessary tools, support, and training - can be community leaders at the vanguard of providing a quality education for our students."

The teams received their award during a ceremony hosted at NSBA's Annual Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. The award, named in honor of former NSBA executive director Thomas A. Shannon, was established in 1997.

The Five-State Policy Project: Targeting Student Learning began in 1996 with Maine's leadership inviting other state school boards associations to meet to discuss school board policy and student achievement. Out of this meeting came a long-term collaboration between five states - Maine, Illinois, California, Pennsylvania and Washington - committing staff and resources to balance the important aspects of policymaking with student learning. The project group operates as a think tank and over time has produced analysis and work products and publications.

The Five-State Policy Project authored the "Targeting Student Learning Workbook," a tool providing a process and identifying key policy topics to help school boards leaders focus on student achievement. A central strength of the Five-State Policy Project is that it brings together the thinking of five different state associations of varying sizes, geographical locations, and governance models. This enables the project staff to go beyond individual state-based models and develop a process and tool for policy-making that can be used by public schools boards across the nation.

"A board that uses the Targeting Student Learning process and workbook benefits from a renewed commitment to its policymaking role," said Cathy Talbert, IASB associate executive director, field services and policy services, and TSL project coordinator. "The process requires the board to discuss student learning-related topics, consider what policy is already in place, connect with those who will be affected by or must implement policy, and make data-based decisions about what the board wants for the future."

The TAG Program was a response to the Illinois State Board of Education's reform ideas to support No Child Left Behind. IASB knew that school board training needed to be a component of the federal and state implementation. ISBE recognized the value of the suggestion and awarded the Association state funding for school board training. The IASB TAG Program has assisted a total of 133 districts over five years.

"The Targeting Student Learning work is a key component of the curriculum for the IASB TAG program," said Angie Peifer, IASB associate executive director for board development and TAG. "TAG would likely not have been possible without the work of the Five-State Project and Targeting Student Learning as it is the backbone of our work with boards."

The TAG program provides board development services at no cost to school districts, or school districts with schools, that have not made AYP under the No Child Left Behind Act for two consecutive years. The TAG program helps board members understand the link between policy and progress. The team provides comprehensive services including workshops, training and coaching to assist school boards in meeting their requirements.

"The work of these teams was ahead of its time. It was born and underway before No Child Left Behind was even 'put to ink,'" said Anne L. Bryant, executive director, NSBA. "These teams' valuable thinking, processes and tools continually improve local school board policy decisions and student learning. The teams' expectations are extraordinary: every student achieving. Their work is an example to follow."

The Illinois Association of School Boards is a voluntary organization of local boards of education dedicated to strengthening the public schools through local citizen control. More than 98 percent of the state's 869 public school districts are Association members.

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