The school board and self-evaluation: do school boards in the Commonwealth of Virginia evaluate their own performance?

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Virginia Tech


School boards are the governing bodies for school divisions. Their successful operation is essential to the success of the school division. "Best practice", as indicated in the literature, calls for school boards to recognize the need to examine or assess their own performance and to set the criteria or goals by which they will evaluate their performance and to create a composite of strengths and weaknesses in relation to the criteria they set for themselves. Boards should design or select evaluation instruments which reflect local performance criteria and instruments that are open ended so that other items may be included as board members desire. The development of objectives for the improvement of the boards' performance should be based on an evaluation of themselves discussed and agreed to in a regularly scheduled annual meeting with a facilitator and site for the event predetermined. Finally, the process should be focused on the board as a body; not on the individual board members.

This study solicited information describing the practices of school boards in Virginia relative to evaluation of themselves as boards and compared those practices with literature-based "best practice." Defining "best practice" was accomplished by reviewing educational literature on the practice of board evaluation. The literature was screened for components recommended as required in effective school board self-evaluation. Components recommended as effective practice were determined to be "best practice." The questionnaire was designed in two sections. The first grouping of questions on the survey was to identify the divisions where school boards practiced self-evaluation. Subsequent queries, in section two, gathered information that would allow description of the practices used by school boards who practiced self-evaluation. Section two, also, posed questions regarding the boards' use of procedures that were determined to be components of "best practice".

A survey questionnaire was mailed to the superintendents of all 132 school divisions in Virginia inquiring about their board's practices of evaluating their own performance. Responses were received from 128 of the 132 divisions, a 97% rate of return. Only forty-one (32%) of the responding school divisions reported having school boards that evaluate themselves.

Are school boards in the Commonwealth evaluating their own performance? The major findings of this study indicate that most school boards in Virginia, more than two out of three, do not practice school board evaluation. School boards in Virginia that allege participation in the practice of school board evaluation do not use many of the components of self-evaluation recommended as "best practice". School board evaluation is used less often in those divisions of medium size than in other divisions and less often in those divisions associated with counties as their governing units than in other divisions associated with other types of governing units.