A national survey of school board members' views on the impact of reform and restructuring on school board power and authority

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Virginia Tech

The major purpose of this study was to ascertain the views of school board members concerning the impact of reform and restructuring initiatives on their school districts and on their power and authority to govern. Data were gathered regarding the frequency of reform programs and cross tabulated with selected demographic variables to include region, size of district, and school community type. These data provided an overview of how board members perceived where and to what extent reform programs were impacting on districts. Additionally, members were asked about the quality of reforms in their districts to determine if reforms were having a positive impact, negative impact, or no impact on the quality of education. Lastly, board members were asked to share their perceptions of power and authority to govern their school districts. Did they perceive a shift in power? If changes in power and authority were taking place, who or what was gaining or losing power? Were these shifts related to reform initiatives from the national, state, and local level?

Descriptive research methods were employed in this study. A stratified, random sample of school board members was identified from the list of subscribers to The American School Board Journal. Of the 23,958 board members in the population, 6,000 or 23% were surveyed using a mailed questionnaire. The response rate was 22.4%. The study was sponsored by The American School Board Journal, published by the National School Boards Association, the national professional organization for school board members in the United States.

The study revealed that reform programs are widespread across regions, district size, and urban, suburban, and rural areas. The Northeastern region appeared less involved in reform than other regions. Additionally, school board members expressed positive attitudes about reform and appeared to associate implementation with improved quality of education. School board members associated reform impetus with local initiative and felt more powerful when involved in the reform process. Despite the positive attitudes about reform and restructuring, many board members did not believe much reform was occurring in their districts and did not believe their power and authority was changing. However, many board members believed that if they had more money and fewer budget concerns more reform would occur.