School board use of student achievement data in policy development and decision making
This dissertation considers the problem of school board use of student achievement data as a policy driver and a factor in board decisions. Drawing on literature addressing information utilization, decisionmaking, and school board culture, the study examines board data use in ten school districts in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Data collection includes interviews with and surveys of board members and administrators, and policy audits. Findings describe three profiles of data use (active, passive, and non use) and conditions, board member characteristics, and superintendent behavior associated with active board engagement with data in policy development and resource allocation, and active seeking of a wide range of data. Conditions associated with board use of data as a policy driver and a primary element in resource allocation include: (1) superintendent is committed to a vision of distributed leadership, educates the board regarding the programmatic and instructional implications of student achievement data, (2) superintendent and board jointly develop mission, goals, and plan with measurable objectives, and (3) superintendent and board members share an explicit belief that all students are capable of achievement through effort in a supportive school environment. In these districts, board members believe in the importance of their work both for the short term and for the long term and are literate with respect to both educational reform and assessment, respect state tests, and understand the board's role and its accountability for all students under educational reform. The superintendent provides reports explicitly connected to the district mission, goals, and plan, and employs someone who board members perceive as assessible for and responsive to informal inquiries about achievement data. Board members act in accordance with norms that include (1) respect for the complementary roles of board and superintendent, (2) a preference for discussion and problem solving over immediate action, and (3) a focus on results. In these districts, both superintendent and most board members have served for a long time in their current roles. Narrowly focused board commitment to a single issue is absent, as are extreme fiscal stress and extreme pressure from the state department of education for improved student performance.