December 2014 Board Watch Report CardLeave a Comment
Below is the twenty-first Board Watch report card based on volunteer assessments. The current report card reflects assessments from June through November. Overall, the School Board maintained a B– average.
- Overall: The overall grade is a 3.41 (B-), the same letter grade as in the previous Report Card. The grades were calculated from 47 surveys from 23 different volunteers.
- Focus and Mission: The score is a 3.04 (C+), which is the same grade as in the previous Report Card. On average, volunteers reported that the Board only spent about half of its meeting time managing time effectively, focusing on ways to achieve the district’s goals, and prioritizing student outcomes.
- Transparency: The score is a 3.86 (B), increasing from a B- on the previous Report Card. On average, volunteers agreed that they felt welcome at the meeting and understood the information presented and the rationale behind the Board’s actions.
- Conduct: The score is a 4.48 (A-), increasing from a B+ on the previous Report Card. This means that on average, volunteers reported that very few Board members used sarcastic or disrespectful verbal or nonverbal communication. They reported that almost all of the Board handled differences of opinion respectfully.
- Role Clarity: The score is a 2.43 (C-), remaining a C- and continuing to be the lowest grade. This score reflects that on average, volunteers reported that the Board spent less than half of its meeting time focused on how the district is making progress toward achieving its goals and using policy to create solutions to Board member concerns. Volunteers said the Board spent more than half of its meeting time focused on the details of agenda items (i.e., when items occur, who participates, etc.).
- Competency: The score is a 3.27 (C+), which is the same grade as in the previous Report Card. On average, volunteers reported that only about half of Board members were prepared for the meeting and appeared to use research, district data, existing policies and other facts to inform their opinions.
A Deeper Look at the Scores
The Board received its highest per-meeting scores in Conduct, earning an A- or above for ten of the twelve meetings between June and November. It is encouraging that volunteers observed most School Board members continuing to act respectfully toward one another during meetings.
In the previous Report Card covering meetings between March–May, we reported volunteer observations of Board member comments and questions during Agenda Review and Legislative Sessions. For that reporting period, volunteers observed that 73% of comments were reacting to individual agenda items, and only 11% of comments were identified as solution seeking or related to measuring progress. It is encouraging that for the meetings included in this Report Card (September–November), volunteers observed a substantial increase from 11% to 21% for comments related to solution seeking or measuring progress and from 12% to 20% for comments referencing existing policy. We applaud Board members’ efforts to increase discussions grounded in progress toward goals and seeking solutions.
Recommendation – Gather More Information
As we recommended in the previous Report Card, we ask School Board members to take the time to become informed on topics about which they will make decisions. Doing so will increase Board effectiveness in creating policy solutions and decrease excessive time spent on understanding information in the meetings. The majority of volunteer comments for this reporting period—as well as for the previous Report Card—centered around Board members taking initiative to become more informed on the content of agenda items, including information related to state policies relevant to public education.
Since the launch of Board Watch in January 2009, A+ Schools has issued 21 report cards on Pittsburgh School Board governance practices based on observations of meetings by trained volunteers.
The January 2015 report card is the fourteenth report card to be issued using the new reporting form (Version 2.0) introduced by A+ Schools in 2011. Version 2.0 reflects higher expectations for the School Board’s governance and allows for more specific feedback and recommendations from Board Watch volunteers.
What You Can Do
- Volunteer for Board Watch
- Contact your School Board Member
- Testify at a Public Hearing
- Attend or Watch a School Board Meeting