June 2014 Board Watch Report CardLeave a Comment
Below is the twentieth Board Watch report card based on volunteer assessments. The current report card reflects assessments from March through May. Overall, the School Board maintained a B– average.
- Overall: The overall grade is a 3.46 (B-), the same letter grade as in the previous Report Card. The grades were calculated from 15 surveys from 16 different volunteers.
- Focus and Mission: The score is a 3.24 (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 3.65 (B-), decreasing 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 4.31 (B+), decreasing from an A- on the previous Report Card. This means that on average, volunteers reported that few Board members used sarcastic or disrespectful verbal or nonverbal communication. They reported that most of the Board handled differences of opinion respectfully.
- Role Clarity: The score is a 2.53 (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 3.24 (C+), decreasing from a B- from the previous Report Card, which means that 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
Since the beginning of the Board Watch program, A+ Schools has only calculated scores for meetings where at least three volunteers have observed and submitted evaluation forms. We do this to ensure a fair representation of observations from multiple volunteers. For the Legislative Sessions in April and May, only two volunteers were able to attend each meeting, due to illness and other last-minute schedule changes. Thus, we did not use scores for those two meetings to calculate the final grades.
On an optimistic note, the Board received its highest per-meeting scores in Conduct, earning an A- for the Agenda Review meeting on March 19 and an A for the Agenda Review meeting on May 21. It is encouraging that volunteers observed most School Board Members acting respectfully toward one another during meetings.
A deeper look into volunteer observations of Board member comments and questions during this reporting period shows that about 73% of comments and questions were in reaction to individual agenda items, including specifics of who, what, when, where, and why. About 11% of comments were identified as solution seeking or related to measuring progress (either how to measure it or what progress has been made toward achieving district goals). In order to increase its grade in Focus and Mission, the School Board could spend more time during discussions monitoring the extent to which the district is making progress toward achieving its goals.
Recommendation – Revisit Goals and Gather More Information
As we recommended in the previous Report Card, we ask the School Board to revisit its goals and share your priorities with the public, whether they remain the same as the current set of Core Beliefs and Shared Goals and Commitments, or whether they change.
Additionally, we recommend School Board members to take the time to become informed on topics about which they will make decisions. The majority of volunteer comments for this reporting period centered around Board members taking initiative to become more informed on school procedures, meeting procedures, and the content of the agenda items.
Since the launch of Board Watch in January 2009, A+ Schools has issued 20 report cards on Pittsburgh School Board governance practices based on observations of meetings by trained volunteers.
The March 2013 report card is the eleventh 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