The Benefit Of Board Time Use Evaluations
Boards that want to have the strongest impact on improving student outcomes will demonstrate a very strong alignment between the vision and values they speak and the goals and guardrails they act on. The more alignment there is between saying and doing, the more likely it is that the school board’s actions will create the context for improvements in student outcomes. The less alignment there is, the more likely it is that the school board’s behavior is unintentionally harming the school system’s chances of improving student outcomes.
Alignment between saying and doing can be measured by comparing how the school board chooses to use the precious time it has each month -- the time during public meetings of the school board -- with the board’s written vision and values (the goals and guardrails they’ve adopted). This is the benefit of a time use evaluation: to reveal the extent to which there is alignment between what the school board says and what the school board does as a means of helping school boards see a path toward improving student outcomes.
About Board Time Use Evaluations
The Time Use Eval Form, when complete, is intended to provide school boards with concrete, measurable information about the alignment or non-alignment of their sayings and doings. This is not about identifying rights and wrongs, goods and bads, or any other moralistic judgment about how the school board has chosen to invest its time; it’s simply actionable information for the school board’s use.
The Descriptions (fifth column) are intended to be treated literally. It is not helpful to provide a school board with watered down data. The data is what the data is.
Our coaching to school boards is that school boards that are intensely focused on improving student outcomes will aim to have the second to last row (student outcomes-focused minutes) be at least 50%. Our coaching is that school boards will spend at least half of their time making the main thing the main thing.
More information about the underlying assumptions of the evaluation form and the research and literature behind it can be found in the Effective School Board Framework (http://www.effectiveschoolboards.com/resources/).
How To Conduct A Board Time Use Evaluation
The most vital information to gather when conducting a time use evaluation is the school board’s adopted goals and guardrails. Many school boards have simply never adopted goals or guardrails in which case there’s nothing to gather. But just as often, maybe they have but the goals aren’t SMART so it’s hard to tell. And sometimes the school board has adopted really wonderful goals and guardrails but just refers to them as something else (e.g. student outcomes goals & constraints, results & limitations, ends & executive limitations, etc). Finding a school board’s goals and guardrails, if they exist, is often the hardest part of the process. Once you have the school board’s adopted goals and guardrails in hand, the rest of the process gets much simpler.
In addition to gathering the goals and guardrails, you’ll also need to find the agendas, minutes, and video (video is strongly preferred -- audio if no video exists) of every non-closed meeting authorized by the school board or board chair during the months being evaluated.
For each meeting being reviewed (which will be every non-closed meeting authorized by the school board or board chair during the month(s) being evaluated), it will also be helpful to find all of the presentations and documents that the school board relied upon during the board meetings.
Each month will be tracked as one unit -- regardless of how many meetings or minutes the school board met during the month. If during January the school board met for a 90 minute work session, had a 60 minute audit committee meeting, and then held a 120 minute business meeting, then the school board met for 270 minutes during the month of January. That information -- 270 minutes -- will be captured on the very last line of the evaluation form. It will help to figure this number out for the month prior to watching any video. [ Note: After watching the video, this number may change, but it still helps to start the process each month with a rough idea of what this number is likely to be. ]
After reviewing the evaluation form and gathering information, it’s time to do the actual work. Watch each minute of video and identify which activity (the second column in the evaluation form) and description (the fifth column in the evaluation form) best matches what took place during that minute. Keep a tally of minutes on note paper or directly on the evaluation form.