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NASBE’s Standard Examines Elements of Strong Leadership and Effective State Education Governance


Alexandria, VA—As new governors, legislators, state superintendents, and members of state boards of education begin their work after their elections and appointments, they join peers across the country who are grappling with how best to lead state education systems so that all students are well prepared for success in learning, work, and life. Despite the variety of state education systems, authors in NASBE’s latest issue of The State Education Standard find there are elements that effective governance systems share.

Lawrence University’s Arnold Shober examines the varied landscape of state education governance and highlights key elements of board effectiveness. No matter the governance configuration, state boards of education can be effective if they commit to shared agendas, relationship building across state government, and setting a clear direction for the state system, he says.

Strategic planning can help state boards and state education agencies find common ground with stakeholders as they set a vision for public education. Drawing on NASBE’s experience helping state boards craft effective processes, NASBE President and CEO Paolo DeMaria and Abigail Potts, director of strategic initiatives and planning, lay out strategies for ensuring a successful, enduring, and actionable strategic plan.

Sometimes states directly intervene in low-performing schools. Beth Schueler from the University of Virginia shares what she has learned in her study of state takeovers of school districts since the late 1980s. They usually don’t help, she writes, but sometimes they do.

Results For America’s Heather Boughton and Sara Kerr outline the importance of evidence-based policymaking in education and what it takes to bake data analysis into board cultures.

Elliot Regenstein of Foresight Law + Policy untangles the disparate web of policy actors and agencies that support early care and education. Several states are working toward a more streamlined approach, and there’s a clear role for state boards to play, he says.

Researchers Sara Dahill-Brown and Lesley Lavery examine the role that teachers unions played in district decisions during the pandemic. More union leaders reported collaborative, respectful relationships with their districts, the authors found, although in some places relations were more contentious.

The NASBE Interview highlights a conversation between three experienced state board chairs: Clarence Crawford of Maryland, Eric Davis from North Carolina, and Casandra Ulbrich, former president of Michigan’s state board. They stress the importance of strategic focus, data use, active listening, and respectful discourse for board effectiveness. Davis also issues a challenge to state boards: “While we need to be a source of stability and certainty, we also have to have the courage to change.”

Read and share the “leading and governing” issue of the State Education Standard.

NASBE serves as the only membership organization for state boards of education. A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, NASBE elevates state board members’ voices in national and state policymaking, facilitates the exchange of informed ideas, and supports members in advancing equity and excellence in public education for students of all races, genders, and circumstances. Learn more at www.nasbe.org

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