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Research vs Prescription

Posted By: Allen Lambert on February 23, 2010
This book is in the tradition of many decades of offering prescriptions for what school boards ought to be like and to do. As opposed to social science research of what they actually do and why. There is an abundance of opinion and a paucity of systematic data and empirical analysis.

And generalizations from Canada have limited applicability to the U.S. and the 50 state variations in laws assigning duties and authorities to local boards of education (BoE). Just consider the differences between 700 regular school districts in NY vs only about 60 in Florida. Thus, difference in average district size in NY vs FL is huge, and significant for operations.

Consider the common accusation of "meddling". What is the legal context for such? In NY (where I am doing a large scale comparative study of BoE decision making), laws and regulations assign far more to BoE than they can possibly do, and often require meddling in details. For expl, BoE has (unlike other legislative bodies) a variety of ministerial functions -- like quasi-judicial review of decisions by supt., any of which (from bus routes to suspensions) can be appealed to the BoE by parents. Or the law which requires that BoE approve every new textbook adoption. Etc.

Historical and political context for the development of school boards and the role of state (and national) associations in promoting certain views and values and practices are very important, but ignored in most discussions of what BoEs do, how they do it, and identify as.

Like the push for "data driven decision making", it is time for data driven analysis of and recommendations about school board organization and operation. There is very little of such, and that is what I am beginning to remedy. Anyone interested may contact me.

(I am a former multi-term BoE member in a 6,000 student district in a small city with a major university and have collected thousands of meeting agendas and minutes and recordings from some 70 districts which I am presently analyzing.)

Allen Lambert

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 Research vs Prescription by Allen Lambert on February 23, 2010
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