A study by an Iowa State University researcher shows turnover among school boards can have more of an impact than the loss of a superintendent. Education professor Tom Alsbury studied the issue in Washington State. He says the turnover on the schoolboards in schools with less than 600 students made a difference in how well students performed.He says in small schools, the higher the schoolboard turnover, the more the student achievement scores went down. Alsbury says politics played a role in school board turnover and student achievement. He says the politically motivated turnover led to lower achievement by students in all districts. Alsbury says it appears district problems are magnified in smaller districts where most families know each other. He says student achievement is hurt in larger districts when problems become public political issues that lead to controversy among the school board. Alsbury’s study found that changes in the top administrator in school districts didn’t have the same impact as turmoil on the school board. He says it was a surprise that the turnover rate of superintendents didn’t have the same impact on achievement as the turnover in the school boards did. Alsbury says the only exception to the superintendent’s impact came when student achievement in small districts dropped when the superintendent stayed for a long time. Alsbury says says the Washington State study directly mirrors what you might find in Iowa, but he says there are some similarities. He says Washington State has 33 percent of its districts with an enrollment of 600 or less, while Iowa has 40 percent of its districts with enrollments of 600 or less, so there’s likely some translation of the study to Iowa. Alsbury’s study was conducted over seven years and looked at the achievement tests required of all schools in Washington State.
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