Good Schools Start with GreatBoards

This blog first appeared on
A three year study of urban education yielded 7 keys to education, the most foundational of which is sustained leadership. Citywide that means partnerships and a governance structure that provide effective support for a long-term improvement agenda. For a public charter school that means a capable head of school and an effective board.
Charter schools offer two governance innovations when it comes to provisioning public education. First, they operate under a performance contract–they produce the desired outcomes or they close. Second, they benefit from mission-focused rather than political governance–they recruit a talented board of directors who support the mission of the school and serve as public education and reform advocates.
The challenge, up until now, has been that it has been hard for charter schools to recruit and train board members, and to access the training and tools they need to govern effectively. Charter Board Partners (CBP) is helping to solve that problem in Washington, DC and Washington state, where they have recruited and matched more than 125 board members, and trained close to 400. Working with more than 35 boards, CBP has developed high impact tools and strategies for effective governance.
Today, CBP launched GreatBoards, a new program that gives charter school boards across the country access to the best-practice tools and templates they need to govern effectively.
GreatBoards, an affordable membership program, solves specific board problems including helping boards understand their roles and responsibilities, evaluate the head of school, run effective and transparent meetings, use dashboards to regularly review and use student outcome data, and transition from founding to governing boards.
Organized in a simple, user-friendly portal, and paired with a CBP-manned helpdesk, GreatBoards is designed to help board members understand exactly what board leadership entails and do it effectively. With GreatBoards, the days of reinventing the governance wheel time and time again are over.
To provide boards with a simple framework for how to govern well, GreatBoards is organized around CBP’s acclaimed six Standards for Effective Charter School Governance:

  1. Focus Relentlessly on Student Achievement
  2. Ensure Exceptional School Leadership
  3. Commit to Exemplary Governance
  4. Act Strategically
  5. Raise and Use Resources Wisely
  6. Maintain Legal and Regulatory Compliance

Charter Board Partners, founded by Carrie Irvin and Simmons Lettre, was incubated by NewSchools Venture Fund and benefits from the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, several business partners, and many local donors. Their mission: ensure that every charter school has a strong board that can insist on results and ensure high academic outcomes for students. CBP believes that strong charter schools can reduce the inequities in the public education system by giving all students and their families real choice and the opportunity to attend an excellent school.
Great schools need great boards. Strong governance ensures school quality sustained over time. And now CBP’s best-practice toolkit is available to every charter school board in the country.
For more on why every public charter school needs a strong and strategic board, watch Carrie’s TEDxMidAtlantic talk.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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