The superintendent’s evaluation always has been a source of contention for the board and anxiety for the superintendent. Well, in Texas, a new statute amendment to 19 TAC Chapter 150 that supports the Lone Star Governance model for superintendent evaluation has been unveiled by the Commissioner of Education and will go into effect on January 24th, 2019. It presents a novel idea – let the superintendent’s evaluation be solely based on the success of the student outcome goals set forth by the board. 

Lone Star Governance and student outcomes

In Texas, Lone Star Governance is fast becoming the model for good board governance in school districts across the state. For the first time, boards are empowered to be directly involved in student achievement which, by the way, is why school systems and school boards exist.

Research tells us that the three most important behaviors of school boards – the ones that have the greatest impact on student outcomes – are:

  • Collaboratively setting student outcome goals which are S.M.A.R.T. – specific, measurable, attainable, results-focused and time-bound.
  • Establishing non-negotiables – which are those specific parameters provided for the superintendent by the board.
  • Collaboratively and consistently monitoring these student outcome goals.

The board should be saying to the superintendent, “these are our student outcome goals for the district, and it is your job to accomplish them.” Then, it should be left to the superintendent to make those goals a reality while the board governs and monitors the process.

The introduction of this new statute marks a great day for superintendents and they should really embrace it. No longer will they be judged and evaluated on vague expectations which do not impact student outcomes. Now, they will have concrete goals with progress measures which give irrefutable evidence of success.

From board management to good board governance

The Lone Star Governance framework takes the Board of Trustees from a management board to a governance board. It allows the board to monitor its own success in governance and work collaboratively, both together as a board and with the superintendent, to increase student outcomes. 

The process is relatively simple. Through Lone Star Governance, the student outcome goals are created by the board in collaboration with the superintendent who provides the ‘Needs Assessment’ and ‘Data Analysis’ needed to do the work. Then it is the superintendent and administrative team that set the ‘Goal Progress Measures’ to fulfill those goals.

When the board is focused on the student outcome goals, they become the focus of the entire district. This synergy of focus that flows from the board to the superintendent, to teachers and even to students impacts the entire district in a powerful and positive way. If student outcome goals are the driving force and central to success, then it is only right that these goals be at the center of the superintendent’s evaluation. 

Making student outcomes the focus

When student outcome goals are at the focus of the superintendent’s evaluation, the superintendent clearly knows what the evaluation will entail. It also means that for the first time in many districts, the evaluation criteria are truly measurable and no longer based on what or how board members “feel” about the superintendent. In previous evaluation instruments, questions such as, “do you feel that the superintendent communicates well with board members?” are common and very subjective. One board member may “feel” that the superintendent communicates well while another may not.

Other subjective questions we’ve seen asked in evaluations usually relate to the superintendent’s communication with the community. Just this past year, a superintendent was given a low evaluation score simply because they didn’t attend a summer community festival. And even though, in that district, student outcomes had greatly improved, the superintendent’s evaluation suffered. Yes, communication with the community is important for a superintendent, but it shouldn’t be what they are evaluated on. Was the superintendent hired to attend festivals or improve student outcomes? 

This new amendment to TAC 19 Chapter 150 is meant to return the focus of Texas school boards to evaluate the superintendent on what really matters most – student outcomes. For the first time, the State of Texas is saying, “hey school boards, let’s get focused on what we were created to do – improve student outcomes – and let’s evaluate our leader on whether or not our mission to improve student outcomes was achieved.” Now superintendents are free to do what they were hired to do without the fear of being evaluated on non-measurable, subjective criteria.

How board management software helps

In theory this is all great. In practice it can be much harder. How can a district track the progress of their student outcome goals and the goal progress measures that impact the superintendent’s evaluation and success of the district? Monitoring is critical. Too many times in education, plans are made, goals are set, and nothing happens because nothing is monitored. Within the Lone Star Governance Framework, a calendar for monthly superintendent reports is required to track the success of the goal progress measures. Each month, the board receives a report from the superintendent that will ultimately culminate in his or her evaluation.

Because this information is so critical in so many areas, board management software like the NXTBoard platform is recommended to make tracking and management of the process less time consuming and easier.

NXTBoard is the only board portal that combines both board management and strategic planning features and that can help guide a board in the creation of S.M.A.R.T., student outcome goals; S.M.A.R.T. student outcome goal progress measures; monitoring calendars; and, superintendent reports that include easy-to-digest charts and graphs to enhance understanding. The NXTBoard platform is the only board portal that can support a focus on student outcomes, superintendent success and ultimately student success.

Students are what really matter in the big scheme of education, yet, somehow, trustees and educators have lost their direction. The compass has been missing for some time and children have been the losers. In Texas, with this new governance framework and new approach to superintendent evaluation, students are being put at the forefront. The ground-work is being laid for improving student achievement that will impact the lives of Texas students, and the wider community, for decades to come.