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There are more than 14,000 local school boards operating in the United States. School boards take various forms across the country. In some states, all local school board members are elected; in others, some members are elected and some are appointed. While the vast majority of school board members are elected, several urban areas are moving to have some or all of their school board members appointed, often by the mayor of the city.

In principle, school boards provide direction and oversight to public education in a community. Historically, school boards, among other things, have approved budgets and contracts, campaigned for local bond issues and dealt with concerns voiced by a school district's constituents. Given the demands of state and federal accountability policies, however, the roles and responsibilities of schools boards are changing.

In the emerging era of performance-based accountability, some are calling on school boards to focus on fulfilling a core set of responsibilities in order to improve student achievement. According to the National School Boards Association, these responsibilities include setting the vision for the school district, providing a structure for school district success, accounting for school district results and advocating for public education in the community.

Others, meanwhile, are calling for more fundamental changes in the roles and responsibilities of school boards, which include shifting the focus of school boards toward primarily authorizing and monitoring the operation of schools, but not directly operating them. In this scenario, school boards operate in a manner similar to boards that are strictly focused on sponsoring and monitoring charter schools, such as the District of Columbia Public Charter School Board.


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