SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS' PERCEPTIONS OF THE IMPACT OF PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT ON THEIR BOARD-RELATED ACTIVITIES
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The school board in the United States is the least understood and least often researched part of the educational system. This study explored the importance of school board professional development through a bounded case study which examined the perceptions of school board members who participated in the Washington State School Directors Association (WSSDA) Lighthouse training from 2008-10. The study had a threefold purpose: (1) to examine school board members' perceptions of how a professional development program influenced their school board-related activities, (2) to identify their perceived professional development needs as school board members, and (3) to determine the perceptions board members held regarding the quality and content of professional development received. The following overarching research question guided the researcher: To what degree do school board members perceive a link between professional development and their ability to impact student achievement? Differences in perception based on district size, gender, diversity, and degree of district participation in Lighthouse training were also examined. Five themes emerged from the study: (1) School board members are motivated by a strong desire to be an advocate for students and to provide community service. (2) School governance is time consuming and presents a host of political and interpersonal challenges for directors within the board, district, and community. (3) New board members learn the role mostly through on-the-job training and believe they would benefit from a more structured and systematic orientation. (4) School board members prefer whole-board training conducted on-site by an outside trainer. (5) School board members see great value in training and use professional development to improve student outcomes in their districts. Responses were consistent in relation to district size and diversity, but varied greatly in relation to gender and level of Lighthouse participation. Study results (1) suggest that professional development for board members can have a positive impact on student achievement, (2) demonstrate the critical importance of training for boards, and (3) have strong implications for policy and practice at the local, state, and federal levels. Implications for further research include expanding the inquiry beyond eastern Washington and studying school boards in high achieving, non-Lighthouse districts.