The Brighter Side of Education

School Board Members Should Be Trained! The How & Why with Education Reform Advocate and Author AJ Crabill

February 23, 2023 Dr. Lisa R. Hassler Season 1 Episode 10
The Brighter Side of Education
School Board Members Should Be Trained! The How & Why with Education Reform Advocate and Author AJ Crabill
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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this episode, I focus on school boards and their effect on student achievement. What makes a school board effective?

Research over the past 20 years clearly links the beliefs, actions, and relationships of school board members with student outcomes. Scholars compared districts with similar levels of poverty and disadvantage to determine factors that separate high-performing districts from those with low performance and contrasted the school boards. School board members in high-performing districts have attitudes, knowledge and approaches that are vastly different from boards in low-achieving districts. 

Here to discuss these effective attitudes, knowledge, and approaches for school board members to improve student outcomes, is education reform advocate and author AJ Crabill.


AJ is Conservator at DeSoto Independent School District and Governance Director at Council of the Great City Schools. He is also an author of the books, "Great on Their Behalf: Why School Boards Fail, How Yours Can Become Effective," and the forthcoming companion workbook, "Effective School Boards Framework: A Practitioner's Manual For School Board Leaders Wanting to Improve Student Outcomes. 

So here is the call to action: Become an active member in your community and support a school board focused on student success. 


To learn more about AJ Crabill and his books, go to his website at https://www.ajcrabill.com. 

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The music in this podcast was written and performed by Brandon Picciolini of the Lonesome Family Band. Visit and follow him on Instagram.

My publications:
America's Embarrassing Reading Crisis: What we learned from COVID, A guide to help educational leaders, teachers, and parents change the game, is available on Amazon, Kindle, and Audible, and iTunes.
My Weekly Writing Journal: 15 Weeks of Writing for Primary Grades on Amazon.
World of Words: A Middle School Writing Notebook Using the Writing Process ...

Transcript

Lisa

00:10-00:48


Welcome to the brighter side of education. I am your host, Dr. Lisa Hasler, here to enlighten and brighten the classrooms in America through focused conversation on important topics in education. In each episode, I discuss problems we as teachers and parents are facing and what people are doing in their communities to fix it. What are the variables, and how can we duplicate it to maximize student outcomes? In this episode, I focus on school boards and their effect on student achievement. What makes the school board effective? Research over the past 20 years clearly links the beliefs, actions, and relationships of school board members with student outcomes.

Lisa

00:48-01:41


Scholars compared districts with similar levels of poverty and disadvantage to determine factors that separate high performing districts from those with low performance and contrasted the school boards. School board members in high performing districts have attitudes, knowledge, and approaches that are vastly different from boards in low achieving districts. Here to discuss these effective attitudes, knowledge, and approaches for school board members to improve student outcomes is education reform advocate and author AJ Craibel. AJ is conservator at Dasoto Independent School District and Governance Director at Council of the Great City Schools. He is also an author of the book's Great on their behalf, Why School Boards Fail and How Yours Can Become Effective and the forthcoming companion workbook, Effective School Boards Framework a Practitioner's Manual for School Board Leaders Wanting to improve student Outcomes.

Lisa

01:41-01:43


Welcome to the show, AJ.

AJ

01:43-01:45


Thank you so much for having me, Lisa.

Lisa

01:45-02:00


Great. So what is the role of a school board? The difference between focusing on student outcomes versus adult inputs, and the meaning behind your stance that student outcomes don't change until adult behavior changes.

AJ

02:00-02:13


First, I just want to say thank you. I appreciate folks who really do their homework try to evaluate what's in the research literature, and you've clearly come well prepared. So I'm excited about the conversation.

Lisa

02:14-02:14


Great.

AJ

02:15-02:55


The way that I describe is that school boards exist to represent the vision and values of their community. The basic idea here is that at some point, communities got large enough where people realized we can't all sit around a table and make decisions about the school. There are 50,000 of us. There are 100,000 of us living here. What we need is some representatives, some folks who will represent our collective vision for what our students should know and be able to do, our collective values around what would be unacceptable in the operation of our schools, and that those people will speak on behalf of our collective vision of values.

AJ

02:55-03:11


Those people will write that vision down, write the values down, and use that to ensure that the school systems honor both the codified version of the community's vision of values we refer to as policy. The board responsible for setting that policy refer to as school boards when it.

Lisa

03:11-03:15


Says student outcomes don't change until adult behavior changes. What do you mean by that?

AJ

03:15-04:04


What I mean by student outcomes don't change until adult behaviors change is that we as a community have a sacred obligation. I, as a member of this community, have a legal, a moral obligation to be constantly examining my behaviors, to be constantly looking at are the things that I'm doing in alignment with the vision and values I have for the children of our community. And in any moment when I notice not alignment that I have an obligation to take action and to begin to modify my adult behavior in ways that do align with the vision we have for our children, that do align with the values we have in our community. What it pushes back against is any obsession with the externalities that might exist.

AJ

04:04-04:35


And so often I might hear someone say, well, what about, you know, children being in poverty? And there are all these different rationales for why children might not be learning. I'm not suggesting those things aren't real. I am suggesting that as school leaders, as educators, as community members who care deeply about what's possible for children, we have an obligation to have our response to those externalities be more powerful on behalf of our children than our excuse. Make it around why children might not be able to learn.

Lisa

04:36-04:47


You visited many schools and have seen a common thread between failing and thriving school boards. Can you explain what are some of those common school board failures and ways you can diagnose and address them?

AJ

04:48-05:28


Yeah. The first thing to be clear about is school boards that are popular. As a recovering school board bipper myself, I can assure you that school board members across the country are folks who want what's great for children as a population. We may express it in radically different ways, but at the heart of the board members that I beat all across the country is how can we create great things for children in our community? How can we lift children up and help them succeed? Caring, however, while necessary, is insufficient. Education is a business of love, and loving our children is an essential part of having a successful education institution.

AJ

05:28-06:07


While necessary, it is insufficient. That has to be paired with a set of knowledge, a set of skills and mindset that really empower highly effective school board governance. Where I see school boards fall apart is first and foremost in the area of mindset is that the coaching I provided school systems exist for one reason and one reason only, and that's to improve student outcomes. It's to cause improvement to what students know and able to do. When this is not the dominant mindset of school boards, when anything else is allowed to become the centerpiece, the reason for existence of a school system, children suffer.

AJ

06:08-06:41


So this mindset of being intensely focused on improving student outcomes, recognizing that that is the only reason that school systems exist, school systems do not exist to have a balanced budget that's a helpful thing. I'm a big fan of balanced budgets. I think of myself as fairly fiscally conservative when it comes to taxpayer dollars. But that is not why school systems exist. School systems don't exist to have great books. I'm a big fan of making sure that we have appropriate curriculum, but that is not why school systems exist. We don't exist to have wonderful buildings, happy parents, effective teachers.

AJ

06:41-07:32


All of these are really valuable things to have. But from a governance perspective, if you make those the reason that the school system exists, you're courting failure. It becomes all too easy to focus on, what are the things that will make adults happy? Or what are the things that will look attractive and not be focused on can little AJ read? Has he grown in numeracy? Has he grown in critical thinking? Have we really challenged him in the areas of collaboration and music and arts? If any moment when the mindset of the board is focused on anything other than our sole function is to improve student outcomes, boards start to fall apart pretty quickly, and the aspiration they have for children becomes less and less likely to be made manifest in the lives of the children they serve.

Lisa

07:32-08:09


I was a school board member way back when, and it was at a private school, and I had no idea what I was doing. I was asked to join. I was like, sure, sister, I'll be on this board. And there I was. I'm part of this little school board that we would meet in this room once a month, and she would tell me, prince would tell me how the school was going. And I was just like, that was great to me because I knew no different. So I wish that I had some guidance, as you are providing in this book and this upcoming companion workbook for school board members to give me some direction and guidance and to say, this is really what you need to be focused on.

Lisa

08:10-08:25


My husband was also a school board president as well, and I just feel like we would have really benefited not only personally ourselves, but the people that we were on the board with. I think that those members would have really appreciated your knowledge and wisdom.

AJ

08:25-08:27


How long did you serve?

Lisa

08:27-09:04


Two years. Two years? Yeah. So it's not that long, but it was an experience nonetheless. And so talking about school boards and then the things that we were discussing, the things that I've been reading about it, I really realized how much I was lacking. And so I think that I'm not alone in this because many school board members are public and you have to run for this office, but there are just as many school boards that are private that you don't really have big running campaigns for, and they just need someone to fill the seat who has the best interest at heart of the children in that school, which I did.

Lisa

09:04-09:07


But when it came to a governance standpoint, I did not.

AJ

09:07-09:31


And this is something we have in common. Even though you served in governance for a private school and I served in governance for a public school, like, I showed up not knowing anything about what was actually involved in governance. Frequently said, you know, like, the whole process for RV school boards is a little bit awkward because if you were going to seek out the the nine best individuals to serve at a school board, you would have never picked me.

Lisa

09:31-09:33


I wouldn't have been picked something I.

AJ

09:33-09:34


Would have never made that cut.

Lisa

09:35-09:36


No.

AJ

09:36-09:57


And I find this to be common across our colleagues and school boards across the nation. Is that all too often we show up and we show up with a heart for children, yes. But not with the knowledge and skills necessary to govern effectively. And I wish for the sake of the children I served that I had known on day one what I know now.

Lisa

09:57-09:58


Yeah, me too.

AJ

09:59-10:40


Part of the coaching that I provide is that if boards really want to be great on behalf of the children they serve, then the first part of that is certainly their own journey. But to really be successful in this, board members have to take it upon themselves to be actively educating their communities about what effective governance looks like. With the aspiration of being able to ensure that future board members are fully educated on the distinction between the governance of a school system and the management of a school system long before they ever take office, that you really want to train people. My last district, we initiated what we called School Board School.

AJ

10:40-11:09


In my current district, we have what we call Trustees Academy, and in both cases run by the school board members and providing training to community members about, here's what effective governance looks like. And in both school systems with a singular purpose, how can we make sure that before people even file to run for the school board that they have an understanding of, here's what it's going to look like to be intensely focused on improving student outcomes. Don't come to the board table the way I did.

Lisa

11:09-11:37


Come prepare to say, absolutely. I want to go back to your beginning. You have many exceptional stories about your deep level of commitment that you display during your time as a school board member. And through your efforts to revitalize a struggling neighborhood in Kansas City, you became involved in various projects eventually leading to school board presidency of the Kansas City, Missouri School Board. And one was the Ivanhoe project. Can you talk about its purpose and effect?

AJ

11:37-12:21


The Ivanhoe house. One of the things we noticed was that even though Ivanhoe, the neighborhood was one of the lower income neighborhoods in Kennedy City's East Side, we have families, like families everywhere else in America, where kids just want to grow up and do awesome things, where families want great things for their children. But there certainly often seem to be a gap between what our families wanted for their children and what was happening in reality. So the neighborhood association, I think I was the vice chair of the neighborhood association at that time, we were always looking around for what are ways that we could help bridge that gap, that we could help provide our families with the additional educational supports and just quality of life supports.

AJ

12:21-13:00


The one idea that I had the privilege of helping to develop and then ultimately implement, which is really awesome, was the idea of Ivanhoe house, where he collaborated with local university and the city. The city actually provided us with houses that were essentially reclaimed by the city. I don't know if it's through taxes or whatever the circumstance, but the city would have these properties that normally meant that they were just going to be torn down or something of that nature. The city granted us the house. We were able to find the resources through local partnerships to rehab the houses and get them ready for folks to live in.

AJ

13:00-13:42


And then for one of these houses. What we did is we, in a partnership with the university, said, do you have students who would be willing to live here, in this house, in this neighborhood, in exchange for a reduction in their rent to be of service as mentors and tutors to the children immediately adjacent in the neighborhood. And so it wound up being this really awesome project where university students, who normally our students weren't heavily exposed to there are very few people in Ivanhoe had college education. And so it would be very likely that children grow up and they'd never be exposed to anyone like that, especially young people might look like them.

AJ

13:42-14:14


And so suddenly having this infusion of college students moving into the neighborhood and being an active relationship with their young people and as mentors and tutors was just this really beautiful project. What we found is that students who saw young people in their neighborhood who are going to college all of a sudden saw something for themselves, like, wait a minute, yeah, they're not even smarter than I am. They look like I live. They can do it, I can do it. Yeah, that was a lot of the intentionality around Ivanhouse and I was just it was a blessing.

AJ

14:14-14:46


There are a lot of things like that. We were just looking for what are ways that we can make a difference with the families and the children in our neighborhood, particularly in the area of education, wherever possible, in a way that was financially sustainable. Because actually having an income producing property, that was the margins essentially being applied to services for students in the community, we saw as a real sustainable and replicable model for how we could make a difference for children.

Lisa

14:46-15:20


I think that's phenomenal. Through modeling you are inspiring and the connecting in the community. When I was reading about you and learning about you, I saw that you had a lot of community involvement as a school board member, which I thought was very inspiring. So you are no stranger to community involvement in action. And you led community outreach programs going door to door and calling residents to educate parents and re enroll students that previously dropped out. Can you talk about the power community involvement from school board members can make on student outcomes?

AJ

15:20-16:01


Yeah, this was really important is we kept running into these circumstances where we had students who were doing well in school, we had built relationships with them and then they would just disappear and we wouldn't see them anymore. This is just really confounding. And so what we wound up doing is partnering with a number of community organizations. Say we want to first start by phone banking. Will parishioners from your churches and members of your organizations like NAACP and such, will you come in and we can do some phone banking? We've got a list of these 1000 students and we just want to call all of them a few times and see if we can find them.

AJ

16:01-16:35


And then through that process, if there's 1000 students, we usually find 6700 of them and say, hey, we just want to know how you do it. What's it going to take for you to come back to school? That being said, there'd always be this remnant 3 to 400 of them out of a thousand that the phone calls didn't work. And so then phase B of this was that we take it to the streets and we just go knock on doors. And so with the superintendent, myself, we'd go out, knock on a door, somebody open it. They look at us like, can we help you?

AJ

16:35-17:13


It's like, yeah, how come you aren't at school? And just doing whatever we could to invite folks back into our schools, invite families to consider that getting their childhood education was probably going to be the strongest ticket toward the life that they wanted for themselves and that if they weren't getting educated somewhere else, we wanted them back in our schools. This just became a normal thing that we did, as just a really important part of our way of being of service. And I think this is something that school board members certainly have a unique voice in, is that we represent the vision and values of the community.

AJ

17:13-17:41


And as such, I think we have a unique ability to go out and challenge the community to live into its highest ideals, both through inviting community partners to be of service to our students in ways that are aligned with the work of the district, but then also to speak directly to our families and say, hey, we've got an educational opportunity. What do we need to do for your child to best take advantage of that?

Lisa

17:41-17:51


How did the community respond to you showing up at their door, were you met with some surprise? And did parents and students respond well? Did they actually re enroll?

AJ

17:52-18:23


Yeah, we had a pretty good success rate. There was a good percentage of the time where when we knocked on doors, folks would be responsive. And often it was because there were things happening in the family life, challenges that they were facing. Things fell through the cracks. Again, parents, they just want what's great for their children, but sometimes people need a little bit of extra support to get there. And us showing up often allowed us to help them identify. Is there some type of community assistance you need, or there are resources that we can help you access.

AJ

18:24-18:50


There's food pantry, maybe at the local church that we can connect you with. What are the resources that need to be in place for us to get little AJ in class every day? We need to make sure that we have bus service. Like, whatever the challenge is, let's just work together to figure out how do we overcome that so that your child can get the education they deserve. Some of my favorite moments, however, when we knock on the door and the kid answer the door themselves, can I help you?

AJ

18:50-18:52


It's like, yeah, you could help us.

AJ

18:52-18:53


Come back to school.

AJ

18:53-18:54


What are we talking about?

Lisa

18:54-19:26


School? Yeah. How much did that show families and their kids, the students, that you cared, you noticed that they weren't there, and you were making an effort to come to their home to talk to them, to find out why and to help them. So I just know that as a parent or as a student, if I saw my school board members show up at my door and say, what's going on? How can we help you get back into the classroom? We want you to come back. We miss you. I would have been very motivated to respond positivity and to go back.

Lisa

19:26-19:54


I think that shows you care, which is part of that community involvement that you showed so much of that I think was so impactful. School board members are tasked with being of service to the children, but you also use data to make informed decisions. And during your time as a school board member, you saw the correlation between teacher training and the student reading success across your district. Can you tell about the university embargo story and its ultimate success?

AJ

19:55-20:51


If we want really great things to happen in education, and we know that they don't really happen in the boardroom where it really happens in the classroom, and the interaction between the learner and the educator, and the more effective the educator can be, and the more engaged the learner can be, really, the more the powerful, the likely resulting education will be. The most important variable in that that the school system has authority over is the quality of instruction that the educator is providing is a teacher themselves. This is really the secret weapon, the most powerful tool in a school systems belt. So, as we were evaluating the effectiveness of teachers coming into the district, we began to notice that teachers from some programs in their first and second years seemed to be more effective than teachers from other programs in their first and second years.

AJ

20:51-21:20


As we went with this, we analyzed the data and found that one particular program the teachers came in were significantly less prepared than all of our other first and second year teachers. And so I went to the head of that program, and I shared some of our findings and said, look, I don't know how to do your job, but I wanted to bring this to your attention. And as I've done some research to try to figure out what are other programs doing that seems to be working, here are some of the types of things are doing it. I'm wondering if these are things that you'd be open to doing, not rocket science.

AJ

21:20-21:56


Some things just like, can we provide more time in the classroom for students as they're learning to be teachers, so they get more experience, more hands on, things of that nature? Well, I was dismissed very quickly, and I didn't know what to do with that other than to try to make it clear that we did, in fact, need them as a partner and that simply ignoring this data wasn't acceptable. And so the superintendent made the decision, and I stood behind it, that we'd simply stop using graduates from that particular program until we saw some type of change, some type of improvement.

Lisa

21:56-21:57


Right.

AJ

21:57-22:24


That was a stunning phenomenon. Apparently, no one had thought to do this before, and because we're a large school system and a large percentage of their students student taught with us and came to us, this was a significant impact. The leader of that program wound up leaving, and then the institution contacted me when it was time to bring in a new head of the program and said, would you be willing to be part of the hiring committee?

AJ

22:24-23:02


And so I brought my list of all the things that I thought might be useful to that process and said, hey, I know you're applying for the job, but if selected, would you be open to considering these things? And of all the applicants, only two of them was like, yes, those are the right things that we need to be doing more of. And so my recommendation was make sure we hire one of these two people. And they did. And as an institution, we began hiring from that institution again as they quickly started implementing under her leadership, these common sense approaches to how do we increase the quality of preparation of our teachers?

AJ

23:03-23:10


And as they came back into partnership with us, we opened up the doors and started accepting their students and their graduates again.

Lisa

23:10-23:13


And the reading success, did it improve with the students?

AJ

23:13-23:13


Yeah.

AJ

23:13-23:41


And so we actually went back and looked, and what we found was that initially there was this one particular program that was significantly above others and this program that was significantly below. And what we found is that over time, as this program started to adopt some of this program's behaviors, that they actually did come up and reach the median. They never kind of got here, but they actually did come up and caught up with their peer institutions.

Lisa

23:42-24:13


That's inspiring just to see that you were able to use that data to make actionable change that impacted student outcomes. Just by looking at the data to see how can we dig a little bit deeper, where is the source of this coming from, and how do we bring about that change? So that's phenomenal. I've never heard of a school board doing anything like that. And so that goes into changing adult mindsets and being able to say, I'm going to use the data, but I can help the children by looking at this data, digging a little bit deeper, and making that change.

Lisa

24:13-24:16


But I have to be in the right mindset to say I'm focused on student outcomes.

AJ

24:16-24:35


Yeah, this can't be about what's popular. This can't be about because the position we took was very unpopular with a number of people, I bet. But it has to be about what is the evidence pointing us to, not what is going to help me get reelected or anything of that nature.

Lisa

24:35-24:56


That's right. Keeping the student outcomes as the main focus, so that changing adult mindsets also includes discipline and how we discipline our students in the school systems. Now, you help pilot a peer led restorative discipline model to pull students back into the community. Can you describe this program and its benefits?

AJ

24:56-25:34


Yeah, the first time we deployed this was actually with Ivanho, again, where we created this idea of this council of elders. And then we worked with the local police department, the city, the county, and when our young people first time nonviolent offenders and they met some criteria, instead of going into the criminal justice system after doing something stupid, normally shoplifting things of that nature. After some type of violation, instead of going to criminal justice system, they'd come to us and our counsel of the elders would have a conversation with them. We'd include whoever they shoplifted from, if that was the situation.

AJ

25:34-26:10


And we just have a conversation around kind of what was going on in your life, what was happening for you, what was in your mind at that time. Not in a pejorative kind of judgy way, just really trying to get in their world and understand what was real for you in that moment that gave rise to that decision. And in the context of that conversation, having them not only share what was true for them, but also having them, whoever was the receiver of harm that they created them, hearing often for the first time. What impact did your behavior have for these folks who were on the receiving end of your decision making?

AJ

26:10-27:01


Pushing folks to get clear about the harm that they created, to really own and internalize that my actions did in fact create harm for folks here, right here in my community, and then ultimately inviting them to take responsibility for coming up with a plan to repair the harm. And the deal that we made with the prosecutor, the police department and all these other entities was that if they could come up with a plan that all of us in the group agreed to, including the person who was harmed. If they could come up with a plan to repair the harm that all of us agreed with, and then they actually implemented the game plan, by the time that they indicated, then all charges will be dropped and this would not go on this child's record. And so we saw this as an opportunity to really, in a community basis, do character education.

AJ

27:02-27:43


We invited folks to reflect on here's the harm that I've created and here's my obligation that that harm now creates for me to go out and repair, and then here's the work that I'm doing to repair that. This was a really important process and we had tremendous success with having young people who had taken the first step down a path that we didn't want for them and honestly, that they didn't want for themselves and moving it down a very different path. Now, the challenge with this approach is very time consuming, I suspect. If you grab any educator in the country and say, hey, if one of your students is going down the wrong way, how would you handle it?

AJ

27:43-28:05


And they'd probably articulate something like what I just described, where they sit down and they have a conversation. They have them reflect, they have them be clear about the harm that they've created, come up with a plan to repair the harm and implement the harm as a way of helping that young person grow in their character, be pulled back into the community rather than excommunicate from it. I think if you talk to any teacher in America, they say, yeah, you know what? That's the approach that I want to take with all my students.

Lisa

28:05-28:06


Right.

AJ

28:06-28:50


The problem is they don't have time. That's the problem is that every teacher would want to do this, would want to support their students in this way. But it's really time consuming to have that type of conversation. And really we need our teachers spending their time teaching and not doing this. This is where this idea of student led restorative practices comes from. Instead of having a council of elders, old folks with all the grade that I'm running around with, we train our students themselves to. Lead this restorative process where when Little AJ makes a sub optimal decision at school, as Little AJS want to do that, instead of going to the assistant principal and let's figure out how many days of suspension, okay, you're going to get three days so you can go home and play fortnight.

AJ

28:51-29:05


Instead of that, send them to a group of their students, their peers, and their peers lead them to that same process. The thing is, there's always going to be more students in every school than there are adults.

Lisa

29:05-29:05


Yes.

AJ

29:05-29:25


Why don't we tap into that wisdom? And there's a two way benefit here. Not only does that allow us to provide this more restorative approach that actually challenges people to be held accountable for the choices they've made and to repair the harm that they've created. You know, me creating harm and then sitting at home playing video games for three days isn't repairing the harm that I've created in my school.

Lisa

29:25-29:25


No.

AJ

29:25-29:59


And isn't teaching me around the the character and the sense of community that is really going to set me up for success and is going to support me in being a member of the community that I want to be in the community wants me to be. But the other benefit of this is the students who are trained to lead this, they're learning a set of skills as well. Skills around problem solving and collaboration and empathy and how to engage in peacemaking in society, in a society that increasingly needs young people who are really good at peacemaking. Because honestly, as adults, we're not doing so great of it at a national level.

AJ

29:59-30:20


Sometimes these are skills that not only going to help them be great educationally, but are going to help them be great citizens of their community. And so I've had opportunity to help deploy this. I'm working with four high schools right now to transition from a retributive approach to discipline to this restorative approach.

Lisa

30:20-30:40


I think that's amazing. Do you see that? There's some great feedback on there. How is the response from the school when it comes to discipline? And I know that a lot of our suspension rates have been increasing detention. How does that reflecting those type of suspension rates and even ultimately drop out, maybe?

AJ

30:40-30:40


Yeah.

AJ

30:40-31:41


So in previous places where we've deployed this student led restorative practices approach, we've absolutely seen what you described. We've seen for the students who are directly interacting with the initiative that we'd see typically a meaningful increase in attendance rates and a decrease in predictable severity of discipline. What I mean by that is, if left unchecked, if there is no intervention, then a level one infraction could quickly escalate in severity to a level two infraction could escalate to a level three. In fact, analysis we did in my last district, we looked at these tier four infractions where student brought a weapon or something really dangerous into the building and over a five year period, we almost couldn't find examples of tier four infractions that weren't preceded by tier three, two and one infractions.

AJ

31:41-32:18


If we can find ways to minimize the Escalation, that is a powerful benefit both in safety as well as opportunities for students to actually be in a learning environment rather than outside of a learning environment. And so what we found in previous schools is that you'd absolutely see an increase in attendance and a decrease in the likelihood of severity of Escalation, of behavior. Now, the four schools that are high schools that I'm working with right now, we're in year one of the pilot and year one is just training. We haven't deployed anything, in fact, since last June when we started this to today.

AJ

32:18-32:31


We've just been training the adults. Because the first transformation for this initiative to work is that there has to be a shift in mindset for the adults involved from this more retributive approach. Who's guilty?

AJ

32:31-32:31


What do they do?

AJ

32:31-32:59


How do we meet out punishment? The more restorative approach, who created harm? For whom was the harm created? And how is this person held personally responsible for repairing the harm that they've created? That is a significant shift in mindset. And so the first year of the pilot, all we're doing is training, training, training all the adults. And actually later this month I'll actually do the first training for a group of students and that will lead into students being prepared to actually deploy this in the fall.

Lisa

32:59-33:25


Your time as a school board member involved extensive community involvement and a lot of hard decisions that kept student outcomes at the focus. And you've written four books scheduled to come out this year using the knowledge you gained through these experiences. The first being great on their behalf. Why School Boards Fail how years can become effective. Set to release in March. Can you tell us about the books and give us some advice to current or aspiring school board members?

AJ

33:25-34:01


Yeah, so Great on Their Behalf is really a continuous improvement process. It's looking at what would it take for students in the classroom to get the quality of education they need in that context and what's the continuous improvement process that that requires. And then taking that same continuous improvement process that happens in the classroom and saying, okay, now what would that continuous improvement process look like in the boardroom? With part of the idea being that school systems just need to continuously improve, period. And we just need to always be looking at how can we get better and better, more effective on behalf of the students we serve.

AJ

34:01-34:46


But also looking at this idea that boards are a culture setting institution for their school system. To the extent that the board wants to see this continuous improvement process embraced and enlivened in the classroom, the one significant access that boards have to that is embracing and aliving a continuous improvement process and making that visible. And plain in the boardroom that leading by example. That demonstrating here's what it looks like to be clear about what our priorities are to monitor progress relative to those priorities, to make adjustments in our deployment of resources based on that to communicate about how all that work and then to start that continuous improvement process over again as the board publicly engages in that work.

AJ

34:46-35:05


That they silently create the cultural norm for educators in the buildings and classrooms to engage in that continuous improvement work as well. And so that's much of what the book focuses on is what would it look like for a board to be engaged in continuous improvement that's intensely focused on improving student outcomes?

Lisa

35:05-35:21


Excellent. Well, thank you for that and that's sound advice, and I really enjoyed your conversation today. So thank you so much for joining me. And here is our Call to action become an active member in your community and support a school board focused on student success.

AJ

35:21-35:22


That's right.

Lisa

35:22-36:08


Thank you, AJ, for joining me today to talk about your work and the effective school board behaviors and mindsets needed to improve student outcomes. To learn more about AJ and his books, you can go to www.ajcraibill.com. That's ajcrabil.com. And if you have a story about what's working in your schools that you'd like to share, you can email me at Dr. Lisa Richardsonhasler@gmail.com or visit my website at www dot dr. Lisarhassler.com and send me a message. If you like this podcast, subscribe and tell a friend. The more people that know, the bigger impact it will have. And if you find value to the content in this podcast, consider becoming a supporter by clicking on the Supporter link in the show Notes.

Lisa

36:08-36:19


It is the mission of this podcast to shine light on the good in education so that it spreads affecting positive change. So let's keep working together to find solutions that focus on our children's success.

Role of School Board
"Student Outcomes Don't Change Until Adult Behavior Changes"
Common School Board Failures
The Ivanhoe House Project
Door-to-Door Involvement to Re-enroll Drop Outs
Teacher University Embargo
Peer-Led Restorative Discipline Model
Upcoming Books and Advise
Call to Action