Big City School Boards: Problems and Options

December 2002

Newspapers across the country are filled with stories about failing schools and large numbers of students who cannot pass statewide exams or who abandon school before graduating. Everyone thinks urban school boards should do something about these problems. However, urban school boards spend very little of their time considering ways to turn around failed schools or thinking about transforming the educational experiences of the children least likely to succeed.

This report summarizes the functions of school boards, identifies some of the problems with big city school boards, and suggests options for reorienting boards around the trusteeship of the children they serve.

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