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School Councils

Questions & Answers on School Councils

Part One: Vision

What is a school council?
A school council is a representative, school building-based committee composed of the principal, parents, teachers, community members and, at the secondary level, students, required to be established by each school pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 71, Section 59C.
What is the reason the Education Reform Act calls for establishing school councils?
Teachers, parents, and community members can become more committed to improving the schools and more supportive of the public school system when they enjoy the opportunity to serve or be represented on a school council that has a role in shaping the policies and programs of the school. One Massachusetts school system, which instituted site-based decision making and school councils prior to the statewide mandate, includes the following preamble in its guidelines for councils:
Values behind site-based decision making through councils: [the council] improves student outcomes by uniting, in responsible participation, those closest to the teaching-learning relationship; [the council] creates through the development of a shared vision and planning a school environment which unites all members of the school community in a sense of belonging, commitment and growth.
How does the councils' work relate to other provisions of Education Reform?
Councils are an integral feature of Education Reform and are the main instrument for practicing the participatory site-based management that is called for in the Education Reform Act. Each school's efforts and success in meeting statewide standards will be an important component of the school council's needs assessment. In addition, as councils assist principals in preparing the school improvement plan, they will have a role in shaping the school's achievement of the professional development and parent involvement goals of Education Reform.
What are the educational benefits of site-based decision making?
Site-based decision making places the school at the center of planning, goal setting, and budgeting for school improvement. It provides additional opportunities for teachers and administrators who are closest to the teaching learning process to be innovative and creative. Site-based decision making also allows teachers and administrators to work with parents and the community to become more responsive to the needs of a particular school's population. For example, the teachers at a particular school may find that, because of the characteristics of their students, they have a need for a particular type of inservice training that is not offered or needed district-wide. Under site-based decision making, this school may be given the discretionary authority over staff development resources to meet this need.
How does the establishment of school councils enhance the benefits of site-based decision making?
School councils enhance site-based decision making because they expand the participation of the school community in its schools' decision making. The involvement of different groups on the council -- teachers, parents, and non parent community members -- provides the school with different and mutually complementary perspectives on its improvement goals and plans. In addition, by involving people who work in and support the school in the development of the school's improvement plan, the likelihood will increase that the plan will be successfully implemented.

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Last Updated: January 27, 1994
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