Hello from my friends and research team! From 2015-2016, this dedicated group of scholars at the University of Missouri, Department of Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis, has worked on a project called: “School Board Members and Policymaking in Changing Communities.” Despite all the talk about federal education programs and state-mandated tests in the news, education in the U.S. is still largely locally determined, with school boards serving as the principal policymaking bodies (Hess, 2002). While recent research suggests that school boards may help to establish policies that attend to diverse communities, we know little about how board members come to understand demographic change and make policies that respond to it (Turner, 2015). What ideas, conversations, and processes lead up to their decision-making? As the U.S. experiences its greatest immigration since the turn of the 20th century (Massey, 2008), we asked: (1) What do board members in rural, suburban, and urban Missouri know about immigration, English Learners (ELs), and EL program options? (2) What are their beliefs about immigrants, ELs, and language learning? (3) How do their contexts shape their knowledge, beliefs, and decision-making? These questions seem ever more important, as schools struggle to address concerns facing immigrant communities in our current, uncertain times.
To date, we have developed a brief overview of findings that may be helpful for our local organizations that provide training to school boards (School Board Members and Policymaking). In addition, we are preparing multiple papers from this work and will present them at this year’s AERA conference in San Antonio — see you there!