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National School Boards Association

History and Development, Program, Organizational Structure, Goals

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is the nationwide organization representing public school governance. NSBA's mission is to foster excellence and equity in public elementary and secondary education through school board leadership. NSBA achieves its mission by representing the school board perspective before federal government agencies and national organizations that affect education and by providing vital information and services to state associations of school boards and local school boards throughout the nation.

Founded in 1940, NSBA is a not-for-profit federation of state associations of school boards across the United States and its territories. NSBA represents the nation's 95,000 school board members who govern nearly 15,000 local school districts serving the nation's more than 47 million public school students. Nearly all school board members are elected; the rest are appointed by elected officials.

A 150-member delegate assembly of local school board members determines NSBA policy. The board of directors, which comprises twenty-five members, translates this policy into action. The NSBA executive director and staff administer programs and services.

NSBA advocates local school boards as the ultimate expression of grassroots democracy. The organization supports the capacity of each school board–working with the people of its community–to envision the future of education, to establish a structure and environment that allows all students to reach their maximum potential, to provide accountability for the people of its community on performance in the schools, and to serve as a community advocate for children and youth and their public schools.

History and Development

The advantages of forming an association of school boards were recognized as early as 1895. Pennsylvania became the first state to organize a state association in 1895; New York followed in 1896. Although some states organized associations in the years immediately following, it was not until 1913 that numerous other associations emerged. After 1913 the school board association movement showed steady growth. In the 1950s fifteen associations were organized, making this decade the time of greatest development.

The idea of establishing a national organization of school boards took shape during the 1938 convention of the National Education Association. The first name given to this group was the National Association of Public School Boards. However, the NSBA was formally organized in St. Louis, Missouri, on February 28, 1940, as the National Council of State School Boards Association. The name was later changed to the National School Boards Association.


NSBA's major services include:

  • The National Affiliate Program, which enables school boards to work with their state association and NSBA to identify and influence federal and national trends and issues affecting public school governance.
  • The Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE), which serves the governance needs of urban school boards. CUBE publishes Urban Advocate, a quarterly newsletter that addresses the programmatic, fiscal, and governance challenges of urban public schools on behalf of its members and the 7.5 million students they serve.
  • The Federal Relations Network, which helps school board members from each congressional district actively participate in NSBA's federal and national advocacy efforts.
  • ITTE: Education Technology Programs and Technology Leadership Network, which helps advance public education through best uses of technology in the classroom and school district operation. Formerly known as the Institute for the Transfer of Technology to Education (ITTE) the organization publishes Technology Leader-ship News nine times per year. NSBA's technology publication Electronic School is produced in cooperation with ITTE.
  • The Council of School Attorneys (COSA), which focuses on school law issues and services to school board attorneys. COSA publishes Inquiry and Analysis (I&A). Published ten times per year, I&A keeps members up-to-date on the latest developments in the field of school law.
  • The National Education Policy Network, which provides the latest policy information nationwide and a framework for public school governance through written policies.
  • School Board News (SBN), NSBA's member newspaper, which began publication in 1981. SBN covers trends in public education and has won many awards for its content.
  • American School Board Journal (ASBJ), which is an award-winning, editorially independent education magazine housed at NSBA's offices. ASBJ began publication in 1891 and in the early twenty-first century had a circulation of more than 35,000 paid subscribers.
  • NSBA's Annual Conference and Exposition, which is the nation's largest policy and training conference for local education officials on national and federal issues affecting the public schools in the United States.
  • NSBA's Technology + Learning (T+L) Conference, which brings together school district leaders, technology specialists, and the leading vendors in education technology.

Organizational Structure

The NSBA is a federation of state school boards associations, which includes the school boards of the fifty states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Local school boards are eligible for membership in their own state school boards association and are not district members of the NSBA. However, the NSBA maintains contact with local school boards and their members through the National Affiliate program.

The National Affiliate program is a partnership that includes NSBA, its federation of state school boards associations, and local school districts across the country, which is dedicated to ensuring education excellence and improved student achievement through effective school board leadership. Official association publications supplement state association publications in helping to supply school board members with vital educational information. The National Affiliate program began in 1980 and now boasts more than 2,500 member districts.

The major policymaking body of the association is the delegate assembly, which meets during the annual conference. Two voting delegates, who are chosen at the state level, represent each member association. The delegate assembly determines official NSBA policies and resolutions. Policy decisions require a two-thirds vote and resolutions a majority vote.


NSBA and its federation members are dedicated to educating every child to his or her fullest potential and are committed to leadership for student achievement. This commitment has coalesced into a strategic vision for the NSBA as a powerful, united, energetic federation; as an influential force for achieving equity and excellence in public education; and as a catalyst for aligning the power of the community on behalf of education.

Underlying this shared vision are certain fundamental convictions:

  • belief that effective local school boards can enable all children to reach their potential
  • conviction that local governance of public education is a cornerstone of democracy
  • belief in the power of local school boards to convene the community around education issues
  • conviction that together, local school boards can influence education policy and governance at the state and national levels
  • commitment to the principle that through collaboration comes impact
  • belief that the strength of local school board leadership arises from the board's capacity to represent the diversity of students and communities

Central to NSBA's vision is the "Key Work of School Boards" initiative. The "Key Work of School Boards" is NSBA's framework for raising student achievement through community engagement. It is designed to give school boards the concrete action tools to be even more effective in the role of school board member and community leader and is based on the premise that excellence in the classroom begins with excellence in the boardroom.

The "Key Work" initiative is framed around eight key areas: vision, standards, assessment, accountability, alignment, climate, collaborative relationships, and continuous improvement. It means engaging the community, identifying priorities, and setting standards for student performance. It requires establishing assessment and accountability measures, demanding student data to drive decision-making, and aligning district resources to support priorities. All of this involves setting the right climate for learning, forming collaborative relationships, and always continually improving performance.

Through these goals and its longstanding commitment to excellence and equity in public education through school board leadership, the NSBA is a powerful force in education policy.




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