Research and Thought Leadership

Composite image of an empty chair

Report: Empty Seats at Powerful Tables


To help school boards evolve into institutions oriented toward justice, we must better understand who serves them, and get a grasp of their priorities, challenges, the support they require, and ideas about systemic racism in their district. To that end, we conducted a large-scale, first-of-its-kind survey of elected school board members from across the country. Our analysis focuses on education leaders of color.

Read the Report

Our Empty Seats Report highlighted an impending crisis that SBP is capitalizing on. By sustaining and supporting our Fellow's success, they are choosing to run for re-election at far higher rates than their peers...and they are winning:


Percentage of school board members who plan to run for re-election


Percentage of SBP Fellows who ran for re-election


Percentage of SBP Fellows who won re-election

Effective School Boards pass policies that clear the path for research-based interventions and environments for students

We're taking research-based interventions that other organizations have validated, and turning them into school board policies for action.

For example, the Alliance for Resource Equity has identified 10 dimensions for resource equity. At SBP, we take those research-based interventions and figure out which lever of power school board members can wield to build those interventions into policy and practice in their respective districts, leading to long-term systemic change rather than one-off initiatives that die when a staff member leaves.

Based on survey data, compared to their peers, School Board Partner Fellows...

  • Are more likely to be in Board Leadership positions (President/VP)

  • Have a much higher rate of being re-elected

  • Are more likely to offer and pass policies that create environments to improve student outcomes and experiences

  • Are more likely to hire the right Superintendent and hold that leader accountable to high standards

  • Are more likely to understand the role and focus on using their power to make courageous systemic changes or stand against

The eight essential elements of a high quality school board city ecosystem

Through our research, we've developed this framework to help funders and city partners invest in all eight elements of a high quality ecosystem to recruit, support and re-elect diverse and effective school board members. Our research demonstrates that until there is sustained investment in all eight of these areas in each city, school boards will continue to struggle.