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Thursday, September 20, 2007


According to researchers Frank Lutz and Laurence Iannaccone, the
Dissatisfaction Theory of American Democracy says simply that when
voters are dissatisfied, they get out and vote to change whatever it is
they are dissatisfied with.

Dissatisfaction theory plays out dramatically in school board elections.
Unhappy voters have been shown to turn out in larger than usual numbers
to get rid of board incumbents when their constituents don't like
something happening with the schools. The newly elected board members,
in turn, fire the superintendent, hire a new one, and make policy

Conversely, the low voter turn out in many school board elections
-sometimes as low as 15 percent -- can be seen to reflect voter
satisfaction with the way schools are going. But before you think
BoardBuzz is suggesting a "keep out the vote" campaign, remember that
low turnout can also be a sign that the community flat out doesn't care,
which is never a good thing, especially for school leaders attempting to
do more for their students.

Related to this, the Lighthouse Project, IASB's own groundbreaking
research of school board effectiveness, shows that acceptance of the
status quo is a characteristic of low-achieving districts along with a
tendency to attribute students' low performance to factors outside of
school. School boards of high-performing districts, on the other
hand,are more likely to express confidence in their students' ability to
achieve and their professional staff's capacity to make it happen. They
also put their beliefs to work by creating conditions that support
school improvement.

Perhaps what our schools really need from their communities is a bit of
constructive dissatisfaction -- communities that are never quite
satisfied with "good enough" and support their schools' ongoing efforts
to do even better.

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