LOCAL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL ADVISORY COMMITTEES:
THEORY AND PRACTICE IN SELECTED ELEMENTARY
SCHOOLS IN FLORIDA
MARY C. FEDLER
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL OF
THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE
DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Mary C. Fedler
The writer would like to thank the members of her doctoral com-
mittee, Dr. Michael Nunnery, Dr. James Longstreth, and Dr. Joseph Shea,
for their useful suggestions about the study. Special thanks are ex-
tended to Dr. Nunnery, chairman of the committee, for providing a
realistic perspective for research planning, for sharing his broad
expertise, and for giving the encouragement and help needed to complete
Appreciation is also expressed to the members of the Committee for
Citizen Participation of the Florida Education Council for their in-
terest and assistance. The writer is particularly grateful to Dr.
Marshall Harris, director of the Florida Education Council, for finan-
cial support and technical assistance during the period of research.
In addition, thanks are due the principals and committee chairmen who
helped make arrangements to include their committees in the study.
Finally, the writer is grateful to Fred Fedler for his help in
editing and Adele Koehler for her expert preparation of the final copy.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS . . . . . . . . . . .
LIST OF TABLES . . . . . . . . . . .
ABSTRACT . . . . . . . . . . . . .
I INTRODUCTION . . . . . . . . . . .
Background and Justification of the Study ....
The Problem . . . . . . . . . .
Definition of Terms . . . . . . . .
Procedures . . . . . . . . .
Organization of the Remainder of the Study . .
II LOCAL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL ADVISORY COMMITTEES: THE
CONSTRUCT AS DESCRIBED IN THE LITERATURE . . ...
Introduction . . . . . . . . .
Structure and Legal Authority . . . . . .
Roles and Functions . . . . . . . .
Group Processes . . . . . .
Summary of the Characteristics of the Ideal
Local Elementary School Advisory Committee. ..
III PRESENTATION OF THE FIELD STUDY DATA .
Introduction. . .
Structure and Legal
Roles and Functions
Group Processes .
Authority . .
IV DISCUSSION OF THE DATA . . . .
Introduction . . .
Structure and Legal Authority
Roles and Functions . .
Group Processes . . . .
V SUMMARY, CONCLUSIONS, AND IMPLICATIONS .
Summary . . . . . . .
Conclusions . . . . . .
Implications . . . . .
S. . . 131
. . . 131
. . . 135
. . . 166
. . . . 185
. . . 219
. . . 219
. . . 219
. . . 234
. . . 246
. . . 263
. . . . 263
. . . . 275
. . . . 277
A BACKGROUND DATA FOR THE COMMITTEES SURVEYED ...... 281
B THE LOCAL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL ADVISORY COMMITTEE
QUESTIONNAIRE . . . . . . . . . . 283
C PERCENTAGE DISTRIBUTIONS OF LESAC MEMBER RESPONSES
RELATIVE TO EACH INDICATOR TABULATED BY GROUP . . .. 291
REFERENCES . . . . . . . . ... . . . . 324
REFERENCE NOTES. . . . . . . ... . . . 332
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH. . . . . . . . . .. .. 333
LIST OF TABLES
Tabulation of LESAC Member Responses by Sex, Group,
and Position . . . . . . . . . . .
2. Comparison of Committee Member Responses,
to Indicators Related to Characteristic 1
3. Comparison of Committee Member Responses,
to Indicators Related to Characteristic 2
4. Comparison of
5. Comparison of
6. Comparison of
7. Comparison of
8. Comparison of
9. Comparison of
10. Comparison of
11. Comparison of
12. Comparison of
13. Comparison of
14. Comparison of
Committee Member Responses, by
Related to Characteristic 3 .
Committee Member Responses, by
Related to Characteristic 4 .
Committee Member Responses, by
Related to Characteristic 5 .
Committee Member Responses, by
Related to Characteristic 6 .
Committee Member Responses, by
Related to Characteristic 7 .
Committee Member Responses, by
Related to Characteristic 8 .
Committee Member Responses, by
Related to Characteristic 9 .
Committee Member Responses, by Position,
Related to Characteristic 10 . . .
Committee Member Responses, by Position,
Related to Characteristic 11 . . .
Committee Member Responses, by Position,
Related to Characteristic 12 . . .
Committee Member Responses, by Position,
Related to Characteristic 13 . . .
15. Comparison of Committee Member Responses, by Position,
to Indicators Related to Characteristic 14. . . . ... 203
16. Comparison of Committee Member Responses, by Position,
to Indicators Related to Characteristic 15. . . . ... 205
17. Comparison of Committee Member Responses, by Position,
to Indicators Related to Characteristic 16. . . . ... 215
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements
for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
LOCAL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL ADVISORY COMMITTEES:
THEORY AND PRACTICE IN SELECTED ELEMENTARY
SCHOOLS IN FLORIDA
Mary C. Fedler
Chairman: Michael Y. Nunnery
Major Department: Educational Administration and Supervision
There were two basic aims in the study. The first was to derive
from a review of the literature and state legislation a set of charac-
teristics and indicators which described the expected roles and func-
tions of local elementary school advisory committees in Florida. The
ideal local elementary school advisory committee was described by 16
characteristics and 65 related indicators. The indicators were observ-
able practices which helped determine the presence or absence of a
characteristic. The characteristics were grouped into three categories:
(1) structure and legal authority, (2) roles and functions, and (3)
The second aim of the study was to determine the extent to which
these characteristics were descriptive of selected Florida elementary
school advisory committees. Included in the field study were 28
elementary school advisory committees drawn from 16 school districts.
The primary data source was a questionnaire completed by 261
committee members present at a regularly scheduled advisory com-
mittee meeting. The questionnaire items were related directly to
each of the derived indicators which reflected the characteristics.
Additional data sources included school district policies, guidelines,
and handbooks as well as observations made at committee meetings.
It was found that 8 of 16 characteristics of the ideal elementary
school advisory committee were considered to be practices in the com-
mittees studied by a majority of those who responded to the question-
naire. Five other characteristics were practices with regard to some,
but not all of their indicators. The respondents did not perceive that
three characteristics were practices of their committees.
In the area of structure and legal authority, the advisory commit-
tees studied were characterized by (a) organization of parent activities
through formal structures; (b) definition of authority and clarification
of responsibilities delegated to the advisory committee; (c) efficient
committee organization; (d) broad representation on the committee; (e)
substantial participation by the committee in decisions related to
school programs; (f) use of legal and policy information when making
recommendations; and (g) use of available procedures for gathering
and receiving information from within the school.
In the area of roles and functions, the advisory committees studied
were characterized by (a) some participation in helping to evaluate the
schools' educational effectiveness; (b) little involvement in decisions
about programs and objectives, student achievement, budget, and person-
nel; and (c) minimal responsibility for maintaining a two-way flow of
communication between the school and community.
In the area of group processes, the advisory committees studied
were characterized by (a) full access to resources at the school level
and limited access to resources at the district and state level, par-
ticularly in the areas of training and coordination; (b) frequent
cooperation with local educational agencies, more limited cooperation
with district agencies, and little cooperation with state agencies;
(c) partial recognition and support from the district school board and
superintendent; (d) much cooperation and assistance from the principal
except in the area of training; (e) considerable knowledge and use of
effective group processes; and (f) minimal use of evaluation procedures.
The results of the study provide a set of data for legislative
bodies, local policy makers, school administrators, and others concerned
with school advisory committees. The characteristics and indicators
and the extent to which they exist in practice constitute a base of
information which can be utilized for deciding what policies, guidelines,
and assistance are needed for continuing and expanding the role of
citizens in the educational decision-making process.
Background and Justification of the Study
Since the 1960's there has been substantial public interest in
community and parent involvement in the activities of the public schools
in the United States. However, lay participation in the public schools
is not a new phenomenon. Kimbrough and Nunnery (1976) pointed out that
"the public school enterprise of our nation has its origin in grass-
roots lay control" (p. 303). Historically, the citizens of a new com-
munity decided that a school was needed, hired the school teacher and
determined what was to be taught (Gordon & Breivogel, 1976, p. 8).
As communities and schools grew in size, responsibility for running
the schools was given to elected goards of education (Perry & Ridgley,
1979). Ziegler, Tucker, and Wilson (1976) observed that though these
early governing boards were highly responsive to a small constituency,
they also suffered from the bribery, patronage, and corruption charac-
teristic of the urban political machines of the early 20th century.
Consequently, they were a target for reformers who attempted to correct
the abuses of ward politics by removing education from the political
arena and turning it over to professional educators and experts.
School administration became centralized, wider responsibilities were
given to district superintendents, small districts were consolidated
into larger ones, board members were elected by nonpartisan ballots,
and board elections were separated from other municipal and state
While the reform movement dealt with the disadvantages of the
political patronage system, the process of centralization and con-
solidation also served to move the centers of power further away from
the average citizen. Mudrunka (1978) stated that as power passed into
the hands of the professional policy makers and administrators the
schools "became bureaucratic--much like their corporate counterparts--
and insulated from the desires and needs of the clientele they were
designed to serve" (p. 10).
The decade of the 1960's was characterized by an expectation of
innovation and change and by a belief, on the part of the public, in
the ability of the professional educators to accomplish it. Neverthe-
less, as Featherstone (1976) pointed out, a counter-movement arising
in part from the civil rights issues of the decade was also making it-
self felt. An awareness of the alienation and powerlessness of pre-
viously excluded and oppressed groups gave impetus to the push for
equality and human rights, which in turn, led to a reworking of the
idea of citizen participation in the decisions of governing institu-
tions (pp. 12-13).
Davies (1976) claimed that by 1970 the citizens of the United
States were disillusioned with the results of innovation and resented
having to pay the bill (p. 7). A crisis of confidence in the school
system's operation, products, and cost contributed to a growing con-
cern on the part of citizens' groups that school control had been
wrested from them and that they were unable to influence the distant
centers of school power.
The surge of interest in the 1970's for increasing lay participa-
tion in the activities of the public schools went beyond the school
boards charged with the legal responsibility for creating school policy.
Archer (1973) indicated that concerned citizens turned their attention
to developing new patterns of participation, such as councils or
committees, which "complement or supplement, but do not replace the
school board" (p. 23). Gordon and Breivogel (1976) described school ad-
visory committees or councils as partnerships between the school and
community which draw parents into decision making processes (p. 104).
The Select Joint Subcommittee on Public Schools of the Florida
Legislature (1978) stated two basic assumptions upon which the forma-
tion of school advisory committees rests:
1) In a democratic society such as ours, laws are
shaped to insure broad popular representation in
decision making and government; and 2) effective
citizen organizations are important means for citizens
to participate in government and share authority with
elected office holders and professional administra-
tors. (p. 216)
Kimbrough and Nunnery (1976) observed that "the concept of lay
control by means of boards at various levels, citizens' committees,
and legislative power is engrained in the thinking of most people"
(p. 303). Saxe (1975) viewed citizen participation as an end in itself
insofar as it was a part of democratic ideology. He stated that par-
ticipation gave legitimacy to the schools and made new resources avail-
able to them (p. 230). Reporting on the status of school committees
in the 1970's, Davies (1977) developed the idea that citizen involve-
ment at the local level brought people closer to the ideal of self-
government. He suggested that
effective democratic participation in the operation
of even as ordinary a public institution as the
public school, is crucial in the democratizing of
society as a whole. (p. 11)
Legislators and educators have looked to advisory committees as
a countervailing force against a tide of hostility and alienation on
the part of the public toward educational institutions. Longstreth
(1978) suggested that
involving the clientele of the school system in the
educational decision making processes has frequently
been recommended as a practice which would generate
positive attitudes toward schools by the public.
The demands of citizens that public institutions become more res-
ponsive to the needs of the real world has prompted national, state,
and local interest in the school advisory committee as a viable structure
for combating apathy, alienation, and mistrust. Patterns for the func-
tioning of many parent participation groups established in the late
1960's and early 1970's were developed from the guidelines for various
federally funded programs such as Title I, Head Start, and Follow Through
(Gordon & Breivogel, 1976, p. 118). The report of the Select Joint Sub-
committee on Public Schools of the Florida Legislature (1978) noted
that nearly all the school related bills and regulations enacted by the
federal government in the 1970's included mandates for citizen advisory
committees. Eight United States Office of Education programs initiated
during this period of time required a continuing advisory committee at
the local level. The requirements of the federal programs were for
district-wide committees, except for Title I which required both
individual school building and district groups (pp. 218-219).
Broad interest in school advisory committees was further ad-
vanced by the work of two national citizens' groups dedicated to
bringing parents and citizens more actively into the affairs of public
schools. The National Committee for Citizens in Education (NCCE) pub-
lished books and a newspaper, operated a telephone hot-line, conducted
workshops for parents and citizens, and worked with a Parents' Network
made up of parent/citizen groups throughout the country. Marburger
(1978) stated that the work of the NCCE was based upon the belief
publicly financed institutions should be held
accountable to the public, not only for the moneys
they spend, but for their programs. Until now
I there has been neither as much public par-
ticipation nor as much public accountability in the
schools as is desirable. For too long, school
decisions have been made primarily by professionals,
and usually in private, removed from public view.
A second group, the Institute for Responsive Education (IRE),
working with the Education Commission .of the States, contributed to
the development of advisory committees through its continuing research
on the work of advisory councils in selected communities. By examining
successfully functioning committees, IRE researchers sought to uncover
effective patterns of citizen involvement, to determine what kind of
impact is possible, and to discover effective strategies for change
(Davies, 1977, p. 1).
Initiatives to increase citizen participation were also taken by
legislatures at the state level. The Select Joint Subcommittee of
the Florida Legislature (1978) reported that since 1970, 17 states had
enacted some type of legislation related to public participation in
education (p. 223). California received national attention for enacting
legislation in 1973 which promoted community participation in school
planning. Rosaler (Note 1) reported that the California State Board of
Education required the establishment of a school advisory committee
in every school that entered the Early Childhood Education program.
With the passage of Assembly Bill 65 in 1977, school advisory committees
in California were given more responsibility than any other state
mandated councils up to that date (pp. 1, 35).
Similar legislation was included in Florida's Educational Account-
ability Act of 1973 and 1976 (F.S. 229.58). The enactment required
district school boards to establish advisory committees for each local
school in the district consisting of teachers, students, parents, and
other citizens. If the school board did not establish advisory com-
mittees for each school, it was required to establish a district
advisory committee broadly representative of the district and also
composed of teachers, parents, students, and dther citizens. The
school board was given considerable latitude in regulating the functions
of advisory committees except that the legislature specifically stated
that committees were to assist in preparing the annual report of school
progress and were to work with the principal in preparing the school's
budget and educational plan.
Though the Florida Legislature mandated school advisory committees,
little progress was made in implementing them in the years following
the 1973 legislation because of three basic problems: 1) district
school boards were not given a clear statement and general understanding
of the legislative intent; 2) no guidelines were given for developing
support systems necessary for implementing the committees; and 3) no
funding for costs of implementation was provided (Select Joint Sub-
committee, 1978, p. 237).
In assessing the status of school advisory committees in Florida
in 1978, the consultant team commissioned by the Select Joint Committee
on Public Schools of the Florida Legislature (1978) made a series of
recommendations among which the following were implemented by the
legislature: 1) the establishment of a state citizens' advisory com-
mittee on education which includes in its responsibilities the encourage-
ment and monitoring of citizen advisory committees at the district
and school levels; 2) the authorization and funding of small (from
$500 to $5,000) committee improvement grants to local advisory committees
or to independent citizen organizations or other non-profit groups
proposing to provide training and other forms of assistance to local
advisory committees; and 3) the request that the state citizens' ad-
visory committee develop over the next two to three years a coherent
and consistent policy for citizen participation in educational decision
making along with proposals for implementation of such a policy (pp.
In addition to the study commissioned by the Select Joint Committee
(1978) a number of other studies related to various types of school
advisory committees in the state of Florida were conducted after 1973.
Chinn (1975) and Mills (1975) reported differences in the perceptions
of administrators and advisory committee members as to the role, func-
tions, and effectiveness of school advisory committees from selected
school districts. Dromisky (1974) found that parents whose children
attended school where parents were involved in decisions about cur-
riculum had more favorable attitudes toward the school than did
parents whose children attended a school where parents were not in-
volved in decision making. In a study related to the purposes and
activities of community school advisory councils in Florida, Corbett
(1975) found agreement among respondents that the purposes as stated
were viable, but found disagreement among the respondents regarding the
extent to which the purposes were actually being pursued by advisory
committees. Simpson (1977) found that citizens' advisory committees
were operating effectively at each school in four Florida school dis-
tricts with a strong commitment to the system of school-based management.
Although the studies mentioned here have contributed a part to the
growing body of knowledge about the way in which school boards imple-
mented the 1973 legislative mandate that advisory committees be estab-
lished and function in Florida school districts, none of the studies
presented a specific set of characteristics to describe local elementary
school advisory committees and a set of observable indicators to measure
the extent to which committees were meeting the expectations set by
the authorities. In a state like Florida, which passed legislation
mandating school advisory committees and which appropriated money for
improving them, it could legitimately be asked whether school advisory
committees exist in practice in the manner defined by the authorities.
Specifically, it was believed that a study was needed which would
provide a coherent set of characteristics to describe the construct of
a citizens' advisory committee for the local school. By a process of
logical inference a set of observable indicators needed to be derived
from the characteristics in order to determine the extent to which a
sample of local school advisory committees in the state of Florida
possessed the characteristics. It was thought that results of such
a study would provide a set of data for legislative bodies, policy
makers, school administrators, and other people concerned with school
advisory committees. The characteristics and indicators would consti-
tute a base of information they could utilize for setting the policies
and guidelines for continuing and expanding the role of citizens in
the processes of educational decision making. Consequently, given the
lack of a coherent picture of the characteristics of local school
advisory committees and a lack of knowledge about how existing com-
mittees met the expectations defined by the authorities, the study
described herein was undertaken.
Statement of the Problem
The problem in this study was twofold: first, based on a review
of related literature and Florida legislative action, to derive a set
of characteristics and associated indicators which described the ex-
pected functions and roles of local elementary school advisory committees
in the State of Florida; and second, to determine the extent to which
selected elementary school advisory committees possessed the derived
The study was affected by the following constraints:
1. The study was confined to elementary schools because of the
diversity of needs and programs in elementary schools, high schools,
vocational schools, community schools, and federal programs. It did not
seem possible to construct one set of characteristics which would
accurately describe all advisory committees serving in such diverse
2. The review of literature and authoritative opinion, from which
the characteristics and indicators were derived, was confined to Florida
legislative enactments, Florida legislative committee reports, Florida
State Board of Education policies, guidelines developed by Florida school
districts, relevant research projects or studies conducted by local,
state, and national groups concerned with school advisory committees,
and publications related to citizen and parent involvement groups.
3. The characteristics which described the construct of the local
elementary school advisory committee were focused on the structure and
legal authority, roles and functions, and group processes.
4. The field study was limited to 28 functioning elementary school
advisory committees, which met specified criteria, located in 16 school
districts in the State of Florida. The sample was considered to be
representative of the population of elementary schools in the state of
Florida which had functioning advisory committees during the 1979-80
school year. Given the identified population of functioning committees
the sample included a large cross section of that population. However,
the cross section did not include all geographic areas in the state.
For instance, state and district school officials could not identify
any schools in the Florida Panhandle as having functioning advisory
committees which could meet the criteria established for participation
in the field study. The advisory committees studied were primarily
located on the Atlantic coast and in central Florida. Two districts
were located on the Gulf coast. Schools were drawn from large, small,
and intermediate sized districts.
5. The data collected in the field study were confined to the
responses of 261 members of the selected advisory committees on a
questionnaire developed from the derived indicators by the researcher.
The study suffered from limitations in both the derivation of char-
acteristics describing the construct from the review of the literature,
and in the field testing of the indicators. Two problems were associated
with drawing up a set of indicators for advisory committees. First, the
characteristics were derived from authoritative opinion and are not sub-
stantiated by research. Consequently, the validity of the related
indicators could not be verified empirically. Second, no single set of
characteristics could describe a workable advisory committee for all of
the diverse settings in local elementary schools in the State of Florida.
The field test was also subject to several limitations. The
schools which participated in the study did not constitute a random
sample of schools in the State of Florida. Consequently, no claim
for broad external validity could be made.
Finally, the instrument used for collecting data in the field study
was a questionnaire based on the indicators of the derived character-
istics. The questionnaire was not in itself an accurate measure of the
actual extent to which advisory committees met the set of expectations
advocated by the authorities, but was dependent upon the degree of
accuracy with which the respondents perceived their situation and
reported it using the instrument.
Definition of Terms
Administrator. A person designated by the policy making body of
the school district to carry out management functions.
Activities. The means and processes through which school advisory
committees accomplish their purposes.
Budget. The translation of the desired educational program into
fiscal terms (Kimbrough & Nunnery, 1976, p. 172).
Central office. The group of personnel who have responsibility for
managing and coordinating the activities of the school district as a whole.
Characteristic. A general statement about a particular aspect of
the phenomenon under consideration, i.e. a characteristic of advisory
committees is "an advisory committee is representative of citizen and
community groups residing within the school attendance zone."
Citizens. Parents and other adult residents of a community, who
have a legitimate interest in the social and political institutions
which serve the area.
Concept. "An abstraction formed by generalizations from par-
ticulars" (Kerlinger, 1973, p. 28).
Construct. "A concept . deliberately and consciously invented
or adopted for a special scientific purpose" (Kerlinger, 1973, p. 29).
Curriculum. The plan for providing the learning programs and
opportunities related to the broad educational goals of the local
Elementary school. Any public elementary school housing grades
K-6, or any combination of those grades except when the combination
includes grades beyond the sixth.
Functions. The special purposes, offices, or duties of local
Indicator. A practice which is an observable manifestation of
Local elementary school advisory committee (LESAC). A mandated,
formal structure for involving the clientele of a local elementary
school in the educational decision-making processes of the school.
The geographic scope of the committee is the school attendance area.
Parents. All adults in a given attendance area who have children
or wards in the school.
Participation. Taking part in activities in order to exercise power
or influence--to have an impact on decision making in policy matters.
Personnel. The paid administrative, instructional, and support
staff working in the elementary school.
Purpose. The reasons for being, of the local advisory committee.
Synonymous with functions.
Roles. The part of educational decision making, influence, or
power assumed by the local advisory committee.
School advisory committee (SAC). A mandated, formal structure for
involving the clinetele of a local school in the educational decision
making process of the school.
School principal. The administrators directly responsible for the
day to day management of the local elementary school (e.g., principal
and assistant principal).
Staff. All of the individuals engaged in instructing or providing
support services in the local elementary school.
In order to carry out an investigation of the extent to which local
elementary school advisory committees in Florida actually possessed in
practice, the characteristics derived from the authoritative literature,
it was necessary to, first, review the literature and develop a set of
characteristics with associated indicators, and second, to undertake a
field study, the purpose of which was to determine the extent to which
the characteristics defined by the authorities were present in func-
tioning committees. The procedures for carrying out the two parts of
the study are described in the following sections.
Derivation of the Characteristics of Local Elementary School
A set of characteristics related to the structure and legal author-
ity, roles and functions, and group processes of local elementary school
advisory committees was derived from the following sources: Florida
statutes; Florida legislative committee reports; Florida State Board
of Education policies; guidelines developed by Florida school districts;
relevant research projects or studies conducted by local, state, and
national groups concerned with school advisory committees; and publica-
tions related to citizen and parent involvement groups. The character-
istics were derived from the literature by a process of logical analysis.
The process can be illustrated by the following example of a derived
The local school advisory committee has access to
resources at the school, district, and state level
for the improvement of its processes and functions.
The Select Joint Committee's (1978) report provided support for this
characteristic by stating that the "absence of adequate information,
training, and other support services to enable citizens to carry out
their responsibilities" (p. 285) constituted a serious problem of im-
plementation of school advisory committees. Davies, Stanton, Clasby,
Zerchykov, and Power (1977) provided evidence that granting supports
and resources to councils enhanced their ability to function effec-
tively (p. 47).
A set of indicators for each of the characteristics was also
derived from the literature by a process of logical analysis. The
indicators are observable practices or activities which would help
determine the relative presence or absence of the characteristic in
practice. An example of an indicator for the characteristic derived
Advisory committee members receive training to
develop leadership skills and effective group
Support for the indicator was derived from Longstreth's (1978)
observation that most citizens serving on advisory committees need
in-service training in the areas of communication, conflict manage-
ment, and program evaluation if their work on the committee is to
be truly effective (p. 139). Davies, Stanton, Clasby, Zerchykov,
and Powers (1977) also reported that community representation and
participation is improved by the introduction of lay leadership
training sessions for members of local advisory committees (pp.
Conduct of the Field Study
Selection of sample school advisory committees
A sample of 28 local elementary school advisory committees was
drawn from a list of 53 advisory committees in the State of Florida
considered to be functioning during the 1979-80 school year. The
following criteria were used to identify functioning committees:
1. The district in which the school was located was identified in
the 1978 report of the Select Joint Committee on Public Schools of the
Florida Legislature (pp. 249-250) as a district which had mandated
advisory committees at the building level.
2. The committee was identified by state or district school
officials as being active.
3. An examination of the annual report of school progress showed
that the committee had been involved in its preparation.
4. The committee had three or more scheduled meetings for the
1979-80 school year.
5. The committee had engaged in at least one other activity than
6. The committee was serving an elementary school.
All the committees initially identified met at least five out of
six criteria. The fourth, fifth, and sixth criteria were essential for
any of the 53 committees to be listed.
The 53 committees were organized and arranged alphabetically by
district. With one exception, not more than two schools were selected
from each district. A meeting in one school was attended by one
member; therefore a third school was selected from that district.
Where only one or two schools were identified in a district, all the
schools listed were selected. Where more than two schools were listed
the first and the third school on the list were selected.
A letter was sent to principals in 36 schools inviting them to
participate in the field study and to return the name of the advisory
committee chairman. The letter was followed up by telephone calls. Of
the 36 schools contacted, 28 agreed to participate. Three schools re-
ported no committees. Three committees had met only infrequently and
did not plan to schedule another meeting. Two committees refused to
participate. Background data on the committees studied are presented
in Appendix A.
From the initial list of 53 schools a pilot school was selected for
testing and refining the questionnaire to be used in collecting data.
Data collected from the pilot study indicated confusion among the
respondents over the wording in the directions as well as in several
of the items on the questionnaire. The recommendations of respondents
were used to make appropriate changes in the questionnaire. The pilot
school was not in the final sample of schools included in the study.
Instrumentation and data collection
The primary means of data collection was a written questionnaire
(see Appendix B), the items for which were directly related to each of
the derived indicators measuring the characteristics of local elementary
school advisory committees. Questionnaires were completed by all com-
mittee members during the course of a regularly scheduled advisory
committee meeting. The chairman of each committee was contacted in
advance and asked to schedule agenda time for distributing and completing
questionnaires. The 261 members completing questionnaires included the
committee chairman, the school principal and assistant principal,
teachers and support staff, students, parents, and other citizens who
were present at the meeting as members. The researcher attended advisory
committee meetings in 27 of the 28 schools contacted to assure consis-
tency in the way questionnaires were completed. In the case of the
postponed meeting the researcher met in advance with the advisory chair-
man to review procedures for distributing and returning the completed
In addition, school district policies, guidelines, and handbooks
about advisory committees were examined to corroborate data obtained
from the questionnaire. Finally, observations were made at each com-
mittee meeting about the kinds of items on the agenda, the method of
conducting business, the kinds of roles committee members played, and
the major accomplishments of the committee.
Treatment of the data
The data collected in the field study were compared by the process
of logical analysis and inspection to the indicators of the charac-
teristics, derived from the literature, to determine the extent to which
the committees studied possessed the defined characteristics. Inspec-
tion was made among the different groups which committee members repre-
sented (e.g., teachers, staff, parents, citizens, students, and
principals). Total responses of all members from all groups were
examined to determine the extent to which the indicator of a charac-
teristic was present in the sample of 28 functioning committees. In
addition to representing a group, each committee member also had a
position or role on the committee (e.g., chairman, principal, and commit-
tee member). Since access to information and amount of involvement might
vary depending on a member's position, committee members with different
positions might have had different perceptions about the presence or
absence of an indicator in a given situation. Therefore the responses
of members in different positions were compared. A Chi-square was
calculated for each indicator to determine whether there were signifi-
cant differences among the responses of principals, committee chairmen,
and committee members. Significant differences in the responses some-
times affected a decision about whether an indicator for a character-
istic was present or absent. Finally, the indicators of each
characteristic were considered collectively to determine the extent
to which the characteristic was present or absent in the sample of
Organization of the Remainder of the Study
Chapter II provides a description of the characteristics of the
local elementary school advisory committee as derived from the litera-
ture. Chapter III presents the data collected in the field study. A
discussion and interpretation of the data are given in Chapter IV.
Chapter V contains the summary and conclusions of the study.
LOCAL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL ADVISORY COMMITTEES: THE
CONSTRUCT AS DESCRIBED IN THE LITERATURE
From the review of literature related to citizen participation in
the public schools a set of characteristics was derived which re-
searchers, writers, and policy makers considered to be important to the
effective functioning of a building level advisory committee. The
characteristics form a general description of a local school advisory
committee as mandated by the Florida legislature in 1973. The measur-
able indicators for each of the characteristics relate specifically to
the functioning of a local elementary school advisory committee. For
purposes of presentation the characteristics and associated indicators
are grouped into three categories: structure and legal authority, roles
and functions, and group processes. Within each of the categories the
appropriate characteristics and associated indicators are described and
supported by authoritative opinion, conclusions of studies, or policy
statements. Although the focus is on the characteristics of local
elementary school advisory committees, some of the characteristics are
also common to committees serving high schools, community schools,
federal title programs, or school districts. Where characteristics or
indicators are common to several kinds of advisory groups, literature
related to those groups was used as appropriate.
Structure and Legal Authority
The structure of the school advisory committee and the legal
authority granted it are closely related to the committee's purposes.
Weinstein and Mitchell (1975) stated that if an advisory committee is
to be more than a public relations or crisis oriented group it must
have a purpose which is on-going and a formal structure (p. 70).
The purposes and structure of school advisory committees are in-
fluenced by two major issues: 1) acceptance of the right of parents to
participate in decisions affecting the education of their children and
2) the nature and extent of that participation. Fantini (1975) pointed
legally, teachers have rights "in loco parentss"
Therefore, participation of the parent is a right
and not a privilege. The parent has a right to
participate in ways that ensure that the school is
indeed serving the best interests of the individual
child. (p. 15)
Parent participation has been classified variously by a number of
authors. Pomfret (1972) placed parental involvement into three cate-
gories: service, student instruction, and decision making. Gordon and
Breivogel (1976) listed five levels of parental involvement: 1) audience,
bystander, observer; 2) teacher of the child; 3) volunteer; 4) trained
worker; and 5) participant in decision making, especially through
advisory board membership (pp. 6-9).
According to Dobson and Dobson (1975) the underlying assumption of
parent involvement at the advisory level is that all persons affected
by a school decision have a right and responsibility to participate in
the decision making process (p. 16). The extent and nature of that
participation has been a matter of controversy and ranges along a
continuum from community participation to community control (Ornstein,
1973a). Gittell (1977) argued that
democracy requires that citizens be engaged in the
policy process directly, not through representatives
and not only as voters. Attitudinal studies of
political effectiveness suggest that, when people
feel they can control what goes on, they are more
apt to participate. (p. 8)
However, Davies, Stanton, Clasby, Zerchykov, and Powers (1977) indi-
cated that "there are no more than a handful of [advisory] councils in
the country which have the authority to make a final decision or see
that a final decisionmaker follows its directives" (p. 38).
While few plans for community control have been adopted or imple-
mented (Gittell, 1977), a number of states and school districts have
adopted plans for decentralization of the school system. Brownell (1971)
maintained that one of the effects of decentralization has been to pro-
mote "greater citizen participation in determining policies for indi-
vidual schools" (p. 288). Kindred and Allen (1954) stated that wholesome
programs of school-community cooperation require enactment of general
school policies "which are necessary to enable the individual school
to have the degree of autonomy required for developing cooperative
projects" (p. 111).
In 1973, the Florida state legislature initiated plans for school
district decentralization by mandating that
each district school board shall utilize its system
of planning and budgeting to emphasize a system of
school-based management in which individual school
centers become the principal planning units and
eventually to integrate planning and budgeting at
the school level. (F.S. 229.555[b])
Part of the legislative intent for decentralizing Florida schools
was to allow greater citizen participation in the planning and budgeting
process at the individual school level. The local school advisory
committee was identified as the type of organization capable of most
effectively increasing public involvement (Select Joint Committee, 1978,
The nature and extent of citizen participation in the schools is
affected by the way committees are organized and by the kind of authority
they are given to pursue their goals. The first four characteristics
derived from a review of the literature describe advisory committee
authority and structure. The next three characteristics further clarify
the question of committee authority by describing the decision making
process. In the sections that follow, each of the characteristics is
described along with indicators which measure the presence of a charac-
teristic in a given situation.
Citizen and Parent Activities Are Organized Through
Conway, Jennings, and Milstein (1974) observed that school adminis-
trators face problems when school organizations do not include struc-
tures for monitoring community opinion or handling conflict (p. 8). The
school system needs to provide procedures for allowing the community to
give as well as receive information from the school (Dobson & Dobson,
1975). Price (1977) listed several conditions which promote community
participation in planning, advising, and decision making in the schools.
Two of these conditions which relate specifically to the first charac-
teristic are "1) the formal adoption of enabling policies and pro-
cedures, and 2) an organizational structure permitting involvement"
Structures for citizen participation require controls if they are not
to work at cross purposes with other groups responsible for the education-
al process. Cleary (1972) believed that a democratic society required
a decision making process which allows and en-
courages participation at the same time it imposes
limits on that participation. (p. 615)
Several writers have described the school advisory council as a
permanent, legally recognized structure for promoting orderly and con-
tinuing citizen participation (Burges, 1977; Davies, 1977; Greenwood,
Breivogel, and Jester, 1977; Mudrunka, 1978). Legal recognition adds a
feature of permanence to committees providing citizens with more than a
one time or one issue opportunity for involvement (James, 1975). Davies,
Stanton, Clasby, Zerchykov, and Powers (1977) and Greenwood, Breivogel,
and Jester (1977) listed at least four states which had passed laws
establishing school advisory committees, thus giving legal recognition
to the advisory committee structure.
Two indicators can be derived from the literature which show
whether the first characteristic is present in a given situation. The
first indicator is that the district school board takes formal action to
establish local school building advisory committees in accordance with
Nyquist (1977) stated that
just as the state delegates educational responsi-
bility to local boards, according to State law and
regulations, school boards should consider estab-
lishment of policies for the delegation of authority
essential to enhance decision making in specified
matters relative to the operation of a school build-
ing and the conduct of programs fashioned to carry
out districtwide objectives and goals. (p. 2)
Further support for the characteristic is found in documents related
to Florida law which mandated school advisory committees in each district.
The 1973 report of The Governor's Citizens' Committee on Education
recommended that "to improve citizen participation in the functioning
of the individual school there should be a School Advisory Council
(SAC)" (p. 11).
The Florida legislature enacted the recommendation of The Governor's
Citizens' Committee into law in 1973. The law stated that
the district school board may establish an advisory
committee broadly representative of the community
served by the school for each school in the district
and composed of teachers, students, parents, and
other citizens. If the school board does not estab-
lish advisory committees for each school, it shall
establish a district advisory committee. (F.S.
A report by the staff of the Florida Senate Education Committee
further outlined the 1973 legislation and explained that
it was also given to the school boards the preroga-
tive to develop a plan for establishing each
committee provided that such plan guaranteed that
parents and students be members, and that it be
broadly representative of the community served by
the school. (Select Joint Committee, 1978, p. 236)
In an assessment of the effects of the 1973 legislation, the report
of the Select Joint Committee on Public Schools of the Florida Legisla-
ture (1978) stated that the intention of the recommendations made by
the Governor's Citizens' Committee (1973) was to foster efforts to
"reduce public alienation and to increase educational responsiveness
by restructuring decision making" (p. 284). The Select Joint Committee
(1978) strongly emphasized that
the establishment of school advisory committees,
as outlined in the 1973 report of The Governor's
Citizens' Committee on Education, is both a
logical and necessary component of any effort to
establish the local school as the unit of
accountability. (pp. 283-284)
Although authority for establishing local school advisory commit-
tees is derived from district school board policy, the actual existence
of a group at the individual school is most often dependent upon the
personal discretion of the principal (Stanwick, 1975).
Consequently, the second indicator of whether citizen and parent
activities are organized through formal structures is that the school
principal organizes a citizens' advisory committee to serve the elemen-
tary school building. The Florida legislation which required that
school advisory committees be established was tied to a second require-
ment that district school boards emphasize a system of decentralization
or school based management in which individual school centers become
the principal planning units (F.S. 229.55[l][b]). Brownell (1971) sug-
gested that in decentralized districts each school would have a school
council. Marburger (1978) stated that
the reasons for doing this should be clear. The
most important contact between school personnel
and families takes place not at the district
level but at the school site. Parents and stu-
dents are more interested in their particular
school than in the district, and consequently
they are more likely to become involved at the
school site. (p. 34)
Burges (1977) urged active citizens to direct their efforts to the
single-school level whenever possible. He believed that parents would
have more leverage with the school principal than with other administra-
tors higher up in the bureaucarcy. However, for the principal to work
effectively with citizen groups he or she must be given explicit authority
and resources to do so (Nyquist, 1977).
Authority Delegated to the Advisory Committee Is Defined and the
Roles, Responsibilities, and Duties Are Clearly Specified
If the school advisory committee is to operate effectively its
responsibility and functions must be clearly defined. A study conducted
by the Jacksonville, Florida, Community Council (1979) added that the
definition of responsibility should reflect the importance of citizen
participation. The necessity of clearly specified functions was rein-
forced by Davies, Clasby, and Powers (1977). They stated that "even a
narrowly defined but clear area of authority is preferable to vague
responsibilities" (p. 21). Kindred and Allen (1954, p. 111) observed
that clear policy statements made by the school board provide assurance
to principals and encourage them to take initiative in cooperative
McKenzie (1974) believed that decision making and/or advisory func-
tions are the most critical issues in establishing active advisory
councils. If councils are to participate effectively at the building
level, authority must be decentralized (Davies, Stanton, Clasby, Zer-
chykov, & Powers, 1977, pp. 34-40). However, Davies (1976) also stated
that workable decentralization requires development of a sensible plan
of checks and balances. The plan should deal with the roles and
responsibilities of persons, groups, and departments at all levels.
According to Olivero (1977), councils which operate effectively
have gained answers to the following questions:
1) What are the issues reserved for the Board of
Education and/or the Superintendent?
2) What are the issues in which the advisory
committee is expected to give input (advice),
issues that are ultimately decided by someone
else, e.g., principal, superintendent, board of
3) What are the issues in which the advisory
committee is expected to make the final decision?
It it important that councils understand the difference between
the advisory function and the decision making function (Olivero, 1977).
Advisory committees, as the name implies, offer recommendations. They
have neither administrative nor policy-making authority. Miller (1975)
suggested that one of the committee's major purposes should be to study
particular topics and make recommendations to the administration.
Davies, Stanton, Clasby, Zerchykov, and Powers (1977) studied model
councils in four cities. They found that in Flint, Michigan, school
board policy for councils stated that councils can and should play an
important advisory role in school programs, policies, activities, and
functions. In Los Angeles, board policy defined advising to mean:
1) inquiring, 2) informing, 3) suggesting, 4) recommending, and 5) evalu-
ating. Board guidelines in Portland, Oregon, allowed councils to make
recommendations and establish policy at the building level when those
policies were not in conflict with district policies or other laws
governing school operation. The Anaheim, California, district policy
confined the activity and discussion of councils to compilation of data,
analysis of problems, summarization of opinions, and the drawing of
conclusions (p. 27).
Advisory committees allow widely representative participation in
a broad sphere of action (Clasby, Webster, & White, 1973, pp. 137-145).
This was particularly true in Florida where the law did not tie the
advisory council to any one educational program but cut "across all
aspects of local school policy except for powers legally vested in the
school board" (James, 1975, p. 13).
If it is important for advisory committee roles, responsibilities,
and duties to be specified then the first indicator of the characteristic
would be that authority delegated to the advisory committee is defined
by the district school board.
The Florida law stated that
each advisory committee shall perform such func-
tions as are prescribed by regulations of the
district school board; however, no advisory com-
mittee shall have any of the powers and duties
now reserved by law to the district school board.
Nolte (1976) stated that a school board cannot abrogate or delegate
its responsibility to decide. However, many schools in decentralized
districts have active advisory councils while school officials retain
final decision making functions (Fantini, 1975). Ryan (1976) suggested
that in school governance, power can be shared while legal responsi-
bility remains fixed (pp. 22-25). When school boards decide to dele-
gate power or authority to advisory groups, the limits on that authority
must be specified in advance or alienation and disillusionment result
The Florida statute which mandated school advisory committees also
shifted the planning and operating responsibility to the local level
(Select Joint Committee, p. 258). School advisory committees were given,
by law (F.S. 229.58), the responsibility to assist the principal in
the preparation of the annual report of school progress. However, the
1978 report of the Select Joint Committee on Public Schools of the Florida
Legislature stated that generally local school board policies and
guidelines do not authorize the kind of committee functions which com-
plement committee responsibility to help prepare the annual report
of school progress (p. 264). If committees are to be effective,
district policy must define functions which enable them to
function as an advisory group to the principal and
in general work with him on the development of
budget, program, personnel policy, and to improve
the quality of education. (Governor's Citizens'
Committee, 1973, p. 11)
Committee structure and functions are determined by the kind of
authority delegated to the committee by district school board policy.
The bylaws of the committee are written to provide order and consistency
to committee activities. The second indicator is a corollary of the
first and is that the district school board establishes a set of guide-
lines for committee bylaws and roles.
The Association of California School Administrators, in keeping
with that state's legislation requiring school advisory councils (A.B.
65), took the following position:
We believe guidelines for such groups should be
established by the local boards of education and
that these guidelines should maintain the ad-
visory nature of that input. (Olivero, 1977,
Mills (1975), in evaluating the effectiveness of advisory committees
in Florida school districts, recommended that
members should assist in establishing operating
guidelines, but time should not be wasted by
committee members in a long and tedious process
of developing rules for committee operation.
The school board and superintendent should give
to the advisory committee a detailed charge of
duties and responsibilities. (pp. 95-96)
The third indicator of the characteristic is that specific functions
and responsibilities of the local elementary school advisory committee
(LESAC) are set cooperatively by the committee and principal in accor-
dance with school needs and goals. Support for the indicator is found
in studies of school-community councils in Flint, Michigan, where each
council determined its own priorities for dealing with school and/or
community matters while still operating within the guidelines established
by the Flint Board of Education (McMillan, 1974). Mayher (1976) pro-
posed that an advisory council
can appropriately develop its own agenda and
meeting schedule following the general statement
of purpose and with suggestions of the princi-
pal. (p. 15)
Specific functions and ways of working together should be decided
through collaborative planning that involves the committee from the very
beginning (Davies, 1976). In a study of factors related to successful
relationships between principals and school advisory committees Archer
(1973) reported that plans and strategies developed mutually by the
principal and the committee were regarded more positively and considered
by principals to be more successful than those plans determined by the
Three problems sometimes keep advisory committees from effectively
identifying their responsibilities. First, there may be several dif-
ferent parent groups within the school, each with a different member-
ship and authority (Davies, Clasby, & Powers, 1977). Second, the groups
may have overlapping functions or conflicting guidelines. Often the
same people are members of several groups (Rosaler, Note 1). Third,
rivalry can exist between school advisory committees and other groups
such as the PTA (Winecoff, 1977).
Competition and duplication of effort tend to fragment advisory
committees. Davies, Stanton, Clasby, Zerchykov, and Powers (1977)
stressed that "care must be given to enable councils and groups to
integrate or coordinate their activities" (p. 64). Therefore the fourth
indicator of the characteristic is that the functions of the LESAC are
coordinated with the functions of other organizations in the school.
Where two organizations overlap or duplicate functions, the two organi-
zations are combined.
Recent studies by Arnold (1976) and Chinn (1975) have resulted in
recommendations that school advisory groups and other parent groups have
different functions but work cooperatively to achieve school goals.
Davies (1976) suggested that
existing parent groups (for example, Title I parent
advisory committees and PTAs) should play a role
in developing plans for a council to assure that
the new organization and existing groups work in a
coordinated and complementary way or are amalgamated
into a single organization. (p. 27)
Conclusions of a 1979 study of advisory committees done by the
Jacksonville Community Council indicated that while there may be duplica-
tion in membership among school organizations, "there would be no dupli-
cation of functions if the LSACs [local school advisory committees] were
utilized to advise in decision-making" (p. 10). The School Advisory
Committee Handbook, developed by the School Board of Pinellas County,
Florida (1979), charted separate functions for LESACs and parent-teacher
associations (PTAs) and indicated which functions would have to be
assumed by one group or the other if a school had only one group.
Falkson and Grainer (1972) in a study of neighborhood school
politics concluded that
PTAs generate manageable forms of citizen partici-
pation entirely consonant with the goals and objec-
tives of school bureaucracy; no challenges to
authority occur. CAC [citizens' advisory committee]
organization, while still solidly within the frame-
work of the established administrative process,
does provide some potential for the emergence of
a grass-roots oppositional politics. (p. 48)
In other words, Falkson and Grainer (1972) indicated that PTAs,
while having a democratic structure, are organized primarily for the
purposes of service and communication. The authors reported that the
PTAs studied attempted little that could be called innovative or that
could bring about substantive educational change. On the other hand,
the authors suggested that advisory committees were capable of pro-
viding citizens "with a useful wedge into educational policy making"
(p. 57). If it is assumed that one of the main functions of the advisory
committee is to make recommendations about school programs, then advisory
committees would not appear to usurp the role of parent/teacher
organizations which do not have an advisory function as their main
concern (Longstreth, 1978, p. 137).
Some authors (California State Department of Education, 1977;
McMillan, 1974; Murray, 1974) have suggested existing councils could
be expanded and modified to take on the functions of an advisory com-
mittee. However, McMillan (1974) pointed out that another organization
cannot serve in lieu of an advisory committee. Nevertheless, Florida
statutes have stipulated that
recognized schoolwide support groups which meet
all criteria established by law or rule may
function as district and school advisory com-
mittees. (F.S. 229.58)
In schools where three or more advisory groups exist (e.g., Title
I, PTA, Bilingual) the LESAC could be an umbrella group, coordinating
activities and performing parallel, non-competitive functions (Davies,
A definition of advisory committee purposes, committee members'
roles, and procedures for operation is written into the bylaws of the
committee. As has been stated, the district school board defines the
committee's authority and establishes guidelines for bylaws and roles.
The last two indicators of the characteristic are that bylaws for the
LESAC follow the guidelines set by the school board and that bylaws for
the LESAC are approved by a vote of the committee members.
The importance of specific organizational guidelines or bylaws to
provide a framework within which committees can operate effectively was
emphasized in the conclusions of case studies of Teacher Corps projects
with school-community councils (Winecoff, 1977). Mills (1975) noted
that bylaws provide "a useful means of organizing and operating the
advisory committee with a minimum of wasted time and effort" (p. 93).
Generally bylaws delineate the method of operation, purpose, rules for
membership, meeting dates, and responsibilities of officers and members
(Arnold, 1976; McMillan, 1974).
While the committee may develop its own bylaws to govern committee
activities, most of the literature on the issue stated that committee
developed bylaws must follow board approved guidelines (Mills, 1975;
School Board of Dade County, Florida, 1977). In addition, it is often
recommended that bylaws be adopted by a two-thirds vote of the member-
ship of the committee (Arnold, 1976; School Board of Orange County,
The Advisory Committee Is Organized to Ensure Efficient and
Consistent Accomplishment of Its Objectives
In order to prevent committee members from feeling that they are
wasting their time, Chinn (1975) recommended that advisory committees
be operated efficiently and deal with matters of importance. Davies,
Stanton, Clasby, Zerchykov, and Powers (1977) warned that too many
councils "reinvent the wheel" each year over internal organizational
issues. If too much time is spent on council organization, there will
not be enough time left for dealing with more substantial school-
related issues (p. 47).
Committee organization is not an end in itself but a way to enable
committee members to work together in an orderly and harmonious manner
for the achievement of committee objectives. From the literature four
factors can be identified which are often associated with groups that
successfully achieve objectives: 1) division of work among small groups,
2) regular meetings, 3) small group size, and 4) clear definition of
leadership roles and responsibilities. The four indicators of the
characteristic are related to the factors listed above.
The first indicator of effective committee organization is that
for greater efficiency, small groups are named to perform specific
assignments and to report on the assignments at meetings of the full
committee. Support for the indicator was found in sourcebooks, guide-
lines, and case studies of advisory committees, which suggested that
task forces or small groups be organized on a short term basis to carry
out the work of the council (Arnold, 1976; Phipps, Hofstrand, & Shipley,
1979; VanNess, 1974; Tappouni & Tell, 1977). Greenwood et al. (1977)
proposed that once the needs of a school have been identified the
advisory committee can organize "into committees to clarify the nature
and extent of the problems identified" (p. 14). The main function of
task forces, committees, or small groups would be to study specific
problems and to make recommendations to the full committee (Clark &
Shoop, 1974; Druian, 1978).
Cox (1974) and Price (1977) contended that task forces provide an
opportunity for broader community involvement in the work of the com-
mittee. They expressed the belief that some individuals who are un-
willing to attend committee meetings for a full year will devote a
shorter period of time to an area of interest or expertise.
Several authors have proposed ways for dividing up the work of the
committee. Rosaler (Note 1) suggested organizing work groups by sub-
ject or program area, by grade level, by type of task, by member role
(e.g., parent, teacher, student), or by availability of time (p. 65).
Ryan (1976) believed that there should be parents, teachers, and students
in every small group. Small groups would be organized to perform fact-
finding tasks. Each group would be responsible for obtaining a specific
type of information related to the issue being considered. Ryan (1976)
suggested examples of fact-finding activities such as review of docu-
ments and policy statements, in-school surveys, community surveys,
attendance at school board meetings, and visits to other schools
If advisory committees are to be able to advise, they need time
to seek information, to examine alternatives, and to find solutions to
problems. These activities are more efficiently handled by small groups,
who do the "homework" on a given issue and present the findings to the
The second indicator of appropriate committee organization is that
meetings are held regularly (at least every other month). If advisory
committees are to carry on activities for accomplishing objectives, it
stands to reason they must meet (Blumenberg & Marmion, 1972; Jenkins,
1976). Most often, authors defined "regular" meetings as monthly meetings
(Arnold, 1976; Chinn, 1975; Kindred, Bagin, & Gallagher, 1976; Murray,
1974). At the very least, it was recommended that committees meet
every other month or five times a year (Tappouni & Tell, 1977). How-
ever, the 1978 report of the Select Joint Committee on Public Schools of
the Florida Legislature indicated that committees organized to meet five
or fewer times each year "seem to work at cross purposes with identified
functions" (p. 264).
The literature about school advisory committee size suggested that
groups with fewer members could achieve objectives more efficiently
than extremely large groups. Therefore, the third characteristic of
the indicator is that group size is small enough to allow all members
The term small group is described by Berelson and Steiner (1964) as
an aggregate of people, from two up to an unspecified
but not too large number, who associate together in
face-to-face relations over an extended period of
time. . It is impossible to specify a strict
upper limit on the size of the informal group, except
for the limitation imposed by the requirement that
all members be able to engage in direct personal
relations at one time--which means, roughly, an
upper limit of around fifteen to twenty. If the
aggregate gets much larger than that, it begins to
lose some of the quality of a small group or, in-
deed, begins to break up into small subgroups.
Various writers (Archer, 1973; Blumenberg & Marmion, 1972; McMillan,
1974; Murray, 1974) placed the upper limit on committee membership from
15 to 30, with the ideal limit being set at about 20 members.
However, Longstreth (1978) pointed out that the smaller committee
size, the greater the likelihood that the group will not be broadly
representative of the community (pp. 132-133). Both the requirements
of representativeness and productivity must be considered (Longstreth,
1978, p. 133; Rosaler, Note 1, p. 9).
The final indicator of committee organizational efficiency is that
the leaders' roles and responsibilities are clearly defined. In a
review of elements believed to be associated with advisory committee
effectiveness, Mudrunka (1978) listed leader roles and behaviors as an
important element. Mills (1975) concluded in his study of advisory
a committee chairman who exercises good leadership
qualities and techniques can bring about member
involvement that will lead to committee effective-
ness. Poor leadership may create frustration among
the membership, causing poor attendance and apathy.
Group leadership must satisfy two, sometimes conflicting, needs
of the group: the need for initiative, guidance, and information in
the accomplishment of tasks, and the need for developing group harmony,
cohesiveness, and mutual acceptance (Berelson & Steiner, 1976, p. 344).
It is often difficult for one person to provide both kinds of leader-
ship. It is common for a number of persons to assume various kinds of
leadership roles in the group (Druian, 1978). However, to avoid con-
flict in the duplication of roles it is important that the responsi-
bilities associated with each role be carefully outlined. The School
Board of Brevard County, Florida (1979), outlined in detail in its
School Advisory Committees' Handbook the responsibilities of the princi-
pal, the chairperson, the secretary, community representatives, faculty
and staff, and students. Each group has a number of distinct responsi-
bilities for contributing to the overall functions of the larger group.
In school districts where guidelines are provided for committee bylaws
there is sometimes a recommended list of duties for committee officers
(School Board of Orange County, Florida, 1975).
The Membership of the LESAC Is Broadly Representative of the
School and the Community Served by the School
School advisory committees provide the opportunity for both educa-
tors and lay citizens to meet and make cooperative contributions in the
development of educational programs. Morphet (1967) wrote that persons
involved in cooperative projects should be broadly representative of all
points of view in the school or community (pp. 164-166). Blumenberg and
Marmion (1972) claimed that "a successful council is broadly representa-
tive of the community it purports to speak for" (p. 47). Other writers
(Clark & Shoop, 1974; Greenwood et al., 1977; Jenkins, 1976) suggested
that advisory councils be as cross sectional of the community as possible
to insure that local needs and aspirations are met.
Davies (1977) and the Select Joint Committee on Public Schools of
the Florida Legislature (1978) reported that a complex problem for
advisory committee operation was the issue of representativeness.
From studies completed by Davies, Stanton, Clasby, Zerchykov, and Powers
(1977, p. 29) and another commissioned by the Select Joint Committee
(1978, p. 225) it was suggested that committees are unrepresentative
of one (and sometimes all) of the following groups: 1) community mem-
bers without children in school, 2) minorities, 3) low income parents,
and 4) males.
Longstreth (1978) contended that not only must members of the
advisory committee be representative of the community, they must also
be perceived as representative. That perception will be affected by
the method used to select committee members (p. 131). The first in-
dicator then, of a representative committee, is that advisory committee
members are elected by all persons eligible to serve on the committee.
The Select Joint Committee (1978) reported that most advisory
committee members gain seats by selection, election, or volunteering.
Several authors (Clark & Shoop, 1974; Mills, 1975; Murray, 1974;
Ornstein, 1973a; Pierce, Note 2) have suggested that a combination of
the three methods can be effective, depending upon what is required in
a situation for achieving a representative committee.
A 1974 survey, conducted in Florida (Davies, Stanton, Clasby,
Zerchykov, and Powers, 1977), showed that the dominant mode of selection
of committee members was appointment by the principal. However, the
community's perception of the representativeness of the advisory com-
mittee may be affected adversely if the principal selects all the
members. Longstreth (1978) observed that there will be a tendency to
view an appointed group as a "handpicked rubber stamp." He claimed
that the perception will be reinforced "as any general concerns arise
which when addressed by the council are dismissed in favor of the
actions of the principal" (pp. 131-132).
Though Davies, Stanton, Clasby, Zerchykov, and Powers (1977, p. 65)
and the Select Joint Committee (1978, p. 253) expressed preference for
election of advisory committee members as the preferred method of
selection, nevertheless, use of the election was not widespread. The
Select Joint Committee (1978) listed three reasons why committee mem-
bers were not elected.
1. There is a strong sentiment emerging among
parents that volunteering is the "purest" means
of finding out who really wants to expend time
2. Principals clearly want to determine who con-
stitutes the committee and thus what does or
does not get done.
3. Experience with elections to date shows that
they are vastly more complicated than many
anticipated in terms of prior publicity,
overseeing balloting, attracting candidates
with a substantive "results" orientation.
Despite the problems associated with electing committee members
many sources listed election as preferable to volunteering or appoint-
ment. Marburger (1978) stated that "although some appointed councils
are excellent, the evidence we collected through the Commission on
Educational Governance leads us to the recommendation that councils
should be elected" (p. 32). Longstreth (1978, p. 132) recommended some
form of election to ensure representation and to develop credibility.
The Governor's Citizens' Committee (1973, p. 185) favored election even
though it was more complicated and expensive. Other recent studies
(Arnold, 1976; Hamer, 1977; McMillan, 1974) also provided support for
election of committee members by those eligible to serve on the com-
The second indicator of a representative committee is that the
committee members include the school principal and representatives from
the group of parents, teachers, citizens, and students (where appropri-
ate) associated with the school or living within the area served by
the school. The literature was uniform in support of the importance
of advisory committee membership containing a cross section of the
community. Many writers (Arnold, 1976; Blumenberg & Marmion, 1972;
California State Department of Education, 1977; Davies, 1976; Jenkins,
1976; Ornstein, 1973a; Stanwick, 1975; Tappouni & Tell, 1977) agreed
that advisory committees should represent parents, teachers, administra-
tors, students, and lay citizens in the larger community. Davies (1976)
and Price (1977) emphasized that parents should comprise the majority
of membership. Marx (1978) claimed that good community relations are
enhanced when interested non-parent taxpayers are given a seat on the
committee. A number of committees have opened their membership to
students, a practice advocated by Clark and Shoop (1974) and Nyquist
In the State of Florida, school advisory committee membership was
supposed to "be broadly representative of those persons served by the
school" (Governor's Citizens' Committee, 1973, p. 11). Florida law
stated that committees shall be "composed of teachers, students, parents,
and other citizens" (F.S. 229.58). In order for the school advisory
committee to be broadly representative, some groups in the school com-
munity must be actively solicited (Rosaler, Note 1, p. 8). The final
indicator of a representative advisory committee is that the committee
represents all interest groups in the community, including minorities
and low income families.
Arnold (1976) recommended that besides students, parents, and
teachers, advisory committees obtain representation from-business,
industry, community agencies, the clergy, cultural organizations, other
school organizations, and from citizens at large. Blumenberg and
Marmion (1972) and Price (1977) added taxpayer organizations and social
service clubs to the list.
Most important is that representative on the committee speak for
subgroups and interests in the community (Huguenin, Zerchykov, & Davies,
1979, pp. 64-74). That means that committee membership should reflect
the diversity within the school community, including different racial,
ethnic, and economic groups and different political and economic per-
spectives (Davies, 1976; Ornstein, 1973a).
Longstreth (1978, p. 134) and the Select Joint Committee (1978,
p. 225) observed the frequent absence of representatives from minority
groups and low income families on advisory committees. Greenwood et
al. (1977) pointed out that
getting low-income or minority parent membership
in SAC [School Advisory Committees] is often
difficult due to attitudes built up over the
years. These parents sometimes distrust the
schools due to negative experiences, or do not
believe their membership in SAC is wanted or
that they will be listened to if they attend
the meetings. (p. 14)
Davies, Stanton, Clasby, Zerchykov, and Powers (1977) claimed that
"unless substantial outreach efforts are made to involve poor and
minority citizens, their representation will not be adequate" (p. 65).
Greenwood et al. (1977) suggested that a special membership committee
be given the task of seeking out underrepresented community members.
The LESAC Has a Defined and Substantive Role in Contributing
to Decisions Which Relate to School Programs
From the study commissioned by the Select Joint Committee (1978)
it was concluded that one of the most serious problems affecting imple-
mentation of school advisory committees is lack of significant power and
authority assigned to the advisory committee (p. 285). Marburger (1978)
addressed the same problem and stated that
if the Council is to have any meaning, it must
participate in decisions that are significant and
its work must have some pay-off in changes that
are helpful to children. Raising money to buy pianos
or projectors may fill a temporary material need, but
it does not have a very significant long-term impact.
In fact, some activities can actually deflect people's
energies from the more important but more difficult
functions they should be performing. (p. 35)
The Select Joint Committee (1978) considered the scope of power and
authority granted to advisory committees to be an issue critical to
effective committee functioning. The Select Joint Committee stated that
the power issue "transcends other issues related to types of structures,
selection of members, and representativeness of members and calls for
major attention" (p. 286).
The literature related to the scope of advisory committee authority
generally differentiated between the various styles of citizen partici-
pation. Participation was defined by the Select Joint Committee (1978)
to mean, taking part in activities to have an impact on decision making
in policy matters. Participation was differentiated from involve-
ment which was defined to mean, taking part in activities but with no
intent to exercise power or to have an effect on decision making
Arnstein (1970) presented a classification of citizen participa-
tion based on the role a participatory group plays in decision making
and on the results of the group's activity. Her continuum of styles of
participation was represented as a ladder with the bottom rungs de-
scribing involvement which was no more than manipulation to the top
rung which described citizen control. The intermediate rungs of the
Arnstein ladder--informing, consulting, placating, and partnership--
have been applied to school advisory committees. Arnstein did not con-
sider the first three rungs listed above to be more than token partici-
pation. She regarded partnership as the only intermediate level in
which participants had some assurance that their views would be heeded.
Davies, Stanton, Clasby, Zerchykov, and Powers (1977) applied a
simplified version of Arnstein's eight-rung ladder to the data they
assembled about advisory committees. Their simplified model was in-
cluded in the report of the Select Joint Committee (1978). The report
classified the style of committee participation as token, advisory, and
partnership. Token committees were described as controlled by adminis-
trators to serve the purposes of school administration, not council
members or parents. Advisory committees expressed opinions or gave
advice, with the final authority for a decision resting with someone
outside the committee. Partnership committees could select and arrange
in priority order the issues upon which they would focus. Though a
committee acting in partnership with school officials may not infringe
on the authority delegated by law to the school board or usurp the
rightful responsibility delegated to school officials, the committee could
still expect that on a substantial number of issues its recommendations
would be acted upon (pp. 226-229).
Though the roles most commonly assigned advisory committees were
to inform and consult, and in rarer situations to act in partnership,
a number of writers have insisted that the role of the committee in
contributing to school decision making can have substance only if the
committee has an actual share in the power to make policy. Strong pro-
ponents of this position were Gittell and Fantini. Fantini (1975)
emphasized the need for public schools to belong to the citizens. He
believed that the people should determine the policies and objectives
of education and the professionals should implement these objectives
in the schools. New understandings leading to better education were
possible, he felt, only if school personnel and community members could
work together on an equal basis (p. 8).
Though advocates of community control have made a strong claim for
the necessity of broad participation to diminish resistance to change
in school systems (Bourgeois, 1976; Gittell, 1977; Glass, 1977; Jacoby,
1973; Solo, 1979), experiments with community control have had limited
success (Cohen, 1976; Ornstein, 1973b; Sussman & Speck, 1973). Posi-
tions taken by other writers have tended away from support of adminis-
trative decentralization which allows community control of local school
boards, toward administrative decentralization which encourages community
participation of an advisory nature. Community control is the option
most preferred by liberal educators, black militants, and other minority
groups. The second option is most preferred by professional educators
because their authority and power are less open to scrutiny (Ornstein,
Deshler and Erlich (1972) suggested that community involvement and
community control did not represent a dichotomy but a continuum. That
idea was further developed by Cunningham (1976) who contended that
participation was a matter of degree. People could have a very large
or a very small share in the decision-making process.
Cunningham (1976) also made a second point which related to the
substantive quality of the advisory committee role in decision making.
He stated that
participation and influence, though seemingly alike
in their meaning are not alike. A person who may be
said to participate may or may not possess influence.
If the actions of a participant are ignored or fail
to have an impact on the behavior of other individuals
within the organization, then that participant does
not have influence. (p. 276)
The key issue in determining the advisory committee's role is how
to make that role influential without also granting the committee
authority to make final decisions. It has been suggested by Fantini
(1975) that it is possible for the committee to make significant contri-
butions to the process of formulating decisions even though responsi-
bility for the final decision rests with school officials. Participation
of this kind does not confuse the lines of public accountability (p. 20).
However, if the committee's role is limited to advising, the term
must be given substance and explicit delineation. Failure to do this
results in impasse situations and a sense of futility on the part of
committee members (Archer, 1973; Carpenter, 1975). Committees, to be
successful, need assurance that they can influence decisions. Olivero
(1977) believed that school principals could increase committee influence
by giving them questions of real importance and by listening to and
acting upon their recommendations.
An indicator then, of whether an advisory committee has a substan-
tive role in contributing to school decision, is that while retaining
ultimate responsibility for final decisions, the school principal seeks
recommendations from the advisory committee. Ryan (1976) saw no con-
flict between a principal's seeking committee recommendations on the
one hand while remaining ultimately accountable for the decision on the
other. She stated that
under present legal assignments of authority, par-
ticipation in decision making easily takes place in
the preparatory stages. While decision sharing may
entail giving up present convenience for a further
goals, it requires no change in legal responsibility.
In the preparatory stages of the decision-making process, members of
the advisory committee can apply knowledge and experience to the assess-
ment of problems and possible solutions. Nonetheless, when the committee
has been defined as an advisory rather than a policy-making body the
accountability for final decisions rests with the school principal
(Fantini, 1975; Jenkins, 1976; Price, 1977). Principals must have
control over final decisions for which they will be held responsible.
Longstreth (1978) pointed out that granting advisory committees authority
to make final decisions would create a difficult situation since there
exists no general mechanism by which committees can be held accountable
for decisions they make (p. 130).
However, a committee empowered to act only in an advisory capacity
will become ineffective and lose membership unless 1) the advice prof-
fered is accepted and adopted (Longstreth, 1978, p. 129), and 2) advice
about substantive issues is sought by the principal on a continuing
rather than on a sporadic basis (Select Joint Committee, 1978, p. 227).
It is important, then, that there be a visible acceptance of the
recommendations offered by the committee (Toner & Toner, 1978). Con-
sequently, the second indicator of the characteristic is that the school
principal informs the committee when its recommendations have been
carried out. The indicator is supported by Davies, Stanton, Clasby,
Zerchykov, and Powers (1977, p. 63) who, as a result of studies, sug-
gested that prompt feedback on the actions and recommendations of the
committee provide some assurance to members that their advice will be
heeded. This assumes, of course, that a principal does try to implement
committee recommendations whenever possible (Chinn, 1975, p. 103).
Guidelines for advisory committees formulated by the leadership of
Los Gatos Union School District in California (Principal's advisory
council, 1973) stated that whenever a principal did not accept a commit-
tee's decision he or she was to write a statement to the committee
explaining the reasons for rejecting the action. Blumenberg and Marmion
(1972) and Greenwood et al. (1977) also reiterated that in order to main-
tain an effective committee a principal must feed back to the committee
reasons for accepting or rejecting the committee's advice.
However, acceptance of committee recommendations does not neces-
sarily mean the committee has a substantive role in contributing to
educational decisions. A substantive role also requires that committee
recommendations are sought about issues of importance. Consequently,
the final indicator of the characteristic is that the school principal
submits decisions related to school curriculwn, personnel, budget,
discipline, and building maintenance to the advisory committee for its
Fantini (1975) provided support for the indicator by stating that
school-level advisory committees provide an open forum for dealing with
the basic policy areas of curriculum, budget, and personnel even though
final decisions rest with school officials (p. 25). In a report of the
National Committee for Citizens in Education (1975) it was recommended
that school advisory committees share responsibility for school curriculum
and programs, budgeting, progress reports, and personnel evaluations
The LESAC Uses Legal and Policy Information to Solve Problems
and Make Recommendations
McCloskey (1959), writing for the National Citizens' Commission
for the Public Schools, stated that advisory committee recommenda-
tions are based on studies that begin with facts (p. 376). As Arnold
(1976) pointed out in her study report, committees must have access
to and knowledge of all available information (p. 51). This character-
istic, and the next, relate to the advisory committee's ability to gain
access to information, to collect and organize it, and to use it appro-
priately for seeking solutions to problems and making recommendations.
Accurate and adequate information is an essential prerequisite for
any purposeful committee action (Mann, 1974; Ryan, 1976, p. 162). Wood
and Martin (1974) affirmed this idea when they stated that
the successful involvement of any council in estab-
lishing goals and objectives, either for the community
program or for its own actions, depends directly upon
the amount and quality of the information available
to it. (p. 50)
Recommendations will be useful if they are based on more than the
opinions of individuals. Mann (1974) recognized a distinction between
knowledge about and attitudes toward the public schools. He stated that
"many people have attitudes about the public schools but those attitudes
or opinions are based on widely varying amounts of information" (p. 4).
Mann (1974) also believed evidence suggested that the "gap" between
the knowledge base of the public and the professional educator has been
used to exclude the public from participation in educational decisions.
Reasons most often given for explaining the "gap" are that the public has
1) little access to information;
2) little ability to interpret what information is
3) little motivation to make use of information;
4) insufficient leisure time to devote to educa-
tional affairs. (p. 5)
The effectiveness of the advisory function will be affected by the
ability of committee members and the willingness of school officials to
narrow the information gap. Adequate information can keep the committee
from two common pitfalls: 1) making the committee a forum for the
discussion of personalities or personnel matters that are best handled
in private conferences (Jenkins, 1976), and 2) failing to give careful
consideration to the issues and thus becoming "fickle tyrants promoting
the latest fad" (Carpenter, 1975, p. 427).
The advisory committee needs to be able to gather and use several
kinds of information--legal and policy statements as well as data from
the school and community. The characteristic under consideration deals
with access to and use of legal and policy information. The first
indicator of this characteristic is that the advisory committee can see
copies of school board policies, state laws, and Florida department of
education guidelines about issues the committee will consider.
Support of the indicator is implied in a statement made by Nyquist
(1977) that problems and issues must be considered in context. Part of
the context of an issue is the law and policy which relate to it.
Olivero (1977) stated that it is the responsibility of the school
administrator to provide committee members information that leads to a
basic understanding of the issues. Cox (1974) and Hamer (1977) indica-
ted that the sources of information provided need to include local,
county, state, and federal documents.
It was suggested by at least two writers that there is power in
having information (Henderson, 1976; Kuykendall, 1976). The credibility
and force of group action can be strengthened if the group knows the
politics of the state legislature and the legislative forces that favor
or oppose its goals. It would follow that knowledge of the policies
and politics operating at the school and district level would be
The process of fact finding should be done in a planned and organized
manner (Cox, 1974). The process involves becoming aware of and locating
information, studying and interpreting it, and using it to understand
the issues. For many committee members the process may require skills
they have had little opportunity to exercise. Therefore the second
indicator is that the committee is trained to consider all the facts
(including policy and laws) which affect its recommendations.
Kenneth Jenkins (1976) urged principals to recognize that advisory
committee members are functioning in new roles. He suggested that
find some way to provide training for them, such as
an intensive short course that touches on group
process, decision making, school organization, the
program of studies, and prevalent state law and
board policies. They should not be asked to operate
out of ignorance. (p. 72)
The need for committee training has been considered in a narrow
context in the preceding paragraph. A similar but more inclusive in-
dicator is developed later in relation to resources and supports
needed by advisory committees.
Committee Members Have Formal Ways of Gathering and Receiving
Information They Can Use to Assess Needs, Determine
Priorities, and Formulate Recommendations
Mudrunka (1978) included a "vehicle for gathering or receiving
information" (p. 20) in a list of factors contributing to advisory
committee effectiveness. Information acquisition is vital to committee
functions which include needs assessment, goal setting, and evaluation
(Davies, 1976; Select Joint Committee, 1978, p. 230).
Cox (1974) in a study of functions common to all advisory commit-
tees described the importance of fact finding. He stated that
fact finding is a function of immense value to those
who are responsible for planning and programming.
The old adage that decisions are only as good as the
information on which they are based can be applied
to planning and programming. Without proper infor-
mation to base your plans, the resultant programs
may not be relevant to the need or may duplicate
The fact finding function if properly discharged
by the council can be the most time consuming as it
is continuous and involves constant monitoring. It
also involves the establishment of a community data
base and bank for assessing and determining community
needs, interests, and resources. (p. 31)
Burges (1977), in a more recent study, described the fact finding
function as one of a series of steps which could lead to increased
citizen participation. He stated the following:
Citizen groups must become more cohesive, goal
directed, and knowledgeable in dealing with educa-
tional issues and bureaucrats. One of the most
important aspects of collective action is that it
be informed. Citizen groups must develop an on-going
fact-finding and action-research capacity that allows
them to define and identify the issues, get the facts,
make proposals, and act for change. With an action
research capacity, groups can provide opportunities
for volunteers, build community support, prepare
"professional" papers and proposals, and win the
respect of policy makers. (pp. 61-62)
Many writers have identified setting goals and identification of
priorities for the school as a major area of influence for school
advisory committees (Arnold, 1976; Davies, 1977; A Guide for Planning,
1975; Nyquist, 1977; Stanwick, 1975). The needs assessment is the
common information gathering technique used prior to establishing
priorities and making recommendations (Blumenberg & Marmion, 1972; Green-
wood et al., 1977; McMillan, 1974). According to Toner and Toner (1978),
data collection begins at the same time that the problem is being
defined and continues until a final set of alternatives has been
The indicators of this characteristic describe more specifically
the information gathering function of advisory committees as the func-
tion relates to the decision-making process. Because this particular
activity of committees is so closely related to decision making it is
dealt with here rather than in relation to roles and functions.
The first indicator of the characteristic is that advisory committee
members are invited to attend meetings of other school committees or are
allowed to voluntarily participate in school activities to gain first-
hand experience or collect data needed to make useful recommendations.
A committee's ability to take action on problems depends upon its access
to school related information (Davies, Stanton, Clasby, Zerchykov, &
Powers, 1977, p. 63). Haskins (1978) pointed out that one way parents
can find out about education is to have schools open so that parents
can move in and out of them very easily.
Several authors have listed ways in which open access can be
achieved. Arnold (1976) suggested appropriate inclusion of members in
meetings and conferences (p. 55). Greenwood et al. (1977) proposed
that committee members be allowed to tour school facilities, talk with
students, visit with teachers during planning periods, and participate
in curriculum planning sessions. Some sites for observation listed by
Rosaler (Note 1) included the classroom, playground, cafeteria, staff
meetings, and school events (p. 81).
One of the most effective ways for parents to receive accurate
information about the school, according to several authorities, was
through participation in a school volunteer program. Gordon and
Breivogel (1976) contended that advising was only one role the parent
could play in school activities. The role of the parent as volunteer
was considered to be equally important for promoting participation
(pp. 6-9). A major feature of the model for parent/citizen roles in
public schools developed by Mudrunka (1978) was the volunteer parent
paraprofessional program (p. 81). Burges (1977) and Solo (1979) cited
school situations in which a volunteer program became a means for parents
to gain information about school programs and to be able, in some
measure, to influence decisions about the programs.
The fact-finding activities of the advisory committee must include
obtaining information from the community as well as from the school.
Public perceptions and opinions about school programs have a bearing on
how well the programs will be received and on how effectively the pro-
grams can be implemented (Blumenberg & Marmion, 1972; Mullarney, 1974).
Therefore, the second indicator of the characteristic is that committee
members can get information by asking opinions of the groups they
Asking questions is one way of getting information directly from
people with an interest in a certain issue. The advantages of simply
asking people questions, according to Garman and Hunter (1978) and Rosaler
(Note 1) are that direct responses to particular questions are obtained
and current data are provided. However, the disadvantages are that
1) much time and effort are needed to gather the information and process
it into a useful form, and 2) the information received does not account
for past experience or expert opinion. Other common ways in which ad-
visory committees have collected information from the community are by
personal interviews, written forms (or surveys), speaking to groups,
and talking to personnel from community agencies (Price, 1977; Tappouni
& Tell, 1977).
The third indicator follows logically from the first two. The
reason for fact finding is to enable committees to make enlightened
recommendations. Therefore, the next indicator of an advisory
committee's effectiveness in gathering and receiving information is
that the committee uses data from the persons it represents to make
recommendations about community needs and expectations for the school.
Rosaler (Note 1) listed several important considerations in report-
ing information: 1) The committee must think about what, why, how, to
whom, and when the results will be presented; 2) the information should
be specified as fact, opinion, or experience; 3) all sides of an issue
need to be represented. Greenwood et al. (1977) and the.Select Joint
Committee (1978, p. 262) cited examples of advisory committees which
used information reports to give advice to school administrators about
community conditions, aspirations, and goals. As Toner and Toner (1978)
this is information about how current values, goals,
and interests of different groups and individuals
relate to the problem and influence the solution.
Some types of information are needed by committees on a regular
basis for background, clarification, updating, or planning. Committees
can save time and operate more efficiently when this information can be
obtained in a central location. Thus, the final indicator of the charac-
teristic is that committee members have access to a parent resource center
which provides information and material about parent advisory committees.
Davies (1976) reported that
there are only a few scattered examples of citizen
information and service organizations and centers
to provide such help. Many more are needed. An
adequate investment of time and money (both public
and private) is required to make such information
and service organizations widely available and
effective. (p. 28)
In another study, Davies, Stanton, Clasby, Zerchykov, and Powers
(1977) inferred that it was the responsibility of the formal leadership
of the school district to provide a parent resource center for school
committees (p. 63). A school which is organized as an I.G.E. (individu-
ally guided education) school often has a parent information center (or
learning station for parents) where parents can become better informed
about their own school and the program which is operating in it (Murray,
1974). Rosaler (Note 1) recommended that each school have an advisory
committee resource file of books, periodicals, and reports that contain
ideas for running meetings, working with a volunteer program, gathering
information, and planning essential activities (p. 110).
Roles and Functions
The functions of school advisory committees are limited by the
definition of authority for committees. What committees can do depends
on the formal power granted to do it by school board policy (Davies,
Stanton, Clasby, Zerchykov, & Powers, 1977, p. 41). The characteristics
presented in this part describe three functions which authorities
(Davies, 1976, 1977; Nyquist, 1977; Price, 1977) commonly assign to
school committees which act in an advisory rather than in a policy
making capacity. The three functions include: 1) evaluating the
effectiveness of the educational program by conducting inquiries and
needs assessments; 2) contributing to decision making by offering
recommendations; and 3) communicating information to the school com-
munity. Each of these functions can be directed toward a wide range
of issues (Clasby, Webster, & White, 1973), particularly in a state like
Florida where the law stated that committees had to be involved in the
annual report of school progress (F.S. 229.58). Three issues men-
tioned frequently are curriculum, budget, and personnel (Davies, 1976;
Gittell, 1977; Simmons, 1977; Stanwick, 1975). Nyquist (1977) added
student welfare and public support to the list of issues often considered
The three characteristics which follow are descriptions of the func-
tions listed above. The indicators are descriptions of specific activi-
ties related to each function.
The LESAC Has Responsibility for Evaluating the School's Educational
Effectiveness and for Reporting Its Findings to the Parents of
Children Attending the School
Pierce (Note 2) wrote that school advisory committees are an integ-
ral part of school based management wherever it has been tried. School
councils, he said,
need to be intimately involved in designing and
evaluating the school program. In California,
councils are required to develop the school's
improvement plan. Whether developing a new plan,
or working with teachers on the school's regular
program, the council should decide what students
need to learn, assess the capabilities of both the
school's teachers and programs to teach those com-
petencies, recommend changes for improving the
effectiveness of school programs, and design a
system for evaluating school programs. (p. 37)
The evaluation process is related specifically to carrying out a
needs assessment. Arnold (1976) specified that the needs assessment
preceded the development of objectives and setting of priorities (p. 194).
Falkson and Grainer (1972) reported that studies of advisory committees'
perceptions of the evaluation function have shown that when investiga-
tion of needs revealed institutional deficiencies the advisory committee
believed its function was to recommend corrective measures. Price
(1977) pointed out that as committees are involved in needs assessment
activities, they become aware of community concerns and resources.
Price added that, relying on the data obtained from a needs assessment,
committees could engage in prudent planning by:
.reviewing the needs, interests, etc.
.placing them in priority order
.examining existing programs and services to see if
the priority or needs can be met
.examining the feasibility and constraints for each
alternative program in relation to priorities
.identifying the alternative courses of action
.making recommendations to the policy-makers or
.assisting in the design of a desired program
In the State of Florida the advisory committee's responsibility for
evaluating school programs was closely tied to the committee's involve-
ment in preparing the annual report of school progress. The relation-
ship between the two activities was clearly defined in the recommenda-
tions of the Governor's Citizens' Committee on Education in 1973. The
report of the committee stated that
The individual school should be the basic unit of
accountability in Florida. To achieve this account-
ability there should be an Annual Report of School
Progress which details the improvements made in
education at the school during the year--and which
identifies the areas in need of further improvement.
Serving as a basic performance audit instrument,
hopefully, the Annual Report will become a powerful
tool for achieving school level improvements and
innovations. It will be a "report card" of the
school to the parents written in a plain, simple,
brief style. (p. 11)
Realistically then, in order to participate in any meaningful way
in the preparation of the annual report of school progress, the advisory
committee must be able to inquire and make recommendations about central
administrative issues (Select Joint Committee, 1978, p. 235, 264).
Therefore, an indicator of the characteristics that the LESAC is given
significant responsibility and freedom by the school principal to help
evaluate school objectives and programs.
The California State Department of Education (1977) recommended
that after a school committee was formed it should turn its attention
to school improvement by taking a critical look at the total school pro-
gram. It was suggested that the committee ask the following kinds of
questions as a starting place for planning:
What abilities and competencies does the council
want learners to possess?
How effective is the existing school program and
organization in bringing about student growth?
Is the school climate conducive to learning?
Is every student achieving consistently within
his or her abilities? (pp. 6-7)
In Florida it was the prerogative of the school principal to
decide what the scope of committee involvement would be in planning
school programs. Florida law stated that the advisory committee "shall
provide such assistance as the principal may request in preparing the
school's annual budget and plan" (F.S. 229.58). However, as the
Select Joint Committee (1978) pointed out, the functions assigned to
advisory committees are not always consistent with their responsibilities
related to the annual report of school progress (p. 264).
The second indicator of the characteristic is that the LESAC helps
the principal prepare the annual report of school progress. Pierce
(Note 2) reported that both Florida and California required an annual
performance report which is distributed in the community. He noted
the reports vary in content and methods of prepara-
tion. Information on the school, the school staff,
student performance, program strengths and program
deficiencies, and surveys of opinions about the
school from parents, teachers, and students pro-
bably ought to be included. Councils might work
with the school staff in preparing the report;
however, some sections should be reserved for the
exclusive use by parents, students, and staff.
The major function assigned to the school advisory committee by
Florida law was that the committee "shall assist in the annual report"
(F.S. 229.58). The report, as specified in F.S. 229.575(3), covered
a broad range of issues to include a) school goals and objectives,
b) student progress and achievement of minimum performance standards,
c) school budget, d) school needs and student needs, and e) a summary
of teacher, student, parent, and community attitudes toward the school.
Development of the annual report was intended by the Florida legis-
lature to be the primary means for insuring wide ranging involvement of
parent advisory committees in the evaluation of school programs (Stanwick,
1975). Guthrie (1974) believed that the ultimate purpose of the annual
report was to permit citizens a role in the decision process, to provide
them with information for making good judgments, and to clarify which
professionals are responsible for implementing their recommendations.
The LESAC Helps Make Decisions or Recommendations in Broad Areas
Related to School Objectives, the Major Emphases of Programs,
Desired Outcomes Related to the Learning of Students, Budget
Planning, and Personnel Priorities
As has been pointed out in the definitions of the preceding char-
acteristic and indicators, the advisory committee studies and evaluates
the educational program so that it can make useful recommendations. It
has also been shown that Florida law allowed committee involvement in a
broad range of issues. Florida law (F.S. 229.58) specifically men-
tioned committee participation in setting program and budget priorities.
However, there was considerable support from other authoritative sources
for participation in personnel selection as well.
Longstreth (1978) supported the involvement of advisory committees
in the "statements of goals and objectives, general direction of the
schools, major emphases of the educational programs, and desired outcomes
as related to the learning of students" (p. 127). Ryan (1976) believed
that committees should work on "goals, long-range planning, major cur-
riculum revision, and organizational change" (p. 136). The role of
advisory committees as described by Greenwood et al. (1977) was to make
"recommendations for improvements and modifications in all facets of the
school's program" (p. 13).
There was specific support in the literature for the substantive
influence of committees on three key areas of educational policy: pro-
gram, personnel, and budget of local schools (Davies, Stanton, Clasby,
Zerchykov, & Powers, 1977, p. 6; Governor's Citizens' Committee on
Education, 1973, p. 11; Select Joint Committee, 1978, p. 229). Other
issues listed by the Select Joint Committee (1978) have an indirect
bearing on the school program, but are important to student welfare.
Consequently, some of the following issues have been commonly addressed
by advisory committees: decentralization, desegregation, discipline
and student rights, building conditions, safety, zoning, transportation,
and school community relations (pp. 230-231).
Eight issues were mentioned regularly in the literature as the
focus of advisory committee activity or as the subject of recommenda-
tions. Each of the issues is described as an indicator. The indicators
show whether the advisory committee contributes to decision making by
making recommendations across a wide range of issues.
The first indicator is that the advisory committee makes recommenda-
tions and helps plan educational programs designed to meet school objec-
tives and minimum performance standards. In the literature about the
scope of advisory committee activities there was nearly universal
agreement among writers that committees should have a part in evaluating
and making recommendations about objectives and programs in the area of
curriculum. Davies (1976) stated that committees should have within
their scope the task of "reviewing and approving new school programs,
curricula, and student activities" (p. 27). Hamer (1977) said councils
should be included in "developments regarding the educational program"
(p. 14). A study of committee functions completed by Stanwick (1975)
showed that advisory committees had moderate influence in making evalua-
tions about curriculum. Johnston (1974) argued more strongly for some
committee authority about "curriculum decisions, decisions on what is
to be taught and learned when, how, and by whom" (p. 113).
In Florida, the advisory committee's responsibility for contributing
to program planning was linked to the Educational Accountability Act of
1976. Part of the legislative intent in passing the Accountability
Act was to
provide information to the public about the per-
formance of the Florida system of public education
in meeting established goals and providing effective,
meaningful, and relevant educational experiences
designed to give students at least the minimum
skills necessary to function and survive in today's
society. (F.S. 229.55[f])
The law also stipulated that if the composite performance of
students in a school or basic program fell below the established
minimum standards, the advisory committee was to be notified as well
as the principal and superintendent, so that corrective measures may
be taken (F.S. 229.57[d]).
However, beyond state minimums, the Governor's Citizens' Committee
on Education (1973) indicated that there should be substantial oppor-
tunity for local districts and local schools to shape what is taught
to their particular interests and needs. The Governor's Citizens'
Committee believed this "shaping" should be an important function for
the school advisory committee (p. 184). Florida law implicitly supported
this function by emphasizing a "system of school based management in
which individual school centers become the principal planning units"
(F.S. 229.555[b]) and where planning and budgeting are eventually
to be integrated at the school level.
The second indicator, describing an issue upon which advisory com-
mittees focus, is that the advisory committee helps the principal pre-
pare the school budget. As has been stated earlier, the decision of
the Florida legislature to adopt school-based management (F.S. 229.555
[l][b]; F.S. 229.58) allowed greater budget discretion at the school
level. The law allowed principals, parents, and teachers to allocate
funds in a way that suits an individual school (Cronin, 1977).
Budget considerations were listed by Davies, Stanton, Clasby, Zerchy-
kov, and Powers (1977, p. 49) in a typical battery of committee responsi-
bilities. Marburger (1978, p. 36) considered budgeting to be a major
function for a parent/citizen committee. Stanwick (1975) reported that
setting budget priorities was an area of some influence for all types
of advisory groups and that policy groups are slightly more likely to
exert major influence in this area than advisory groups. Extensive
support for committee involvement in budget decisions was found in much
of the literature (Davies, 1977; Greenwood et al., 1977; Hamer, 1977;
Johnston, 1974; Ryan, 1976; Simmons, 1977).
The third indicator of the characteristic is that the advisory
committee makes recommendations to the school principal about building
maintenance and the purchase of supplies and equipment. Building con-
ditions are one of the major school climate issues which committees
have addressed (Select Joint Committee, 1978, p. 230). Public involve-
ment in building conditions has been encouraged by school principals.
Simmons (1977) described committee meetings which were widely attended
when stage curtains, air conditioning, and general maintenance problems
of the school were on the agenda. The Select Joint Committee (1978)
reported that documents from 33 Florida school districts specified
"facilities" as an arena for advisory committee action (p. 260).
The fourth indicator of the characteristic is that the advisory
committee makes recommendations about a student code of conduct and
discipline policies. Wallat and Goldman (1979, p. 25) noted that four
states passed legislation recommending parent involvement in adminis-
trative procedures related to discipline and classification of students.
Longstreth (1978, p. 127) also stated parents should contribute to
student discipline policies. Surveys of Florida school committees
have shown that among the mandated responsibilities of many councils
is the development of a code of discipline (Davies, Stanton, Clasby,
Zerchykov, & Powers, 1977, p. 49; Select Joint Committee, 1978, p. 230).
From a study of school advisory committee activities by the Florida
Senate Education Committee in 1974 (cited in Greenwood et al., 1977)
it was reported that 45 percent of the committees surveyed "suggested
ways of dealing with students' problems, school dropout rate and
vandalism" (p. 13).
The next two indicators deal with committee participation in
developing criteria for the selection of school personnel. The indica-
tors are that the advisory committee helps develop criteria for the
selection of the school principal and the advisory committee helps
develop criteria for the selection of school level personnel. The role
of advisory committees in personnel selection has generated divided
opinion in the literature. At the far end of the spectrum of opinion
were the advocates of community control who wanted committees to have a
direct and authoritative role in the selection and review of personnel
(Gittell, 1977). Davies (1977) and Stanwick (1975) claimed that effec-
tive advisory committees have the authority to participate in the
selection and evaluation of a school principal and a school staff.
The opinion that committees should have some responsibility for per-
sonnel evaluations was also shared by the National Committee for
Citizens in Education (cited in Ryan, 1976, p. 139).
Greenwood et al. (1977) and Stanwick (1975) showed that selecting
principals ranked near the middle in areas of influence for advisory
committees while selection and evaluation of teachers ranked very low.
In California and Florida the selection of teachers was exclusively
the principal's function, though the principal might choose to take
the advice of the committee about the kinds and characteristics of
teachers (Guthrie, 1974; Price, 1977).
A number of writers made a distinction between selection of per-
sonnel and developing criteria for the selection of personnel. John-
ston (1974), for instance, suggested that citizen groups should be able
to discuss the quantity and qualifications of personnel being hired in
a school. The indicators of the characteristic state that committees
shall help develop criteria for selection of personnel, and not neces-
sarily help in the actual selection process. Wording the indicators in
this way seemed to be more consistent with literature related to func-
tions of committees in the State of Florida.
The role of advisory committees in personnel selection in the State
of Florida was clearly recommended by the Governor's Citizens' Committee
in 1973. It stated that
their primary purpose should be to participate in
the selection of a school principal. It appears
that the most appropriate manner in which such par-
ticipation can take place is for the central dis-
trict administration or board of education to
provide the PAC [Parent Advisory Committee] for
a particular school with a list of candidates,
and seek their recommendations. The PAC should
be free to interview candidates and rank order
their choices. The final selection, for legal
and other reasons, probably should reside with
In addition to assisting in principal selection,
the PAC for each school should provide criteria for
the selection of teachers. Presumably, such guide-
lines would be in excess of or supplement state
credentialing criteria. PAC's should not, however,
be permitted to employ teachers themselves. As we
have said above, this prerogative should be re-
served to the principal. It is not fair to hold
the principal responsible for the operation of the
school if he is not given discretion in the hiring
of his personnel. (p. 184)
In 1978, the Select Joint Committee in its reassessment of educa-
tion in Florida reiterated the recommendation made in 1973. It was recom-
mended that school advisory committees be empowered to "participate
in the selection of school principals and to participate in developing
criteria for the selection of school-level personnel" (p. 293).
The seventh indicator is related to a function which is unique to
advisory committees in Florida and in California. The indicator is that
the advisory committee helps develop programs for school management
improvement grants, educational improvement grants, and other special
state improvement programs when the approval of grants requires written
advisory committee endorsement. The Select Joint Committee recommended
this function in its 1978 report and the Florida legislature made it a
law in 1979. The law stated that
(1) Pursuant to rules adopted by the State Board of
Education, each district school board, or each
principal through the district school board, may
submit to the commissioner for approval a proposal
for implementing an educational improvement pro-
ject. Such proposals shall be developed with the
assistance of district and school advisory com-
mittees and may address any or all of the following
areas: school management improvement, district
and school advisory committee improvement, school
volunteers, and any other educational area which
would be improved through a closer working rela-
tionship between school and community. Priority
shall be given to proposals which provide for the
inclusion of existing resources, such as district
educational training funds, in the implementation
of the educational improvement project.
(2) For each project approved, the commissioner
shall authorize distribution of a grant, in an
amount not less than $500 and not more than $5000,
from funds available to the Department of Educa-
tion for educational improvement projects. (F.S.
Florida's initiation of state-financed mini-grants to local com-
mittees has been considered nationally significant (Institute for
Responsive Education, 1979). State incentives for advisory committees
help provide "financial support for efforts to develop imaginative
approaches to school community collaboration" (Davies, 1976, p. 28).
California has also legislated funds for school improvement (A.B.
65). Again, a condition for receiving funds was advisory committee par-
ticipation in planning of programs. Evans (1978) felt that financial
incentives from the state provided the opportunity for some schools to
do the planning and reorganization necessary for significant and sus-
The final indicator of the characteristic is that the advisory
commi-tee helps seek resources, inside and outside the school community,
that can benefit the school's educational program. This particular
indicator may fall within the scope of advisory committee functions in
schools where the LESAC and the PTA have combined functions to become
one organization. Normally, as Falkson and Grainer (1972) pointed out,
the PTA has been responsible for donating manpower and a variety of
auxiliary services for the school. Where a school has both a function-
ing LESAC and PTA this may be an area of cooperative effort between
the two groups.
Seeking community resources for school programs was mentioned
frequently enough in the literature to warrant its inclusion as an
indicator. Price (1977) observed that
as the council performs its functions, it becomes
more aware of other resources in and out of the
community. These resources include manpower, facili-
ties, equipment, and finances. (p. 17)
The advisory committee can become a catalyst for bringing together
school programs and community resources of both an environmental and
cultural nature (Cox, 1974; Dobson & Dobson, 1975; Nyquist, 1977;
Tappouni & Tell, 1977). School volunteers are a valuable source of
community assistance for the school. Davies (1976) listed coordination
of volunteer and other parent-community assistance programs as an advisory
The LESAC Is Responsible for Communicating Specific Types of
Information About School Effectiveness and Accountability to
Parents, and for Communicating Information from the Community
to the School
In a summary of its findings the Select Joint Committee (1978)
reported that most committees "give minimal attention to developing
formal or informal communication channels inside or outside the school"
(p. 274). There is a lack of adequate information flowing from the
school into the homes of students and often, even less understanding at
the school about parents' needs and opinions. And yet, as Fantini
(1969) remarked, "The people are the trustees of the schools. They
have a right to ask why Johnny can't read" (p. 26).
The school advisory committee is "in an excellent position to
nurture constructive school community communications" (Mayher, 1976,
p. 13). Several authors (Arnold, 1976, p. 50; Chinn, 1975, p. 105;
Mudrunka, 1978, p. 20) have pointed to the advisory committee as a link
between the school and community. Cox (1974) maintained that the com-
mittee has the "responsibility of maintaining a two way flow of communi-
cation between the council and the community" (p. 32). Murray (1974)
added that just as the principal has an obligation to listen to and
inform the committee, so the committee must assume these same responsi-
bilities with the school community.
Toner and Toner (1978) examined citizen participation in the
broader arena of public policy. They proposed a definition of the
communication process between an agency staff, officials, and the
public which can be applied to the communication function of advisory
committees. Toner and Toner said that citizen participation is an
interactive communication process which seeks to do the following:
1. Provide adequate information to the public
about the issues and alternatives for solution
2. Gather information from the public regarding
their goals, values, interests, concerns, and
3. Document and use information from the public
in planning and decision making. (p. 8)
Obtaining the cooperation of parents and others in support of
educational affairs was often listed as a goal of parent and citizen
involvement (Davies, 1976; Nyquist, 1977; Stanwick; 1975). Improvement
of school-community communication may be one means of reaching the goal.
There are five indicators for this characteristic. The first is
that the LESAC helps distribute and explain the annual report of school
progress to parents. The recommendation of the Governor's Citizens'
Committee (1973) that an annual report be prepared at each school in
Florida also stated that the report should be broadly disseminated in
the community. However, distribution is not the end of the reporting
process, but rather the beginning, if the annual report is to achieve
its purpose as a "basic performance audit instrument" (Governor's
Citizens' Committee, 1973, p. 11). The report is meant to be a source
of information that can promote discussion and planning for school
level improvements. One of the conclusions of the study commissioned
by the Select Joint Committee (1978) described the role of the advisory
committee in explaining and using information from the annual report in
the manner intended by the legislature. The Select Joint Committee
the groundwork has been laid for moving toward fuller
realization of the purposes of the publication.
Substantial work is needed in preparing explanations
which make the data informative to the average citi-
zen and in providing opportunities for public
discussion of the implications. Such tasks are
eminently appropriate to members of school advisory
committees. Furthermore, sequencing the work of
school advisory committees so that recommendations
flow from community discussion of the annual
report would assist the committees in generating
informed discussion on data-based agendas. (p. 288)
Ryan (1976) stressed that during every phase of committee activity,
"keeping the community informed of what is going forward is extremely
important" (p. 154). Information, she added, develops support, elicits
interest, and helps avoid problems caused by misinformation. The next
two indicators describe committee activities for providing ongoing
information to the community about the work of the committee. The
second indicator is that the LESAC maintains minutes of its meetings.
The third is that the LESAC publishes regular progress reports for its
projects, and the reports are available to the public. Again, Ryan
(1976) suggested that publication of an agenda before the committee
meeting, as well as summaries of reports, proposals, and plans after
the meeting, helps build community acceptance of the committee's work
(p. 154). Greenwood et al. (1977) stressed the usefulness of instructing
committee secretaries to record evidence of LESAC decisions and recom-
mendations in minutes of the meeting. There are several reasons for
keeping accurate minutes of meetings. Rosaler (Note 1) listed three
a. They keep members from forgetting what happened.
b. They serve as a report to the people who weren't
at the meeting.
c. They can inform members about what will happen
next time by including the agenda for the next
meeting. (p. 48)
Published minutes can serve as a kind of progress report of pro-
jects, if the minutes are distributed to all interested parents in some
way. Murray (1974) suggested including a "recap" of the minutes in a
parent newsletter. Rosaler (Note 1) indicated that LESAC minutes might
be attached to school notices being sent home with children or a summary
might be printed in the local newspaper (p. 48).
There are several ways advisory committees can keep the public in-
formed about committee projects and progress. Some of the means listed
by Cox (1974) included use of newsletters, church bulletins, newspapers,
radio, mail, telephone, television, brochures, PTA, and speaking engage-
ments. The two frequently mentioned means of reporting to the public
were through newsletters (Arnold, 1976, p. 193; Murray, 1974) and open
meetings with pre-published agendas (Arnold, 1976, p. 193; Jenkins,
1976). Jenkins (1976) believed that making meetings open to the public
could "do much to negate any aura of clandestine decision making, and
will show that the committee is not the principal's puppet" (p. 72).
As representatives of the school community, members of the advisory
committee not only provide information to the persons they represent,
but also must have ways of receiving information from those persons
about their needs and questions. Therefore another indicator of the
effectiveness of the committee's communication function is that a formal
process is established so parents can submit questions and concerns to
the advisory committee. An open advisory committee meeting can be a
forum for parents and others to express their expectations in matters
related to school affairs (Nyquist, 1977). If an agenda were published
in advance, individual citizens who were concerned about specific items
on the agenda could be scheduled to present subjects for the committee's
consideration (Select Joint Committee, 1978, p. 263). Blumenberg and
Marmion (1972) felt that "agendas, planned by more than just the prin-
cipal, should leave time for immediate concerns as well as formal
matters" (p. 47).
However, not every person concerned about the school program may
be able to attend an advisory committee meeting. Ells (1976) said
parents should be encouraged to make personal
contacts with the school in person, by telephone,
and by letter at any time. In addition,the use
of parent questionnaires and evaluation sheets
covering many areas of the school program are
useful. (p. 119)
Community surveys are another way in which advisory committees can
obtain information from the persons they represent. In fact, a survey
will provide information from people who do not always attend meetings
and whose opinions would not be known unless requested. The fifth
indicator then is that the advisory committee helps conduct a survey
to collect information about teacher, student, parent, and community
attitudes toward the school.
Barth (1978) stated that it is not uncommon for advisory commit-
tees to develop and circulate a questionnaire to assess community
satisfaction with a school's instructional program. Mayher (1976)
elaborated on the value of surveying community opinion in the following
It behooves citizens to find out why there are wide
differences in performance between their schools and
within their schools. They may find that a large
part of the fault is on their own doorsteps. If so,
it may be because of insufficient resources or lack
of attention to the use of the resources. The place
to find out is in the schools where the climate can
be felt; problems, needs, and accomplishments are
close at hand; and the data is easily managed.
School community councils are needed to ask the
questions. (p. 13)
One of the items required by the Florida Legislature in the annual
report of school progress was a summary "of teacher, student, parent,
and community attitudes toward the school" (F.S. 229.575[e]).
Typically, advisory committees have used a survey to determine the
attitudes of teachers, students, and parents about various aspects of
the school program (Greenwood et al., 1977).
A survey is a series of written questions designed to elicit
opinions, feelings, or facts (Rosaler, Note 1, p. 79). There are
several major activities to be completed by groups that have decided
to write and conduct their own survey. Garman and Hunter (1978) listed
the activities as 1) selecting a survey method, 2) deciding what ques-
tions to ask and how you will use the data, 3) deciding whom to survey,
4) publicizing the survey, 5) conducting the survey, 6) tabulating and
displaying survey information, and 7) reporting survey results.
Rosaler (Note 1) described the advantages of using a survey to
collect information. She said that 1) a survey can reach many people
in a short time, 2) it is inexpensive, 3) it provides anonymity, and
4) a survey produces responses that are easily summarized and reported
The last six characteristics relate to the way the advisory
committee does its work. The characteristics describe both the manner
in which group members relate to each other and the way in which members
relate to the tasks they have set. The effectiveness with which the
group works together will be influenced by factors external to the
group as well as by internal factors. The external factors which in-
fluence an advisory committee's potential for accomplishing its goals
include access to necessary human and material resources, recognition
and support by local and state school officials, and open lines of
communication with educational agencies, groups, and persons concerned
with the school. Internal factors include the kind of relationships
the group members have with each other, the way in which members work
together to set and achieve goals, and the manner in which the committee
evaluates its progress toward goals.
Though a group is just as strong as the individual strengths of
each member, nevertheless there is tremendous potential when individuals
combine their capabilities and direct their energies toward group pur-
poses. However, as Likert (1961) pointed out, though groups have a
potential for effective action, they often are not effective. He said
the surprising thing about committees is not that
many or most are ineffective, but that they accomplish
as much as they do when, relatively speaking, we know
so little about how to use them. There has been a
lack of systematic study of ways to make committees
effective. (p. 163)
When a group lacks the essential resources to function properly,
or when the group members are unable to cooperate with one another, the
group will probably be ineffective in reaching its objectives. A pub-
lication of the National Committee for Citizens in Education (Kuykendall,
1976) listed 12 reasons why group processes break down and parent groups
fail to achieve their potential. The 12 reasons are
(1) ineffective use of time by parent organiza-
(2) lack of information
(3) lack of communication
(4) lack of discipline
(5) lack of unity
(6) lack of persistence
(7) lack of cooperative organization efforts
(8) lack of direction
(9) lack of short- and long-range planning
(10) inability to identify problems and set
(11) inability to work with parents whose involve-
ment may be on a different level
(12) lack of money. (p. 27)
The first two weaknesses listed above have been addressed positively
in the definition of earlier characteristics and indicators. The others
are identified in a number of the characteristics and indicators which
The LESAC Has Access to Resources at the School, District, and
State Level for the Improvement of Its Processes and Functions
Hamer (1977) showed that effective councils required a full range
of support services. Gittell (1977) stated that provision of informa-
tion and technical assistance to community participants was an impor-
tant aspect of developing community councils. She believed that this
aspect was too often overlooked. If community participation in school
planning is to succeed, advisory committees must have access to re-
sources at the local, district, and state level. Burges (1977) stated
community participation and school decentralization
mandated by legislation and administrative or
judicial decree need resources and political support
to succeed. One cannot expect people to participate
in community organizations unless resources are
devoted to nurture and support participation. The
expanding State and Federal role in public education
has promise to stimulate participation if resources
as well as regulations are forthcoming. (p. 62)
According to the Select Joint Committee (1978) little attention
has been given to providing resources and support for school committees
even though evidence has shown that such supports improve the committee's
ability to function effectively (p. 232). It has been shown that if
committees are made to work in a vacuum, without provisions for staff
support, systematic information flow, operating budgets, or technical
assistance, it is more likely that the committees will fail than suc-
ceed (Davies, Clasby, & Powers, 1977). Both committee chairpersons
and principals require additional resources and support if committees
are to move beyond the level of token involvement (Select Joint Com-
mittee, 1978, pp. 258, 269). One of the steps suggested by the Select
Joint Committee (1978) to move to a new stage in the implementation of
legislation for school advisory committees was to provide "information
services and technical assistance to local advisory committees" (p.
290). Davies, Stanton, Clasby, Zerchykov, and Powers (1977) stated
that "in order to function effectively, councils must have resources
to strengthen their governance as well as their ability to take action
on specific problems" (p. 63).
In addition to receiving support from the school district or state,
school committees can provide resources for each other. This idea was
emphasized by Blumenberg and Marmion (1972) who described the formation
of school advisory committees in Long Beach, California. Blumenberg
and Marmion observed that
in addition to using the materials and training
skills of the program's ongoing consultant team,
each session drew on successful practitioners of
the community council movement from within the
district or from nearby LEA's [Local Education
Agencies]. (p. 45)
Training of committee members (including the school principal)
has been cited as a significant factor related to advisory committee
effectiveness. The Select Joint Committee (1978) indicated that without
in-service training, support, and resources for administrators and
citizens the level of committee involvement was likely to remain very
low (p. 269). Consequently the first indicator of committee access to
essential resources is that advisory committee members receive training
to develop leadership skills and effective group processes.
From several studies it has been found that there was a basic need
for training and information for committee chairmen and committee mem-
bers. From a study of advisory committees in three Florida school
districts Chinn (1975) concluded that one-fourth of the chairpersons
were not even familiar with the county plan for advisory committees or
with the limitations of the committee as defined by state statute and
board policy. Conclusions of case studies of Teacher Corps projects
(Winecoff, 1977) listed one of the serious problems facing new committees
as "lack of training and experience in collaboration and shared gover-
nance" (p. 109). Based on a study of advisory committees, Hamer (1977)
concluded that they required a full range of support services including
training about planning, organizing, and working with a group.
Kuykendall (1976) stated that "leadership development for parent
groups is both a necessity and a long-term commitment" (p. 5). She
believed that the training and development of good leaders was a
committee's insurance for achieving long term success. Along the
same line, Price (1977) wrote that
involved citizens aren't recruited, they're de-
veloped. Once some of the obstacles to citizen
involvement have been removed, a developmental
effort is necessary to provide the self-confidence,
knowledge, and skills a person needs to partici-
pate. Particularly important is the development
of citizen self-discovery--"That I can make a dif-
ference." Individual self-confidence leads to
group self-confidence, and in turn usually results
in community self-confidence. (p. 9)
Schools with successfully functioning advisory committees have
provided training for members. In Flint, Michigan, preservice and in-
service sessions have been held for community council chairpersons and
principals (McMillan, 1974). One of the goals of the parent council
working for Cambridge Alternative Public School was to provide more
training of parents for the committee's work (Solo, 1979).
Advisory committees require training in several areas. Many of
the areas suggested by writers can be grouped into two categories,
leadership skills and effective group processes. Ainsworth (1977)
stated that if the membership of a planning or advisory group was too
diverse help might be needed in group dynamics. If technical knowledge
was required for effective planning, committee members might also bene-
fit from lectures by experts in the field. Davies (1976) stated that
citizens asked to perform new roles need help beyond
information. They need training for specific skills,
including communication and planning and gathering
and analyzing data. They also need orientation to
specific settings and tasks. Of course, adminis-
trators and teachers also need training and
orientation if they are to be effective in new
relationships with parents and citizens. (p. 28)
A checklist was developed by Rosaler (Note 1) to help the advisory
committee assess its training needs and priorities. She listed seven
areas in which committees may need to develop knowledge or skill.
a. Establishing program priorities.
b. Setting realistic goals and objectives.
c. Developing activities and monitoring tech-
d. Finding and using resources.
e. Matching budget considerations with program
2. Participating in meetings.
a. Running effective meetings.
b. Making group decisions.
c. Using communication skills.
d. Coordinating actions with other groups.
3. Collecting information.
a. Using interviewing skills.
b. Using observation skills.
c. Making and using surveys.
d. Communicating effectively with written
4. Sorting and confirming information.
5. Recruiting school and classroom volunteers.
6. Classroom instruction.
a. Explaining textbooks and materials.
b. Explaining teaching methods.
c. Using aides and volunteers.
7. Training other people in any of the above.
Roehm (1977), in a leadership training module for policy advisory
committees, developed parent leadership skills in the following
areas: 1) the order of business and how to make motions; 2) the
duties of officers, writing minutes, and writing agendas; and 3) the
election of officers and using bylaws. Jenkins (1976) suggested an
intensive short course for committee members which would touch on
"group process, decision making, school organization, the program
of studies, and prevalent state law and board policies" (p. 72).
Orientation to local school decision-making processes and leadership
development for committee members were areas of training needs indi-
cated by Blumenberg and Marmion (1972).
Not every committee has the same training needs. Several authors
(Blumenberg & Marmion, 1972; Rosaler, Note 1, p. 41) have suggested the
use of a survey or needs assessment to determine the focus of preservice
and inservice training sessions. Information from a survey of committee
members' needs can be a guide for preparing an orientation or work-
Writers were not in agreement about which persons should conduct
the training sessions for advisory committees. In some school districts,
district personnel have been assigned to the task, while in others
outside consultants have been engaged. Specific situational factors
appear to influence each choice. For instance, Blumenberg and Marmion
(1972) wrote the following about orientation programs for committee
members in Long Beach, California:
When staff development and council training pro-
grams are indicated, outside consultants as
trainers can be neutral catalysts for insight and
conflict resolution. Whether they contract for
an entire series or serve as their particular
expertise is required, they bring to the process
both a broader perspective and a less emotionally
involved one. (p. 47)
On the other hand, Greenwood et al. (1977) indicated that
some school systems have employed "parent involve-
ment specialists to help SAC's get organized, to
conduct in-service training, and to facilitate
communication with parents, students, and the
school administration. (p. 13)
The second indicator of advisory committee access to essential
resources is that resources are provided at the school level so that
the committee can do its work (e.g., typing, duplicating equipment,
supplies, and meeting space).
Generally the resource demands of advisory committees have been
found to be reasonable. However, as Longstreth (1978) pointed out, a
committee does need some resources at its disposal. Some examples of
resource support Longstreth believed could contribute to the success
of council operations were
access to printing machines for reports, typing
services by the school secretarial staff, a budget
appropriation for transportation services for
advisory council meetings and for baby sitting
services at the school during such meetings. (p. 138)
Terrell (1977) contended that community groups needed to be given
a clear understanding of resources available to them. Such items, he
said, "should include personnel, space, equipment, budget and other
resources which the school will commit" (p. 17). Price (1977) speci-
fically named the school principal as the person responsible for pro-
viding adequate housing, supplies, and accommodations for committee
To function effectively, committees need human as well as material
resources. Personnel assigned at the district and state level can
provide human support for committee efforts. The third indicator of
the characteristic is that school district personnel are available to
help the committee carry out its activities.
From a study of school advisory committees conducted in 25 cities
and 249 school districts Stanwick (1975) concluded that generally
school administrators help coordinate advisory committee activities
and central office staff provide consultant assistance. Since the
support of the administrator is so important, Greenwood et al. (1977)
recommended that a parent involvement specialist be employed to assist
and help train both administrators and parents. The specialist would
also facilitate communication between the school administrator and
parents if there were problems in that area. In a notebook for Cali-
fornia school administrators, Olivero (1977) suggested that principals
and superintendents work with the district's public relations profes-
sional in determining what information advisory committees need.
Together they could determine whether this information was available
through normal public relations activities. Olivero (1977) recommended
asking the district public relations officer to
develop a briefing packet for advisory council
members on the budget, instructional activities,
legal constraints, alternatives to present in-
structional programs, etc. The public relations
person should work on keeping the advisory council
members up-to-date by providing consistent infor-
mation through newsletters, work with the media,
and other activities. (p. iv)
Chinn (1975) recommended that an administrative position be estab-
lished at the county level
in order to develop and present an orientation
program for each school in the district as well
as to advise and assist individual committees at
any time during the school year. (p. 103)
In the Flint, Michigan, school system the central administration's
inservice department provided leadership development and served as an
action and referral center for each council's requests for assistance
(McMillan, 1974). In a report of the Jacksonville Community Council
(1979) it was recommended that the school district provide staff support
for local school advisory committees. Blumenberg and Marmion (1972)
contended that contributions of time and talent by central office staff
to advisory committee development lent strength and legitimacy to the
effort. Arnold (1976) recommended that Atlanta Public Schools' ad-
ministrators and staff be involved as consultants in inservice pro-
grams for advisory committees (p. 205).
Because of their central position in the school system, personnel
in the district office can gain access to information and resources
that would facilitate communication between committees at different
schools. Blumenberg and Marmion (1972) noted that an important source
of information for committees can be other successful committees. The
fourth indicator of the characteristic then is that school district
personnel coordinate activities of all committees at different schools
and help them communicate with each other. Field interviews conducted
as part of the Select Joint Committee (1978) study confirmed that
advisory committee members
placed overwhelming emphasis on concrete and
specific information. They wanted examples,
outlines, material on what has worked elsewhere;
in short, they do not want to reinvent the wheel
everytime they become involved in a committee.
Davies, Stanton, Clasby, Zerchykov, and Powers (1977) proposed
that committees could strengthen their ability to act effectively if
they participated in informal networks of groups both within the school
system and outside of it (p. 63). Davies, Clasby, and Powers (1977)
believed, in fact, that committees could not succeed without support
from professionals in the field or from previously established citizen
groups. Cox (1974) supported the same idea by recommending that
committee members visit committees in and out of the community to
determine different kinds of involvement and activities.
It would be useful to assign a persons) in the district the task
of coordinating the activities of committees and the communication flow
among them. Several writers (Blumenberg & Marmion, 1972; Chinn,
1975, p. 103; Greenwood et al., 1977) considered appointment of a dis-
trict coordinator as a crucial factor in the development of new committees.
There is need for positive, facilitating support for committees
at the state as well as at the local level. Davies (1976) advised
states, either through the legislature or the educa-
tion department or both, should provide financial
incentives and technical assistance to districts
wishing to decentralize and to develop school councils.
They should provide appropriate and economical ways
to provide information and consulting services to
citizens and citizens' groups. They should provide
financial support for efforts to develop imagina-
tive approaches to school-community collaboration,
using state controlled federal dollars as well as
state money. (p. 28)
The Select Joint Committee (1978) cited a report of the senate
education committee of the Florida legislature in which the establish-
ment of a statewide clearinghouse was proposed to facilitate dissemina-
tion of information to committees and to encourage communication between
them. The Select Joint Committee (1978) also reported a Florida depart-
ment of education recommendation following an evaluation of the data
returns for the first year of implementation of school advisory com-
mittees. The recommendation of the Florida department of education
if the Department of Education is to provide greater
support for school districts, it will require the
appointment of a full-time staff member to work
with these groups. The staff member would have
responsibility for meeting and working with school
advisory committees, disseminating information on
effectiveness of these committees, and conducting
training sessions for chairmen and other members
of school advisory committees. (p. 241)
These same recommendations were reemphasized and expanded in the
recommendations of the Select Joint Committee in 1978. It proposed
the following actions for building a state-level capacity for technical
assistance which would be rendered by a state-level citizens' group
rather than from the Florida department of education:
1. The legislature should establish, on a permanent
and active basis, a state citizens' advisory
committee on education and include among the
committee's responsibilities the encouragement
and monitoring of citizen advisory committees
at the district and school levels. . .
2. The state citizens' advisory committee should
be authorized, funded, and staffed to monitor
district and school advisory committees through
site visits to a sampling of about 10 percent
of these committees each year ..
3. The state citizens' advisory committee on edu-
cation should be authorized, funded, and staffed
to establish a citizen information service to
provide information and technical assistance
oriented to citizen needs and interests .
4. The state citizens' advisory committee should
be authorized, funded, and staffed to provide
small (from $500 to $5,000) committee improvement
grants to local advisory committees or to in-
dependent citizen organizations or other non-
profit groups proposing to provide training and
other forms of assistance to local advisory
committees. (pp. 292-293)
The Florida legislature has acted upon two of the recommendations.
First, the legislature expanded the role of the Florida education
council, a state-level citizens' group, to include responsibility for
citizen activity at the local level (F.S. 244.07). Within the Florida
education council, coordination of activities for local school advisory
committees is assigned to the chairman of the committee on citizen
participation. Second, the legislature initiated a program of state-
financed mini-grants to local and district councils (F.S. 229.59).
Finally, the Florida education council, through funding from various
foundations, published a newsletter about promising practices and
models of participation in Florida schools ("Florida Joins," 1980).
The Florida education council (and the committee on citizen par-
ticipation) assumed a greater role in focusing the commitment of state-
level leaders and encouraging local action with information and assis-
tance (Institute for Responsive Education, 1979). Since the Florida
education council could provide some important resources for the
development of committees the final indicator of advisory committee
access to essential resources is that the advisory committee obtains
information and technical assistance from the committee on citizen
participation, within the Florida department of education.
The Citizens' Advisory Committee Is One Component of a Total
Partnership System Encompassing Local, District, and State
Several authors (Davies, 1977; Gordon & Breivogel, 1976; Rosenberg,
1976; Ryan, 1976) have described the partnership between educators and
citizens. Rosenberg (1976) stated that
educators and citizens form an inseparable and un-
breakable partnership. These partners must be clear
about their roles as full and mutually supportive
partners in the education of their children. They
must be mutually very well informed about and agreed
upon goals, and upon means to achieve these goals.
Ryan (1976) defined partnership as a collaborative process between
individuals with common goals, in which decision making is shared by
all who are concerned or affected by the decisions (p. 5). Collabora-
tion, according to Davies (1977), means more than dividing up power and
responsibility. He said that collaboration meant
sharing, a give-and-take process among school people
and citizens, a creative dialogue and debate, and
hopefully growth and learning by everybody involved.
It means learning that power does not need to be a
"zero sum game," that if parents "win" better schools,
nobody loses. (p. 4)
The idea of partnership between educators and citizens rests upon
two assumptions which were made explicit by the Select Joint Committee
(1978). First, the laws of a democratic society are shaped to allow
representation in the decisions of the government. Second, citizens'
organizations are important means for citizens to participate in de-
cision making and share authority with elected office holders and
professional administrators (p. 216).
Parents and teachers are only two of many groups at the local,
state, and federal levels concerned about decisions affecting education.
The effectiveness of any group will depend on its ability to work with,
rather than separately or against, other groups with similar objectives.
The highly effective group, as Likert (1961) described it, is not an
isolated entity. It is always conceived as being a part of a larger
organization. As a consequence, he said, "there are always linking
functions to be performed and relationships to other groups to be
maintained" (p. 165).
However, a weakness of many advisory committees is that they give
little attention to developing formal or informal communication channels
inside or outside the school. As the Select Joint Committee (1978)
stated, "they tend to function in a vacuum without links to other
school groups, the community, to groups in the state" (p. 274). The
Select Joint Committee believed that even minimal assistance in this
area could lead to substantial improvement.
Arnold (1976) stressed the importance of developing a team rela-
tionship among administrators, professional and classified staff,
students, parents, and citizens (p. 5). The initiative for developing
such a relationship should be taken at the state level Gittell (1977)
contended. She said that since education is a state function, the
politics of participation may be best served at that level. She sup-
ported her contention with the following rationale:
The setting of educational goals and minimum standards
(the states' major function) is a process which
ultimately encompasses all districts and schools.
The participatory process could be institutionalized
to engage all segments of the state community from
the individual school unit to the local or neighbor-
hood district to the city-wide district level. The
involvement of citizens representing each of these
units in the state decision making process can
potentially produce significant changes in local
processes. Participation could be built with its
base at the individual school level and move up the
system. Input should be as broadly based as possible
and include professionals, state and city bureau-
crats and teachers, public officials and a broad
representation of clients and citizens. This kind
of process would guarantee that state wide policies
reflect local interests and be responsive to
accumulated local needs but would also assure a
continuing role for these participants on a local
level. (p. 19)
If the local school advisory committee is to enjoy a collaborative
relationship with educators, administrators, and policy makers, it must
develop open lines of communication with groups at all levels of the
educational community. The five indicators of the characteristic
describe elements of such a communications network.
The first indicator is that the LESAC regularly communicates with
all the groups represented by committee members, including the school
staff and the school principal. If diverse groups of people are to
work together successfully for common objectives, a free exchange of
information must regularly pass between groups. When there is an
established forum for talking together, for giving and receiving infor-
mation, then parents, teachers, students, and other citizens can bring
together both their concerns and their expertise to deal with the needs
of children and schools in colleagueship (Ryan, 1976, p. 17).
Some techniques to help advisory committees communicate with
groups they represent were listed in several sources (Arnold, 1976,