NAIS Research: 2018 Governance Study


The NAIS Governance Study seeks to examine the perceived relationship between heads of school and their boards, as well as the composition and practices of the board itself. This report includes the results of the 2018 study conducted by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS).

The results from approximately 2,000 heads and board chairs should help you contextualize your relationship with your head or board chair, and learn about best practices regarding governance.

Executive Summary

Heads responding to the 2018 study show that they are pleased with the overall performance of their boards. Close to seven in 10 heads of school are either extremely or very satisfied with the performance of their school board. 

The relationship between heads of schools and their board chairs is strong. Close to six in 10 heads of school have an extremely strong and highly functioning partnership with their board chair, and about three in 10 report a very strong relationship, for a total of 83 percent.

In 2018, the number of board members (including ex officio members) in independent schools was 19, a slight decrease from the average number of members in 2012 and 2006. In terms of gender, the share of women on school boards is increasing. In 2018, women accounted for 46 percent of board membership, a 4-percentage-point increase from 2012.

Both heads and board chairs were asked to select the top five responsibilities for heads of schools. There was a clear agreement that ensuring the school’s financial well-being and instilling the climate and values of the school were a head’s primary responsibilities. For both heads and board chairs, the top issue facing their schools is managing enrollment.

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