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Experience (300 characters max)
-Biology teacher with over 25 years of experience working with running start students, high school graduates, and middle school students;
-Faculty member serving on numerous college committees;
-Mother of OSD graduate;
-Education: MS Applied Microbiology, MS Public Health, BS Biology
1-Inequality and the achievement gap including parent involvement --- Most urgent
2-Disruptive behavior (emotional and social problems)/Bullying
3-Students currently struggle with distinguishing opinion (“alternative facts”) from evidence-based information
As an educator, I am against CS as a part of the public school system. CS were developed to provide more options, more accountability and more autonomy but what we have seen since the early nineties has been significant privatization and limited accountability. CS drain funding from public schools that NEED the funding. CS increase the achievement gap for the most at risk students. CS are not held accountable in the same manner as are public schools often resulting in misuse and abuse of funds. CS are often unstable. Between 2000 and 2010, one third of charter schools closed. This may be normal in the business world, but this is our children’s future. Our children’s education should not be a business. We should recognize that there are problems within our public school system but we should look to teachers and people within the community for solutions, not private management companies. I see the expansion of charter schools as part of a continued disinvestment in our public schools.
It has become clear that while we do need to limit extensive testing,it is necessary to have avenues of assessing academic progress. Academic data is essential in the pursuit of educational equity but we need to determine the best ways to do so. I believe we need to utilize different methods that provide multiple indicators of student learning. By using multiple ways to assess students, we are not cutting into instructional time to prepare students for a “one-size-fits-all” test. In my classes I use a variety of assessment methods including group assignments, writing, research, and hands-on lab work. I also use tests and quizzes. College entrance, program acceptance, and certifications all use standardized testing so it is important that students are given ample experience with this type of assessment. I am opposed to standardized tests as criterion for graduation. However, standardized tests written by OSD teachers can be valuable for measuring program success.
I believe pushing school start times back for elementary and secondary schools can be a very important step in optimizing what is best for students.The question is, are we willing to overcome obstacles such as transportation changes in order to achieve stronger performances in schools and healthier students? It is hard to ignore the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.These organizations actively advocate for age specific school start times based on evidence-based data. We need to prioritize the health and well-being of our children.This is not just an educational issue, it is a public health issue. As of this Fall, schools in 45 states have decided to push start times back and have had positive results such as improved graduation rates. OSD should consider implementing this research. Single parents on fixed incomes may find it impossible to adjust work schedules. OSD should investigate how other systems have avoided problems associated with later start.
An important step in improving the on-time graduation rate in the OSD is by personalizing the education process. We need to address the reasons why students drop out and why it takes them longer to graduate. Many students are struggling with issues of poverty, abuse and other family problems. In my experience at SPSCC, I encounter students struggling to earn a passing grade because they are dealing with addictions, homelessness, and domestic abuse. I am inspired by their motivation and strength but frustrated by the injustice and economic inequality. This requires more community involvement. Teachers require significant extra help. We should invest in educational support in the form of tutoring, mentorship programs and more social services. Skill-based programs that lead to entry-level trade jobs out of high school motivate some students to stick it out in order to fast-track to a job. New Market Skills Center is a model program to expand on.
Bullying in schools is one of the biggest issues in our schools, with cyber-bullying becoming more prevalent. I believe that communication in schools is the most effective way to address bullying.Teachers and administrators need to establish avenues for reporting bullying without negative consequences for the bullied student. It would be beneficial to assess general understanding and awareness of what constitutes bullying,through surveys and in-class lessons. By making bullying a central issue, students can better recognize bullying if it happens to them, or if they are doing the bullying. The more school related anti-bullying activities the better. For example, schools could create a student led group or committee designed to prevent bullying. Schools should be pre-emptive about bullying. OSD counselors could come up with action plans for each school that are age appropriate.Yearly training of ALL faculty and staff should be conducted at each school by OSD counselors.
We are located in the State Capitol which provides our school district with a unique opportunity to promote civic engagement. Students can connect with our community while learning the importance of civic responsibility. All levels should be involved. When my daughter attended Garfield Elementary school, there were field trips to the Capitol campus. For younger kids, learning how to negotiate arguments and creating class contracts could also be early lessons in civics. Middle or high school students could research a current bill under consideration. Students could attend public legislative events associated with the bill (e.g. committee, senate and house hearings; committee deliberations and the final votes). To reduce class load, civics could be incorporated into another course. For example, writing and civics, or history and civics, could be combined. Alternatively, high school students with interest in political science could include internships in their academic plan for credit.
Suspending students often serves to disrupt student learning without addressing the root problem. Nationally, students of color are much more likely to be suspended for similar offenses with respect to their white peers. With a biased system, there should be alternatives to suspension. There are cases where suspension is warranted and necessary for the safety of everyone. Alternative methods, however, such as community service, detention classes and focus-groups, and loss of privileges are more constructive. The root cause of the disruptive behavior must be addressed. Are there emotional or physiological problems? Therapy outside of the school settings could be used. Does the child’s life outside of the classroom contribute to the behavioral difficulties? If so state social services may need to be contacted. Individual plans with specific goals should be created and implemented with the student, parents, teachers and school counselors to rectify the disruptive behavior(s).
Town where you live
Experience (300 characters max)
I have worked and volunteered in community services and education for the past 25 years. I currently work for the Superintendent of Public Instruction. I have volunteered in schools, shelters, food banks, churches, community centers, health departments, and on numerous boards and committees.
The three most pressing issues facing Olympia schools are:
1. Enrollment management
2. School funding – state and federal
Developing an equity plan that makes meaningful changes to school climate takes time, but working toward equity is the most urgent issue facing our district. Over the past several months of reviewing the data (especially discipline rates) and talking with parents, I have come to understand that we must begin implementing concrete system-wide strategies immediately. This work starts with a district-wide, year-long equity study to give all district staff and leaders a baseline understanding of what equity is and the inherent bias that exists in our school policies and practices. This will ensure we are all aware of the problem and that we are using a common vocabulary to describe both the privilege and discrimination that our families experience every day.
I can’t support the idea of siphoning money from our public schools (which are directed by elected officials who are accountable to citizens) and handing it to un-elected boards or private partners. I do think it’s important for us to consider why the idea of charter schools is so attractive to some families and ask ourselves if there are students we could serve better. If our school district focuses on putting students at the center of their education, meeting students’ unique needs, and engaging with their families, charter schools won’t have a reason to set up shop in Olympia.
Statewide tests, such as the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA), can be useful to measure the overall health of a system and the effectiveness of curriculum, but they are not the best way to measure student ability.
As a former admissions counselor, I learned quickly that scores on high-stakes tests were rarely the best predictors of a student’s ability. The best predictor was almost always the report card: showing the classes they took and how they performed over the course of their high school career. When it comes to measuring if individual kids are meeting standard, I support the idea of using teachers’ classroom-based assessments and observations to determine how much growth a student has made towards reaching standard.
I’d like our district to move away from a focus on SBA scores as the primary measurement of successful schools. We need to build on OSPI’s new recommended accountability (chronic absenteeism and 9th grade course failure) and incorporate school climate surveys.
The challenge of managing start times, transportation costs, and extracurricular scheduling is a constant balancing act. Whenever a school board considers making a system-wide change (like flipping start times), the process should begin with a comprehensive cost analysis and explanation of return on investment so that the community has the details they need to give informed input into the decision. In the case of changing start times, as a school board member I would want to know that there was overwhelming community support and clear evidence that the change would increase student achievement without disproportionately disadvantaging any families who rely on older students for childcare.
Post-graduate planning should start before high school. I’d like to get our students thinking and dreaming about their adult life as early as 5th grade. That said, if you want to improve anything in schools you need to use data to guide your decisions. Data about gaps is key to the work of improving graduation rates. In Olympia, significant gaps in graduation rates persist for homeless, low-income, and special education students. This tells us that those students are not receiving the services they need to be successful. Supporting students with wrap-around services presents a perfect opportunity to use a research-based approach to collaborate across government agencies and embed student supports both inside and outside of school buildings with the help and insight of community partners.
The district needs a comprehensive communication plan for bullying and harassment. School safety needs a clearly explained escalation protocol that is visual, readable, and uniform at all schools. Currently, there is no protocol for how a building handles complaints available on the district website. Instead, families are directed to several links to policies and procedures that are difficult to read and seem more focused on protecting the district from liability than serving students and families who feel unsafe.
As a result, our families don’t know what they have a right to expect from their building and district administrators. As a candidate, I’ve heard too many stories of students whose safety was discounted and parents and caregivers whose valid concerns were taken less seriously when the perpetrator’s family had a special connection to the school. A school’s first job is to be safe and welcoming for all, and the district’s approach falls short.
This is an area where we could insert some more innovation and create a milestone experience similar to "outdoor school." In my work at the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction supporting accomplished educators, I’ve heard many exciting ideas about engaging students in critical thinking around citizenship. One idea I love is the concept of a citizen seminar that is essentially an academic book club. That said, I’m a big believer in crowd sourcing these kinds of decisions from the buildings and classrooms, so I would first look for students, educators, and families who were passionate about this issue and task them with the work of investigating options. Whatever we do, it should be uniformly rigorous and experiential across the district.
Disruption. Insubordination. Distraction. Schools must be careful whenever they include language like this in any student conduct policy. Research tells us that discretionary discipline always disproportionately disadvantages students of color, students with cognitive or physical challenges, low-income students, and other marginalized groups. Recent legislation has made it illegal to impose long-term suspension as a form of discretionary discipline and has put in place safeguards to make sure schools are continuing to offer an academic program to students who are suspended. This gives us some good guidance for the way forward. We need to strip discretionary discipline out of our policies as much as possible, investigate research-based de-escalation protocols, and work with students, families, and teachers to craft discipline and conduct policies that are culturally responsive, student centered, and bias-free.