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Teacher, Superintendent, Chief Deputy Superintendent of the CA Department of Education, Educational Consultant in District Improvement and the Smarter Balanced Assessment System. I have lived on San Juan Island since 2003 and would like to apply my expertise to help the students succeed.
Three major issues facing the district are declining enrollment, graduation rates, and slow implementation of the Common Core State Standards. Of these, the slow implementation of the Common Core State Standards is the most urgent and affects the status of the other two issues. WA adopted the Common Core State Standards in 2010 and has been a leading state in development of the Smarter Balanced Assessment System. At the state level there has been rapid development of professional development for school district staff to understand and transition to the more rigorous standards. Unfortunately, the district staff waited until this school year 2016-17 to pilot new curriculum that is aligned to the state standards. As a result, students have had difficulty with the Smarter Balanced Assessment and have not been able to meet state graduation requirements that include passing this assessment. The graduation rate has been flat for five years.
Charter Schools are most successful in a large school district where there are empty facilities and interested staff to work with parents to develop a theme-based learning environment for students. In our small community, the creation of charter schools would be a substitution, not an alternative, and supplant the public schools.
Quality assessments that are tightly aligned to classroom learning are beneficial for students and teachers to help them stay focused on their learning goals. It helps them to understand the rigor of learning expected when the goals are accomplished. Testing that is not aligned to classroom learning is fruitless. Classroom learning that is not aligned to the state standards being tested is a loss of the opportunity to learn for students. There should be reciprocal accountability (adults and students mutually accountable) for teaching and learning where testing provides valid evidence that the student has learned the standards and is making progress toward the annual learning goals.
Research on sleep for children and teenagers has shown that younger children are better able to learn early in the day. Teenagers need more sleep and are able to learn better later in the morning. Currently the district schools have the same starting and ending times—8:15-2:55. It would be beneficial to study the attendance habits of secondary students to see if the early start time is affecting attendance and performance in morning classes.
On-time graduation has been linked to student proficiency in 3rd grade reading and student proficiency in algebra. Success in these gateway subjects has a powerful effect on student self-perception. In addition, parents and staff make assumptions about a student’s likely progress toward graduation using these benchmarks and make placement decisions that affect the student’s future. A purposeful, student-centered effort for every student to prevent failure in reading and algebra is the best way to change the on-time graduation rate.
Bullying is evident in Kindergarten and needs to be addressed with students and parents proactively by counseling to address the root causes of the bullying. Waiting until the student is older only re-enforces the behavior.
Civics curriculum should be included in the American Government course currently required of all 12th graders.
Classroom disruption is a symptom of a more serious issue that needs attention. The learning environment is a community that is most successful when there is mutual respect and purposeful, active learning. If these are missing, it is the responsibility of the administration to work with the teacher to improve the learning environment and the lessons. If the cause of the disruption is a student bringing in an outside problem, the teacher and administrators need to address the outside problem. Teachers are responsible for setting and consistently applying community norms so that students feel safe and important in the learning process. If all of these norms are in place and the teacher and student have implemented progressive discipline steps, then in-school suspension may be appropriate, but only if the administration will address the root cause of the student behavior during his/her time out of class.
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I have served as the Center Manager, Lead Teacher, and Family Advocate at San Juan Head Start from 2006-present. I work in collaboration with the San Juan Island School District to provide a high quality learning program, and to promote kindergarten readiness for children three to five years of age.
The most urgent issue the San Juan Island School District is facing is a challenging one, Budget. How are we as a District able to create and maintain a budget when the Federal and State education budget is at such a high level of uncertainty? This issue is real, and it will continue to impact our Island schools. We must work collectively to not lose sight of providing quality services for all children. The focus right now needs to be creating a budget that helps us sustain a level of excellence for all students, and to provide appropriate resources and support systems for all teaching staff.
The vision of the charter school was first developed to work alongside public schools by offering something the traditional classroom could not offer. While good intention once backed this new model, I feel the focus has shifted and not necessarily in a positive direction. Charter schools are increasing their involvement in the national educational framework. I feel privatization of schools for profit is a major step backwards for public education, especially at the expense of the students and taxpayers living in our small community.
What is the purpose of education, and what are we trying to measure? As an Early educator, I am an advocate for screenings and assessments. These assessments ensure children are developing appropriately and areas of need are identified and an individual plan is created before they even enter Kindergarten. However, I feel that over the years the focus shifted to the Common Core Standards, and the word assessment became confused with the word test. Standardized testing is not meant to assess, it is meant to provide data and to be a tool for administrators and legislatures. I agree this data is required to set future goals, create plans for improvement, and measure progress. However, we lose sight of supporting the whole child. Students need to gain a set of skills that will allow them to become creative problem solvers and independent thinkers. Students are not standardized, nor is the world we are preparing them for.
The existing start times our District has established is a system that is tried and true. I strongly believe start times should coincide to what is conducive to the child and for their working families. The San Juan Island School District takes in account for the children that may need accommodations to their academic schedule. It is our job as educators to partner and work together with families to modify and implement these accommodations into the student’s existing Individualized Education Plan.
A collaborative effort to improve high school graduation rates should begin in the early years of Education. By developing and sustaining a prevention/intervention program that identifies and monitors at-risk youth is a key factor in improving graduation rates. Other important factors include creating a positive school environment, and connecting students to mental health and drug/alcohol support systems as needed.
Washington State has created a Graduation Equity Initiative that has compiled a collection of key practices of school districts across the state that have had a positive impact on improving graduation rates. SJISD could utilize this information to improve current resources and implement new systems to increase high school graduation rates.
Expectations of a zero-tolerance for bullying must be clear, precise, and followed by District policies. San Juan Island School District takes part in the Safe Schools Alert Bullying/Incident Reporting System that is user-friendly for students and families to report an act of bullying or harassment. I believe it is the role of the District to work collaboratively with students and families to address a situation that involves bullying. In order to maintain a safe learning environment for all children, we need to strengthen SJISD Policies involving bullying and harassment and the District should be held accountable for following the policies that are in place.
I would look for innovative ways to offer students their civics credit required by the new state law. I would work collectively with both District and community partners to see how a civics credit could be embedded in another social studies course in a way that is meaningful, and prepares our students to be active citizens when they graduate from high school. I believe Civics could be extended outside traditional classroom time instruction. Strengthening school governance, providing extracurricular activities, or community service learning are a few ideas that come to mind. Systems would then need to be established to see to that learning standards of the course are being met. SJISD would need to develop a tracking system to ensure these graduation requirements are also being met and reflected on student transcripts.
The safety of our children and staff should be a top priority in our District. Traditionally schools apply punitive procedures including detention, suspension, or expulsion in hopes to decrease future problem behaviors in students. Research actually proves opposite outcomes. I believe when school apply these punitive procedures, problem behaviors such as classroom disruption and truancy actually increase. Students that disrupt the classroom environment should absolutely be held accountable for their actions. However, the solution is to develop a positive approach in understanding the nature and meaning behind the child’s disrupting behavior in school. This requires effective school leadership, and a commitment to make collective improvements and systems to sustain efforts over time. These efforts are not solely the responsibility of the District. It is the responsibility of the student, family, and staff to work in a collaborative way to understand the behavior and create a solution.