What is your position on teachers' unions protesting during school time - taking a day off during the agreed upon school calendar to voice their concerns? It put many families in a difficult position.
The number one focus from both sides should be the students. If both sides are looking out for what's best for the students, then the relationship should be amicable and productive.
I realize that there are current policies and laws in place that take many of the decisions out of the local leaders' hands. We will have to implement what we are legally obliged to do, while looking for ways to implement local solutions that will benefit our schools.
My position on this is definitely evolving and I don't think I have all the answers. Here are some thoughts I have concerning this -
Questions about the Common Core and Standardized Testing
Answers to Questions I've Received
More issues and positions to come
This is extremely important. Resources are limited, so we need to make sure we use them well. We are so fortunate to live in a community that is so quick to financially back bonds and levies. Still, I think we can be more transparent. How about letting people know what bonds and levies are currently in place and how much longer we should expect them? This information is not easily accessible. Also, we should always make sure that we have enough administration to run the district, but not too many. More teachers should always be the goal, to reduce class sizes. Also, I'm not a fan of extending contracts of administrators that have multiple years still left on their contract. Outside of professional sports, these type of contracts just aren't a part of real life, and we should not get ourselves tied down by them. Our experience with our previous superintendent should be enough to convince us that this is not a good idea.
Being Fiscally Responsible
It's important that technology is used in the classroom. However, it is equally important that we make sure it will be useful and improve the educational process. A few years ago I attended a Richland School Board meeting when online textbooks were discussed. The Board encouraged the use of online textbooks. Only one problem, none of them had actually ever used them. With only 1 Board member with children in school, they had never tried to help their child with homework using online textbooks. Well, I had, and I told them about my experience. The online Chemistry book took about 5 to 10 seconds to change pages (and I had high-speed internet). There was no way to look at multiple pages at the same time, so going back a few pages for the equations and then back to the homework or examples, was practically impossible. There was no way to print the pages and they wouldn't even let you copy and paste any of the text. The best I could do was do a print page copy and paste it into Word. When I brought this up, many parents in the room mentioned their frustrations. One parent said they bought the textbook themselves because the online book was so bad. Next day, I purchased the textbook used from Amazon!
Research quoted in the book "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell looked at the factors affecting education and class. What was found surprised them. While the data showed that the lower class children were generally less educated than the middle and upper class children (class as defined by financial terms), the research showed that all classes learned at similar rates during the school year. It was the time between the end of school and the beginning of school (summer) in which the middle/upper class learned at a higher rate. We offer school lunch at some schools during the summer in hopes to help feed those children that will benefit most. While this is a worthwhile endeavor, it is similar to giving a man a fish, and not teaching him how to fish. I would like to accompany those lunches with 1 hour of education before and 1 hour of education after lunch, at least a few days a week. The learning can be fun and it most definitely isn't graded. This should help bridge that gap.
Technology in the Classroom
I remember as a youth taking standardized tests. Their purpose was to help us know what we were good at and what we weren't good at. They also told us what professions we could possibly be successful in. I believe this is where the value in standardized testing lies. Teachers should not have to teach to a test and they should not be graded by the performance of their students on these tests. Common core is the most convoluted way to do math. Even with a degree in Statistics and minor in Mathematics, I struggle trying to understand it.
Richland School Board Position 4
Recent endorsements -
Benton County Republican Party
WEA (Washington Educators Association)
Emily Allen (opponent in the Primary)
There has to be way to evaluate the teaching and learning by students. If it is not standard tests, what options there are. We cannot afford to keep students coming out of school with a diploma with out being ready real life flooded with exiting technologies.
When it comes to teachers, rewarding good teachers goes only so far. What happens to slackers who are the cog in the system. Do you have a remedy? At local level, we have to be responsible when tax $$ at stake. Schmoosing with teachers is just politics.
What do you see as the ideal relationship between the district and the teachers' union?
Standardized Testing and Common Core
Providing Education for the Less Fortunate
We definitely need testing to help evaluate the learning process. It's not so important where the tests come from as it is to get the buy in from the teachers. Teachers should be involved in the process of assembling the evaluation tests. When they have a vested interest, it will improve the process. The district should oversee the process to make sure that proper standards are being included. These tests should be done for evaluation, by determining the baseline at the beginning of each year, and assessing improvement from there. Standardized tests should be on a class / subject level and are only for evaluating the learning process. High school graduation should not be dependent on them. These tests also help with your second question. As we are able to assess learning throughout the year, we are able to better identify teachers whose students are not learning. I have a friend in administration at a Pasco elementary school and I like what they are doing. When a teacher is identified as under-performing, they meet with the teacher and let them know that they are letting down their students and that it isn't acceptable. They make a plan with the teacher to improve. The teachers are told that this is will not be tolerated and if it continues they will make it difficult for them until they leave the school. Last year they had 5 teachers leave through retirement or transferring. Although it's nearly impossible to remove a teacher just on poor performance, we can apply pressure and give them resources to help them change, if they want to. I remember having the worst 4th grade teacher. The school dealt with it a few years later by moving him to be the librarian. He performed great as the librarian and my younger siblings thought he was great.
I agree that it did put many families and even teachers in a difficult position logistically. I would have preferred that a different means of protest would have been selected; one that would not have been as inconvenient to families and teachers. With that said I respect the teachers' right to protest and I think it is important that we support our teachers as often as is reasonable. I'm glad that nothing more drastic was done and I would plan to work with the teachers and their union to help resolve any problems before any more drastic measures are taken.