1. Should the school board ensure that elementary school students get more than fifteen minutes for lunch? If so, what should the minimum lunch period be? (See the petition about this issue here.)
I am going to answer this question in two different roles.2. On balance, has the No Child Left Behind Act been good for Iowa City’s public school children?
As a board member, this is not an appropriate issue for the board to review. It is a programming, staffing and building-level decision. There is an appropriate process for this issue to come the board through the Board Complaint process. This process is available to anyone with a concern that they do not feel has been handled appropriately in the district.
As a parent, of course I want my child to have enough time to eat lunch for healthy eating habits and choices. The difference is between respecting the appropriate roles of a board member and a parent.
I think that the overall intent of No Child Left Behind was positive as it requires all public schools to be accountable for achievement and constantly look to improve. The problems have come with implementation and consequences rather than incentives.3. Do you think that standardized testing plays too large a role in our school system? If so, what should the school board do about it?
The first challenge is that Iowa utilizes ITBS and ITED as our accountability measures, which are normative tests that compare students to other students. Other states use end of course exams and criterion-based testing—which measures what a student has learned.
Schools may be labeled a SINA school for several reasons including not having enough students take the tests or for a sub-group’s test scores. The consequences enforced make it difficult to ever get off the list and in our school district lead to an inaccurate perception of “good schools” and “bad schools.
I just answered above regarding the use of normative vs. criterion-based testing. I don’t think that standardized tests are the best way to get the full picture of education and achievement in our district. Since the board did not create the laws that require the reporting, not having the tests is not an option. However, there are several things the board can do. The board can advocate on the state level to move away from normative tests as a reporting method. Developing criterion-based testing will take money and that will have to be a state level. The board can advocate for better testing or building a multi-state collaborative for test development at the federal level during the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (NCLB). And, the board can review more than the standardized scores for review and monitoring of the district achievement. As the board, we can do better and reviewing and discussing data.4. Local school boards have been increasingly subject to state and federal mandates. Do school board members have an obligation to think independently about whether those mandates are good for kids? If so, what should a school board member do if he or she concludes that those mandates are not in the best interests of the kids, or are contrary to our community’s values? (See this post.)
I think that I continue to answer multiple questions as one time. There are increasingly more state and federal mandates for public schools and while it is frustrating and seems contrary to local control for making decisions for what is best for our students. Due to the consequence for non-compliance, I do not think it is in the best interest of students to refuse to comply. However, the board should take a strong advocacy role to provide data and information on the effect of the mandates and take a proactive approach to make state and federal changes. The board must be a leader in advocacy for our students.5. Do you support the current pervasive use of token rewards to get students to comply with school rules? If not, what role should the school board take in reining that practice in?
I have learned a lot from the training and implementation of PBS in the schools. I think there is great value in the approach PBS takes on focusing on the positive behaviors of our students instead of focusing on the negatives. I also like that it establishes a common language that students will use and hear throughout the district and when they matriculate to junior high and high school.Links to other candidates’ responses are here.
I am not a big believer in a token economy system and I have seen personally that it really is not a motivator for my children. I think there are practices and components that are really good about PBS and that the schools will end up with hybrid systems that utilize what has worked with their students and will weed out what has not.