Thursday, May 5, 2011

Questions for school board candidates, part 1

We’ve got a school board election coming up this September. Our local papers’ “voter guides” are fine as far as they go, but they never seem to ask the questions I’d most like to see answered, and often leave me without any real sense of how the candidates conceive of education. So this year I thought I’d begin making a list of questions to present to the candidates. Here are the first ones that come to mind:

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.)

2. On balance, has the No Child Left Behind Act been good for Iowa City’s public school children?

3. Do you think our schools should put less emphasis on standardized testing? If so, what should the school board do to achieve that goal?

4. What should the school board do when state or federal laws or regulations require the district to do something that is not in the best interests of the kids? (See this post.)

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?

6. How should the schools approach the teaching of moral or ethical values? (See the debate in this post.)

7. What should the district’s plan be as the number of SINA schools grows and the number of schools into which those students can transfer shrinks?

Feel free to submit your own in the comments. Updated version, with links to responses from 2011 candidates, here.


Seth Coster said...

How about just a general one: What is the purpose of education?

Sarah said...

Good questions Chris.

I think number 2 would be very interesting to hear answered. While NCLB has not helped the greater Iowa City community due to labeling "bad" and "good" schools, I think it did force the district to look at how they are educating ALL of their students. This district is no longer just a district of students that come from families with doctors and professors as parents anymore. Diversity is great, but it also means we have more diverse learners now. The same strategies don't work anymore. We have to find ways to help all the children in the district be successful, and that won't be the same for every student. Hopefully, we can also figure out a way to do teach them how to think along the way.

Chris said...

Seth -- Yes, I considered putting "What does it mean to be well-educated?" on the list, and maybe I should. It's probably the most important question of all -- but I also worry that it might invite a lot of platitudes that wouldn't be all that revealing.

Chris said...

Sarah -- That was certainly one goal of NCLB. I wonder to what extent it's actually achieved that goal, and how we will ever know. Are you thinking of specific changes the district made to help kids who weren't being well served before NCLB?