Sunday, December 28, 2014

OLÉ and SWOP APS School Board Candidate Questionnaire

I have submitted for their consideration, my responses to their questionnaire;

OLÉ & SWOP APS School Board Candidate Questionnaire

How will you select a new Superintendent that values, solicits, and responds to input from community members such as parents, students, immigrants, and the community organizations they belong to?
There is no more valuable, nor more underutilized resource than the input of stake and interest holders.
There is an abundance of experience and expertise at our immediate disposal that is not being exploited. APS teachers for example, have between them nearly 100,000 years of teaching experience, and no seat at the table where decisions are made.
My top priority for the next superintendent will be the creation of a venue wherein there will be the opportunity for stake and interest holders to engage in open and honest two-way communication between the leadership of the APS and the community members they serve.

Would you support contracting with high-quality, private child development centers to increase APS's capacity for providing access to Pre-K?

The APS School Board is required by the first ethic in their Code of Ethics, to; make decisions in the best interests of students.
If, after meaningful participation by interest and stakeholders, the contracting out this or any other services appears to be in the best interest of students, I will support it wholeheartedly.
Do you believe that the School Board and the Superintendent it selects should resist many of the reforms that Governor Susan Martinez has been advocating or support them? Please specifically address her efforts to:
• Grade schools on an A-F system
• Rate teachers
• Increase the amount of the public school budget controlled by the Governor instead of local school boards
• End social promotion
• Increase the amount of testing in our classrooms.

In the first place, I would resist hiring a superintendent who has already made up their mind on these or any other issues. However well understood the terminology, the opportunity to respond to input from community members such as parents, students, immigrants, and the community organizations they belong to, must precede their final commitment to any reform.

Every reform, reduced to its essential elements, stands or falls on its merits. It either is, or it is not in the best interests of students. It either does or it does not enjoy the support of stake and interest holders after their meaningfully participation in its articulation.

Rather than respond to each of the reforms on your list; I would rather propose a reform which I think will obviate the need for them and any others.

I propose that the mission of the APS be reexamined. The current mission, however else it might be worded, is to standardize the individual performance of students who have little more in common than their age and the neighborhood in which they live.

Teachers are expected to take 30 children with almost nothing in common but their age and the neighborhoods they live in, and turn them into learning choirs, reading in unison, each on the same page in the same book on the same day for twelve years or more. Even if it were possible, and it is not, what purpose would it serve?

The ultimate reform would be changing the mission to;
Creating independent lifelong learners at the earliest opportunity.

I would add what I think is an equally, if not more important goal;
Creating students who will grow into adults who embrace character and courage and honor.

How will you work to close the APS District’s achievement gap and improve racial equity?

I am compelled to begin by wondering if “districtwide”, “ethnicity wide”, “SES wide”, or any other “group wide” achievement gap is an educationally useful calculation. However students are marginalized as a group, the effect shows up individually.

All achievement gaps are individual.

The calculation of group wide gaps might be statistically defensible but is otherwise educationally useless. Group wide averages are useful on in justifying the creation, at considerable expense, of “group” fixes for individual achievement gaps.

There is no such thing as a strategy to close group wide gaps. If there were, public schools would be using that strategy to close the gap of the group called “all students” and there would be no gaps, individual or otherwise.

The only educationally useful gap to consider is each individual student’s gap. If we can manage to close the individual gaps, group wide gaps close consequently.

Imagine a competent teacher separated from a student by a “screen”. The teacher is allowed to ask questions and determine what are that individual student’s obstacles to reaching their potential. Imagine that teacher has the time and resources they need to address those obstacles individually.

The end result; if the obstacles are surmountable, would be that the obstacles will be surmounted. Done deal.

However a student is marginalized, however many other students are similarly marginalized, the most effective and efficient solution lies in individual attention to the effects of their marginalization.

It isn’t that teachers can’t help individual students close their gaps. The problem is that the mission of public schools does not allow them to. Because of the group solutions they are compelled to offer; they have no opportunity to.

Many are concerned about “zero tolerance” policies’ impact on student retention and remediation; how do you believe APS can take a more evidence-based approach to school discipline?

APS’ decision making model must change. Stake and interest holders must have real input into decision making surrounding school discipline and zero tolerance.
School meals are a significant portion of APS’ annual budget, yet the district spends a negligible amount on food grown and produced locally. How would you help adjust APS’ procurement policies to improve health and economic outcomes in the district?

APS’ procurement policies should reflect the input of community. To the extent that they do not, there needs to be two-way communication between the policy makers and the community members they serve.

Cultural proficiency and student access to ethnic studies classes that reflect their own histories in a positive light have been proven to improve student engagement and retention. How would you ensure that APS’ core requirements help amplify the voices, struggles, and victories of historically marginalized groups?

I suspect, and it has been my personal experience, that there is little to no opportunity to fine tune the core curriculum; those decisions are not made locally.

For as long as our mission continues to be, standardizing individual performance on standardized tests, then the curriculum is necessarily driven by the tests (which don’t typically address the voices, struggles and victories of marginalized groups).

If we change our mission to creating independent learners at the earliest opportunity, all students would earn full credit for any effort they make to explore and internalize issues such those you have identified and, would have them consider.
What is your opinion of charter schools and how they should be managed? Are they an asset to APS or have they created new problems? What new charter school policies would you and the Superintendent that you hire create?

To the extent that charter schools address community interests and the individual needs of students; I think every school should be a charter school and or community school.

They should be “managed” as close to the community as the law and prudence allow.

I would eliminate the need for charters by straining to provide neighborhood schools with the power and resources they need to meet individual student needs.
Do you believe that parents organized with community organizations is a positive force for change at APS? What about teachers organized with the Albuquerque Teachers Federation? What about students who organize? How would you make sure that you hire a Superintendent who shares these values?

I think it is not only a shame, but a manifest and abject failure in leadership that creates a need for people to organize into large groups in order to be heard. It reduces what should be meaningful participation in decision making to power struggles; the larger group winning.

I believe that every stake and interest holder is entitled to a seat at the table where decisions are being made that affect their interests. I don’t know how you can give more important seats to groups of people without minimizing the impact of individuals who have something worthwhile to add to the discussion but who don’t have the support of a large group of like-minded individuals (for any number of reasons having nothing to do with the validity of the input they bring).

Would you support APS recommending that PED allocate some of the next round of SIG grant funds to transform an eligible school in Albuquerque into a community school?

Without a working definition of “community school” I hesitate to make a commitment.

If we are talking about schools that become community centers offering a wide range of services to community members, I am in complete support.

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