I'm thinking of putting together a candidate scorecard of sorts. The people running for school board, particularly in District 7, have not been very clear about their positions on the issues that they will face and decide. How can we begin to make a thoughtful choice among the candidates without knowing their positions on the issues?
What issues do you all think should be part of the scorecard?
Here's what I have so far:
Sibling preference. It is universally agreed that siblings of students enrolled at a school should have preferred access to enrollment at that school. That's not the issue. The question is: should that sibling preference come before students in the school's attendance area or after it? Currently it comes before, and the Board, in their Framework for the new Student Assignment Plan committed to maintaining that preference. The New Student Assignment Policy, however, demotes it to behind attendance area students.
Curricular Alignment and Standardization. Curricular Alignment is already the District's Policy, if not the District's practice. Standardization of materials, pedagogy, and pacing, however, is neither the District's current Policy or practice. The Superintendent, however, wants to institute this sort of Standardization, and has already instituted it for math K-12. Do you support Standardization of materials, of pedagogy, of lessons, and of pacing? Will you take Board action in opposition to it?
Speaking of Board Policies, there is a Board Policy against social promotion yet we know that it happens all the time. You signalled your opposition to social promotion at the South Seattle Candidate's Forum. What will you do to enforce the policy against social promotion?
Since there are so many students working below grade level and since we are instituting curricular alignment which will require teachers to deliver the grade level curriculum, how will you demand appropriate and adequate support for students working below grade level?
There's a lot of loose talk about accountability, but no action on it to be seen anywhere. What will you do to hold the superintendent accountable for meeting the targets in the Strategic Plan, meeting the deadlines in the Strategic Plan, conducting the community engagement promised in the Strategic Plan, and for following District Policy?
The Alternative School audit is coming. Do you support alternative education and what form, besides kind words, will that support take? Our alternative schools are among those with the longest waitlists. Will you help foster the creation of new alternative programs to meet the currently unmet demand for them? These waitlists represent failures in capacity management. Capacity management includes non-geographic communities as well as geographic ones.
The District is moving towards a more inclusive model for serving Special Education students. How will you support this shift from the Board? Will you support school choice for students with IEPs?
The New Student Assignment plan was supposed to provide more equitable access to high quality schools and programs. How do you think it does this? Which school will offer more equitable access with the new plan? Should language immersion schools and Montessori schools continue to be attendance area schools or should they be option schools? If they are attendance area schools, how does that provide more equitable access?
The APP audit is over two years old. What has been the District's response? About 80% of the neighborhood elementary schools north of downtown have advanced learning programs while fewer than 30% of the neighborhood elementary schools south of downtown have one. Does this represent equitable access? What will you do from the Board to improve equity in access to advanced learning programs?
The District's Facilities suffer from inadequate maintenance. What will you do to improve the maintenance of our buildings?
The District's capital spending has been out of control. Projects typically come in over budget - some wildly over budget. There is waste when work done in one project gets demolished soon thereafter in another project. There is no clear, rational method for determining capital projects. Buildings in greater need of renovation are passed over while other buildings in better condition are rebuilt. What will you do from the Board to address the inefficiencies in our capital projects? No project budget increase has been denied by the Board in memory. Could you vote against additional funding for a capital project gone over budget? What does accountability look like in this area?
In every election the candidates for school board acknowledge the poor communication between the community and the Board and every candidate promises better communication. What will you do to create the opportunity for conversation between the community members and the Board? Do you think there can be any authentic engagement without conversation?
The Performance Measurement System promises autonomy for the schools that demonstrate achievement, but the nature and extent of that autonomy has not been defined - at all. All schools will be required to deliver the curriculum - the set of knowledge and skills that students are expected to learn for each grade and in each subject - so the autonomy must come in the areas of materials, pedagogy, and staffing. How will you protect schools' earned autonomy from the Board?
I have yet to hear the candidates address these issues forthrightly and I would really love to hear it.