I won't pretend that these aren't tough questions to answer, but none of them is an unfair question. These are the questions that I wish the Times and the Stranger had asked. These are the questions that I wish had been asked on KUOW. If I ever get the chance to moderate a panel, you can be sure I would ask questions off this list.
1. The District leadership has said that they would work to attract more experienced teachers to under-performing schools and to reduce the teacher turnover at these schools as the primary method of improving student outcomes at these schools. Teach for America offers complete novices to teaching who are likely to leave teaching after two years. How is the use of Teach for America corps members in our underperforming schools consistent with the plan to attract experienced teachers and reduce turnover? If it represents a change, what is the rationale for such a radical change?
2. It has been said that Teach for America corps members have been invited to apply for teaching positions in Seattle to expand the candidate pool for hiring teachers. Why have any constraints at all? Couldn't the District open the hiring to all comers and work with any non-certificated staff who are hired to help them get their conditional certification? If the current hiring pool is too small - with close to one hundred applicants for each teaching position - how big of a hiring pool do we want? How will we know when it is big enough? Where is the data to support any given number?
3. Nearly all of the motions approved by the Board since March were developed with no community engagement at all. At no time did any member of the Board suggest that the lack of community engagement was an impediment for any of these motions' readiness for consideration by the Board. All of them were referred to the Board by a Board Committee which regarded them as ready for Board consideration despite the abasence of community engagement. Do you have no expectation for community engagement in the development of policy or action? Why did none of these motions require any community engagement at all? Do you support community enagement? What form does this support take? Is this a governance matter?
4. The Strategic Plan promises a lot of transparency and community engagement. Neither that transparency nor that community engagement has been delivered. At what point will you require the superintendent to meet the transparency commitment in the Plan or meet the minimal requirements of the community engagement protocols? Why haven't you done this to date? Is this a part of restoring the public's trust in the District? Is it an accountability issue? Is it a governance matter? Does the Board have any business involving itself in these matters?
5. There are a significant number of other commitments that the District has made to students and families. The bulk of these commitments have not been kept. At what point will you require the superintendent to meet the commitments made to students and families? Why haven't you done this to date? Is this a part of restoring the public's trust in the District? Is it an accountability issue? Is it a governance matter? Does the Board have any business involving itself in these matters?
6. Why doesn't the Board respond to people who testify before it? Why doesn't the Board follow up with them by phone, mail or email?
7. Are you satisfied with the Board's community engagement? If not, what have you done to improve it over the past four years? Do you think it is reasonable to expect citizens to attend seven separate community meetings to speak with the Board?
8. Does the Board have a responsibility to assure compliance with state law and Board policy? The Board appeared to accept that responsibility following the state audit released last year, but this year the Board has delegated that work to the superintendent. Is it reasonable for the Boad to expect the superintendent, the person most governed by Board policies, to also be responsible for enforcing the policies?
9. What actions, if any, does the Board take to enforce policy? How does the Board respond to reports of policy violations?
10. The Ethics policy identifies only one unethical activity: self-dealing. So long as district staff do not directly and personally profit monetarily from district contracts they control or influence, they are not in violation of the District's Ethics policy. Is there no other form of unethical behavior? Why is the Ethics policy so narrow? When will the policy be revised? When did the Board order a review and revision of this policy?
11. The Board adopted a resolution in April of 2009 to complete an audit of Board policies and set a timetable for policy revision by September of 2009. The Board didn't actually write the timetable for policy revision until November of 2010. The Board is far behind the timetable. What has been the reason for the delay?
12. How has the 2010 audit changed the way you perform your duties as a Board member. What are you doing differently now?
13. Do you believe that teacher quality is a significant factor in student achievement? If so, do you believe that the difference in student achievement between Aki Kurose and Eckstein is attributable to teacher quality? Do you believe that if these two schools swapped teaching staffs that the schools would swap student outcomes as well?
14. What effort do you make to confirm the veracity of statements made to you by staff? What efforts do you think it is appropriate to make? What effort do you make to confirm the veracity of statements made to you by members of the public? What efforts do you think it is appropriate to make?
15. What has a higher priority or greater urgency than providing needed support to struggling students? What efforts does the District make to provide early and effective interventions to students working below grade level? How is this priority and urgency reflected in the District's budget? Is curricular alignment more important or urgent? Is the implementation of project-based instruction at STEM more important or more urgent? Is the upgrade to the district's web site more important or more urgent? Why wasn't there any money for summer school this year? Why isn't there any money for Response to Intervention? Why do we rely entirely on teachers' ability to differentiate instruction within the classroom to support struggling students? Has this been effective?
16. How many students who earned a Level 4 score on the MSP last year retained that score this year? How many students who earned a Level 1 score on the MSP last year saw their score rise this year?