On April 26, Ward 4 residents will elect a new DC State Board of Education (SBoE) representative. In an effort to help my readers get to know the candidates and their stances on the issues, I sent out a short questionnaire to each candidate. I'll run the responses alphabetically each day this week.
Today: write-in candidate Acqunetta Anderson.
1) What key issues do you see yourself and the DCSBOE focusing on to improve the education of all DC children?
Develop Integrated Studies and Cooperative Learning Standards
Studies should enable our students to reach across traditional disciplines and explore their relationships. History, literature, and art can be interwoven and studied together with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Integrated studies enable subjects
to be investigated using many forms of knowledge, skills, concepts, and expression, as literacy skills are expanded beyond the traditional focus on words and numbers to include graphics, color, music, and motion.
Teachers working together on teams and assisted by professional mentors
Students learn the skills of collaborating, managing emotions, and resolving conflicts in groups. Each member of the student team is responsible for learning the subject matter as well as helping teammates to learn. Cooperative learning develops social and emotional skills, providing a valuable foundation for their lives as workers, family members, and productive citizens.
Improve D.C.P.S. Comprehensive Assessment Standards
The District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) assessment should be expanded beyond simple test scores to instead provide a detailed, continuous profile of our students' strengths and weaknesses. Teachers, parents, and individual students can closely monitor academic progress in teams with parents and other stakeholders, and use the assessment to focus on areas that need improvement. Tests should be an opportunity for our students to learn from their mistakes, retake the test, and improve their scores.
Require Teachers Training
Advise the Office of the State Superintendent of Education and recommend that the OSSE host workshops and training sessions with educators — teaching educators how to write classroom curriculum with activities that comply with the DCPS Standards. The most important role for teachers working together on teams is to coach and guide students through the learning process, giving special attention to nurturing a student's interests and self-confidence. As technology provides more curricula, teachers can spend less time lecturing entire classes and more time mentoring students as individuals and tutoring them in areas in which they need help or seek additional challenges or skills.
Advise the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, the Mayor of the District of Columbia and the D.C. City Council in the following areas to better improve the schools:
a. Reorganize Resources
Resources of time, money, and facilities must be restructured. The school day should allow for more in-depth project work beyond the 45-minute period, including block scheduling of classes two hours or longer for AP Class studies and other specific programs. Schools should not close for a three-month summer vacation, but should remain open for student activities, teacher development, and community use. Through the practice of looping, elementary school teachers stay with a class for two or more years, deepening their relationships with students. When I taught at Brent ES, I looped with my students. It gave me the opportunity to More money in the DCPS should be directed to the classroom rather than the bureaucracy.
b. Parental Involvement
The DCPS has a tremendous amount of unused resources and stakeholders. DCPS use best practices when establishing partnerships with community organizations, including business, higher education, museums, and government agencies, provide critically needed materials, technology, and experiences for students and teachers. Under my leadership at the Benjamin Harrison Society we partnered with the D.C. Department of Employment Services, federal agencies, museums and other stakeholders and developed a STEM curriculum. Our curriculum is used some DCPS schools and in our summer youth program. Some Ward 4 students who participated in our program received four year college scholarships and are currently attending college. Others are working in the private and government sector using Geospatial Information Skills learned in the BHS GIS/STEM Summer Institute under my leadership. Our program exposes students and teachers to the world of work through school-to-career programs and internships.
2) Do you have (a) school-age child(ren)? If so, do they attend DC public schools?
I am the guardian of two 3-year-old toddlers who are looking forward to starting Head Start this fall in DC public schools. They are writing their alphabets (A-G) and some numbers. They are also beginning to draw. Other nieces and nephews who are attending Amidon, Shepherd Park ES, Jefferson and Wilson HS are inspired to teach and to continue to work with disadvantaged youth in Ward 4 and other urban cities.
3) What is your opinion on the current responsibilities and limitations of SBoE representatives, and how do you plan to work within the position's limitations?
The State Board of Education establishes the boundaries of acceptability within which the Superintendent's methods and activities can responsibly be left to the Superintendent. These limiting policies apply to the Superintendent's means rather than ends. I will work within those limitations as well as serve as an advocate for our students and parents.
4) Many people suggest that we must hold students accountable for their own performance. Do you agree with this statement? If so, how do you propose enforcing student accountability?
As an educator, guardian and aunt, I have very high expectations for our children. Students need to be held accountable for their part in the learning process, and they need to realize that not all academics can or should be turned into a game for their entertainment. Although teachers have a responsibility to teach in as interesting a manner as they can, students need to understand that some lessons require work. Parents should be held accountable as well.
5) Considering Phelps, the Career and Technical Education-focused high school, just received deep cuts in the latest round of school budgets, how do you propose we prepare students for life after high school? Do you support introducing more career and technical education into the school system?
Yes. Adult life takes a variety of skills in urban areas. Some skills can be learned at home or at school before leaving high school. Some community programs offer classes or practice settings to help learn skills. The DCPS, the Mayor of the District of Columbia and the D.C. City Council must ensure that all students are given the opportunity to have a quality education. Planning for life after high school and postsecondary education is an integral piece of a quality education. Our students must leave our schools with feelings of hope and opportunity for the future.
6) The SBoE is responsible for approving the District's state accountability plan under Title I of the ESEA (aka No Child Left Behind [NCLB]). Are you familiar with the requirements of the accountability plan? If so, would you approve the District's current plan? If not, what would you change?
As an educator and administrator, I believe that every child should be taught by a qualified teacher and that schools should be accountable to the parents of the children they serve.
There are so many escape clauses in the law that it's almost impossible to estimate what DCPS performance will look like from one year to the next. Rules about school accountability, teacher accountability and how federal funds can be spent in our schools all need to be amended under the Title I of the ESEA.
NCLB should hold students and parents more accountable. Bridging the academic gap should not only be viewed by educators and administrators, parents as well have the moral and social obligation to support their childrens' learning. The NCLB has put so much emphasis on high stake testing as a measure of school improvement at the expense of learning for mastery. Mastery of skills has been relegated to the bottom since the implementation of the NCLB. Students are not being taught to be really globally competitive and prepared to go out into the real world as world class learners.