Friday, April 22, 2011

Meet the Ward 4 State Board of Education candidates: Bill Quirk

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've been posting the responses alphabetically each day this week.

Today: Bill Quirk.

1) What key issues do you see yourself and the DCSBOE focusing on to improve the education of all DC children?

The key issues I would focus on to improve education of all DC children are: 1) To work with the State Board of Education and other components of DC government in order to ensure that the existing educational standards are implemented and adhered to, 2) Effect changes early on so that children are prepared by the time they reach high school, 3) Reduce the high school drop-out rate while preparing students for college.

2) Do you have (a) school-age child(ren)? If so, do they attend DC public schools?

My wife Suzanne and I are expecting our first child – a baby boy – next month! We would like for him to be able to attend high quality DC public schools.

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 DC State Board of Education has limitations because it is not the only participant involved in creating an improved educational system, and nor should it be. What is needed on the DC State Board of Education for Ward 4 is a strong advocate that understands this and recognizes all of the other relevant players and how they can work together in improving our educational system. These include DCPS, the Office of the Chancellor, Charter School organizations such as Friends of Choice in Urban Schools (FOCUS), the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education, the various Councilmembers and, most importantly, the residents of the District of Columbia.

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?

Yes, I agree with this statement. The way we hold students accountable for their own performance is that we do not promote them to the next grade until they have mastered the material. The earlier on we can do this, like in first and second grade, the better prepared our children will be to succeed in subsequent grades and in life in general.

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?

I believe that Career and Technical Education-focused high schools can be powerful tools to prepare students for employment if effectively utilized. We must be sure, however, that our Career and Technical Education-focused high schools are preparing students for careers in industries that are growing, such as health care and hospitality, not shrinking, such as construction, because that is where the future jobs will be.

6) The SBoE is responsible for approving the District's state accountability plan under Title I of the ESEA (aka No Child Left Behind). 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?

Yes, I am familiar with the requirements of the accountability plan. The proposal as a whole is not an unreasonable approach given the challenges to the school system and the urgent need to improve it. As a Member of the DC State Board of Education, I will critically assess the merits of the provisions contained therein in order to ascertain whether they are having the intended outcomes and effects we seek.

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