This is What I Believe
It has been an honor to serve on the Board of Education for the last seven years. I am running for re-election because there is still much we have to do. While our school system has had many successes, it faces enormous challenges. Our student enrollment continues to skyrocket and we need to find the resources, working with our state and local officials, to provide seats for those children. We must carefully consider how best to equitably allocate limited resources to meet the needs of our diverse student community. It will take intelligent leadership to navigate through tough budget times to keep all our schools among the best despite these constraints. I will combine my experience and leadership and ensure that our efforts move us closer to the goal of having every student ready to meet the demands of the 21st century. As Board members, we must:
We must be vigilant in spending the money provided by the taxpayers of Montgomery County. Transparent and understandable accounting for over $2.4 billion taxpayer dollars is essential to maintaining the public’s trust. I will continue to advocate for increased fiscal transparency so the community knows what programs are funded and why. We must make sure that scarce funds are allocated where they are needed the most. I will continue to ask the hard questions about the costs of MCPS programs and whether we are getting the necessary return on investment. Before we ask for more resources, we must ensure that our current funds are being used wisely, even if that means we rethink how we do our business. There can be no sacred cows in our budget.
Address our facility challenges
MCPS faces enormous facility challenges. Since 2007 over 17,000 new students have enrolled and MCPS will grow by at least 10,000 additional students by 2021. Those students need new classrooms. At the same time, MCPS needs to keep our revitalization list on schedule as well as address the maintenance needs of our schools. We have not received our fair share of the funds allocated by the state for school construction and the share we receive from the county has declined over the last several years. We must do better. We need to advocate forcefully with our state and county legislators to secure the necessary funding to keep up with our growth as well as to maintain or replace our old and outdated buildings. We must work with the County Council and Park and Planning for responsible growth and development policies so that our infrastructure keeps pace with our schools’ enrollment. Finally, we need a thorough review of the funding sources for school construction. These would include the fees we charge our developers to build in overcrowded areas and whether we should permit developers to directly fund school additions where our capacity challenges are severe.
Close our achievement gaps
As the demographics of our school system continue to change, the urgency to close our various achievement gaps continues to grow. The students in our system today are the future workforce of Montgomery County. It is both a moral and economic imperative to ensure that all our students graduate with the skills they need to be successful, whether it is to college or the workforce. MCPS employs a range of strategies to address our achievement gaps, including high standards for all children, culturally proficient instruction, equitable funding for our schools, human capital management, and community engagement. We must continue to evaluate our approaches that address the gaps and use research-based strategies to meet the needs of every school’s unique population. We need to collaborate with the County to evaluate the many programs they fund outside of school that support student achievement and ensure that those programs are achieving results that justify those investments. But the Federal, State and County governments must comprehensively address the impacts on our children of poverty, access to health and social services, housing, language deficits, safety and other factors outside the control of the school system if we are to actually eliminate all achievement gaps.
Smarter testing to improve achievement
One of the most controversial issues affecting our schools involves testing. How much are we testing students and how do we use test results to evaluate staff, inform instructional practice, and hold schools and educators accountable? How much time should be taken away from instruction for testing? Are the results received in a timely manner to guide instruction? Are the tests we are using properly aligned with the curriculum we are teaching? I support the rigor of the common core and the need to encourage critical thinking but I am concerned that we don’t have the assessments right yet. This year, the Board eliminated semester exams and replaced them with quarter assessments, as it is working diligently to look for new ways to support learning and ensure that testing is timely and relevant to instruction. I believe the issue with testing is not the time that is spent on tests but whether the tests and assessments we give are achieving the right purpose, to improve student achievement. We must make sure that all tests are well designed and are aligned with college and career-readiness standards. They must provide timely data on whether our students are on track or where they need improvement. And we must make sure that the data we receive from testing, including all other measures of student achievement are used to hold our educators accountable.
More career opportunities
Not every child will go on to college. MCPS needs to do better with job preparation programs for students who are interested in career opportunities upon graduation. According to the Center on Education and the Workforce, 27 percent of students earning a vocational license or certificate earn more than a worker with a bachelor’s degree. As more students graduate from high school, the number of positions requiring a high school diploma or less continues to decrease while the number of employment opportunities requiring at least postsecondary training or industrial certification has more than doubled. MCPS needs to work with the employer community to define the skills most essential in today’s economy. The Edison program and our various career pathways should be adapted to create more programs across the county to address this need.