Friday, October 5, 2012

Carolyn Grimes, petition candidate, House District 98

1. Opting out of testing. Many parents are concerned that important educational values are being sacrificed because of the use of high-stakes standardized testing to evaluate kids, schools, and educators. Would you support legislation to permit parents to opt their children out of such testing without repercussions?

A: While students and teachers both need to be evaluated, putting too much emphasis on standardized testing is unfair to both. Teaching to tests fails to teach our children to think and learn to love learning and evaluating teachers based on student test results fails to take into consideration societal factors that might have an impact on student test performance. The answer, however, is not in legislation at the state level. Opting out should be up to the local school board.

2. Cuts in lunch and recess. In our district, the time devoted to recess has been reduced, and the elementary school students get only fifteen minutes or less to eat lunch. District officials attribute those changes directly to state pressure to teach more material and maximize “instructional minutes.” (See posts here and here.) What, if anything, should the state do to remedy the situation?

A: Again, while I agree that 15 minutes is not long enough for lunch and that students need recess to reset their minds, these issues should be addressed first with the school administration and then the school board.

3. Local control. Because of state and federal regulation, individual communities now have relatively little control over the educational policies that govern their schools, and many parents feel that they have little to no say over what goes on in their kids’ schools. Do you think that local school districts should have more control over educational policy? If so, in what specific ways?

A: From my first two answers, you can guess that I am in favor of local control. I think parents should have the ultimate control over their children, and they should be able to express those concerns to their local school boards.

4. More school? Should state law require all kids to spend more time in school – either by lengthening the school day, extending the school year, or both? (See this post.)

A: State law may require a minimum amount ot time to be spent in school, but beyond that, I think it should be left to the individual school districts.

5. PBIS. The state Department of Education wants to require all school districts to implement Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), a program that uses material rewards to train kids to reflexively obey school rules. (See posts here and here.) Do you support requiring all school districts to use PBIS?

A: Concerned parents teach positive behavior in the home with or without rewards, so for the children of those parents, PBIS in not necessary. For some others, however, it may be exceedingly useful. Like any other tool, it should be used when necessary but not mandated.

6. Class size. Do you agree with our state Director of Education that we should tolerate larger class sizes in exchange for programs designed to “improve educator effectiveness”?

A: It depends on how much larger. Two or three students can probably be added without much difficulty as long as the physical space and the teaching materials are available. Some subjects, by their very nature, are better taught in smaller groups, but with today's technology, a creative teacher can usually find ways to keep students engaged in varying tasks while giving special attention to a smaller group.

7. No Child Left Behind. Have No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top done more harm than good, or vice versa? Should Iowa opt out of No Child Left Behind, even if it means forgoing federal funds?

A: It is my understanding that the state of Iowa is trying to opt out of No child Left Behind, and I hope that their second attempt will be successful. The program was well-intentioned as is Race to the Top, but neither is effective in all situations.

Thank you for caring about your children's education. I wish all parents were as concerned. Since my daughter has been out of school for several years now, if I am elected, I will need concerned parents to let me know what is going on in the classrooms.

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