Saturday, October 13, 2012

Lyn Tackett, Republican, House District 61

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: I support any parents right to make choices for their child's education. If a parent wishes to opt their child out, they should be able to and yes without reprocussions. Education begins in the home.

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: My husband was a teacher both at parochial and public schools. He first informed me of the shortened lunch as did our daughters when they were in school. Fifteen minutes is not nearly enough time. Other countries give at least an hour to eat. I was schooled in California and we always had 55 minutes for lunch and two 15-20 minute breaks. It took time for children who purchased lunch to get theirs, sit down, eat, and then get to class. If we don't give children enough time to eat and rest, they will burn out and retain less. I'm seeing it already with the students we work with now. We need to allow a minimum of a half-hour for lunch and two 15 minute recess breaks.

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: Certain standards should be across the board, such as the expectation that children should be proficient in reading, writing, essential math skills, be provided with physical education & exercise programs and exposed to the arts & humanities (i.e. music, literature, art, etc.). How that is accomplished should be left up to individual districts and the choices of parents, especially in the case of homeschooling. I'm in favor of options instead of a one-size-fits-all approach.

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: I did some research on this and compared our school year with other countries, such as Australia, Russia, China, England, and others who scored at the same level, or higher, than ours. All of them except for the U.S., had a 200 day school year. We have 180 days. I'm willing to look at if this is something that would benefit students. The goal is to provide a child with the opportunity for a good education, not simply copy what other countries are doing. We need to do what works best for us.

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: I visited the PBIS homepage to learn more about this program. When I took my certs to teach in CA, we learn positive behavior techniques that were based on Erikson and Piaget. The PBIS system sounds fine at face value. Views on tolerance, appropriateness & respect tend to be subjective. I would like more time to visit with educators and study more on how this program would be initiated and implemented in schools.

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: Smaller class sizes work better, especially with younger children. When I was in school in CA, my average class size from grade school through high school averaged between 25-35 and sometimes as high as 45. There were no student teachers or assistants unless they were high schoolers correcting papers in the corner. You either kept up or suffered academically. Classroom sizes higher than 20 tend to be harder to manage on several levels. Behavior, ratio of learning materials per student, student participation, etc.

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: I agree with the premise that we need to make sure our children are getting a good education. Passing children to the next level when they have not learned the material isn't helping them and affects our communities as well. Too many are graduating who can't read well, spell, do simple arithmetic, understand history or been properly exposed to the cultural humanities. That affects our labor force, increases dependence on government assistance, and diminishes the hope of attending the college or university of their choice to be whatever it is they dreamed of doing. It's an issue that needs to be addressed and it begins at home. Until we face the reality that our families - the core of every society - are collapsing and address that problem, I'm afraid there are no solutions available until we strengthen where education begins: in the home and with the family.

Lyn Tackett's initial comments on the questionnaire appear here.

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