Elections

Questions for Federal Way School Board candidates | ELECTION 2011

The Federal Way Mirror is your top source for local news, politics, sports and more. - Mirror illustration
The Federal Way Mirror is your top source for local news, politics, sports and more.
— image credit: Mirror illustration

The four Federal Way School Board candidates in two contested races participated in a questionnaire from The Mirror. Their answers are below. Debates for school board, Lakehaven and South King fire commissioners will run 5 to 8 p.m. Oct. 12 at Federal Way High School’s little theater.

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Q: Please discuss one positive aspect and one negative aspect of the school district’s academic acceleration policy, which has dramatically increased the enrollment of students in advanced classes.

• Gail Crabtree (position 2): All students get a chance to prepare for college in academic acceleration classes. Many students and teachers not prepared for these classes.

• Claire Wilson (position 2): The district academic acceleration policy provides opportunity for all students meeting standards, access to classes that provide rigor and opportunity. The new policy assures access to all students who meet standard and includes parents in the decision making process if “opting out” makes sense for individual students. Each student, at any level, deserves rigor in their education and opportunity for success. The implementation may not have predicted the concerns brought by parents. All stakeholders need an opportunity to hear about, and provide input on, changes that will be impacting children or families — prior to their implementation. It is critical and essential to provide a forum for dialogue, clarity, understanding and problem solving. Parents have a right and a responsibility to advocate for the best interest of their child. The school board has a responsibility to make decisions based on the best interest of all students.

• Danny Peterson (position 3): A positive aspect is that it has allowed more students to be placed in rigorous classes that they should be enrolled in and can succeed. The greater amount of students now taking these courses is a step in the right direction. A negative aspect is that it is not an easy transition with the need for greater parent involvement and teacher support. Effective communication is vital in moving forward as we have seen during our school board meetings this fall.

• Liz Drake (position 3): A positive aspect of the academic acceleration policy has been an increase of students enrolling in academically accelerated classes who would otherwise not have taken advanced classes. Opening up academic acceleration opportunities for disadvantaged students cannot be at the expense of lowering academic excellence for anyone. A negative aspect of the school district’s academic acceleration policy is the mode of communication with parents, students and teachers. In some schools it was poor and in other schools it was very poor. Some students were placed in classes they did not want and were not prepared to take. Teacher preparation was not sufficient to enable teachers to successfully challenge and teach a wider ability range of students enrolling in these advanced classes. As a result, some students experienced significant academic failure, either because the material was too hard, or too easy.

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Q: Why do you think the school district has a 30 percent dropout rate?

• Gail Crabtree (position 2): Dropout rate is from students not learning what is needed in elementary grades, making learning a priority.  Also this community has many people moving in and out of district.

• Claire Wilson (position 2): Students stay in school if there is a caring adult in their life. Students need to have hope, support and expectations. The goal is not just to graduate from high school, but to graduate from high school ready to enter and succeed in college. Third grade reading proficiency is one of the biggest indicators of future school success. Attention needs to be focused in the early years — while still attending to the immediate needs of struggling students currently in middle and high school. Aligning curriculum in early learning (prenatal to third grade) will increase the number of children entering school ready for kindergarten, also an important indicator of future academic success. For success, it is critical and essential to focus on engaging and involving parents in meaningful ways, as well as continuing to reach out to the broader Federal Way community.

• Danny Peterson (position 3): Some of our students come from difficult situations at home and in life. Poverty, single parent homes, and a lack of positive role models in their life are just a few.  Schools inherit society’s problems, they don’t create them. Our 30 percent dropout rate is staggering and we can’t sit idle. The cost to these students and our community cannot be ignored.  Schools must be intentional about helping all students be at standard by the fourth grade, putting high quality teachers in front of them, and surrounding them with as many positive role models and mentors as we can that provide them with hope.

• Liz Drake (position 3): The school district has a 30 percent drop out rate for a number of reasons. We have a high proportion of poor and disadvantaged students who need focused attention throughout their K-12 learning experience. Federal Way has pockets of excellence that need to be shared. Pre-kindergarten early-intervention programs, parenting classes, greater home/school communication, harnessing community resources consistently across the district, are but a few of the initiatives that need to be added to our present strategies. The district is not proactive enough in identifying at-risk-to-drop-out students early enough and taking the strong measures necessary to ensure early academic and social success. We need to provide a greater array of options for students earlier in their academic career. Not every student is college bound. We need to provide relevant options that make students feel successful. Career Technical Education and Puget Sound Skills Center are a start, but we need to go further.

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Q: How can Federal Way schools win the fight for fair funding from the state?

• Gail Crabtree (position 2): We need to elect legislators who care about students. Involve the community to work for fair funding of schools. Seattle gets $13,000 per student.

• Claire Wilson (position 2): The only way to win the fight for fair funding is to continue communicating and working with our state legislators in Olympia, focusing attention and time on this critical issue. While there are many other issues that are important to work toward related to K-12 education, this one issue would help us greatly in our budgetary challenges. There needs to be a coordinated effort between districts in our region and across the state struggling with this same inequity to come together to work for a change. This is a critical issue that needs continued attention in Olympia.

• Danny Peterson (position 3): We must forge positive relationships with our current state representatives and educate the public to understand that current program cuts are directly related to Olympia’s lack of funding. We must send a clear message that if the state is going to continue to make mandates, the state must fund them. Our current programs are being robbed by their reckless policy making without financial backing.

• Liz Drake (position 3): Fair funding refers to a lawsuit that the Federal Way School Board filed in 2006, suing the state over unequal funding. The district won its case in the lower court, but upon appeal from the state the decision was overturned. Federal Way has received lower funding than most districts in Washington, being ranked 263 out of 296 districts in dollars-per-student funding. The inequity was a result of the 1977 Basic Education Act. A salary schedule was formed at the time that allowed some districts to pay salaries for teachers, administrators and other staff higher than the state average. Over the years, the percentage difference has significantly widened the gap between other districts and Federal Way. As a member of the school board, I would reach out to all Federal Way stakeholders and seek to be board legislative liaison to work with Sen. Tracey Eide to generate awareness of the inequities of state funding within our community.

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Q: School districts across the country have adopted the Standards Based Education (SBE) idea in an attempt to meet both state and federal requirements. In what ways will this policy improve students’ performance?

• Gail Crabtree (position 2): Standards Based Education should inspire students, by letting them know what is expected to succeed and that all are taught and graded fairly. Knowing they are ready for each level, having learned what is needed for the next grade.

• Claire Wilson (position 2): Outcomes for students need to be based on clear and specific objectives and learning targets which is what Standards Based Education (SBE) provides. Federal Way SBE is locally designed and reflects essential learning targets in core content areas. This allows students, teachers, and families to see what students need to know as well as where each student is in their individual progress. SBE provides clear expectations for specific learning targets on core content areas/subjects in the district. While SBE is a set of standardized academic objectives and learning targets, the approaches and supports for students are individualized. As a parent I can tell exactly what my child needs to know in the core content area and specifically, each learning target. Knowing how to support my child by knowing exactly what my child needs to know and where my child is, will improve performance.

• Danny Peterson (position 3): Standards Based Education makes learning expectations and grading systems clearly defined in our classrooms. It is about subject mastery, not simply classroom compliance. By making learning targets clear for all, our students and parents know what is expected and our teaching community is enhanced by its greater ability to collaborate. Students know what is expected to perform well and their progress is represented in the grade they receive. When they are struggling in a particular standard, parents and teachers are able to identify and focus on the areas needed for success.

• Liz Drake (position 3): Standards Based Education (SBE) clearly identifies for teachers priority standards to be taught and, within these standards, what skills and knowledge are the priority. When applied appropriately, these standards give clarity to the learning goals while freeing the teacher to use individualized tuition to bring the student to the required standards. SBE should foster caring about the individual student. When teachers care, students stay in school. Through the development of Power Standards, the identified standards being taught, students will be more closely engaged in the learning process and have a clear picture of what is expected of them in order to be successful. Learning goals will be a focus between teacher and student, and students will be given multiple opportunities to achieve these goals. Parents will be aware of their child’s progress on any given standard through report cards and progress reported online. Creating a consistent and clear learning system throughout the district enables everyone to communicate with each other more easily and more powerfully.

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Contact candidates

• Gail Crabtree (position 2): gailcrab@juno.com

• Claire Wilson (position 2): facebook.com/pages/ClaireForSchools/225752390780292 or claireforschools@yahoo.com

• Danny Peterson (position 3): www.electdanny.com or askdannypeterson@gmail.com

• Liz Drake (position 3): facebook.com/Liz4Director or edlizdrake0@gmail.com

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