Chalkbeat Detroit Responses

https://chalkbeat.org

Do you believe the next state superintendent should seek to close Michigan’s lowest performing schools?

No.  This should be decided by local districts in the case of traditional public schools, and by the customer base (students and the guardians who chose their schools) in other cases.

Control of public schools should never have been taken from local communities and placed under the control of politicians in Lansing.  The more removed decision makers are from the classroom, the less responsive they will be to the needs of individual students.

I support flexible policies that empower local schools, educators and home-schoolers to adapt to the needs and aspirations of students.

The criteria of what is, or is not, “lowest performing” depends on the priorities of the local communities who elect local school boards.  In the case of charter schools or private schools, families should be able to set their own criteria.  If a school is truly of poor quality, it will close on its own due to lack of enrollment.

Starting in 2019-2020, third-graders who read “below grade level” will be held back a grade under state law. But MDE is still working to define “below grade level.” Should the department choose a definition of “below grade level” that leads to fewer third-graders being held back?

This should be decided on an institution-by-institution basis.  A significant amount of research indicates that holding students back fails to improve performance.  On the other-hand, it is distracting to have classes teaching a common lesson to multiple students, when some students are constantly asking for the content to be explained, because they haven’t learned the pre-requisite knowledge.

Another complicating factor is that content may be taught in different orders based upon educational philosophy at particular institutions.  This should not be dictated by politicians in Lansing.  Diversity is strength, not a weakness.  Central control and uniformity stifles innovation.

Different classroom structures and pedagogies may, or may not, be easily adaptable to students functioning at different levels, therefore schools should be able to decide grade levels based on their specific approach.

Would you recommend a budget to the state legislature that called for raising the per pupil allowance for students who (to name only a few examples) are low-income, or have special needs, or whose parents speak English at home?

Some students require more resources, so I would support localized budgeting, and the restoration of money to families whenever possible.

Administrators, teachers, para-pros  and other staff, at local schools, have a much better grasp of what is needed to accommodate individual students than politicians in Lansing ever could; it’s a matter of scale.  Parents have direct personal contact with students and also have a much better understanding of what must be budgeted.

The topic of budget also raises a deeper issue. Unfortunately most of the state’s education budget is the spoils of legalized extortion. I think holistically, and see the need to separate education from the systemic violence inherent in government.  While a Board of Education member can’t accomplish this directly, I can still make recommendations and suggest guidelines that will accommodate a more choice-driven, less-aggressive, less centralized approach.

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