The Business Monthly
- Achieve, Inc. identified closing the achievement gap as a priority in its 2002 report “Aiming Higher: The Next Decade of Education Reform in Maryland.” Since then, our school system has rolled out new initiatives targeting this gap every year. It remains an issue for discussion nearly 20 years later. Have we made any meaningful progress in that time? What is your view on how our education system can make more significant progress in closing the achievement gap?
While on the Board, I’ve seen the achievement gap narrow. To continue this progress, we need a concrete plan to eliminate societal opportunity gaps thereby removing barriers to academic success. This effort needs a strong school, family, and community connection.
For parents we have created the International Parent Leadership Program and the Hispanic Parent Academy, and expanded the Black Student Achievement Program. Also, the Board has added family outreach liaisons to support families.
There is a deliberate effort to open up advanced programs, interest-based research, internships and flexible class scheduling for all. In elementary schools where poverty or limited English proficiency impacts a majority of students, we’ve established full day pre-kindergarten and daily world language instruction for all grades. This program enhances children’s readiness and participation.
It’s our teacher’s dedication and skill, though, which will ultimately reduce the achievement gap providing everyone with a chance for a bright future.
- What is your view on complaints that the school system and Board of Education have been deficient in communicating openly with parents and other stakeholders and have not been sharing public information requested by residents? Do you think this is a real issue, and do you think any changes are necessary in the way the school system and the Board of Education interact with and respond to parents and county residents?
As a Board member, I’m distressed if any parents have a difficult time securing information. The system should always be open and responsive to the community. One of the problems, though, is that not all information requested can be shared because it is legally protected. This doesn’t mean that parents can’t access their own children’s student record, but it does mean that information that identifies others is off limits.
Because of community complaints, I requested improvements to our website making information easier to find. For example, Board Member School Cluster contact information is now prominently listed. Also revisions to our Public Information Act (PIA) request process are needed to make it more user friendly. I hope that changes like these will improve communication, responsiveness and tracking.
I understand the need to know. I want the system to communicate as quickly and efficiently as possible, ensuring complete and accurate information.
- Aside from these issues, what are the three biggest priorities you feel the School Board should focus on?
The world is changing rapidly for our children and their educational opportunities must keep up. To ensure this, the Board must support development of a rich curriculum—one that focuses on problem solving, strong technical knowledge, and cultural diversity—preparing students to be competitive in a global environment.
Teachers are the backbone of a rich curriculum. We must hire a highly qualified, diverse workforce and continue to support their professional growth and development. By doing so, we will ensure that students have a broad range of experiences through the grades.
A good education is also about an invigorating environment—one that provides up-to-date resources, well maintained buildings and enough seats to meet enrollment growth.
Our responsibility is to meet our children where they are, challenge them to learn as much as possible, so they can build their futures.