School Board Candidate Kate Martin has been the first candidate to respond to the questions generated by Parents Across America, Seattle. Ms. Martin will be running against the incumbent Sherry Carr.

Kate Martin and her husband, Jose Chavez, along with their two sons, Esteban – 20 and Emilio – 18, live in the South Greenwood neighborhood. Both sons graduated from Roosevelt High School and both attend North Seattle Community College. Kate moved to Seattle in 1979. Jose immigrated to the United States in 1980 and is now executive chef at the Washington State Convention Center.

Ms. Martin is a consultant offering planning, design and construction management services.

Kate Martin received a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture degree from the State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, NY.

Ms. Martin’s civic participation over 25 years includes Greenwood Community Council, Northwest District Council,  Piper’s Creek Watershed Council, Seattle Pedestrian Master Plan Advisory Group, Neighborhood Matching Fund Citywide Review Team, King County Master Gardener, Greening Greenwood and Parents for Skateparks.

Kate Martin has been navigating her two sons through Seattle Public Schools since 2000. She began studying and observing the policies and procedures of Seattle Public Schools about 6 years ago when she home-schooled her younger son in 6th grade. She has been researching, sending correspondence, testifying at school board meetings and reprinting articles at her on-line magazine, The Seattle Journal since then. Kate gets feeds from Save Seattle Schools Community Blog, Seattle Education blog, Betrayed (math), The Answer Sheet at the Washington Post and Bridging Differences at Education Week. Kate is subscribed to user groups for Parents Across America – Seattle, Citizens for Effective Administration of Seattle Education and S3B.

And now, the response to the questions that Ms. Martin was sent on behalf of Parents Across America, Seattle.

1. Do you support charter schools and why?

No.  There is no evidence to support arguments that charter schools improve student outcomes.  Charter schools also further remove the voice of parents, students and teachers which have already largely been silenced by outside special interests who have usurped the decision-making authority from the public.

2. What is your opinion of wealthy individuals offering money to a school district and thus altering the focus of that school district? Where would you define the line between a plutocracy and a democracy when it came to making decisions and accepting money from these wealthy individuals and their organizations?

We have to reconfigure how donors interface with the school district.  By using facts and research-based information instead of donor whim  to guide us,we can begin to make progress.  We need to put proven strategies forward instead of allowing donors to bring their pet projects in that so far have brought us zero successes.    We cannot continue to allow corporations and the “education philanthropists” to bypass the voice of the people.

3. Name three things the district is doing right. 

Using Singapore Math at Schmitz Park

Introducing Monthly Principal Coffee Chats with Parents

Ummm.  Ummm.  I might be having a brain freeze, but I honestly don’t immediately think of a third thing.

4. Name three things the district is doing wrong

a. Disconnecting from families

-introduce a mentor / success coordinator / adviser position that outlines and coordinates the education needs of each student and includes the student and their family in 3x per year meetings where the mentor, the student and the family collaborate to create and monitor a personal learning plan with goals and on-going monthly meetings with the mentor and student.

b. Using high stakes testing to narrow curricula, monopolize classroom time and terrify students, families and teachers

-bring a renewed focus on rich curricula and formative direct assessment by teachers and   incorporate a useful and cost-effective nationally normed standardized assessment such as ITBS so that  students can be compared with others across the nation without overly emphasizing testing, testing and more testing and the high stakes associated with it.

c. Emphasizing alignment and standardization instead of establishing standards and decentralized authority / autonomy

-replace the top-down administration model with a system that creates career pathways or ladders for great teachers to become master teachers and administrators so that our schools are led from the inside by people with a basis in education and a proven track record of success in creating great teaching and learning environments

5. What will you do to fix those three things?

See above for answers

5. Define “achievement gap.”

The achievement gap is the difference in academic, emotional and social competencies between high achieving and low achieving students.  It is largely, but not exclusively, defined by socio-economic class and race.  Children begin school at varying degrees of school-readiness due to what their family and community context is.  Once at school, the gap can be either diminished or amplified by school system factors that either succeed or fail to celebrate the student’s gifts and re-mediate the student’s deficits.

7. Are you a teacher or do you have children in the Seattle Public School system? If not, in what way do you feel that you are a stakeholder?

My older son graduated in 2009 and my younger son just graduated a couple of weeks ago.

8. The Seattle Education Association voted “no confidence” in MAP testing. Tell us what you know about the MAP test and whether you believe it should continue to be administered. If so, do you think it should have a place in teacher evaluations?

I think the MAP test is expensive and redundant.  Teachers need a way to see what kids know so they can address their individual needs, but that assessment doesn’t need to take the form of 3x per year expensive standardized testing such as MAP.  It’s disconcerting that MGJ was on the board of the company we buy the MAP test from.  The idea of dumping this testing on kindergartners who can’t even hold a mouse is disgusting.  There is no science to support the idea that tying teacher evaluations to test scores improves teaching quality or improved student learning outcomes.

9. Why do Seattle school children have to take 4 standardized tests during the school year when the State of Washington only requires 1?

I think that we should discontinue all the redundant testing and simplify it down to one cost-effective and nationally normed low stakes test.  Also, we need assessment systems that are age-appropriate.

10. The Seattle Public School district claims that data drives the major decisions concerning the direction the district is taking. If that is the case, how do you respond to the National Academy of Sciences’ report on the effect of standardized testing?

Conclusions are already in that high stakes testing and incentives associated with them are not moving the needle on student achievement.  That should tell us that we need to move away from these practices that don’t work and focus our education efforts on what does work.

11. Do you believe Seattle should use Teach for America, Inc. recruits?

No.

12. What role do you think that alternative schools play within the Seattle Public School system?

Alternative schools are an indicator species of bottom up school authority.  They need to be supported to stay attractive and relevant.  There is a lot of confusion about what they are since so many types of schools fall into this category.  They provide alternatives to the one-size-fits-all “comprehensive” school or cookie-cutter school that fails to serve the individual needs of many students.  My younger son went to Summit K-12 for 3rd, 4th and 5th grade and it was by far our best experience in Seattle Public Schools.

13. Would you support the creation of more alternative schools in the district?

Yes.

14. Would you support the alternative schools that already exist within the Seattle Public School system?

Yes.  The alternative schools need to be supported to stay attractive and relevant.

15. What is the most crucial thing the school board needs to do to regain the public’s trust?

Stop rubber stamping superintendent / staff recommendations that are not founded in facts and research based information and that are often riddled with conflicts of interest

16. Does class size make a difference?

Yes. Students – all students across the complete achievement spectrum – are more likely to get the attention they need in a small class.