Seattle School Board Candidate Sharon Peaslee

Sharon Peaslee has put her hat in the ring and is running against the incumbent Peter Maier for the District 1 seat.

Mr. Maier was recently featured in an article by Riya Bhattacharjee titled Red Flags where she provides the details on how Mr. Maier said and did nothing after finding out about the misuse of $1.8 in school funds which turned out to be a contracting scandal within the school district and led to the firing of our former Broad-trained superintendent Dr. Goodloe-Johnson. This firing was done rather reluctantly by all of the incumbents but they could no longer hide behind the skirts of the superintendent and her obedient staff.

So, on a more positive note, I would like to introduce to all Ms. Sharon Peaslee, School Board candidate for District 1.

To follow is a bio that she sent along with her responses to the Parents Across America, Seattle questionnaire.

I am the parent of two teens in Seattle public schools, and have been an advocate for education issues for many years.  Most recently I wrote and managed the petition to rehire Ingraham Principal, Martin Floe.  I worked at the state level with parents and legislators to improve WA math standards that were adopted in 2008.  I organized communities in Lake Washington and Bellevue School Districts to push for better math curricula and we won.  I worked with administration in Bellevue to improve home schooling policies and bring them into compliance with state law.  And I co-founded Fast Track Math, a non-profit after school program.

My passion is expanding educational options so students have what they need to succeed.  The trend of the past decade has been towards a one-size-fits-all approach couched in terms such as “curriculum alignment.”  This is about standardizing curricula in order to raise scores on standardized tests.  It ignores the obvious reality that students vary enormously in ability, interest, motivation, background and long range goals.  We need to shift our focus from test scores to meeting the learning needs of all students.  We need to improve our curricula and provide many pathways to success.

We also need to flip the top-down governance of the district that ignores parents, teachers and students until bad decisions are followed by public outcry.  We need to remember that public schools belong to their communities and restore local control.  School communities must be genuinely involved in the entire process of making major decisions that impact their schools and children.

If elected I will address these two fundamental issues head on, and many others.   I’m a proactive, creative problem solver and will do whatever it takes to be sure all students have what they need to succeed, and that communities are involved in all major decisions.

I have an MA from New York University in English Education and am credentialed to teach English and Speech/Drama.  I have a BA from University of Massachusetts in Communications and have worked as a writer/producer/director my entire career.  My production company is Flying Lula Productions.

Now the answers to the questions that were developed by Parents Across America, Seattle.

  • Do you support charter schools and why?

No, I don’t.  Public schools should not be privatized.  They are owned by the public and public control must be retained.  The charter school movement has failed to improve public education, has taken selective students out of the general public schools, has taken funds out of the larger public schools, and has taken control away from the public.  Claims of success in many charter schools can be attributed to cherry picking of students and fraudulent manipulation of test scores.  Other practices that have resulted in improved outcomes can and should be implemented within the public school system so that all students may benefit from them.

  • What is your opinion of wealthy individuals and foundations backed by those individuals offering money to a school district and thus altering the focus of that school district? For example, the Gates funded Seattle Foundation provided money to pay for the expense to have TFA, Inc. in our district for the first year even though the majority of teachers and parents did not want to have TFA, Inc. in Seattle.  Where would you draw the line between an individual determining the fate of our school system and a more democratic process?

I believe school communities should and must be involved in making decisions about programs that are funded and/or adopted by the district.  This is enormously important, and if elected I will push for policy that creates governing councils in every school.  They will consist of elected members of the school community and will participate in all major decisions that impact their school and students.  They will have access to all the same information as the School Board and administration.  Decisions will need to include input from these 3 bodies:  school councils, SB, admin.

This will protect against undue influence from outside foundations and wealthy individuals who are attempting to impose programs and agendas without the awareness and consent of school communities.  It will also require that admin and SB collaborate transparently with school communities in making major decisions that impact their schools and children.

As far as TFA is concerned, it’s clearly driven by an agenda that has nothing to do with the best interests of SPS or our students.  It makes no sense to put undertrained, inexperienced teachers in the most demanding classrooms.  This is not good for students and it’s clearly in violation of SEA policies and a challenge to the contract the district holds with SEA.  These teachers will require more PD than teachers who are better trained and more experienced.  They will not have the support of more experienced teachers.  It’s inconceivable that they will do a better job, and there is no shortage of teachers in Seattle ready and willing to fill vacant spots.

The Ed Reform movement that is being furthered by Gates, TFA, Broad and other non-profits is a takeover of public education that has led us in the wrong direction.  We need a new school board that will restructure control of the district so that it is exclusively shared by the stakeholders, not powerful special interests acting through proxies.

  • Name three things the district is doing right.

Academy of Information Technology at Ingraham High School, IB programs at Ingraham and Chief Sealth, TOPS

  • Name three things the district is doing wrong.

One-size-fits-all curriculum alignment, math k-Alg2, top-down decision making

  • What will you do to fix those three things? Please list in priority.

Replace one-size-fits-all with success for all:  Recognize and meet the learning needs of all students; develop programs for students whose needs are currently unmet, including those at risk for dropping out; those who are disengaged, struggling, failing.  Give teachers the tools they need to teach all students and the latitude to decide what works best.  Create many pathways to success including expansion of alternative schools and schools of innovation.  Implement efficient and flexible remediation programs so that students who are behind are fully supported in catching up.  Protect and strengthen programs for students who want to accelerate in different ways, including APP, Spectrum, Running Start, IB.

Replace math curricula k-Alg 2 with clear explicit texts that teachers can use to teach all students, including English language learners and those who have failed in the past.

Flip top-down:  Create governing councils in all schools with complete access to information being used by SB and admin to make decisions that impact their schools and students.  Engage them in making decisions.  Post all district documents to a website so that the public can easily access, review and weigh in on them.  Engage communities in creating and improving programs to make their schools desirable and engaging for their students.

  • Define “achievement gap.”

Typically, the difference between test scores of more affluent white students and everyone else (low income, minority, English language learners, special-ed students).  Recently renamed “opportunity-gap” to reflect the understanding that it’s largely due to socio-economic factors.  It has grown in response to the current SPS Strategic Plan that attempts to diminish it by setting high expectations for all students.

  • 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?

I have an MA in Education, 2 teaching credentials and 2 children in Seattle Public Schools.

  • 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?

MAP testing costs $400,000/yr to administer.  It cost several million to build the data center and infrastructure that supports it.  Marie Goodloe-Johnson was on the board of directors of the company that profits from MAP when the district bought into it.  Students take the tests 3 times per year.  The results are inconsistent, confusing and of little value to teachers.  They are an inaccurate measure of student learning and therefore an inaccurate way to measure teacher performance.

If elected I will push for the elimination of  MAP and replace it with computer-based learning programs that assess student learning more accurately without intimidation or failure.  My son used ALEKS to work independently in math, and I find it a stunning example of a system that is far superior to MAP in many respects.  It’s a far more accurate way to support learning and also assess mastery.  And because students can begin at any level and work at their own pace it’s an excellent tool for remediation and acceleration.  It’s used in many schools and can be aligned to any set of standards.  It’s not a replacement for classroom teaching, but rather a highly effective way to differentiate instruction and support all students while continuously assessing learning.

(Here’s how it works:  After an initial assessment students are given a brightly colored pie showing what they’ve mastered in relation to all topics in the course they wish to take.  They can select topics at will, work at their own pace, with clear explanations given whenever they ask for them.  The program figures out what they know and don’t know, moving them along accordingly.  They’re assessed at the end of every topic and given review material if they score below 85%.  Once they’ve achieved 85% or higher the program considers them proficient and fills in their pie chart to show this.)

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

I have no idea.

  • 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?

I’m enormously pleased that this report has been released and covered by the news media.  It’s very obvious to many that standardized testing has done more harm than good.  It’s an inaccurate way to measure student learning for many reasons.  It has narrowed our focus to what is tested and uses arbitrary standards that interfere with real student development.  It has not led to improved curricula, but rather to standardized curricula that don’t take into account different learning needs and styles.  It’s an overwhelming national obsession that has taken us way off course in attempting to improve public education.

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

No.  Placing under-trained, inexperienced teachers in the most demanding classrooms will not benefit our students.  It will however enrage teachers in SPS, as well as students at UW School of Ed who are required to go through the entire program before earning teacher certification.

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

We need more of them.  There should be many pathways to success in our district.  Alternative Schools address a wider range of learning styles, needs and motivations than schools that rigidly comply with mandated curricula and pacing.  Ideally we should have alternative pathways in all schools to support the full range of learning needs and styles.

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

Yes.  There’s a state level initiative to create Schools of Innovation that also supports this.

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

Yes.  Plus the addition of alternative pathways within other schools.

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

Engage school communities in making all major decisions that impact their schools and children.  Engage the public in oversight by creating a Citizens Oversight Committee that reviews all documents and decisions made by admin and SB.  Post all district documents to a website for public review.

  • Does class size make a difference?

Yes.

  • What is an ideal class size and why?

Ideal would be no more than 20:1 unless there are special needs, in which case classes should be smaller.

  • What do you think about making cuts to central administration
    instead of to the classroom?

This is essential.  We need to cut redundant positions, take back administrative salary increases given in the past year and freeze hiring.  With a $45M budget gap we must begin here.

  • What should we look for in a new superintendent?

A genuine commitment to serving the community rather than hidden agendas, collaborating with school communities in all major decisions that impact them, operating in a completely transparent manner.

  • What is an appropriate salary for a superintendent?

No more than $200,000.

  • Does it make sense to hire administrators from outside the District
    when we have qualified administrative candidates who are already SPS employees and are familiar with district operations?

No.  I’m very much in favor of developing local talent.

  • Why do we outsource curriculum development when our teachers are trained to develop curriculum?

Cronyism, hidden agendas.

The field of candidates is shaping up and it looks like this could be a great time for our city with the kind of turnaround that we need within the Seattle Public School district to bring us forward out of the morass of the past.

Dora

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2 thoughts on “Seattle School Board Candidate Sharon Peaslee

  1. I support Sharon and am throwing a Meet & Greet for her. I hope you’ll
    come, and bring anyone you think may be interested. You can also check out her website:

    SharonPeasleeforSchoolBoard.com.

    Here are some of the details:

    Fri. 15 July – 6:30 to 8:30
    North Seattle
    Seattle, WA. 98133

    RSVP to Bob at rmseamurphy at g mail.com

  2. Sharon,

    Your responses to the questions fit well within the realm of what needs to occur in the Seattle school district to effect real community based reform. I taught math and science for 23 years in Seattle and experienced first hand the folly of corporate-based reforms.

    I am currently writing a book and accompanying curriculum which uses music and art to teach math and science K-5. My research has indicated that brain development, especially in early childhood, is linked to craft-based activities and the development of musical skills such as instrument training and singing as well as a number of other performance arts and real world experiences.

    According to the International Association for the Evaluational of Educational Achievement (IAEEA), technology is not what it is cracked up to be, especially in math and science, yet the US continues to push computer technology as the savior of our educational system. This clearly contradicts what the top performing countries such as Hungry, Holland, and Japan are doing. Students in these countries experience curriculums rich with compulsory classes in music and the arts.

    Research (Burroughs, 2002) found that, “In the transition towards a digital future it is important that an experience of tangible 3D qualities is maintained.” Dr. Aric Sigman, a neuro-biologist, states that, “a curriculum primarily based on craft activities cultivates precisely the cognitive and physical experiences necessary for full intellectual development.” and that children and adults are spending too much time in a 2 dimensional virtual world (TV or computer/phone screen) rather than the third dimensional real world.

    According to Shayer and associates (2007, 2008) the video game/TV culture “takes away the type of hand motion or play that allows children to experience how the world works in practice” and inhibits their ability to make informed judgements about abstract concepts.

    To truly encourage learning and stimulate the type of brain growth that creates a well developed and balanced human being an educational curriculum needs to be filled with activities centered around hand crafts (geometric tool use with compass, straight edge, and pencil would fit into this category), story telling, nature experiences, gardening, and the arts which include music and drama. Unfortunately these three dimensional real world experiences are being eliminated and replaced with two dimensional computer screens.

    A study of 10,000 children in the UK (Shayer, et al, 2007; 2008) found that 11 year olds today are performing at the cognitive developmental level that 8 and 9 year olds were performing at 30 years ago. This is attributed to the lack of experiential play in primary schools and the growth of the video game/TV culture. These conclusions are supported by another study (PIRLS, 2007) that found a link between the use of computer games and lower abilities in reading and literacy. In parting, I would suggest you google up the “Richards Institute of Education Research.”

    I live in your district and will be voting for you in the primary election. If you need help I am available to volunteer on your campaign.

    David Fisher

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