DE Election 2014: House Rep Candidates Views on Common Core, Smarter Balanced and Special Education #netde #eduDE @TheStateNews @DelawareOnline @KilroysDelaware

Election season in Delaware is underway. Everywhere I go, I see signs littering the landscape! I reached out to all the candidates for the House of Representatives in Delaware. I was really hoping to get more, but you work with what you can. I completely understand how busy many of these people are, as being a candidate is most likely not their only job. My question was simple: What are your veiws on Common Core, Smarter Balanced Assessment and Special Education in Delaware. Nothing too fancy. Some emailed back asking how long it had to be, some said they never got a survey, and some responded right away. I sent the original emails out over a month ago, and a reminder email a few days ago.

If any candidate wants to add anything or send me their views, I will certainly update this as primaries are just the next part. We still have a ways to go!

Pete Kramer (29th District, Republican): I don’t support Common Core for a long list of reasons. Chief among those reasons is that I do not think standardized tests are a good was to evaluate teachers or students. Teachers too often have to teach to the test, and many subjects that I think are important are marginalized. Special needs kids also often struggle with standardized tests and get demoralized. I’m not opposed to a tough curriculum for most children, but centralized control of education and standardized tests is just not something I agree with.

We need a thorough review of Special Education in Delaware. The Federal government rated Delaware as “Needs Intervention.” A review board made up of legislators, teachers, and parents is the first step to solving the problem. Per capita Delaware is one of the highest spenders on education in the nation. Our results just aren’t there. We need to work to change that.

Paul Baumbach (23rd District, Democrat): I like the goal of Common Core, but I am disappointed with the process behind its creation, and with the implications of yet another curricula change (these changes require years of retooling lesson plans). While it is good that Smarter Balanced tests are designed to measure mastery of Common Core elements, I am disappointed that, since we are tying teacher evaluations and school evaluations to its results, that it fails to measure student growth during the school year. It’s once-a-year design makes it 100% inappropriate to tie to teacher and school assessments. I am not well-versed in the needs of students with special needs, and I therefore reach out to colleagues and others who understand issues better than I. I do believe that our school/student funding system is unworkable, and a funding mechanism which considers all students’ needs, and allocates financial resources more appropriately is sorely needed in Delaware, and that there are systems in place in the US which are superior to ours, and which we should work ASAP to adopt.

John Mackenzie (22nd District, Democrat): When DE won $120 million of Federal money in the first round of Race to the Top, over half of that money stayed in Dover: it was wasted on more admin salaries, consultants, another statewide student testing program (first DSTP, then DCAS, and now “Smarter Balanced”), a teacher appraisal system (DPAS) that still doesn’t work, etc. Our public schools are burdened with a lot of micromanagement from Dover. DOE keeps chasing one costly education fad after another. Common core is just the latest fad, taking a reasonable-sounding premise to create yet another testing mandate. This too shall pass.

David Alan McCorquodale (21st District, Green Party): My wife recently retired as a kindergarten teacher with special ed. certification in part because of frustration with all the layers of requirements being put in place. The day-to-day dealing with children became less and less about having them excited about learning and more focused on making sure they would meet certain standards when they were tested. I believe in local control of school districts and, in fact, I believe those who teach should have more control over what is done in their classrooms than the layers of high paid specialists and administrative people. I agree with your position that Common Core Standards and Smarter Balanced Assessments violate local control. My position in general on Charter Schools is that they take much needed funds from public school while they do not have to perform all of the same services. Charter schools are leading to the resegregation of our schools on the basis of economic status, rather than race.

Michael Ramone (21st District, Republican): As you can see by my record since elected I am a advocate for special needs children and have been my entire life. Meadowood school is in my district and I do everything possible to support their needs and the special needs of all the schools in the 21st. I have some issue with Common Core but am hopeful this session we will be able to focus on the students above all else. Especially those in the special needs community. If you have any specific questions please do not hesitate to send them to me and I will answer them as quickly as possible. Thanks Michael

Robert Keesler (4th District, Republican): As you know education is a complex topic that I have been passionate about and working on since 2011. Therefore I find it difficult to concisely give my opinion since there are so many moving parts to our system.

Common Core

I am not a supporter of common core. It has its issues, however the main reason I do not support it is because it neglects the individual needs of the child. Supporters argue we need a curriculum that is the same no matter where the child goes to school. I disagree and would rather see a more decentralized school system that allows more choice for parents and students so we can account for every child’s unique situation and needs. What’s worse is those with the financial means are able to pull their children out of the system while others are not able to. Unlike the typical argument, I don’t think we should force those in private and charter schools back into the current system. Instead, we should offer choices to every student and do away with the concept of schools being funded by geographic region. What is public about education is the funding. The money should follow the student.

Smarter Balanced Assessments

Again, every child has unique abilities and interests. No standard test can account for that and will inherently neglect a minority of students.

Special Education

If we make the education system in Delaware less centralized by allowing the dollars to follow the student, then most schools will have an incentive to accommodate special needs children. Like any other time competition is introduced, we will see better results for special education students.

My perspective is that so many legislators bring their personal bias on education without studying how things got to this point. Like raising a child, one needs to follow the system from its inception up to today so you can intimately know the issue. Listening to some of the legislators in office it is clear they are focused on what they know instead of looking at the big picture. I am confident our education system will become more personalized whether it is through legislative measures or a result of technology. It is a matter of time, but I would rather see it happen now instead of later.

Marie Mayor (20th District, Democrat): I believe it is important to include students with disabilities in statewide assessment programs. The progress students with disabilities make in meeting the goals of their education program should be used to determine in part how well the school or school system is serving children with disabilities. The challenge is to design the assessment such that the assessment is a meaningful measure of the individual student’s achievement. It is this challenge that causes the most discussion and disagreement among education stakeholders (administrators, teachers, parents, school board members, etc). If elected, I would like be a part of a legislative effort to ensure the State (a) addresses this challenge head-on and (b) works in a collaborative manner with the US Department of Education to demonstrate the State’s commitment to assessing the progress and achievement of students with disabilities.

Donald Ayotte (20th District, Independent): I believe that common core will dumb down America’s educational system because the program fails to adequately allow development of human potential. Furthermore it assaults individuality in a sea of conformity. We need a thorough rebirth of our educational system, especially in Delaware, toward a new age of creativity and reason, unfortunately this is not possible with the constraints of the current special interest two-party political system. People need a greater voice in shaping educational policy.

James Brittingham (39th District, Libertarian): I’m against Common Core and High Stakes Testing. Parents, Teachers, and Local School Boards need to be controlling schools, not the Department of Education.