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20120427-Mugs-of-CandidatesWEEK TWO

Editor’s note: For the second week, the Progress Times has asked Mission Consolidated Independent School District board of trustees candidates a series of questions about the district and its future. Candidates were given a word limit for each question. If a candidate went beyond the limit, their response was cut. Place 4 candidate Jorge Esquivel did not reply to the request for participation. The candidates for contested results were asked to participate; J.C. Avila, candidate for Place 5 was not included because the race for the seat is uncontested.

• Teachers have had several issues with the C-SCOPE curriculum (a contract that was renewed last week). What do you think of the curriculum and how can the district and board help alleviate program problems?

Sonia Treviño, Place 2 incumbent: As curriculum department chair, I spearheaded the teachers’ concerns, which included lack of alignment to the TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) and inadequacy of the unit tests. In our last meeting our C-SCOPE licensure was renewed due to the Stage 3 improvement plan, which required a scientifically-based research curriculum in order to meet AYP. Our district took a giant step in providing an additional task force of core teachers to overlook the implementation of C-SCOPE.  They will meet on monthly bases to discuss concerns that arise as they come up.

Hector Gonzalez, Place 2 candidate: In order for a curriculum to be successful, teachers need to feel comfortable with it. They need to be able to drive their curriculum in order to assure students' mastery of the TEKS. MCISD should look into curriculum implementation in neighboring Recognized districts because it is important for us to examine other districts with similar demographics. Furthermore, the district should make sure that C-SCOPE is aligned with all TEKS, especially with the recent changes in the state mathematics standards. The district should support teachers' efforts to supplement the adopted curriculum in order to prepare students for new state assessments, college, and careers.

Moises “Moy” Iglesias, Place 3 incumbent: During initial review of the C-SCOPE curriculum, some teachers were in favor of purchasing it, but many teachers voiced reservations. However, a district-wide, all-inclusive curriculum was needed for MCISD, and C-SCOPE was immediately available. It is by no means perfect, but I believe in our teachers. They know precisely what our students need, and we must give them the respect they deserve because of their education, knowledge and experience. We must trust them to use C-SCOPE as a basic, standard curriculum guide which they can expand and enrich in order to best meet the needs of their students.

Patty Bazaldua, Place 3 candidate: Administration is working on employing a cohesive approach to alleviate apprehension and concerns regarding the C-SCOPE curriculum. Recently, our task force team introduced a curriculum implementation plan, which includes a project with teachers to develop curriculum maps and prioritize the amount of content to use for C-SCOPE. We will continue to encourage and support the teachers to develop a more familiar relationship and take ownership of the curriculum. I do not believe this curriculum is a “problem,” and connecting prior knowledge with a new curriculum is a challenge worth exploring.

Romeo Sanchez, Place 3 candidate: Although the concept of having a curriculum that supports a common structure and process is a good idea, it leaves much to be desired. For one, it doesn’t adjust for differences in teaching styles and learning ability. The curriculum assumes much and doesn’t allow for what is referred to as a “teachable moment,” the concept that unless the time is right, learning will not occur. This is when the teacher’s judgment and professional decision play a vital role in the learning process.

Give the teachers the supplemental tools; the freedom to use them; and no child will be left behind.

Patricia O’Caña-Olivarez, Place 4 incumbent: C-SCOPE is a curriculum that needs improvement; however, the administration, teachers, and committee members did an excellent job at presenting how we can address those shortcomings as a district. The legislature mandates each district in Stage 3 must have a curriculum that is research-based. Therefore, even with C-SCOPE’s shortcomings, it was necessary for us to renew the contract because it is the only research-based curriculum available to the district. The district needs to continue to have open communication with the administration, teachers, and staff members to ensure that the plan outlined by the committee can be successfully implemented.

• What ideas do you have to help administration address the achievement gap?

Treviño: “Studies consistently show that nothing makes a greater difference to student learning than great teaching.” In order to close the achievement gap across the board, we must keep the best teachers at schools with the highest needs utilizing student data to better reflect achievement, especially for sub groups.

Gonzalez: The district should continue their efforts in providing training for all teachers in acquiring and using proven successful teaching strategies for all students and specifically, for our limited English proficient and special education students. By improving the success of all students in all grade levels, the achievement gap will diminish.

Iglesias: Administrators must work closely with teachers and be the teachers’ best means of support. Teachers know what is needed, such as more resources and improvement of school programs. They also have the most direct impact upon students, and with support, they will help students to achieve greater personal and academic success.

Bazaldua: MCISD is comprised of various socioeconomically disadvantaged students, special education students and English language learners. Administration needs to provide equitable education to bridge achievement gaps for students. It is vital teachers challenge students to use critical thinking skills in daily activities and instilling the importance of higher education.

Sanchez: The achievement gap can be better addressed through early intervention. Meeting the child’s needs early by promoting school readiness programs that provide education and care services to children that are most vulnerable would prevent large achievement gaps and ensure that disadvantaged students have a head start in school.

O’Caña-Olivarez: I feel that we can address closing the achievement gap by implementing programs that work towards early intervention for college. These types of programs include the Early College High School, the dual enrollment program, tutoring programs, after school programs, and dropout prevention programs.

• What should be done to improve the district's annual adequate yearly progress (AYP) rating? What do you think of the district's ratings at the federal and state levels? What can be done to improve those ratings/scores?

Treviño: In order to improve the district’s annual yearly progress, there must be consistency and rigor in the implementation of daily lessons. The district’s rating at the federal and state level are at an all-time low due to schools having to restructure according to standards dictated by the state, rather than our district’s needs. In order to improve our district’s scores, teachers must work collaboratively with administration in the planning and implementation of the district’s curriculum. Teachers must also be provided ample opportunities to participate in professional staff development. As a result this will provide teachers with positive ownership of the curriculum.

Gonzalez: AYP is the federal standard and by 2014, schools in the U.S. need to be at 100 percent passing rate in specific areas. Although this may be difficult, our district needs to strive for improvement of all students by ensuring that students master TEKS for all grade levels. By doing this, both the federal (AYP) and state (Academic Excellence Indicator System) ratings will improve. Currently, our district is in need of improving both ratings. In order to improve these ratings, all stakeholders must work cooperatively towards this goal with open communication and trust among parents, students, teachers, administration, and school board.

Iglesias: I wish we had a magic bullet to fix this, but it is going to take time, patience, and a strong united effort by teachers, administrators and board members. We must logically analyze the problems which are keeping our ratings low and find creative approaches to deal with them. I believe we must remember to view students as whole persons and consider how their involvement in extra-curricular activities and special programs can help them achieve better grades and higher test scores. Our administrative staff has presented us with changes and a plan of action which we will soon study.

Bazaldua: Our district’s state rating is good; however, our goal is for continuous self-improvement. I trust that we will not be complacent at our current rating and improve year to year. By focusing on the socioeconomically disadvantage students, special education students and English language learners, MCISD’s adequate yearly progress (AYP) rating will increase. The federal expectations are high and excess testing is unreasonable across state lines. Eventually, the federal government will need to review their expectations on the previously mentioned three groups to become more acceptable.

Sanchez: As MCISD faces the challenge to improve the AYP ratings or face corrective action, we must focus on aggressive intervention measures and collaborate teaching. Under the NCLB-Act, states are required to set annual measurable objectives of proficiency in reading and mathematics with the goal of 100 percent proficiency by 2014. In my opinion, this standard is too high considering it also measures progress in economically disadvantage students, minorities, English language learners, and special education subgroups. In an effort to close the achievement gap, we must evaluate students regularly and modify instructions to meet the student’s needs and not the test.

O’Caña-Olivarez: I believe that our district and the administration are already working towards improving the AYP ratings and scores. Principals implemented extra planning days for teachers and each campus is continuing tutoring programs to meet the students’ needs. As long as we continue to work together in providing the necessary support and educational resources to our administration and teachers, I feel that our district’s ratings will improve.

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