The latest educational research points to the benefits of “academic rigor” for students at all levels. What value do you place on this idea? As a Board member, how will you ensure that all of our students are being challenged?

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Ty Alper

I strongly value ensuring that all students are challenged (see my answer to #10 above). As for how we do it, there are a number of ways. And we are fortunate to have many teachers in this District who have great ideas. That is part of why I believe one answer is professional development. We ask a great deal of our classroom teachers. They need support, advice, guidance, and time for collaboration in order to have the tools to make sure that all students are engaged, supported, and challenged in the classroom. Another answer is making more robust use of community and parent volunteers. For example, for the past two years, I have taught a before-school mock trial class at Rosa Parks and also a “Baseball Math” class. (See http://www.berkeleyside.com/2013/07/09/berkeleys-rosa-parks-students-have-their-day-in-court/.) I have seen first-hand how a group of young students with varying abilities and skills can rise to meet high expectations in a challenging environment that promotes critical thinking and problem solving. It is not only our advanced learners who should benefit from such experiences; the goal of challenging students through engaging, project-based learning is a valuable goal for students at all levels.

Josh Daniels

I strongly believe that we must challenge all of our students. This is exactly what the new common core state standards are designed to do. By incorporating more reading into math and by requirement students to read more non-fiction and to write more argumentative essays, the common core is designed to encourage students to think rather than memorize. It truly will (and is) challenges all students. (The changes to the math curriculum are especially important to me because I have a background in math and I have always found our math curriculum to be woefully inadequate to teach deep mathematically thinking.)

As a result, the implementation of the common core is – as one district staff member told me – the biggest instructional issue we face. So far, the District has implemented it well. Our teachers worked on common core implementation for a year and then came to the board with a plan, which we approved. And the board has continued to support this implementation plan with sufficient resources.

Norma J F Harrison

As I’ve said, change the process and the objectives. This will take time. At this time, at all times, there is not and has never been a school boards seat anywhere that acknowledges what I’m talking about; that acknowledges the misery that school is, - ask the children - I know – they all – many – say – sure, I love school – But then as they rise in evaluation of their situation they come to realize they don’t – didn’t. Remember the child who was torn from their pained parent, screaming, crying don’t leave me!? Yes, people adjust to it, tell themselves we have to get used to the pains.

Karen Hemphill

I strongly believe that each of our students deserve to have and be supported in having a rigorous education. I supported the establishment of the International Baccalaureate (IB) program; expanding advanced placement/IB classes; instituting a college prep program at BTech (including building the first science lab at the school); and establishing standards of expectations for rigor across schools, school communities, and classrooms – all grade levels including the various BHS small learning communities. I believe that one of the ways this can best be accomplished is through professional learning communities where teachers can share best teaching practices, how to differentially teach students of varying academic skill level, and how to motivate/interest students in learning.

Julie Sinai

Similar to the question above, I want to make sure our teachers have the professional development and training necessary for differentiating instructions. The new curriculum gives us to opportunity for this, as there are more chances for applied experiences, as well as technology that allow students to move their pace. Last year I observed a 6th class implementing the new math curriculum at Longfellow. Instead of holding the entire class for a review of the previous lesson, those students who needed review were able go onto the classroom computers, review the lesson, and re-enter the day’s lesson ready to move forward. The math teacher was skilled at ensuring a smooth transition for the students to re-enter the rest of the class. BUSD teachers have been committed to researching, piloting and evaluating curriculum that meets the diverse needs of our students. As a Board member, I appreciate the amazing effort our teachers are making to ensure that the curriculum presented to the Board for eventual adoption has been rigorously tested and assessed.