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Candidates talk WASL, teacher performance

Central Kitsap School Board candidates had a host of suggestions for heading off a state teacher shortage during a forum conducted Thursday, Oct. 18.

Incumbent school board President Bob VanDenburgh said the district might help pay recent college graduates’ relocation expenses, while challenger Doug Kitchens said teachers should be paid competitive salaries.

Four candidates for two school board positions agreed that parent participation in childrens’ education is critical to student success, and that mentoring is an asset to education.

But they disagreed on the merits of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) and the certificate of mastery, which might be a graduation requirement by 2008. The certificate would be awarded to those who met state standards on the WASL.

About a dozen people attended the forum.

After a personal introduction, candidates fielded four questions written by event sponsors: the Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA), the Central Kitsap Educational Association (CKEA) and the Central Kitsap Educational Support Personnel (CKESP). Audience members also asked questions.

One question that sparked discussion was, “What are your views on the certificate of mastery and how can the district support teachers and educators so they can prepare students to pass?”

Kitchens called the certificate “superfluous” and Cummings argued that “a certificate of mastery and a degree ought to be rolled into one.” The men agreed that a high school diploma should be sufficient to show a student has mastered required subject matter.

Powers, who said she was not convinced the WASL is a perfect measure of student achievement, argued that the district still must prepare for the day when the test is a graduation requirement.

“We may not like the idea that the certificate of mastery is a different part (of a diploma), but it has come down from the state and that’s how it is going to be,” Powers said.

She suggested that schools should devise individualized study plans for struggling students.

Powers and VanDenburgh said the school district must be prepared for the fact that some students will have great difficultly passing the WASL.

“We need to work with the state to establish a retest mechanism,” VanDenburgh said, one in which students could focus solely on the sections they didn’t pass.

All the members agreed that the existing Saturday school and summer school programs will be helpful in preparing students to pass the test.

Candidates also were asked “How would you help marginal teachers improve and reward good ones?”

Kitchens and VanDenburgh agreed that establishing clear expectations is a big part of deciding who is doing a good job.

Powers suggested expanding the existing teacher mentor program, currently in place for first-year educators, to include teachers who are struggling to meet educational goals.

Cummings said the district should work with marginal teachers and make sure they have sufficient resources and support. But if they don’t improve, their contracts should not be renewed.

“This is what we owe our kids,” Cummings said.

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