Metro Weekly

The 2014 State Board of Education: David Do (Ward 1)

iVotedTealButtonMETRO WEEKLY: Do you support the proposed school boundary changes as they affect your ward?

David Do (Ward 1): I support the boundary proposals. Part of the proposal will be implemented in the next school year and it is time that we start working with parents, community members, and other stakeholders to make sure we understand what is happening.

The proposals have a lot of good things including making sure that there is predictability for parents all across Ward 1. This includes stable feeder patterns and school boundaries.

I also have concerns. One is that some non-bilingual elementary schools feed into a school that teaches a majority of their classes in Spanish/English. The fear is that our students are not getting enough Spanish in their elementary school to be prepared for the immersion bi-lingual program. But the benefits outweigh the negatives: Title I schools (which includes every neighborhood elementary school in Ward 1) will guarantee preschool for neighborhood families, Oyster-Adam’s Education Campus will incorporate more Ward 1 families, and strong feeder patterns for many of our schools including Bancroft.

There is still a lot of work to be done. Most importantly is to uplift the quality of all of our schools so that every child, no matter their zip code, has access to a good quality education.

MW: The District has been criticized for relying heavily on high-stakes testing to determine proficiency in various subjects. Do you see this criticism as valid or legitimate?

David Do (Ward 1): High-stakes testing has taken over our school system. This type of testing has led to perverse incentives that promote cheating, end collaboration, and reinforce the failed testing culture. We know that No Child Left Behind has not worked. Race to the Top has double downed on this testing culture. We implement more high-stakes testing and other high-stakes measures to compete for a piece of federal funding. Unfortunately, that means that we spend a majority of the school year concentrating on reading and math. We lose the true meaning of education: to teach our students to be civic-minded, think critically, and ask challenging questions. Teaching our students to bubble in a test answer does not do this.

Moreover, we concentrate our resources on students near proficiency, but forget our minority and impoverished students who typically perform at the bottom and those that perform at the top. I will fight for a rich, balanced, and challenging curriculum that makes sure all students will be uplifted and have the opportunity to succeed. I will also make sure that teachers have access to valid and reliable diagnostic tests that help them to guide their lesson plans to best suit their students.

MW: What do you think needs to be further done to reduce truancy and increase D.C.’s low high school graduation rate?

David Do (Ward 1): We need to start from the beginning in order to reduce truancy and increase D.C.’s low graduation rate. That means promoting good social services, wrap-around care, and early childhood education for every family. If children living in poverty have access to these resources and programs, they are more likely to succeed and become more invested in their education. This will help reduce truancy and dropout rates.

Finally, we must also move away from the current testing culture that drills reading and math. Both subject areas are extremely important, but it is not a means to a good quality and diverse education. We must have a rich, balanced, and interesting curriculum that includes civics, history, science, geography, world languages, physical education, music, and art. This will help engage our students and allows them to develop their own special talents.

MW: What can the DC State Board of Education do, if anything, to enforce anti-bullying laws related to LGBT students and families and reduce truancy among that specific sub-group?

David Do (Ward 1): I will ensure that our LGBT students have the right to a good-quality education in a supportive environment. That is why I supported our LGBT high school students during Pride festivities this summer and participated in the counter-protests to the Westboro Church’s hateful protest at Wilson Senior High School. It is my duty to be an advocate and lead our students, teachers, and parents in a direction that is inclusive of all students, no matter their race, creed, background, or sexuality.

This is tied into truancy. If LGBT youth feel uncomfortable in their school’s environment, they will not attend school. Truancy is a major problem for a large number of our students. In order to address truancy, we must first understand why our children are truant. There are often extenuating circumstances that we need to address. Our school system resorts to extreme measures like utilizing truancy police to arrest our students — this method perpetuates truancy and the school-to-prison pipeline.

As the next member on the Board of Education, I will advocate for a strong support system that truly understands the needs of our LGBT youth. I will fight for services that empower social workers and other professionals so that they can better address outcomes of our youth.

MW: Why should the LGBT community vote for you?

David Do (Ward 1): As a gay minority candidate I have a unique perspective. My family lived in poverty. I was an English Language Learner and a daily recipient of free and reduced meals. I understand the stigma that our youth go through and will have that experience to guide my policies. As a high school student I struggled with my sexuality. The hardest part was feeling like I was alone. I do not want our kids to feel this way — I want to make sure our kids are comfortable and have the support to succeed. With a strong support network our youth will be more comfortable with developing their individual talents and personalities. I want our children to know that there is a great community standing behind them. I have fought for all students, and I will continue fighting once elected to the school board.

For more information on David Do’s campaign, visit davidforwardone.com.

Click here to read more reponses from D.C. candidates.

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