Metro Weekly

The 2014 State Board of Education: Tricia Braun (Ward 3)

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

Tricia Braun (Ward 3): The boundary changes are not yet ready for implementation. Any plan for changing school boundaries must include a strategic, realistic plan for improving all public schools. No one should be forced to send their children to a worse school than the one for which they are currently zoned.

I am the only candidate for this seat who was an active participant in community discussions and community working groups across the city during the Boundaries Review process, consistently emphasizing the importance of strong neighborhood schools and the need for a greater focus on improving all D.C. public schools. I also advocated on behalf of my school community with education policy-makers, including the Deputy Mayor for Education. During the Boundaries Review Process, I spoke with parents, educators, and community members from across the city, and the overwhelming consensus in every Ward was a desire for strong neighborhood schools and predictable pathways for students. I intend to work to see that we accomplish that goal for D.C.’s students.

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?

Tricia Braun (Ward 3): Currently, too much of what happens in our classrooms is driven by standardized testing. As a parent, I see the consequences, not just in the number of days our students spend preparing for and taking tests, but also in the form of their homework and the worksheets they do in school. DCPS students as young as second grade take standardized tests 5-6 times per year. There is simply too much standardized testing for too little return, and all of the time taking and preparing for tests detracts from other, more worthwhile classroom activities — both for students and for teachers.

With the advent of new testing this year, we have a chance to revisit how to best test children while still maintaining engaged classrooms that teach a curriculum rich in math, English, science, world languages, social studies, history, geography, and the arts. Objective measures are important in evaluating both student and teacher progress, and there is an important place for standardized tests in that process. But we need to reevaluate how to best implement and use testing to measure progress. We have to find a way to test smarter and to evaluate student progress without creating classrooms controlled by testing.

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

Tricia Braun (Ward 3): Engagement is key to success in any school. Engaged communities, engaged parents, and engaged teachers create strong schools. Engaged students are successful students, who will become life-long learners. Students need to understand that what they are learning in school will affect their lives. And schools need to be safe spaces for learning where curiosity and creativity can be nurtured.

In order to keep students engaged, we must provide true, meaningful enrichment for advanced students and earlier, more effective intervention for struggling students. We must also improve Special Education services for students who need it. We must move away from evaluating students primarily based on test scores to analyzing a more complete picture of their abilities and challenges. We must focus on meeting the needs of every student so they can reach their true potential.

We must not settle for students starting middle school with a second or third grade reading or math competency. We must not let students fall behind even as we move them through the system. We need to make sure that children entering 6th grade are equipped to take on 6th grade work, and that students beginning 9th grade are ready for high school.

As a member of the State Board, I would revisit graduation requirements to determine whether there is a need for different diploma options. If so, we would need to ensure that all diplomas require high standards, but that they reflect students’ needs and future plans, such as a Diploma of Distinction for students who seek to exceed current graduation requirements, or other diplomas for students who are ready to move straight into technical careers.

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?

Tricia Braun (Ward 3): The DC State Board of Education has both an Office of the Ombudsman for Public Education and Office of the Student Advocate, which can be a very effective means for students to seek redress if their schools are not enforcing anti-bullying laws. These offices were created specifically to assist parents, students, and teachers when enforcing their rights with schools or school systems. As a State Board member, I will support these offices to make sure they are empowered to protect LGBT students in the most effective ways possible.

All of our schools should provide safe and secure learning environments for our children, and if they are not, they must be held accountable. It is not enough, however, for schools to enforce prohibitions against bullying, they must also provide students with guidance for positive behaviors that equip them with the tools to avoid bullying in the first place and combat it when it occurs. Ignoring bullying does not make it go away. Both in word and deed, all of our schools must promote tolerance and respect for all students and teachers, regardless of sexual orientation.

MW: Why should the LGBT community vote for you?

Tricia Braun (Ward 3): Throughout my legal career, I have always sought justice and equal treatment of the law. In the schools, I would also make equal treatment and equal protection a priority. There is no place for bigotry or bullying in our school system.

The LGBT community should vote for me for the same reasons that any Ward 3 resident should vote for me: I have the dedication, experience, and involvement in DC’s public schools that make me the best candidate for this position.

For more information on Tricia Braun’s campaign, visit triciabraundc.com.

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

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