Local opinion: A teacher's perspective on CFSD race
John Williams, a retired fifth-grade elementary school teacher, shares his perspective on Catalina Foothills School Board's Governing Board race. He explores how curriculum is developed and writes, "This ensures the adoption of a curriculum that meets the needs of all students at all levels of understanding — far exceeding a so-called “Back to Basics” curriculum." He sums up his article in today's Arizona Daily Star by saying that, "CFSD epitomizes all that is great in public education. Please join me in supporting the candidates who will continue the long-standing excellence that is CFSD: Amy Bhola, Amy Krauss and Gina Mehmert."
Read the full article below.
A teacher's perspective on CFSD race
I had the honor of serving as an elementary educator in Catalina Foothills School District for 36 years, all at Sunrise Drive Elementary. It is critical that we elect school board members who support teaching methodology and curriculum development that are based on research and data, and not personal political agendas. I am deeply disturbed by the platform of the three “Back to Basics” candidates regarding these critical issues.
Year after year, CFSD is identified as one of the top-performing districts in Arizona. This was achieved for decades with the guidance of gifted administrators, teachers, and parents who formed committees to select curriculum based on research and data, paying close attention to how students learn to achieve at their peak ability. Only after going through a rigorous and lengthy process would the committee begin selecting materials that meet the standards set by the State of Arizona. This ensures the adoption of a curriculum that meets the needs of all students at all levels of understanding — far exceeding a so-called “Back to Basics” curriculum.
Skilled administrators, who have completed grueling training and the certification program established by the State of Arizona, evaluate teachers to assess if they are meeting high standards. This should not be done by school board members or parents who want to come into the classroom and micromanage without any idea of what to identify as excellence in teaching. This would be very demoralizing to teachers and exacerbate an existing serious teacher shortage. Students learn best when a compassionate, caring teacher can be flexible by adapting to the individual needs of each student and monitor and adjust accordingly.
Teachers would be pleased to have school board members or parents attend a class to assess the tone of a classroom and observe the interaction between a teacher and their students. It would be quite different for them to come into a class to assess lesson plans, pedagogy, and content of a curriculum being taught.
Back to Basics is concerned with what they are calling “Critical Race Theory,” which is not taught at any of our district’s schools. If I understand these candidates’ concerns, they want instruction that does not make “students feel uncomfortable,” which everyone wants to avoid. But how do you teach about the forced relocation of Native Americans onto reservations, the Civil War in the USA without talking about slavery, World War Two without talking about the Holocaust? These are difficult, uncomfortable subjects. When educating students, in an age-appropriate manner, about any horror of history, it is a natural and appropriate response to be uncomfortable. If you learn from your country’s mistakes, you can still feel proud of your country, and be a part of the solution by not repeating those mistakes. Our teachers are professional, highly trained teachers who understand how to teach even the most difficult subjects to our students.
Board members and parents must trust the administrators, and teachers whom they have hired to fulfill the outcomes of curriculum approved by the school board and the State of Arizona. If parents have a concern, there is a process in every district to address them. To dramatically change this long-standing, incredibly successful educational structure, in the aggregate, will inflict great harm to education in our wonderful district, state and country.
Public education is one of the great gifts of our country. As stated by Diane Ravitch, assistant Secretary of Education in the George H.W. Bush administration, “(o)ur public education system is a fundamental element of our democratic society. Our public schools have been the pathway to opportunity and a better life for generations of Americans ... To the extent we strengthen them, we strengthen our democracy.”
CFSD epitomizes all that is great in public education. Please join me in supporting the candidates who will continue the long-standing excellence that is CFSD: Amy Bhola, Amy Krauss and Gina Mehmert.