Submitted by John Arbeeny.
As mentioned in my previous Suburban Times article “To debate or not to debate: that is the question” I reviewed the Clover Park School Board candidates’ comments during the League of Women Voters forum conducted 23 September 2021. Current Board President Schafer dropped another bomb (besides disowning debate) during this forum, twice, regarding the value of attendance, test scores and grade completion in defining student success. Here are the direct quotes from the League of Women Voters school board candidate forum held on 23 September 2021.
“The reality of it is that test scores, are indicators of how the student is navigating through our educational institution.”
“Even attendance, test scores, grade completion, those are indicators but they do not define whether a student is successful.”
Let’s deal with the first quote first. “……navigating through our educational institution”? Sounds like navigating through the “maze” of high school: in one end and out the other. It has less to do with education than making it to graduation day and getting a “participation trophy” in the form of a diploma that for many is meaningless. I thought the objective was to actually get an education rather than just going through the motions of getting one. It may be just a poor choice of words on Schafer’s part but it is supported by the fact that Schafer crows about the District going from 60% graduation rate to 88%+ during his 16 year tenure on the Board. Yet during his tenure the District has fallen from about 46% to 35% academically and once as low as 32%! Too bad that the 88%+ graduation rate fails to account for grade level skills of 50% English language Arts; 38.4% for Math; 39.8% for Science with only 85.4% of students attending class regularly. Sadly, Clover Park School District has become something of a diploma mill instead of an educational institution.
The second quote is equally concerning as it goes to the heart of student, and I might add Board, definitions and measures of success. Attendance, test scores and grade completion are objective measures of student success academically not just subjective indicators. The flip side is that they are also objective measures of Board and District success as citizen representatives and an educational institution charged with educating our children. Attendance, test scores and grade completion are the best determinants of potential student success. When students fail to attend school, fail to demonstrate their knowledge on tests, and fail to advance through their grades, these too are measures of Board and District failure. Perhaps that’s the reason Schafer downplays the importance of attendance, test scores and grade completion: the Board apparently doesn’t like looking in the mirror of student academic performance!
It is revealing that Schafer never mentions what defines success either as more valid measures in school or those in post high school adult life. Assessing Board, Superintendent, administration and staff accountability without objective standards and metrics for success is next to impossible. No one can be held accountable to a standard that doesn’t exist or can’t be measured. This is a significant problem with the District’s “equity policy”. What are its definitions of success and how are they objectively measured? Unfortunately the District’s “equity policy” deals with poorly defined subjective theoretical concepts that are more psychological than academic. So what would Schafer propose? All students to pass a psychological exam to as an “indicator” that they have been properly indoctrinated in “diversity, inclusion and equity” before they get their diploma? How would that work and how would it address attendance, test scores, grade completion as part of academic performance? It wouldn’t!
Downplaying the importance of attendance, test scores and grade completion is a ruse to sidestep the very real failure of Board and District in providing students with a solid academic education. Ultimately it’s about sidestepping responsibility and accountability as an educational institution by establishing what amounts to a political indoctrination camp. Want to change this? Then you need new people on the Clover Park School District Board. Sending the incumbents back to the Board only perpetuates the current District academic malaise. David Anderson and Jeff Brown both understand the importance of attendance, test scores and grade completion as measures of academic performance. They will create a District that defines success academically for students and District and is accountable for the education of students to ensure that a diploma at graduation means something more than just a scrap of paper.