My view on “merit pay” (sometimes called “performance pay”) for teachers in WCPSS.

I expect this to become an issue in the coming four years, and in past experience, I have found performance-based pay to be divisive in many school systems where it was
implemented poorly.  I would support increasing pay for teachers.  If
a “merit” plan were devised, I would like to see multiple factors figure into
the formula for “merit” pay, including (1) some measure of student learning
such as End of Grade Tests or EVAAS (Educational Value-Added Assessment System)
measures from SAS; (2) some measure of advanced teacher training or credential,
such as National Board Certification; and (3) student evaluations, carefully
crafted so as to measure classroom management and academic rigor.  Before
establishing any such pay system, the Board should investigate best practices
that have been proven to be effective.

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How can the School Board Prepare for Growth in Student Population?

Wake County’s population is projected to grow by nearly 600,000 over the next two decades.  What more can the School Board do to prepare for this growth? The Board should work more closely with municipalities to plan for growth, and it should begin now to plan for the next construction bond.  We need a School Board that will advocate for the next construction bond so that we won’t be forced to expand the number of year round schools in Wake County and reduce parent choice yet again.  I also support reusing existing buildings for schools.  The school system should continue to seek innovative ways to plan for future classrooms and schools.

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What do I think about the proposed student assignment that was tested earlier this summer?

WCPSS staff members have worked hard on the student assignment plans that they presented to the public. Any new student assignment plan must have academic success for all students as its top priority. I also value choice and stability of assignment. I continue to be concerned about proposed feeder patterns—they need to preserve traditional attendance patterns in District 6.

We do not have the current capacity to allow all students to attend their closest school—schools have not been built in locations that allow all students to attend their most proximate school. Current board members seem to promise parents that their plan will ensure that all children can walk to school, downhill both ways. In reality, students should have stability of assignment, in a school in close proximity to home, if they so choose, with a choice of magnet and special program schools, such as STEM, global learning, and small school models. I want an assignment plan that puts achievement first.

We cannot go back to old policies of assignment, but neither can we afford to continue the fragmented approach that this current Board has used to reassign students. We need a third way—a comprehensive system of assigning students that addresses academic gaps in student learning while also giving stability to families. The new system must be fair to ALL students and transparent to ALL families making choices for their children.

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Press Release – Support For Advanced Math Placement, Yet Questions Remain

Contact: Christine Kushner
Twitter: @Christine4Wake
Phone: 919-637-3168

Support For Advanced Math Placement, Yet Questions Remain
“Strong Schools Make Strong Neighborhoods”

RALEIGH—September 26, 2011—During numerous gatherings with neighbors and parents, Christine Kushner, candidate for the District 6 seat for the Wake School Board, has supported more academic enrichment in middle school. The School Board recently passed a policy on advanced math placement in middle school, however, many questions remain regarding how this policy will be implemented, including:

1. How many students moved to the top track in mathematics have been previously tracked low and for how many years? What help and support do these students need in order to succeed in the higher math class? Will they be in classes with other students who have been tracked high?
2. How many teachers are now teaching high level middle school math for the first time? What support do these teachers need so that they can be successful?
3. Do we have adequate teaching materials, including textbooks, at all of our middle schools?
4. Are tutors available before or after school or during lunch for students who need help?
5. Are parents being educated about the changes so they can both support and advocate for their children?
6. Do we have the teachers and resources in place in the high schools so that students can progress from higher math in middle school to advanced math and science classes in high school?

“Teachers who are for the first time teaching higher level math should be paired with veteran teachers and receive professional development to help them so they can help their students,” Kushner said. “Principals should support these teachers and have mechanisms in place to help if they run into problems.”
The school system also should follow and analyze data on students who take Algebra in 8th grade but are not proficient, she said. “What happens to them as they go into 9th grade? We need to keep track of student progress,” she said.

“Our schools need the resources and planning to make this move toward rigorous curriculum effective—and it must work, for our teachers and for our students,” she added. “Otherwise, we are setting children up either to fail or to be denied access to rigorous courses because of a lack of funding or resources. Neither is acceptable.”

School Board members must ask the right questions and get thorough answers before putting policies in place that affect our children and teachers every day.

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What experiences, qualifications, and special skills help me to be an effective member of the School Board?

Wake County has been my home for more than 21 years. A native of Fayetteville, where I attended public schools, I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a Morehead Scholar and have a Master’s degree in Public Affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University. After graduate school, my husband and I returned to North Carolina, where I have worked as a professional policy analyst, nonprofit administrator, and freelance writer.

I have been deeply involved in our schools for more than 11 years. I have rolled up my sleeves and worked as a classroom tutor as well as PTA President and have also served on School Improvement Teams, on two Board Advisory Councils (as Chair of District 4 and current Member of District 6), and on the Superintendent’s Parent Advisory Council. In several of these capacities I have worked on school policy—with teachers, principals, and under three superintendents.

I value public education and I understand policy making. My work experiences, combined with my extensive and recent involvement in our schools, demonstrate that I will be both a leader and an advocate on the School Board who will work hard to solve the challenges we face. We must go forward, not back to past failed policies and also not continuing the fragmented policies of this current Board majority. Our community must find a new way to address problems and create strong schools that enhances achievement for ALL our students and supports ALL our teachers.

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What more can the School Board do to make up for lost funding and protect against future cuts?

For the third consecutive year, state funding for WCPSS has been cut. What more can the School Board do to make up for lost funding and protect against future cuts?

In tight budget times, my top priority will be to protect the classroom and our teachers and teacher assistants. Our schools need great teachers, and they also need an involved community. I will seek out public/private partnerships with local business, corporations, and nonprofits to augment the programs at our schools. We also should advocate for educational funding at the state level, as well as the local level. Our children and teachers are worth it. We must recognize the need to invest in public education.

I will advocate for our public schools—not for charter schools or private schools, but Wake County public schools. Members of the Wake County Board of Education must work for the best interests of our public school system and that means opposing further cuts at the state and local level.

Check out my website at for a list of upcoming events where we will be discussing issues important to you and your community.

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Defining “student achievement”—How can it best be measured and what can the School Board do to promote it?

This is a good question—everyone is talking about “student achievement.” What does it mean, and how does one measure it? I see it as the progression of a student along his/her path as a life-long learner. I want all students to achieve their full potential, and they need not only effective teachers, but also community and parent support to reach that level. I will seek more community and parent involvement in our schools. Community tutoring and school support helps to set high expectations for all students. It not only helps our schools close the achievement gap but also creates enrichment opportunities for advanced students. I have specific experience developing programs that increase parental and community involvement in schools. Through YWCA Study Circles, we brought teachers and parents together to discuss racial and cultural relations and how to reduce the achievement gap. As a founding Board member of CONCERT, I helped implement after-school enrichment programs at three WCPSS schools. CONCERT—Communities Organizing to Nurture and Celebrate East Raleigh Talent—continues to reach out to the community to help bring expanded resources to our schools.

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