Testing – When I found out that scores for the March/May PARCC tests would not be available until the fall, I was bothered by the implication that these tests are not used to help our daughter. Plus, HCPSS did not provide a transparent process in deciding the timeline to release the results  Any test that is administered should help guide instruction in the classroom. Instead, these time-consuming tests will not have any impact on students for at least another school year. Our school system should lead, not follow, in finding a better test.

HCPSS has also instituted the MAP tests three times per year. While this provides more real-time information to teachers and administrators, parents have not received information on HOW results are being used. Some educators are using them to plan but some are NOT.

In summary, our system is spending valuable classroom time preparing for tests that do not translate into helping our children. Tests that teachers use to determine subject mastery at the end of the unit should be the primary assessment tool.

Budgetary Decisions Based on Data That Is Public – Does expanding the Elementary School Model make sense for all of our schools? Does making schools technologically “smart” with printable whiteboards contribute to higher student engagement? With an increasing student base, should staff outnumber teachers? How does our daughter benefit from new programs?

Financial investments should not just be assessed on a monetary basis. When a new program is piloted, focus groups should be held to determine stakeholder takeaways. Parents and other stakeholders should be informed of the cost/benefit of new programs and what is being changed or ended. Results of pilots should be circulated amongst the Board and fully discussed before expansion.

Speaking of the Budget, Transparency – Howard County is home to many government and contract employees. We are very familiar with competitive bidding for new contracts at the federal and state levels. This should be happening consistently in our school system as well. Unfortunately, in recent years, this has not occurred. The Board of Education should provide oversight and assure transparency when spending taxpayer dollars.

Special Education Services – I believe that Howard County has an obligation to provide every child with a free, appropriate public education.  Our school system must embrace all children, including children with special needs.  The process for obtaining necessary special education services should be transparent, efficient, and above-all equitable.  Howard County must commit to providing adequate resources for Special Education Services, especially in staffing. At one time, Howard County was a national model for special education, but today, many parents are frustrated by a lack of communication and an opaque process for obtaining services. I wish to turn Howard County back into a model system which provides high-quality services and ensures that every child receive an excellent education.

Friends of Kirsten Coombs, Authority: Kathleen Houston, Treasurer