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My vision is for teachers to be able to create lessons based on the standards with a full year curriculum as a guide. Schools that are failing and in poverty neighborhoods need more social and behavioral development tied into their curriculum. Stress is a problem for economically disadvantaged children of all ages; they need more support, not more rigor. My ideas for improving public schools are as follows:

Students in primary grades (K-3) would perform better if they had a year-long plan for reading and math instead of having to meet standards every few weeks. Teacher created assessments that are uniform for the grade are used as guide to determine where the student is academically. Students are grouped homogeneously by academic skills in math and reading. The groups would vary depending on the skill level of the standard taught with smaller groups for students who were performing below suggested level with an aide to assist. The students will catch up by the end of the year if given enough time and specialized instruction throughout the school year.

All teachers and all students would be familiar with each other. They would have their own teaching styles while working together to build social-emotional skills and self-regulation. In schools with high poverty rates, there should be multiple floating aides to assist where needed. The aides will be trained in developmental and social skills to provide proper support. Students with IEP or 504 plans would need to be assigned to teachers that had a full time aide and skills in handling learners of varying disabilities.

The current system is akin to a factory, with each teacher and each student being treated the same; this is not equality, it’s mass production.

True equality is equity and it is one of my three tenets on improving education. Autonomy, equity, and arts = quality education for all. Visual and performing arts are needed in every school. Exposure to arts, especially for children in poverty, can improve brain function; this would improve a child’s ability to absorb new information.

Children living in a neighborhood should get automatic acceptance into their neighborhood school, despite its magnet status. We should refrain from opening or transforming any additional schools. Instead, we should focus on improving every school so each student is exposed to some form of; art, dance, pottery, drawing, music, chorus, theatre, instruments, and unstructured play time known as recess.  It would be up to the county to approve a curriculum designed for individual schools based on the culture of the school.

I would love to see something like this in action. Children learn more than reading and math in primary years, they learn how to learn, how to self-regulate, how to interact, and how to assimilate what they learn to what they know.

This is what is missing in the curriculum today.

Stacie P Dern for Duval County school board seat 7

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