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CHCCS Candidates Debate Achievement Gap

By Elizabeth Friend Posted September 25, 2013 at 11:41 pm

CARRBORO- Two incumbents and two challengers are running for three open seats on the Chapel HiIl-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education.

At Wednesday’s forum hosted by the League of Women Voters, all candidates agreed closing the achievement gaps among students in the district should be the top priority in coming years.

James Barrett, who was elected to the board in 2011, said the failure to close those gaps undermines the district’s reputation for excellent schools.

“Public education has got to be for everybody, and if we’re not seeing all students achieve, that’s what the gap means,” said Barrett. “We’re not really serving all students.”

He stressed the growth mindset advocated by Superintendent Tom Forcella, designed to challenge assumptions about a student’s learning potential.

Michelle Brownstein serves as the current chair of the school board. She said the answer for many struggling students lies in literacy.

“Every child has to read well in order for them to be successful in society,” said Brownstein. “We owe that to them.”

Brownstein said the district needs to focus on consistent implementation of programs to make sure the administration’s educational policies are reflected in the classroom.

However, Ignacio Tzoumas argued that the district has been working for two decades to close the achievement gap, with little progress.

“We’ve had plenty of studies, we’ve had plenty of experts in the field, and hardly anything has changed,” said Tzoumas. “I think that personal interaction is what makes the biggest difference. I will push for as much personal interaction as possible.”

He pointed to the Blue Ribbon Mentor Advocate program as an example of how one-on-one interaction can help change a student’s life for the better.

Andrew Davidson said he’d advocate for new technology to encourage student achievement.

“Some of the biggest challenges we face as a district, technology gives us the tools to overcome some of those challenges,” said Davidson. “I think the one-child-one-device initiative could revolutionize the way we reach especially our most under-advantaged students.”

He said he’d also like to see new technologies applied to student testing for more regular assessments instead of end-of-year exams.

You can find the full two-hour forum here.

The Orange-Durham-Chatham chapter of the League of Women Voters will also host a forum for Chapel Hill Town Council candidates at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, October 15 at the Seymour Senior Center on Homestead Road.

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