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Op-Ed: Houston School Board candidate Anna Eastman Gets Political

By Jesse Alred     Nov 25, 2009 in World
After coming in a close second in her campaign to represent Houston's north-side on the Houston Independent School District school board, Ms. Anna Eastman is "repositioning" herself.
Responding to criticism that her initial platform was weak, Ms. Eastman has forwarded a new set of proposals, as she campaigns for the runoff election with opponent Alma Lara, who won in the first round of voting.
While Ms. Eastman's original platform was brief and abstract, its replacement is an effort to satisfy both sides on the controversial issues, and encompass some ideas of her opponent.
Her platform promises to “expand the Aspire program,” which is the Houston Independent School District's formula for distributing bonuses based on how much progress their students make on standardized tests.
Many teachers think Aspire is unfair because students come from very different backgrounds, and the formula penalizes those who teach high concentrations of low-income students. Some parents believe the focus on minimum skills testing dimininshes the quality of education.
Ms. Eastman promises a “growth model that allows teachers to teach, that includes assessments, without breeding a test-focused culture."
Endorsing Aspire, and seeking a classroom culture where test preparation is but a small component, are contradictory because test results are the foundation of Aspire. Devalue testing--and the Aspire house crumbles.
One of Ms. Eastman's chief backers, current board member Natasha Kamrani, has endorsed firing teachers based on student test scores, and Ms. Eastman appears to be trying to distance herself from that extreme emphasis on testing in this runoff campaign, while pandering to advocates of standardized exams
Ms. Eastman's triangulates again when she calls for expanding credit-recovery programs and calls for expecting rigor of all kids “regardless of the social obstacles.”
Credit-recovery programs provide a shorter, easier way for students to earn course credit. Used as they are now, in moderation, they can offer a lifeline to students in unusual circumstances to make up for lost time and graduate with their age cohorts. Overused, credit recovery undermines academic rigor by providing a shortcut to hard work and real learning.
Credit-recovery programs are the very opposite of expecting rigor from all kids regardless of economic circumstances.
While Ms. Eastman's first set of proposals included only three items, her new one includes fifteen. She has dropped one of her original planks about making sure all kids go to college and added the goal of preparing non-college bound students for careers, something that sounds like her opponent, who has called for reviving HISD's vocational and career educational program.
Ms. Eastman's extensive platform did not include any mention of the KIPP and YES PREP charter schools, whose backers are putting up the money for her campaign.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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