In a year when D.C. schools have been marred by scandals, usually sleepy State Board of Education races have pulled in hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations. Four seats — drawing 10 contenders — are on the ballot Tuesday. Although the nonpartisan positions wield little power, they have become symbolic battlegrounds over the future of public education.
Two of the main issues dividing the board are mayoral control of the education system and the five-star rating system of schools. The ratings — part of a broader school report card — aim to make school data more accessible. But critics fear the ranking’s reliance on test scores will reserve the highest accolades for schools that educate the city’s wealthiest students and give paltry ratings to schools that serve the District’s vulnerable children.
These profiles are based on candidates’ answers and edited for space and clarity.
Jason Andrean, 35, works in finance and chairs the board at Achievement Prep charter school. Formerly on the board of Democrats For Education Reform, a charter advocacy group.
Education : Bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University.
Children in D.C. schools : Teenage daughter does not live in D.C.
Greatest problem facing D.C. schools : The achievement gap and focusing on the underlying causes.
Solution: Equitable funding and resources. But we can’t just rely on solving these problems within the school system. We need a holistic approach so children living in poverty can be more successful in schools.
Opinion of mayoral control: It’s important to have one executive who is accountable for managing the education system. But parents are asking for more transparency, and that is one of the reasons I support Council member David Grosso’s bill, which would make it harder for the mayor to fire the superintendent.
Opinion of five-star rating: It’s not perfect, but we should view it as a starting point to creating a more unified rating system and greater transparency across traditional and public schools.
Favorite teacher : In fourth grade, Ms. Israel believed in me more than I could ever believe in myself.
Emily Gasoi, 50, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and runs Artful Education, a consulting firm that designs arts and progressive education programs. Former teacher.
Education: Bachelor’s degree from Binghamton University, master’s in education from Lesley University and PhD in education leadership from University of Pennsylvania.
Children in D.C. schools : First-grader at Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School.
Greatest problem facing D.C. schools: We have a system focused more on looking good according to the numbers instead of doing what’s right for students.
Solution: A more well-rounded evaluation system. And we need accountability in the system so we can work on addressing what’s wrong.
Opinion of mayoral control : We need to acknowledge what isn’t working. And it’s hard to do that in the current system. Council member Mary M. Cheh’s bill — which calls on the office of the superintendent to report to the state board instead of the mayor — would help bring more oversight, but it is not moving away from mayoral control.
Opinion of five-star rating system: My fear is it’s going to punish schools where kids don’t test well because too much of it is based on test scores. I do not believe it will give an accurate picture.
Favorite teacher: My drama teacher in middle school. I hadn’t been a good student up until that point. He brought out this talent in me that I didn’t know about.
Callie Kozlak, 36, works on state-level education policies at UnidosUs, a Latino advocacy organization; former Teach for America educator in D.C.
Education: Bachelor’s degree from Boston College and master’s degree in early-childhood education from George Mason University.
Children in D.C. schools : No.
Greatest problem facing D.C. schools : Persistent achievement gap.
Solution : Increase the quality of schools, which starts with great educators — a lot of teacher turnover is destructive. Access to more bilingual language opportunities, which can especially help our English-language learners. More access to out-of-school learning experiences.
Opinion of mayoral control: I support it. But I would be open to hearing more from the community in where they think it falls short.
Opinion of five-star rating system : It’s a good starting point to help get the public engaged in the quality of our schools. But we should give more weight to the performance of subgroups, like at-risk and special education students so schools get credit for their growth.
Favorite teacher : My seventh-grade teacher, Ms. Schulte. She put a lot of effort into bringing in great literature for us and she did a good job of finding out what was interesting to us.
Dora Currea, 62, worked for two decades at the Inter-American Development Bank, and later joined Teacher For America as a Spanish teacher at a Maryland public school.
Education : Bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College, master’s in urban planning from Harvard University and PhD in urban studies from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Children in D.C. school s: Grown son attended D.C. Public Schools for elementary school.
Greatest problem facing D.C. schools : The achievement gap. In my mind, it is associated with overcrowding of schools in Ward 3 because parents flock to the best schools. We need to have good schools across the city.
Solution : There is no magic bullet. But the master facilities plan — a newly released plan that uses enrollment projections to examine the city’s school facilities — begins to address overcrowding and allows us to focus on the achievement gap.
Opinion of mayoral control : Just focusing on the issue of mayoral control alone probably won’t get us to having better schools. There are many players in education and if you want to rethink them, let’s do a rethink of the institution so that the policy priorities of D.C. can be clearer.
Opinion of five-star ratings: A positive step of getting that unified vision between charters and the traditional school system. We should have more of an emphasis on student improvement.
Favorite teacher: My high school math teacher was the quintessential teacher. A person that set high expectations.
Ruth Wattenberg, 60, is the incumbent and an independent education policy consultant.
Education : Bachelor’s degree from Barnard College and certificate in educational measurement and assessments from University of Maryland.
Children in D.C. schools: Two adult children attended D.C. Public Schools.
Greatest problem facing D.C. schools : The incredibly low achievement of many of our students, especially those from the lowest-income households.
Solution : Among the solutions is addressing the teacher turnover rate in high-poverty schools.
Opinion of mayoral control : In every other school district that is under mayoral control, the district is overseen by a state superintendent and state board of education that are independent; we need that kind of check and balance.
Opinion of five-star ratings: This rating system is not adequate and the overwhelming weight is on reading and math test scores, which is going to further incentivize reading and math instead of a rich curriculum.
Favorite teacher: Ms. Coleman, my sixth-grade world history teacher who told these great stories about history.
Adrian Jordan, 34, a government relations director for Anthem, a health insurance company.
Education: Bachelor’s degree from Florida A&M University.
Children in D.C. schools : First-grader who attended Two Rivers Public Charter School.
Greatest problem facing D.C. schools : Inequitable resources. If you are a child in a low-income school — even though the city has a uniform per-pupil funding formula — the money is not always allocated in an equitable way.
Solution : Empower parents and the community. We need to create a friends of D.C. Public Schools program, so folks can roll up their sleeves and feel like they are part of the community. This would be in addition to the Parent Teacher Associations.
Opinion of mayoral control : I support mayoral control, but would like to see the superintendent’s office become independent. The mayor should still appoint the superintendent.
Opinion of five-star ratings : When I was looking for education options for my child, it was basically the Wild, Wild West. We finally have a unified metric and parents have a starting place where we can look. But it should rely less on test scores.
Favorite teacher : Fifth-grade teacher in D.C.’s John Burroughs Elementary. Ms. Brown had so many books in her classroom. I loved reading those stories and I probably read today because she advocated for it so much.
William “Bill” Lewis, 72, a retired postal worker and former D.C. middle and high school math teacher.
Education: Bachelor’s degree from the University of the District of Columbia.
Children in D.C. schools: Two grown children attended D.C. Public Schools for elementary and middle school.
Greatest problem facing D.C. schools: We are graduating kids who can’t get jobs. They are not proficient in math or reading.
Solution : Parents, and getting them involved.
Opinion of mayoral control : Weakened. The mayor is not an educator, she’s a politician. I’m upset that we don’t have a permanent chancellor yet.
Opinion of five-star ratings: I don’t like it at all. Why can’t we have good schools in all of our communities?
Favorite teacher: My kindergarten teacher realized I was a rambunctious kid and she kept me busy. She always found something for me to do that was constructive.
Zachary Parker, 31, works at Achievement Network, a nonprofit that trains teachers and principals. Former Teach for America educator.
Education: Bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University and master’s in education policy from Columbia University.
Children in D.C. school s: No.
Greatest problem facing D.C. schools : A lack of equity in how we support our schools, in how we rate our schools and how we provide resources for our children.
Solution: Strengthening our public neighborhood schools so we can have true school choice. I support charter schools, but for too many families, school choice has become synonymous with charters.
Opinion of mayoral control : I would admit that it is odd that the education board — our only elected education body in our city — does not have more authority. But I do not think that putting the superintendent’s office under the control of the board or D.C. Council would make things remarkably better.
Opinion of five-star ratings: I support the intention, which is to provide families with more information. However, I do not support it in its current state because it oversimplifies schools and ranks them as if there are apple-to-apple comparisons. There is too much focus on test scores and proficiency.
Favorite teacher: My eighth-grade math teacher. She had very high expectations, and was masterful in inspiring those in her classroom who were ahead and those who were behind.
Jessica Sutter, 41, runs an education consulting firm, Ed Pro Consulting. Former teacher and former senior adviser to D.C.’s deputy mayor for education.
Education: Bachelor’s degree from Loyola University in Baltimore, and master’s and PhD in education policy from University of Maryland.
Children in D.C. school s: No.
Greatest problem facing D.C. schools: How we spend our time and how we spend our money. We spend a lot of money on public education in D.C., but I’m not sure it gets as close to the children who need our money.
Solution : The D.C. Council needs to provide budget oversight and enforce the laws. We need lawmakers to have courage, who can say this is what the law says, this is what the data says and this is how we are going to fix it.
Opinion of mayoral control : I support the current structure. I am intrigued by Council member David Grosso’s bill, which makes the state superintendent’s office more independent after the mayor has appointed the superintendent.
Opinion of five-star ratings: I support it. The data that is going into the report card has always existed. We are just putting it in one place. We should consider placing a greater emphasis on student improvement in the future.
Favorite teacher: Mr. Crawley, my 12th-grade English teacher. Every book on our syllabus was a book that was banned in the United States. He was wonderfully rebellious.
Joe Weedon, 42, is the incumbent and executive director of Companies for Causes, a nonprofit that works with socially-minded leaders of companies.
Education : Bachelor’s and master’s degree in political science degree from University of Illinois and MBA from University of Maryland.
Children in D.C. schools: Two children at Eliot-Hine Middle School.
Greatest problem facing D.C. schools : Lack of equitable opportunities for all students.
Solution : The first step is ensuring schools are staffed appropriately and that money is following the students. We need to take a hard look at what each school and its students need so we are ensuring all students have what they need to succeed.
Opinion of mayoral control: The mayor should oversee schools. But we need to remove the state superintendent’s office from the mayor’s control so we have an independent state agency.
Opinion of five-star ratings: Places too much emphasis on test scores and attendance, which are proxies for poverty in far too many schools.
Favorite teacher: Coach Hastings, my high school baseball and basketball coach and history government teacher. Coach empowered us to enjoy school, to enjoy what we were learning, and trusted us to put in the work that we needed to succeed.