Lois Jarman, a French teacher in Frederick County Public Schools, has considered running for the Board of Education for a couple of years, as both her students and co-workers have approached her to vent their frustrations.
The amount of testing is overwhelming, Jarman said — repeating comments she’s heard — and technology is too pervasive and distracting in the classroom.
Jarman said she will retire after 17 years in the classroom because she feels she can accomplish more for students if elected to the school board. Her perspective as a teacher, she said, will lend well to the board.
Jarman began as a parent volunteer for the school district in the early ’90s, when her son was entering school, and for almost a decade, she logged more than 1,000 volunteer hours, she said.
She had earned a degree in French and political science, and intended to enroll in law school. The day after her daughter was born, however, she decided to give up that dream and tend to her family.
Jarman remained the head of her household throughout her entire time teaching for the school district, doing so only on a part-time basis.
Over the years, she has seen the demand on teachers grow: first, with the recent class size increase, which she wants to remedy, and now with the amount of testing that the school district has endured.
She criticized the state standardized tests, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exams — aligned to the state version of the Common Core Standards. Local assessments provide more immediate and helpful data than the PARCC, she said.
She applauded the current school board members for taking up the discussion of testing and their move to institute policies related to limiting testing and students’ refusal to take standardized tests.
“One of the things that saddens me is, in order to reduce testing, FCPS had to reduce county testing because that’s the testing the board has control over,” Jarman said. “But that’s the testing that gives us the best data and [shows] how students are performing in any given subject matter. The standardized, the PARCC assessments, give us none of that.”
With the passage of the new federal education law — Every Student Succeeds Act — still fresh, now is the time to rework policy, she said.
Teachers should be granted more autonomy as well, she said, and should be free not to push technology onto children if it doesn’t aid in teaching. She also mentioned research that indicates learning on a screen leads to increased rates of attention-deficit disorder.
“I told my students I didn’t want devices at all in my classroom. I don’t want to see them,” Jarman said. “And they respected me for it. And I never had an issue.”
Jarman also called for the school board to collaborate and advocate aggressively to state legislators who she feels can secure more dollars for the school district.
State legislators should substitute-teach in a classroom unannounced, she suggested, not tour a school in a dog and pony show.
“Because, when there are visits to the schools, those community leaders, those leaders, are taken around to specific classrooms,” Jarman said. “We’re all given the heads-up when it’s coming. How realistic of a presentation is that? Substitute for a math class with 35 students ... and they’re all being required to use Chromebooks. Sub in that setting. You’ll get a different picture.”
State records indicate that Jarman has not filed any financial reports.
Three seats on the seven-person board will be open this election cycle.
A primary will be held only if seven candidates file — twice the number of open seats plus one. Otherwise, candidates advance to the general election.
The primary will be April 26, 2016. The general election is Nov. 8. Board of Education members are paid $10,000 annually. The president is paid $11,000.