Mountain View Whisman school board
Note: Chris Chiang is one of five candidates running for the Mountain View Whisman School Board. His profile was mistakenly omitted from the print edition of last week's Voter Guide story.
Christopher Chiang is a a teacher who is married to a teacher. He's lived in Mountain View for six years and taught for eight years, was named teacher of the year at Monte Vista High School in 2010 and has a passion for progressive educational methods.
A "workaholic," Chiang said he spends the majority of his non-working hours with his wife and 2-year-old daughter or reading.
Although he works as a sixth-grade social studies teacher at Sacred Heart School in Atherton, Chiang said he plans to send his daughter to either Castro or Bubb (he lives on the border between the two school's boundary lines).
After losing his bid for the state Senate in June, Chiang decided he might be more effective in affecting change if he started closer to home, by running for the Mountain View Whisman board. If elected, he said he would challenge the board to consider reforming the way the district is run.
"Right now, it is my opinion that the school district, and the state in general, still focuses too much on standardized testing," he said, noting that there are candidates running for the board with strong community relationships and strong business relationships. "I felt there needed to be somebody who has a mind for education reform."
Chiang said he believes there is a disconnect between teachers who want to push public education into the 21st Century and policy makers — both in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. — who are stuck in the outdated 20th Century model of passive learning. Learning multiplication tables and studying history is important, he said, but schools need to be engaging students in hands-on learning, using computers and developing real-world skills.
"We are undermining our kids' future if we are teaching them to only do rote memorization," he said. "If all they can do is repeat what is on a standardized test, we aren't preparing them for today's economy."
Chiang said he is prepared to push the district to move away from old modes of teaching — not only to improve the education of students attending district schools, but in the hope that Mountain View might be a leader in the world of education.
"Policy makers need to see school districts experimenting," he said. "We're in a perfect place to really show that there is good policy that isn't happening in Sacramento."
To help low-income and English-learning students, Chiang suggested more after-school programs that work with students as well as family and other community members. Castro Elementary, he noted, has already been doing this with some success, but he said it ought to be more wide-spread and rigorous.
Chiang proposes tracking more than just standardized test scores — polling students, parents and teachers about what they like about their schools and what could be improved, as well as measuring critical thinking and problem-solving in students.
"I want to start the conversation about new metrics," Chiang said.
The district already conducts surveys of parent opinion. By expanding upon this collection of data and compiling the results in a way that is easy to understand, the community would be able to learn more about a school than simply whether it has a high or low API (academic performance index score), he said. "If all we give to home-buyers and all we give to parents is the API, then they don't have all the information we are collecting."
He said he would advocate for programs that would give financial incentives to teachers who pursue the administrative track. "I really believe we should be proactively going to our teachers and saying, 'We need you to be a principal and we will pay you to go to school.'"
If there isn't state money to support it, he would pursue asking local companies to help foot the bill — a cost he thinks firms like Google and LinkedIn would be willing to help cover, since they will ultimately benefit from better schools with better employees.
In addition to running for the school board, he started the MVW21: Mountain View Whisman School Study Group — a series of privately run seminars designed to help prospective "board candidates and school supporters develop a vision for Mountain View Schools for the 21st century," according to the website, mvw21.org. "This is not an official policy-setting organization, but an open space to exchange new ideas."
Occupation: Social Studies Teacher (Sixth Grade), Sacred Heart School, Atherton
Education: BA in Political Science, UC Irvine; MA in Teaching from Stanford University | MA in Educational Leadership, Columbia University
Neighborhood: Shoreline West