News

School board candidates face tough questions from students

Stevenson class delves into local election issues

Students at Stevenson Elementary are getting an up-close look at school board candidates for the Mountain View Whisman School District this fall. They know the issues, they know who is running, and they know who they'd vote for if they weren't less than half the voting age.

A class of second and third graders at Stevenson are learning about the local school board and how it works for a fall project. Trevor Mattea, who teaches the class, said he wanted to teach the students about government, and chose to focus on the school board because the candidates all live nearby and the issues are relevant to to the students.

The close proximity has its advantages. All four school board candidates -- challengers Greg Coladonato and Hafsa Mirza, aand incumbents Philip Palmer and Ellen Wheeler -- came to the class for in-person interviews, giving Mattea and the students a chance to ask questions directly about who they are, what their roles are and where they stand on the election issues.

Students also interviewed four of the five current board members, as well as Superintendent Craig Goldman.

Mattea said he gave candidates a PowerPoint template and some questions in advance, including what they do for a living, whether or not they volunteer, and how they might characterize candidates who disagree with them on some issues.

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During the interviews, Mattea said the students were ready to ask tough questions, inquiring about the achievement gap, teacher compensation, and even the standard teacher salary schedule as it compares to a merit-based model.

"One thing I was struck with was how furious some of my students took the responsibility of interviewing the candidates," Mattea said. "There was some potential to not ask very serious questions, but there wasn't any chance for them to be intimidated or hold back, either."

The interviews lasted anywhere from 30 minutes to nearly an hour and a half. Greg Coladonato said his meeting with the students was 90 minutes long and included three breaks. He said the kids in the class were engaged the whole way through and raised their hands a lot -- though the questions weren't always on-topic.

Mattea said candidates might have been surprised to have kids between the ages of 7 and 9 grill them on teacher pay and under-achieving student populations -- subjects they were well-versed in by the time interviews rolled around.

Students read candidate websites and ballot statements, learning about Academic Performance Index, or API, scores and what they meant. They also learned more broad election terms, like endorsements, and why they're important for a candidate.

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The students also created information pamphlets on the election and, in a field trip last week, handed out roughly 100 pamphlets to people in downtown Mountain View. They also handed out voter registration forms to about five people, and may have plans to go door-to-door with election information in a future field trip.

Mattea said a lot of kids are quick to focus on how they can't vote and how their civic involvement is limited, and he thought the field trip would be a cool way for the students to participate in the election. He said they did have a little trouble finding a place to table, however. He said of the 10 to 15 places they asked to table at, most of them were worried it could have been perceived as "politically partisan."

Still, the class was able to set up a table in the Civic Center Plaza, outside of Red Rock Cafe and the entrance to the Mountain View library.

Mattea said the class has since switched gears, with a new focus on which candidates appeal to the students and why. In a brain storming session on the white board, he said students thought school board members should be people who have experience working with children, and ideally, have kids in the district. Other common issues students bring up include teacher pay, STEM courses and a new school location.

"They want to endorse candidates based on which of those things (the candidates) think is most important," Mattea said.

If they do end up writing endorsements, no candidate will be left behind. Anywhere from two to eight kids support each candidate, he said.

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School board candidates face tough questions from students

Stevenson class delves into local election issues

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Mon, Oct 27, 2014, 12:15 pm

Students at Stevenson Elementary are getting an up-close look at school board candidates for the Mountain View Whisman School District this fall. They know the issues, they know who is running, and they know who they'd vote for if they weren't less than half the voting age.

A class of second and third graders at Stevenson are learning about the local school board and how it works for a fall project. Trevor Mattea, who teaches the class, said he wanted to teach the students about government, and chose to focus on the school board because the candidates all live nearby and the issues are relevant to to the students.

The close proximity has its advantages. All four school board candidates -- challengers Greg Coladonato and Hafsa Mirza, aand incumbents Philip Palmer and Ellen Wheeler -- came to the class for in-person interviews, giving Mattea and the students a chance to ask questions directly about who they are, what their roles are and where they stand on the election issues.

Students also interviewed four of the five current board members, as well as Superintendent Craig Goldman.

Mattea said he gave candidates a PowerPoint template and some questions in advance, including what they do for a living, whether or not they volunteer, and how they might characterize candidates who disagree with them on some issues.

During the interviews, Mattea said the students were ready to ask tough questions, inquiring about the achievement gap, teacher compensation, and even the standard teacher salary schedule as it compares to a merit-based model.

"One thing I was struck with was how furious some of my students took the responsibility of interviewing the candidates," Mattea said. "There was some potential to not ask very serious questions, but there wasn't any chance for them to be intimidated or hold back, either."

The interviews lasted anywhere from 30 minutes to nearly an hour and a half. Greg Coladonato said his meeting with the students was 90 minutes long and included three breaks. He said the kids in the class were engaged the whole way through and raised their hands a lot -- though the questions weren't always on-topic.

Mattea said candidates might have been surprised to have kids between the ages of 7 and 9 grill them on teacher pay and under-achieving student populations -- subjects they were well-versed in by the time interviews rolled around.

Students read candidate websites and ballot statements, learning about Academic Performance Index, or API, scores and what they meant. They also learned more broad election terms, like endorsements, and why they're important for a candidate.

The students also created information pamphlets on the election and, in a field trip last week, handed out roughly 100 pamphlets to people in downtown Mountain View. They also handed out voter registration forms to about five people, and may have plans to go door-to-door with election information in a future field trip.

Mattea said a lot of kids are quick to focus on how they can't vote and how their civic involvement is limited, and he thought the field trip would be a cool way for the students to participate in the election. He said they did have a little trouble finding a place to table, however. He said of the 10 to 15 places they asked to table at, most of them were worried it could have been perceived as "politically partisan."

Still, the class was able to set up a table in the Civic Center Plaza, outside of Red Rock Cafe and the entrance to the Mountain View library.

Mattea said the class has since switched gears, with a new focus on which candidates appeal to the students and why. In a brain storming session on the white board, he said students thought school board members should be people who have experience working with children, and ideally, have kids in the district. Other common issues students bring up include teacher pay, STEM courses and a new school location.

"They want to endorse candidates based on which of those things (the candidates) think is most important," Mattea said.

If they do end up writing endorsements, no candidate will be left behind. Anywhere from two to eight kids support each candidate, he said.

Comments

really?
another community
on Oct 27, 2014 at 2:18 pm
really?, another community
on Oct 27, 2014 at 2:18 pm
4 people like this

Sounds like an indoctrination from the teacher - not sure I'd want my kids being filled with that. Kids that age aren't capable of understanding the complexities of the economics that surround any of those issues and teaching them to form opinions without being able to do the underlying analysis is not valuable. It's better to stick to age appropriate topics so they learn critical thinking skills.


Steven Nelson
Cuesta Park
on Oct 27, 2014 at 2:43 pm
Steven Nelson, Cuesta Park
on Oct 27, 2014 at 2:43 pm
5 people like this

Sounds like teaching from a teacher in to how to start to be engaged in local civics! Maybe, if they start young enough they will be able to discern between borrowing (Bonds - only for building-like spending) and operations (General Funds) like teachers salaries and book costs. They might be able then to understand that Bond $ can never be used for Administrator salaries - or "be sent to Sacramento." I would not (myself) spend a lot of time on this particular 'project based learning' (you can only do the lesson every other year) but it sure seems fine to me!

Do the students sound engaged? If so, they will probably learn a lot.

Steven Nelson is a Trustee of the MVWSD and taught science 6 years. These are his Own Opinions.


really1
another community
on Oct 27, 2014 at 3:00 pm
really1, another community
on Oct 27, 2014 at 3:00 pm
4 people like this

What they will learn is how to regurgitate, with fervor, the opinions of another person... There are too many adults shouting opinions without thinking about or understanding the economics behind the opinions. Let's not teach our small children to do the same.


harvardmom
Monta Loma
on Oct 27, 2014 at 4:12 pm
harvardmom, Monta Loma
on Oct 27, 2014 at 4:12 pm
4 people like this

Be careful with having young kids going door-to-door. No matter how bright and wise these students seem, they are still very young without adult antennae for danger. And don't treat them like they are young adults. They are not. They are children. This curriculum seems like it would be better suited for high schoolers and up.


Geek
Registered user
Sylvan Park
on Oct 27, 2014 at 4:35 pm
Geek, Sylvan Park
Registered user
on Oct 27, 2014 at 4:35 pm
4 people like this

Influencing 7 years old kids opinion about the teachers pay looks like brainwashing to me.


sounds like...
Rengstorff Park
on Oct 27, 2014 at 5:38 pm
sounds like..., Rengstorff Park
on Oct 27, 2014 at 5:38 pm
9 people like this

Since none of us were actually in the room when they were learning, we have no idea. Although at first glance, it seems like a subject that is best for older kids. However, one of my children was engaged in local politics around that age...wanted to know the issues.

If the children are engaged, they are learning. Indoctrination is certainly not typical of an educator. And I know full well, that even when I try to indoctrinate my children in my beliefs, it does not always work. :)

I am excited by the enthusiasm from the teacher. That definitely shows through to the students.


Sour Grapes, Folks?
Cuernavaca
on Oct 27, 2014 at 5:59 pm
Sour Grapes, Folks?, Cuernavaca
on Oct 27, 2014 at 5:59 pm
6 people like this

Sounds to me that a lot of the posters above are only upset because what is being taught to these schoolchildren does not fit in to their given ideology.

Well, guess what? No one really cares.


Christopher Chiang
North Bayshore
on Oct 27, 2014 at 7:06 pm
Christopher Chiang, North Bayshore
on Oct 27, 2014 at 7:06 pm
16 people like this

As one of the trustees interviewed, Mr. Mattea's lesson was one of the very best examples of project based learning.

Project based learning is the philosophy that you find real life problems for students to solve, let students create authentic work products for real audiences.

There is no government institution that young students have a deeper connection to than their school board, yet the school board is often a abstract idea for students. Mr. Mattea did not lead students to reach any conclusion on any of the topics. What a powerful lesson for young students to learn that they can shape their community via active civic engagement.

Given the age of the students, Mr. Mattea did provide templates, which a non-educator might not realize is necessary when students of that age are writing. His templates guided students to focus on the positive attributes of the candidates. I often wish adults would do the same.

The views expressed herein are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of the Mountain View Whisman School District or the school board.


a mom
Rengstorff Park
on Oct 28, 2014 at 7:44 am
a mom, Rengstorff Park
on Oct 28, 2014 at 7:44 am
10 people like this

As parent of a child in the class, the main lesson that stick with my child is that the elections are important, they determine how things will be done, and many people are not involved even in topics that directly affect them.
This was a phenomenal PBL experience and a great lesson in civic rights and responsibility.
Thanks to all te candidates and board members who were able to participate and thank you Mr. Mattea for energy to organize this.


AA
Rex Manor
on Oct 28, 2014 at 9:31 am
AA, Rex Manor
on Oct 28, 2014 at 9:31 am
5 people like this

This sounds like a wonderful lesson. Both of my children would really enjoy learning this way. Now if only they had the opportunity to do so by being able to go to this school....


door to door?
Old Mountain View
on Oct 31, 2014 at 6:21 pm
door to door?, Old Mountain View
on Oct 31, 2014 at 6:21 pm
4 people like this

Talking about "door to door" comment from Harvard mom... how many of us are taking our
Dressed up young kids trick or treating and saying it is OK to go knock on doors and get candy from strangers?
Boo!! Happy Halloween everyone

Is that all you saw from this project.
Look behind the curtain...:)

They were pretty engaged not bored by the typical way of learning .... Just like the play based learning...where young kids learn through play, PBL keeps kids interested. They learned to write , learned to type, learn computer skills, other tools related to communication, image editing, interview and social skills, group team work, presentation skills, other skills most adults lack
because we were not in an engaging learning environment.


Thida Cornes
Shoreline West
on Nov 5, 2014 at 3:34 pm
Thida Cornes, Shoreline West
on Nov 5, 2014 at 3:34 pm
5 people like this

I applaud Mr. Mattea's and his student's hard work and thoughtful analysis. It was a fine example of project-based learning and a passionate engaging teacher. Our district is lucky to have a teacher like Mr. Mattea.


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