CUMBERLAND - Quality teachers and adequate funding are a few of the factors that come to mind when people think of student achievement. The Allegany County Board of Education candidates were asked to identify the greatest obstacle to student achievement and how they would overcome that obstacle.

"I think the greatest obstacle is communication and collaboration between teachers, parents, students and administrators - student achievement is dependent upon those groups working together," said Karen Treber.

To overcome that obstacle, Treber, chair of the Parent Advisory Council, said she plans to continue to work with the council to get parents and community members involved in the schools.

"Parent involvement has been shown to be the greatest indicator of student achievement," said Treber. "What we have to do is find a way to get parents involved and get teachers to get parents involved."

Having students, staff and parents work together is also part of Jane Dawson's plan to overcome what she cited as the great obstacle to student achievement.

"I feel we must understand all students' needs, and the plan to overcome that is to understand the needs, have high expectations of students and staff, and work toward achieving those needs, and do it through the triangle that I feel is so important of students, staff and parents."

Ernie Kaylor and incumbent Tom Striplin both discussed curriculum issues in their responses.

"It (the greatest obstacle) would be the lack of consistency in curriculum and ability of teachers," said Kaylor. "There's a wide range of level of teaching skills."

In addition, the same curriculum is not being offered in all the schools, said Kaylor.

"They say the schools offer the same curriculum - they don't," he said.

Overcoming the obstacle would require the attention of different parties, according to Kaylor.

"The teacher part of it would be a personnel issue," said Kaylor. The curriculum aspect would be handled at the supervisory level, he said.

Striplin had a different solution to a similar obstacle.

"I would say one of the greatest obstacles to student achievement is having a school system that does not have curriculum aligned with expected standards or outcomes," said Striplin. "The greatest obstacle in the school system is in the process of becoming aligned - we are not fully aligned with what is being taught and what is being tested."

Like Kaylor, Striplin wants to make sure that a uniform curriculum is being taught at all county schools.

"We have to take variance out of the curriculum, but I don't want to take out the creativity," said Striplin.

He said that while teachers don't have to teach in the same way, the same materials should be taught in all the schools.

Striplin also said teacher communication is needed; he used the example of fifth-grade teachers talking to fourth-grade teachers to find out what the fourth-grade students learned.

In addition, having instructional data showing strengths and weaknesses is also necessary to overcome the obstacles.

"To make curriculum changes, you have to know where you aren't doing a good job," he said.

The four candidates are running for three open seats, which are currently occupied by Striplin, Tim Woodring and Moose Arnone. The seats occupied by Jeff Metz and Fred Sloan will be on the 2008 election ballot. Board members serve four-year terms.

The election will be held Nov. 7.

Jennifer Raley can be reached at jraley@times-news.com.

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