'Don't have to be bad to be better'

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Asked about state mandates and the dramatically lower test scores recently released by the State Education Department, she said, “We have to get on the field and play the game we’re handed [by the state]. The state has a policy of one size fits all — a one-size-fits-all curriculum and a one-size-fits-all testing program, as well as a one-size-fits-all teacher evaluation system. That doesn’t make any sense to me. There are ways the state can do that differently. If districts can produce evidence and data to the state to show what the district is doing is meeting their standards, then they should allow it. Why give all students the same test on the same day in the same way? It doesn’t seem feasible or responsible.”

Harrington added, however, “As the superintendent in Oceanside, I have to be prepared to have my people on the field, to be in the game.”

An exciting element of this year’s program, she said, is the transition to the use of technology in learning. “This is reality,” she said. “The technology is here and you can’t sit back and let it happen around you. Learning is different today, and so are the learners. Remember, the children entering kindergarten this year are the class of 2026. Would you like to predict what technology and learning will be like in 2026?”

She said she is unsure about what the new technology will cost or what it will do to her budget. The district, she said, is already committed to providing iPads for all middle school students.

“I don’t think that purchasing technology will impact the many programs that we have here in Oceanside,” she said. “The budget isn’t going to get better, so if we’re told by the state to purchase more technology, the money will have to come from somewhere, and we’ll be forced to rob Peter to pay Paul.”

She added that every district in the state is nearing the budget cliff, but that, because of community support and the fiscal policies of her predecessor, Oceanside is in better shape than most.

“Districts are all facing the fiscal cliff, but some are further away than others,” she said. If the politicians don’t modify the tax cap to allow for exemptions for things like special education spending and pension costs, we are all going over the cliff sooner or later.”

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