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FGCU professor Christine Patricca for school board

FGCU professor Christine Patricca is running for the Lee County School Board.

FGCU professor Christine Patricca is running for the Lee County School Board.

An FGCU professor is trying to make her mark in education, outside the natural ecosystem of university.

Christine Patricca, an adjunct professor at FGCU teaching in the Department of Justice Studies since 2013, is currently running for Lee County school board, District 3.

After getting her J.D. from Seton Hall University and beginning her career, Patricca was a successful attorney in New York and New Jersey with The Ayco Company and Bottitta & Bascelli. Shortly after, Patricca became a paraprofessional for Pinewoods Elementary School and a professor at Schenectady County Community College.

Her list of volunteer activities is extensive, including involvement on the Executive Committee of The School District of Lee County District Advisory Council and Pinewoods Elementary School Advisory Committee. She also manages to be the treasurer of her homeowners association at Stoneybrook, a catechist at Our Lady of Light and is on the board of directors of Swim Florida.

Patricca is undoubtedly an impressive person, not only with her résumé and education but also with her ideas.

In an interview, Patricca voiced her concerns with the No Child Left Behind bill.

“No Child Left Behind was a well-intended piece of legislation that set the bar too low for our students,” Patricca said. “It is difficult to talk about No Child Left Behind without talking about standards in education.”

With her point in mind, our conversation led to the question of standardized testing and Florida Common Core Standards.

“When I first learned about the Florida Standards, I opposed them on principle,” Patricca said. “I believed that any standards that aligned with national educational standards must equate to a federal takeover of what should be a local function — public education. Then, I read the Florida Standards, and I quickly changed my mind.”

Patricca laid out exactly why she believes in Common Core and local control.

“According to the [Department of Defense], 75 percent of young Americans cannot serve in the U.S. Military because they cannot pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB),” Patricca said. “Condoleeza Rice said that this is, ‘Our greatest national security challenge.’ Beyond national security, only 25 percent of kids who go to college are proficient in the four core subjects — math, science, English and reading. This means that many of our students and parents will have to pay for remedial courses upon arriving on campus. There is a strong link between lack of proficiency in reading and dropping out of college. If students attend college and do not graduate, they have nothing except debt to show for it. The Florida Standards address these problems by increasing the expectations we have for our students. The Standards raise the bar for education in this great state.”

Her belief in these standards brought up a point worth noting: if our students can’t get in to the military and can’t get in to a college or university, then I believe they would be set up for failure. This is a problem, and I’m glad Patricca has brought it to our attention.

But what about the teacher’s control of the classroom, the protection of the autonomy of the administrators at the school; what effect does common core have on that? Patricca pointed me toward the Florida Standards website where the Fifth Grade Writing Standards for Text Types and Purposes can be found.

“This standard requires fifth graders in the state of Florida to form opinions based on facts,” Patricca said. “There is no content in this standard. The content or the tools we use to implement this and all educational standards here in Lee County are determined by the Lee County Board of Education based on the input and recommendations of the amazing people working for the School District of Lee County. This is local control. Dr. Graham’s staff pours their heart and soul into creating and fine-tuning the curriculum for our students. Teachers, principals, vice principals, content specialists and curriculum specialists at each school are just some of the talented education professionals who contribute to the formation and finalization of our curriculum. The curriculum is based on the Florida Standards, but the curriculum is ours.”

These statutes within the document don’t mention anything about content. Common Core holds everyone to a higher general standard without necessarily affecting the content of the class or introducing unnecessary or irrelevant material or classes.

Parents are still skeptical about standardized testing for their kids. They worry that too much is tied to a test that may not reflect the student’s knowledge or aptitude.

“Standardized tests are a necessary component of accountability in education,” Patricca said. “I am in favor of accountability for students, teachers, administrators, parents and the School Board. We must be able to assess our students’ proficiency in a uniform manner. Without uniformity of assessment, we cannot compare students’ progress across the district, across the state or across the country. We cannot identify problematic trends that need to be addressed nor can we identify trends of excellence so that we can share best practices across the district.”

“Some of the consequences imposed by standardized testing in the state of Florida are pecuniary in nature. Currently, 30 percent of a high school student’s grade is based on an end-of-course standardized examination. We should work to decrease the percentage, but we cannot eliminate all consequences associated with this test. Like it or not, evaluation, performance reviews and accountability are a reality upon graduation from high school. Regardless of a student’s chosen career, he or she will be evaluated. We need to prepare our students for this reality. Eliminating testing does not prepare our students for success in college and careers. We should encourage our students to embrace the opportunity to be assessed and evaluated. Measuring progress is a necessary component of education and life. Testing is a necessary component of preparing our children to succeed in life.”

Patricca’s argument in favor of standardized testing is valid. How can we prepare our children for the future without knowing their grasp on the material? I agree that we should look to eliminate some of the consequences of standardized testing, and I would say that decreasing that 30 percent number would be a great goal for the future.

“I would first like to state that I understand the role of a school board member,” Patricca said. “Our role is to set policy for the district. We do not manage the district on a day-to-day basis. That is the superintendent’s job. Sometimes, boards try to do too much and that gets in the way of the ultimate goal of educating our students in a world-class school system. In terms of what I would do to improve education in Lee County, I have several ideas. I would like to see a Technology Advisory Committee created that reports directly to the school board. Technology is very, very important. Modern students are more engaged when they are working on a device of some kind. This is an area that changes very rapidly, and we need constant monitoring of how to best meet our students’ needs in this area.”

Patricca has some great ideas going forward to join the Lee County school board. These are common sense policies, and I think Professor Patricca is on the right track. Technology takes a vital role in our ability to not only learn but perform in the workplace, and I’m glad we may have the opportunity for Professor Patricca to make it a priority in Lee County schools.

In addition to her desire to pursue technology in the classroom, Patricca has plans to “explore the idea of creating professional learning networks.” This practice would allow Lee County instructors to connect with others from across the state and nation and share their experiences in effective teaching and learning.

“Students are the most important aspect of education,” Patricca said. “We need to always stay focused on how to best prepare students for life after public education. For some, this means embarking on a career right out of high school. For others, this means going onto college. Some will go onto graduate school. There are basic skills that will help all students achieve these goals… I am very excited for the opportunities available to our students as a result of this change in education. Speaking of change, I think educators need to get more comfortable with change. I think we need to constantly challenge ourselves to seek new ways to help our students grow. We need to interact with each other to learn what works best for students. Change and improvement need to be an integral part of how we approach each new school year or each new semester.”

Patricca should be your choice for Lee County school board district 3. She has the education, experience and policy plan needed to create a great environment for students in Lee County. She is someone we can all trust, and there is no better choice. Patricca is for local control of education, in line with policy promoted by great think tanks like The Heritage Foundation.

Needless to say, I would like to endorse Chris Patricca for Lee County School Board District 3 and hope she is successful in her campaign. If you would like to learn more, head over to chrispatricca.com.

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