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School choice advocate seeking spot on Board of Education

School choice advocate seeking spot on Board of Education
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Marie Fischer-Wyrick had no intention of seeking a spot on the Board of Education.

While helping to put together a town hall on education in Frederick County, however, she grew so concerned, she felt she had to act.

“I kept hearing about our reading programs,” Fischer-Wyrick said. “And how only 40 percent of our students are testing proficient in reading. That’s just heartbreaking, so I felt like I had to do something to try to help.”

Based on last year’s standardized testing data, slightly more than 40 percent of students met expectations on the English and language portion of the test.

These numbers compelled Fischer-Wyrick to seek a spot on the Board of Education.

If elected, Fischer-Wyrick said she would commit herself to getting the reading levels up and starting kids on structured reading programs early on in school. Current members of the Board of Education have expressed similar concerns about students’ reading proficiency and are hoping to pass a budget that would allow them to implement a structured literacy program, or more curriculum resources to increase that proficiency. Fischer-Wyrick said that needs to be a priority.

“When we test these kids at 9 years (third grade), that’s three years of school that have already been missed,” Fischer-Wyrick said. “It’s almost too late if they don’t have the correct reading program, because then it starts hurting how they will do in other subjects.”

Serving as vice president of the Maryland Federation of Republican Women and the chair of the Frederick County chapter of the Maryland Black Republican Council, Fischer-Wyrick admitted she is “very politically active.” But the trend of having politics increasingly involved in education is concerning, because kids are involved, she said.

“It’s sad to see politics are so involved,” Fischer-Wyrick said. “I don’t want this to be political. I want to make sure every kid gets a chance, that’s all.”

Growing up in Memphis, Tennessee, Fischer-Wyrick was exposed to school choice at an early age. From first through sixth grade, Fischer-Wyrick enrolled at the grade school on the University of Memphis’ campus. The school’s curriculum at the time was individually guided, and students moved at their own pace, often breaking into small groups to work more efficiently. There were often two teachers in the classroom as well.

“Even though at the time, Tennessee was one of the lowest-funded states for education, I felt like I got a great education,” she said. “By sixth grade, all of us were reading at least one grade above level.”

The model Fischer-Wyrick experienced is similar to the “blended” model being incorporated at many of Frederick County’s public schools, though the current model includes more technology. Fischer-Wyrick said she would love to continue seeing that model being used in classes.

Fischer-Wyrick would like to see more options for student to choose which school they attend. Currently, students’ choices are limited to their district school, a private school or a public charter school should they be selected in the lottery. Fischer-Wyrick envisions opening it up to “true school choice” and allowing students to pick which school they want to attend, with preference still given to kids who live closest to the school.

She added that phasing it in by allowing the highest-achieving students to choose which school they want to attend could be a start to eventually moving to full choice. If students were more likely to attend the school of their choice, there may not be so many home-schooled kids in Frederick County, she said. Currently, the district has more than 4,000 home-schooled students.

Thirteen candidates are vying for four seats on the board. The other candidates are Liz Barrett, Seth Eisenberg, Edison Hatter, Jay Mason, April Miller, Chaz Packan, Camden Raynor, Cindy Rose, Masai Troutman, Kim Williams, Karen Yoho and Brad Young.

The primary election is June 26, and the general election follows on Nov. 6.

Follow Allen Etzler on Twitter: @AllenWEtzler.

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