The candidates also addressed the achievement gap and how the district can work with the community to close the gap.
Dixon touted the importance of fostering teacher-student connections and community mentorships for English Language Learner students.
“It's tough to really get to the nuts and bolts of higher learning and higher concepts if you're already struggling with the basics of communication,” he said.
Harmes said helping students in need find access to computers and internet when not in school would be an important step.
“(There's a) gap in technology learning between the haves and have-nots,” he said.
Stelter said engaging in dialogue with legislators about the value of standardized tests; ensuring students (including ELL) are being read to and have exposure to English; and continuing to partner with Gustavus Adolphus College and other community organizations to help teach kids are all ways to chip away at the achievement gap.
Carlson said collaboration is key among the district, city, county and private sector, as is pooling resources. He also agreed internet access for all students at home would be beneficial.
“Sometimes I take it for granted,” he said.
Despite the inherent problems that come along with standardized testing, all agreed that it is an important assessment tool for educators.
“There does need to be hard checks along the way,” Dixon said, adding that in some instances standards for math and science should be even more rigorous.
Harmes said the tests are a great “aggregate” for gauging how the district performs but shouldn't be used as the sole measure for teacher and student performance.
Stelter agreed and added that without standardized testing there wouldn't be a standard curriculum. He also added that there should be additional measures to consider other student strengths, such as arts, music, business and trades.