BY KELLY MARIE MANCUSO
Students got their chance to speak out on the controversial Common Core curriculum and other hot education topics during a special roundtable with state Senator Joseph Addabbo on Friday at Glendale‘s Excalibur Reading Program.
Addabbo spoke with the children at the roundtable and listened to their ideas and concerns. He also encouraged them to speak out about changes and improvements they would like to see in their schools.
“Whether you’re in first grade or going into high school, it’s important that we hear what we need in our schools,” he said. “I need to hear from the students because they’re the ones in the classroom.”
When asked what they wanted to be when they grow up, the children’s answers ranged from athlete and engineer to educator. The children got to ask Addabbo questions, such as what was his favorite color (“blue”) and favorite food (“pizza”), before the discussion shifted to a heated debate among the adults over the controversial Common Core curriculum.
Addabbo referred to Common Core testing as “questionable” and spoke out against the use of the test as a yardstick to measure a teacher’s performance and effectiveness.
“Having a test like the Common Core to evaluate our teachers is wrong and I voted ‘no’ on that part of the budget,” he said. “You don’t use a flawed test to evaluate a teacher. We should not oppress good teachers. We should reward them by giving them better resources.”
Local parent and Board of Education employee Maria Gregorio also weighed in on the issue. “We need to get out there and advocate,” she said. “I’m not there to sell the curriculum. I’m there to educate the children and help families. That’s why I applied for the Board of Education.”
As the father of two young daughters, Addabbo empathized with the plight of local parents. “I know the frustrations even I face as a parent,” he said.
Addabbo encouraged parents like Gregorio to get involved and advocate for change: “When you speak out for your child, you’re also speaking out for other parents.”
Excalibur mentor and tutor Christine Engesser spoke in favor of the goals behind Common Core, but also admitted that the curriculum is flawed in many ways.
“The thinking behind it is actually educationally sound,” she said. “They’re trying to get kids to examine a problem from different angles. Part of the problem for the adults involved is that they’re learning differently from the way we learned.”
One of Engesser’s critiques of the Common Core curriculum was that it did not account for disparities in age group and aptitude. “You have children with special learning needs with different learning styles and abilities and yet they have to take the same test,” she said.
Addabbo agreed. “These tests are not realistic,” he said. “We have made some changes, but we have a lot more work to do.”