Democrat Andrea Dalessandro is facing Republicans Frank Antenori and David Gowan in the race for two House seats in Legislative District 30. We asked her some questions about education.
Should the AIMS test remain a requirement for high-school graduation?
What’s happened with No Child Left Behind is the only people who are being helped out by it are the companies that generate the test. I think there should be other measures. The augmentation that they passed at the end of this session is a good thing. I have friends that are very smart and they have trouble with standardized tests. I, myself, am a good test taker, so I’ve never minded, but there are just some people that have anxiety–some have anxiety on a reading part, some have anxiety on a math portion. I was a math teacher, so I know what happens with that. I think it puts an undue stress on the teacher and the students. I’m also concerned that sometimes special-ed students and English language learners are forced to take the test, and it’s stupid. I think we need to look at a floor review of students and their achievements.
Do you favor any changes for the AIMS test?
Yes, I just would like to mention that assessment is an important part of education. But, to give one blank test for everyone, it doesn’t show the individual’s abilities. I think it should be part of the picture, but not the whole picture. I’ve read information about teachers not wanting to teach on the grades that the AIMS test has given, because it is a bad reflection on them. I think teachers should be evaluated on how students improve over the year.
Do you support state-funded vouchers for private or religious schools?
No, public funds should be used for public schools.
Does the state need to spend more on school construction?
Yes, I would like to see the schools spend more on energy conservation. There is no reason that every school in the state shouldn’t have solar, shouldn’t have cisterns. Because you are going to pay much more for utilities in the long run, it would be better if we invested. I would suggest that they use LEED standards: put so much insulation, orient the building appropriately, in the winter get the warmth and in the summer we take the cool.
Should school construction funds come from the general fund or would you prefer a new revenue source for school construction?
I don’t think that I care either way as long as the schools are built in a timely fashion. When a school district is in need of a school, it takes so long to get it.
Do you support borrowing money to pay for school construction?
Do you support merit pay for teachers?
Yes, if it’s based on the percentage of improvement that their students do. The reason why I say that is because if someone is in an affluent school district, naturally all their students will do better. A lot of the testing has to do with poverty, so if a teacher is teaching in an inner-city school and they have a lot of minority students, they need to be evaluated fairly – by the amount of growth. Also, I taught math and accounting for 25 years and it would have to be fairly distributed, without favoritism, without politics. That’s why I’m a little weary of it. I just wish all teachers could make more money.
How would you determine how merit pay was awarded?
One of the problems with the AIMS test is that the teachers need feedback on what specific problems a student has. But, by the time they get the results, it’s too late. I would like to see the AIMS test compartmentalized, so you can say, “You did OK in this, but you really need to work on this.” My point is, merit pay in some circumstances may work, but I’d need to know more about it.
Do you support sex-ed programs that include information on abstinence, contraception and HIV/STD prevention?