Sarah Bilotti

Instructional Integrity, Fiscal Accountability

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Interview – Part 2 – School Reform

April 17th, 2009 · No Comments · Interview

School Reform
13.    There is much discussion of “education reform.”  What would you consider to be the important elements of education reform?

I believe that the most critical element of education reform is providing an effective and competitive curriculum to our students.  It is embarrassing that the United States scores so poorly in relation to the rest of the world’s pupils in comparative tests.  I believe that teachers need to rethink the structure of their classrooms, collaborate with one another and with students and parents, and utilize scientifically-based approaches to instruction.

14.    The terms “charter school” and “cyber school” are popular buzzwords in education.  In some ways charter schools and cyber schools can serve a purpose to provide for experimentation in education, but in other instances it is a euphemism for corporate or private take-over of schools for profit.  In either case, charter and cyber schools have diverted a large sum of money from public schools.  Would you oppose efforts that permit individuals or corporations to form for profit charter or cyber schools?

I do not feel that taxpayers should take on the burden of providing for a private school under the guise of it being a ‘charter’ or ‘cyber’ school.  I believe that students need to excel and be held to a high standard.  I believe that tax money as well as local students should go to accredited public institutions.  Spreading the money thinner by diverting it to charter or cyber schools is not the answer to improving our education system.

I understand that larger cities have been met with some limited success in their charter schools, especially those that are Middle States Accredited and that provide a niche curriculum designed to support particular student subgroups.  I do not know that Easton has the resources or student population to support such entities.

15.    Would you be willing to meet with our local association members, on a regular basis, to discuss issues of importance to children and education in our school district?

Yes, I am always willing to listen to stakeholders and I feel that Easton teachers hold the key to the district’s continued success.

16.    Do you support all day kindergarten and reduced class size (classes no larger than 18-20) in grades K-3?  If yes, what steps will you take to institute reduced class size within our school district?

I wholeheartedly support all-day kindergarten.  In today’s technology-based society I feel that it is imperative for our students to start school with a strong instructional foundation.  I also believe that there is a tremendous cost benefit as well as the obvious instructional benefit to full-day kindergarten in that it helps prepare students for the elementary grades and helps avoid remedial instruction in the future.

That said, I also support early intervention and early referral services to students age 3+.  These services show an undeniable success rate which not only helps individual students to succeed but also helps avoid more costly remediation further along in their schooling.

I would need data on class sizes at Easton before I could objectionably answer the second part of this question.  For example, I feel you need to consider multiple factors when determining class size such as student instructional level, additional available supports such as instructional aides or basic skills teachers who may be assigned to a classroom throughout the day, and inclusion of students with disabilities in the general education classroom.  If a teacher has an instructional aide, a special education teacher, and a basic skills teacher assigned to his/her classroom s/he could manage quite well even with a class size of 22, but a teacher in an inclusion class without additional support might have a difficult time managing just 16 students.

Things that I have done in the past to reduce the instructional burden on classroom teachers include the inclusion of instructional aides, a sharing of support services among classrooms for core subject instruction, inclusion of reading specialists or remedial instructors, implementation of differentiated instructional programs such as balanced literacy and activity-based approaches to math and science, etc.  In my experience, these types of strategies often yield a high benefit to student learning while maintaining efficiency.

17.    Would you support and take steps to lower the Certified School Nurse (CSN) to student ratio?  Current state law provides for one CSN for every 1500 students.  Additionally would you consider instituting ratios for guidance counselors?

Local boards of education may choose to go above and beyond current CSN ratios and I believe that Easton has done just that.  I would not support lowering Easton’s number of nurses to fall in line with that ratio as I feel it would negatively impact student safety.

I would look to national school guidance counselor associations for recommendations on the ratio of guidance counselors to students.  I am not sure that instituting ratios has benefitted students, especially in the case of the CSN ratios.  I firmly believe that you must have data in order to make informed decisions; therefore, I would also look at data from the nurses and guidance counselors themselves as well as from building administration showing statistics to determine EASD’s guidance and nursing needs.

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