Students hear testimony about schools

ALBANY – Students from across the 111th Assembly District met at the State Capitol on June 2 for Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara’s second meeting of his Student Cabinet, which included a hearing on teacher evaluations with testimony from education experts.

The students acted as state legislators at a legislative hearing, taking testimony and asking questions of education experts regarding the implementation of new teacher evaluation systems. After the hearing, the students worked in groups to propose their own broad guidelines for evaluating teachers based on what they heard in the hearing. The students then had the opportunity to present their findings during a subsequent hearing and took questions from their peers.

In addressing the issues of teacher evaluations, students touched on the role of testing, measures for student performance, factors for evaluating teachers, different grading for teachers and the role of evaluations.

Testimony was given by representatives from the New York State United Teachers, New York State Council of School Superintendents and Alliance for Quality Education. Students at this meeting of Santabarbara’s Student Cabinet came from school districts in Schenectady and Montgomery counties.

According to a news release, the Student Cabinet was assembled by Santabarbara to give students from the 111th Assembly District a voice in the critical issues affecting their education, including school funding, Common Core and testing. In their first meeting, students worked in groups to draft school budgets and then allocated state education aid based on those proposals.

“Being here helped open my eyes,” said Kait Isaac, a senior at Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville High School.

“Students have a lot to say about the issues affecting their education, and our Student Cabinet meeting provided a unique opportunity for them to weigh in on teacher evaluations, which directly impacts their classroom experience. I was encouraged by how students from across my Assembly district embraced the challenges of a legislative hearing and drafted interesting proposals that will provide insight from a student’s perspective on this critical issue,” Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, said in the news release.