Congresswoman Stefanik Visits Ballston Schools

BALLSTON SPA — Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY-21) attended several education-related meetings and events in the Ballston Spa Central School District Friday, Jan. 23.

Rep. Stefanik, the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, toured Malta’s Clean Technologies Early College High School, participated in a Superintendent Round Table, held a discussion with student council members and U.S. History students, read to kindergarteners and toured Gordon Creek Elementary School.

Rep. Elise Stefanik reads to kindergarten students at Gordon Creek Friday, Jan. 23.

Rep. Elise Stefanik reads to kindergarten students at Gordon Creek Friday, Jan. 23.

“The kids are really excited,” said Kent Baker, Principal of Gordon Creek Elementary School. “They understand what a treat it is to have her here.”

Rep. Stefanik read the classic book,“The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats, to around 80 kindergarten students from four classrooms at Gordon Creek and answered questions from the group  before touring the school — one of the newest in New York State.

“I loved reading to the students,” said Stefanik. “When I was growing up, reading was such an important part of my education.”

Stopping in various classrooms from first grade to fifth grade and even the special education classrooms, Stefanik got a first-hand look at how students in the district spend an average day.

Elise Stefanik met with students from Gordon Creek's four kindergarten classrooms.

Elise Stefanik met with students from Gordon Creek’s four kindergarten classrooms.

The district, which has continually emphasized its STEM initiatives, is home to a successful robotics team and even incorporates two humanoid robots into the classroom to help students with science, math, ELA and literacy — accomplishments Rep. Stefanik found impressive.

“As I toured the classrooms, the use of technology in the classrooms and the teachers support for utilizing 21st Century technology was really exciting,” said Stefanik. “We, as a country, need to focus more on the STEM fields and it was great to see Ballston Spa be able to promote their focus on STEM education. When I talk about having the skills to meet 21st Century jobs, STEM fields are the fastest growing fields. These are high paying jobs and they’re also regionally very important jobs in the broader Capital District, Saratoga County region. I was really impressed with the STEM focus.”

Maintaining high quality teachers that embrace “forward-leaning” education is something Stefanik, a member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, says is one of the topics the committee will discuss over the next two years. Another point of discussion will relate to ensuring the nation’s education system fits its economic needs.

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Congresswoman Stefanik spent Friday, Jan. 23 meeting with students and faculty in the Ballston Spa Central School District.

Congresswoman Stefanik spent Friday, Jan. 23 meeting with students and faculty in the Ballston Spa Central School District.

“I also think higher education will be a focus — making sure our higher education institutions, both two-year and four-year programs, are effective and cost-effective,” said Stefanik. “I think there’s a lot that’s going to be happening in the committee.”

Perhaps one of the committee’s more heated discussions will center around Common Core, a set of K-12 math and English language standards adopted by most states that has become increasingly controversial over the past year, and the implementation challenges related to the initiative.

As for that issue, Stefanik says she would like to see local school districts have more control over their curriculums.

“I believe in more localized control and flexibility in education policy and I think the ‘one size fits all’ approach and the over-testing of Common Core…we do have implementation challenges,” said Stefanik. “I do think we need standards as a country and as a state, but I think we need to figure out what the right balance is in terms of how we measure that accountability and how often we’re testing our kids because I’m really concerned about the over-testing.”

Stefanik wrapped up her day in Latham, where she spoke with the New York State United Teachers union.

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