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Progressive Education Circus Goes to Washington

June 28, 2011 | Filed Under Budget, Democrats/Leftists, Economy/Finances, Education, Ethics, Government, Larry Sand, Liberals, Public Employees Unions, Taxes, Teachers Unions, Unions, Washington D.C. | Comments Off

-By Larry Sand

The folks who have resisted real education reform will attempt to sell their broken ideas, tax-the-rich schemes and radical socialism in D.C. next month.

Sorry to be the bearer of unpleasant news, but the SOS (Save Our Schools) March on Washington — an attempt to con the public by diverting the debate away from real education reform issues like failing schools, irresponsible spending, retaining bad teachers, etc. – will be setting up their Big Top in Washington D.C. from July 28th to July 31st.

The annoying whiny voice in the SOS promotional video is probably an indication as to what the tone of the event will be. Its endorsers are the usual motley collection of progressive educators, socialist organizations and teachers unions that one would expect – Diane Ravitch, Jonathan Kozol, Students for a Democratic Society, the Freedom Socialist Party and the National Educational Association are just a few of the individuals and organizations lending their name to this circus. I will be reporting more on the event in the weeks to come.

Going through the event’s website, one sees the typical “progressive” reform ideas including pleas for “more money for education” and “smaller class sizes,” but one thing did jump out at me – the obsessive hatred of standardized testing. Many education reformers think that standardized testing is one way to tell if a child is learning his/her subject matter. However, the SOS crowd sees any use of standardized tests as evil. The progressive educators don’t like them because they think that teachers will only “teach to the test” and that children will be robbed of a “real education.” The teachers unions don’t like the tests because they know that teachers could be held accountable if children do poorly on them and teacher accountability is the last thing a teachers union will tolerate.

Unfortunately for the naysayers, standardized tests are now being used as part of a teacher’s evaluation in various school districts around the country. Even in Los Angeles, never in the vanguard of reform, an evaluation system including standardized test scores will be beta tested over the next couple of years.

For more on standardized tests – why we need them, why the teachers should be evaluated in part by them and why the results should be made public – please read my latest post in City Journal.
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Larry Sand began his teaching career in New York in 1971. Since 1984, he has taught elementary school as well as English, math, history and ESL in the Los Angeles Unified School District, where he also served as a Title 1 Coordinator. Retired in 2009, he is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues – information teachers will often not get from their school districts or unions.

CTEN was formed in 2006 because a wide range of information from the more global concerns of education policy, education leadership, and education reform, to information having a more personal application, such as professional liability insurance, options of relationships to teachers’ unions, and the effect of unionism on teacher pay, comes to teachers from entities that have a specific agenda. Sand’s comments and op-eds have appeared in City Journal, Associated Press, Newsweek, Townhall Magazine, Los Angeles Times, San Diego Union Tribune, Los Angeles Daily News, San Jose Mercury News, Orange County Register and other publications. He has appeared on numerous broadcast news programs in Southern California and nationally.

Sand has participated in panel discussions and events focusing on education reform efforts and the impact of teachers’ unions on public education. In March 2010, Sand participated in a debate hosted by the non-profit Intelligence Squared, an organization that regularly hosts Oxford-style debates, which was nationally broadcast on Bloomberg TV and NPR, as well as covered by Newsweek. Sand and his teammates – Terry Moe of the Hoover Institution and former U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige, opposed the proposition – Don’t Blame Teachers Unions For Our Failing Schools. The pro-union team included Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. In August 2010, he was on a panel at the Where’s the Outrage? Conference in San Francisco, where he spoke about how charter school operators can best deal with teachers’ unions. This past January he was on panels in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Mateo in support of National School Choice week.

Sand has also worked with other organizations to present accurate information about the relationship between teachers and their unions, most recently assisting in the production of a video for the Center for Union Facts in which a group of teachers speak truthfully about the teachers’ unions.

CTEN maintains an active and strong new media presence, reaching out to teachers and those interested in education reform across the USA, and around the world, with its popular Facebook page, whose members include teachers, writers, think tankers, and political activists. Since 2006, CTEN has experienced dramatic growth.

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