Fri10242014

Schools

Experts address state education reform at Mtn. View forum


Photo By: Bruce Barton/Town Crier
Photo Bruce Barton/Town Crier

Experts in education, from left, Terry Moe, Dean Vogel, Gloria Romero and Larry Sand addressed “How to Improve Education in California” at a Conservative Forum of Silicon Valley meeting in Mountain View last week.

Four experts on California education offered four distinctly different views on the subject at a March 5 meeting of the Conservative Forum of Silicon Valley in Mountain View.

Guest speakers Larry Sand, Gloria Romero, Terry Moe and Dean Vogel addressed “How to Improve Education in California.”

Sand, a retired teacher and founder of the California Teachers Empowerment Network, said parents should choose where their children go to school. Romero, state director of Democrats for Education Reform and a former Los Angeles-based state senator, favors more parental choice in determining how schools are run. Moe, a Stanford professor and Hoover Institution Senior Fellow, sees the future of education completely directed by technology. Vogel, current president of the California Teachers Association, would encourage more parental involvement, but within the confines of the current system.

Sand said the teacher tenure system currently in place makes it nearly impossible to fire bad teachers, enabling a dysfunctional system that prioritizes faculty employment over children’s education.

“This is no way to run a school system,” he said, noting that “throwing money” at education has not improved it. Sand said 90 percent of students attending city or community colleges are taking remedial courses because they failed to learn subjects adequately during high school.

In addition to holding teachers to performance-based reviews, Sand suggested that parents select their children’s schools like diners choose their preferred restaurants.

“Parents should not be forced to send students to the closest school,” he said.

Charter schools, not bound by nearly as many state regulations, have improved traditional public schools through competition, Sand added.

“If (charter schools) don’t do the job, they close – unlike public schools,” he said.

Romero saw firsthand how neglected schools in poor neighborhoods produced dropouts, many of whom became criminals now clogging the state’s prison system. She noted that 70 percent of the state’s inmates do not have high school diplomas.

“We spend more to incarcerate than to educate,” she said. “If we do not educate, we will incarcerate.”

Romero gained attention as a state senator when she introduced a “trigger law” that empowered parents with the right to have a say in restructuring a school if it fails to perform to a certain level, contending that the state is “lacking a sense of urgency” about reform.

“The Ed Code has too many obstacles and barriers,” she said. “The rules favor the adults.”

Romero drew applause when she suggested those opposed to reform “get the hell out of the way and give the power to the parents.”

Empty talk about improving state education has been going on for 30 years with little progress, according to Moe. But the current way of doing things, he said, will soon be replaced by the technological revolution.

“It’s going to revolutionize K-12,” he said. “This is the tsunami that is too big for anyone to stop.”

Software programs and computers provide an inexpensive and more effective way to teach children, according to Moe. Students can learn at their own pace, with personalized programs tailored to their needs.

“The computer doesn’t care whether you’re white or black or living in Detroit,” he said. “You can have the best (online education) of what’s available.”

The education paradigm, Moe said, is shifting from a teacher in front of a classroom to online classes available to anyone, anywhere. He pointed to 275,000 students currently learning in “virtual charter schools” all over the country.

Vogel said he was not speaking as a representative of a teacher’s union but for all classroom teachers.

“If you want kids to be successful, you have to have a quality teacher in front of them,” said Vogel, a kindergarten teacher from Vacaville. “Otherwise, you’re in trouble.”

He encouraged parent involvement and said dialogue between parents and teachers was vital to a child’s education.

Vogel suggested that improvements to the education system have been hampered by debates over direction and people placing blame on one another.

“We have spent time trying to discredit each other instead of working on the problem,” he said.

Addressing the contention by other panelists that increased funding has not improved education, Vogel pointed to state-mandated class-size limits of 20 students in K-3 that could not have been implemented without the necessary funding.

For more information, visit www.theconservativeforum.com.

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