School-reform skeptics book speakers

Author Angela Engel kicks off series in Douglas County

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A speaker series organized by two women concerned about Douglas County’s education reform movement launched June 18 with author Angela Engel. The series will bring public education proponents to Douglas County between now and the November school board election

Douglas County residents Stephanie Fuhr and Amy DeValk founded Voices for Public Education to bring national voices to the area’s ongoing education debate, Fuhr said. Taxpayers for Public Education, among the plaintiffs suing the Douglas County School District for its voucher program, are sponsoring Voices for Public Education.

Engel, a former Douglas County teacher, spoke at Highlands Ranch’s Westridge Recreation Center about her concerns for the future of public education. About 50 people, most of them Douglas County teachers, came to hear her speak.

In her book, “Seeds of Tomorrow: Solutions for Improving our Children’s Education,” Engel argues against high-stakes testing like the Transitional Colorado Assessment Program (TCAP) and for a child-centered approach to education.

She calls the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which links federal funding to standardized testing, a “corrupt and damaging policy.”

“We’re starting to recognize high-stakes testing is a huge mistake,” she said. “Standards are an adult construct. When we impose our ways of learning and knowing, we rob (children) of discovering their own way of learning and knowing.”

The act also requires states to provide highly qualified teachers to all students. That sets up teachers in poorer geographic areas to fail, as they try to hit high marks teaching students from disadvantaged socio-economic homes, Engel argues.

“They now are going to be slammed as under-performing teachers,” she said.

Engel believes the impetus for education reform stems from faulty research and an inaccurate perception that the American education system is failing.

Douglas County, she said, is “the test case” for education reform.

“It’s important that we not assign blame but we really become aware of who the players are,” she said. “This is a battle that needs to be fought. It’s for our children. It’s not a Republican/Democrat issue. We just keep re-inventing the wheel; only the wheel keeps getting worse, and more expensive.

“This reform movement is going to fail. It might take a long time. (But) there’s no evidence to support measuring learning improves education.”

Education activist Peggy Robertson, next in the series, will speak at 6:30 p.m. July 8 at Parker’s Creekside Recreation Center.

For information on upcoming speakers, visit: www.facebook.com/VoicesForPublicEducation.