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Quis magistros ipsos docebit? .
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30 June, 2010
Supreme Court: Calif. university’s policy upheld, but school still barred from targeting Christian group
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5–4 Monday to uphold an unusual university policy that forces student groups to allow outsiders who disagree with their beliefs to become leaders and voting members. The court confined its opinion to the unique policy and did not address whether nondiscrimination policies in general, which are typical on public university campuses, may require this. The court concluded that public universities may override a religious student group’s right to determine its leadership only if it denies that right to all student groups.
Attorneys with the Christian Legal Society and Alliance Defense Fund represented a student chapter of CLS at California’s Hastings College of the Law in the lawsuit, Christian Legal Society v. Martinez. The suit was filed in 2004 after the law school refused to recognize the chapter because the group requires all of its officers and voting members to agree with its basic Christian beliefs.
“All college students, including religious students, should have the right to form groups around shared beliefs without being banished from campus,” said Kim Colby, senior counsel at the CLS Center for Law & Religious Freedom. “Today’s ruling, however, will have limited impact. We are not aware of any other public university that has the exact same policy as Hastings.”
“The conflict still exists. This decision doesn’t settle the core constitutional issue of whether nondiscrimination policies in general can force religious student groups to allow non-believers to lead their groups,” explained ADF Senior Legal Counsel Gregory S. Baylor. “Long-term, the decision puts other student groups across the country at risk, and we will continue to fight for their constitutional rights. The Hastings policy actually requires CLS to allow atheists to lead its Bible studies and the College Democrats to accept the election of Republican officers in order for the groups to be recognized on campus. We agree with Justice Alito in his dissent that the court should have rejected this as absurd.”
The law school’s acting dean went so far as to state in a PBS interview in April that a black student organization must admit white supremacists.
“We believe we will ultimately prevail in this case,” McConnell said. “The record will show that Hastings law school applied its policy in a discriminatory way--excluding CLS from campus but not other groups who limit leadership and voting membership in a similar way. The Supreme Court did not rule that public universities can apply different rules to religious groups than they apply to political, cultural, or other student groups.”
In his dissent, Justice Samuel Alito wrote, “Brushing aside inconvenient precedent, the Court arms public educational institutions with a handy weapon for suppressing the speech of unpopular groups…. I can only hope that this decision will turn out to be an aberration.”
Twenty-two friend-of-the-court briefs from a broad and diverse array of nearly 100 parties were filed with the Supreme Court in support of the CLS chapter, including a brief filed by 14 state attorneys general. Lead counsel Michael W. McConnell, director of the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, argued before the court on April 19 on behalf of the CLS chapter.
Lowering teacher wages and requirements to increase teaching
Teachers often complain that they are underpaid and/or overworked. It is the purpose of this article to explore this question and expose its myth. In fact, it is the conclusion of this article that teachers are overpaid and overly qualified. Furthermore, it is this articles’ presumption that lowered barriers of educational entry would not only decrease teaching salaries but would also increase teaching capability.
Currently, the average teacher maintains five years of education coupled with a semester of student-teacher training. In addition teachers must continue their training efforts (be it through college classes, workshops, lectures or book readings) in order to maintain their teacher licensure. Let us now imagine a replacement teacher with less required educational barriers of entry so that we may compare and contrast them to the existing teacher.
To form a successful teaching lesson (one that is characterized by student learning and information retainment) takes a compilation of experience, training and preparation time (of which experience is most significant followed by preparation and training). Of the following mentioned, our replacement teacher falls short in one category: training.
It may be contested by many that a degree in education also contributes toward experience. Yet, for those who have had the luxury of watching a newly inexperienced educator fresh out of his or her program for the first time in the classroom can attest, education degrees offer little in terms of experience.
Therefore, the differences between our replacement teacher and our current teacher are merely a matter of training. How much more of an impact does five years of education have on lesson plans? The answer of course depends on what values you place on experience, training and preparation time for lesson impact. If you operate under the notion that 60 percent of lesson planning comes by way of actual teaching experience, while training and preparation time is split between 40 percent, then there may not be much to gain by increasing another year of education.......
Finally, as it has been show above, public school teachers work 25% fewer hours less per week and commute, on average, 26 hours less per year than other comparable professionals. Furthermore, it has been presented above that teachers may in fact be overqualified given the nature of their work and the variables that shape learning (notably experience and preparation time). Given this, it is within all likelihood that individuals of lesser education may well work year-round for the same pay (thus increasing hours worked by 25%) or work the same hours for 25% less in salary. Furthermore, given that the supply of potential teachers would increase as barriers of entry decrease, it is also within all likelihood that increased competition would translate into increased learning via teacher productivity.
Alas, undoubtedly I will (again) receive some hate mail from my various readers who wish to tell me how they detest opinions like mine. They actually use these 1,500 words to paint a depiction of an evil individual who doesn’t care for his students, his coworkers or his subject. But, this is far from the case! I care for them more than I care for my paycheck and more than I care for your admiration or friendship.
Much more HERE (See the original for links, graphics etc.)
Credentialism reaches its absurd conclusion in Britain
An average of 45 students are now vying for every graduate position. So for 44 out of 45 applicants, their degree is useless in getting them where they want to go
Up to 270 students are competing for every graduate job amid a desperate scramble for the most sought-after positions, according to research. The number of applications has soared by 15 per cent compared with two years ago when the recession struck, it was disclosed.
Competition is being fuelled by record numbers of students leaving university this year combined with a substantial backlog of graduates left without decent jobs in the economic downturn.
According to figures, 270 students are competing for every graduate job in the consumer goods industry this year. Researchers said marketing posts in companies such as Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Mars and L’Oreal were among the “most sought after destinations” for students desperate to climb the careers ladder.
More than 100 students have applied for every job in the media this year and around 75 applications have been made to finance and investment banking positions.
Martin Birchall, managing director of High Fliers Research, which carried out the survey, said there was little evidence of a public backlash against the banking industry. Graduates starting jobs in the City [the financial district] were also much more likely to receive a bumper starting salary, it was disclosed, with basic pay rising by 10 per cent to £42,000. “If anyone was expecting moral outrage and shying away from the banks then it hasn’t happened,” said Mr Birchall. “People are still very, very keen on working in the City.”
In the latest study, researchers surveyed 16,000 final year students and analysed the recruitment patterns of 100 leading companies. In a sign of the economic recovery, figures show that companies are actually increasing the number of graduate vacancies available this year. The number of jobs is up by almost 18 per cent to 16,288 in 2010 following two years of decline during the recession.
But the report warned that the rise “simply restores recruitment to roughly where it was in 2006”.
According to figures, a shortage of graduate jobs over the last two years has fuelled demand for well-paid positions in 2010. Overall, the number of applicants has increased by seven per cent in the last 12 months, with demand soaring by 15 per cent compared with 2008.
An average of 45 students are now vying for every graduate position, rising six times higher for jobs in the consumer goods industry, it was revealed.
Mr Birchall said: “Many of these jobs are in marketing which is one of the most sought-after destinations for students. “They pay very well, the training has been developed, in some cases, over three decades and they are seen as one of the springboards to fast-track management within these organisations.”
The sheer demand for graduate jobs means the “vast majority” of companies have already closed off applications for this year, researchers said.
In a further disclosure, it emerged that salaries at Britain’s leading employers have “increased significantly” over the last six months. The average starting pay for graduates increased by £2,000 – or seven per cent – to £29,000. In investment banking, average starting salaries soared by 10 per cent to £42,000.
29 June, 2010
Ban on inflated grades in Texas
Students in Texas must get the grades they earn and not an inflated score on report cards under a new state law that bans minimum grade policies, a judge decided Monday in a ruling that backed arguments from state education officials.
Eleven school districts sued Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott over his interpretation of the law, which he said should apply to class assignments and report cards. The districts, most of them in the Houston area, said it should only apply to classroom assignments.
Some districts have long had policies that establish minimum grades of 50, 60 or even 70. That means if a student failed and earned a zero, his or her grade would be automatically brought up to the minimum score.
The schools contend that not allowing students a grade below 50, for example, gives them room to improve and eventually receive course credit, since one low score could bring down the overall average. Otherwise, they argue, failing students would be more inclined to drop out.
State district Judge Gisela Triana-Doyal ruled that the law, which took effect last year, applied to both assignments and overall grades on report cards.
"She said we were interpreting the law correctly," Texas Education Agency spokeswoman Debbie Graves Ratcliffe said. "We've always said the legislative intent was clear, this law was supposed to apply to all grades, including report card grades. The judge today agreed with that."
The lawsuit argued that minimum grade policies help improving students. For example, if a student were to earn a 30, but then 74, 74, 73, 75 and 74 on report cards throughout the year, the only way the student would pass is if the 30 was increased to a 50.
"You do have situations where the student makes a really low grade and decides to turn things around and work hard," Mesquite Schools Superintendent Linda Henrie told the Dallas Morning News before the ruling. "If that average is too low, it's an impossible situation."
Henrie said districts would prefer to be able to set their own policies.
Tough Texas school Superintendent
Houston's new school Superintendent Terry Grier didn't flinch as 750 teachers packed a meeting in February to protest a policy that puts their jobs at risk if student test scores don't rise enough. The teachers booed as more than two dozen parents and business leaders voiced support for the hard-line approach. In the world of public education, job security traditionally is a given.
At the time, Grier had been leading HISD for six months, and while the school board drove the policy, he said he backed it "110 percent." Grier became the hero or the villain, depending on who's telling the story. "I didn't hear me getting booed," Grier joked with reporters after the board vote. "In my job, you get as old as I am … you do what's right for children. I don't expect everyone to agree with what I do or what the board advocates."
To Grier's supporters, his thick skin, independence and kids-come-first mantra are proving a successful recipe for shaking up the status quo in Texas' largest district.
But his rapid rollout of reforms in his first school year — including ousting staff, shutting down the regional offices, removing razor-wire fencing around campuses and ordering schools to serve students breakfast at their classroom desks - has cut short the happy honeymoon with teachers, principals and parents skeptical of hasty decisions.
"Terry's first 10 months have shown him to be all about children and results," said HISD board member Paula Harris. "Through this process, he's definitely ruffled the feathers of adults. "I have told Terry and other people have told him that we're nice here in the south," she said. "We say things nice. And I don't think that's a skill he has or he cares to have."
Grier, while more charismatic than his predecessor, Abelardo Saavedra, speaks bluntly about the problems he sees in the district. While most HISD schools aren't failing under Texas' rating system, Grier, a North Carolina native, has focused instead on the national Stanford test and on the dismal college graduation rates among HISD students. Grier, like his teachers, ultimately will be judged on whether his ideas improve those statistics.
"How do you celebrate when 70,000 kids (out of 200,000) cannot read on grade level?'" Grier said. "How do you sugarcoat that?"
Such frank talk appeals to the business community. "He isn't trying to succeed by setting the bar low," said Larry Kellner, the vice chairman of the Greater Houston Partnership and former chief executive of Continental Airlines.
But Grier's decision to close the powerful regional offices and his "Apollo 20" school improvement plan - which forced 160 teachers and principals out of their jobs - have shaken morale.
Principals generally keep quiet during their monthly meetings with the superintendent, though some have begun speaking out, which Grier says he encourages.
State Sen. Mario Gallegos, a Democrat who has blasted the new superintendent since day one, said Grier rules with "Gestapo tactics."
"Principals are scared," Furr High School Principal Bertie Simmons said, before adding that the fear isn't all bad for the district. "We've been complacent for a long time, and I think a little tension causes people to really be more productive."
Grier, the first outsider to run HISD in 15 years, has brought in consultants and auditors, costing more than $386,000, to help with facilities, communications, special education, literacy curriculum and grant writing for magnet programs.
The 60-year-old Grier has stumbled some in assembling his new leadership team - with his new chief of high schools abruptly resigning this month - and the district has lost five principals to the popular charter school network KIPP, which Grier himself has praised. "You always hate to lose good principals," Grier said, "but some of the principals that left for KIPP had a track record of being successful principals and some did not."
Mary Nesbitt, the vice president of Parents for Public Schools, criticizes Grier's strategy as "fire, aim, ready." As examples, she says, the district is seeking a grant to fund new magnet programs without first evaluating its current ones. Grier also announced he wanted to sever ties with Community Education Partners but then backed down after the for-profit discipline program received a good external evaluation and had majority board support.
"For many parents the jury is still out, but we are increasingly cautious and concerned that changes are happening for change sake," Nesbitt said.
Caronetta Jones, a member of the Superintendent's Parent Advisory Committee, said she was frustrated after Grier missed two meetings but appreciated that he ordered his staff to prevent future scheduling conflicts. "He is very personable, and I like that," said Jones, the president of HISD's Council of PTAs.
Course, college credits
Perhaps Grier's biggest triumph, or at least the easiest to measure, is his first effort to improve the graduation rate. His $4 million initiative to hire graduation coaches and to put mobile computer labs in most high schools - a feat his staff accomplished in only three months - has helped nearly 700 seniors recover 944 course credits.
In addition, HISD officials estimate that students took as many as 5,000 more Advanced Placement exams under Grier's push to pay for all those enrolled in the classes to sit for the test, which can count for college credit.
State Rep. Harold Dutton, upset over Grier's investigation of former Key Middle School Principal Mable Caleb, a popular leader in northeast Houston, said HISD needs leaders who are more in touch with local communities. He is considering reintroducing a bill that would split HISD into four subdistricts with their own superintendents.
Dutton did, however, offer a hint of praise for Grier, noting that he has been more open than Saavedra to communicating. "Dr. Grier at least gave me his cell phone number," he said.
As Britain swelters in the soaring heat, school head bans sun cream for children saying 'hats are enough'
What's gone wrong in the head of this petty dictator?
A school has banned young children from applying sun cream during the heat wave, angering parents and health experts. The policy risks putting children's health at risk, according to cancer experts and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health.
The primary school has told parents it is sufficient to apply sun cream before their children go to school. It says that it has also provided shady areas in the school grounds and is advising children to wear sun hats.
One of the parents at the school in Wales is considering taking legal action to ensure her daughters can take sun cream to school. Claire Quince's daughters Bronte, seven, and Erin, five, are fair-skinned and have a skin condition which means they are particularly sensitive to the sun. The mother of three, 39, a fashion design student, has lived in Australia where she says the effects of sun exposure are taken very seriously.
'We had a letter from the acting head saying sun cream will not be applied by teachers and will not be allowed in school,' she said. 'My daughters are able to put it on themselves and have been brought up to put it on. I want the maximum protection for them.
'The school is putting children at risk. I've rung four other schools in the area and they all allow children to bring suncream in, or compromise on the application process.'
The school involved, Ysgol Bro Sannan in Aberbargoed, in South Wales, has refused to comment on the matter. Mrs Quince's stance was supported by Julie Barratt, director of the CIEH in Wales, who said: 'There is a concern about teachers not being willing to touch children because of being accused on inappropriate behaviour. But the point is that children can apply the cream themselves and the teachers can supervise.
'There is plenty of evidence that a severe episode of sunburn in childhood means you are more likely to see skin cancer as an adult. 'It is no good suggesting children stay in the shade. We are supposed to be encouraging them to run about and take exercise.' She added: 'The effectiveness of suncream starts to diminish after two hours. Consequently, it is just not good enough to tell a parent to put it on before they go to school.'
Caroline Cerny of Cancer Research UK said: 'Our recommendation to schools is to allow children to bring in their own suncream and supervise its application. But we recognise that this can be difficult.'
A spokesman for the local authority Caerphilly Council said: 'Guidance has been provided [to schools] on sun protection. In this particular case the school has provided shaded areas, purchased suncare hats for all pupils and advised parents to apply a high-factor suncream before children attend school.' The council said the school is reconsidering its policy.
The controversy came as weathermen said the heat wave could continue for another week. Weather forecaster Gareth Harvey said temperatures would drop slightly compared to yesterday, with rain predicted for tonight. He said: 'It looks as though it's going to stay very warm into next week, especially across the south-eastern quarter of the UK.
The warning came as much of Britain was on course for another hot week. Yesterday saw temperatures rise to 82.6f (28.1c) at Heathrow - down on the weekend's peak of 87.6f (30.9c) at Gravesend, Kent. It was so hot yesterday that some roads began to melt.
However, the wall-to-wall sunshine of the last couple of days is expected to be replaced with occasional light showers and cloud elsewhere in the UK.
28 June, 2010
Loss of a common standard affects education and the republic
America was founded as a nation of different peoples held together by the idea of Democracy and the primacy of the Common Good.
In an age when Congress itself is paralyzed by partisan interests, let us celebrate the Fourth of July by revisiting the democratic ideals on which the country was founded. And let’s remember that our Founding Fathers believed that the only force that would maintain their intrinsically precarious democracy was education — common knowledge and skills taught in Common Schools.
Toward the beginning of his latest book, “The Making of Americans: Democracy and Our Schools,” E.D. Hirsch Jr. recounts the famous story of Benjamin Franklin leaving the Constitutional Convention of 1787. A woman asked, “Well, Doctor, what have we got?” Franklin replied, “A Republic, Madam, if you can keep it.”
Even in the 18th century, immigrants poured into our then-new nation, so the Founders’ challenge was to design and teach a practical, community-first faith that could encompass all of what Hirsch calls the “tribes,” separated by religion, language, cultural habits or nations of origin. Tribes are naturally self-interested. So to prevent any one set of partisan interests from becoming powerful enough to dictate to others, democracy needed, says Hirsch, “a special new brand of citizens who, unlike the citizens of Rome and other failed republics, would subordinate their local interests to the common good.”
The Founders were not concerned that students become technically proficient or job-ready. Common knowledge and skills would include spelling, reading, writing, arithmetic and American history — knowledge and skills that would fit them for their public life as a future citizen.
A half-century later, in a speech titled “The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions,” Abraham Lincoln expressed the idea this way:
“Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books and in Almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.”
Democracy’s common laws were to be a secular religion, able to hold together the disparate religions, among other human differences.
In the 1880s, the newly composed Pledge of Allegiance to the flag replaced chapel as the morning ritual in public schools.
Hirsch, also the author of the bestseller “Cultural Literacy,” notes that at the beginning of the 20th century, American education began to lose its way. A needless, destructive split separated the common curriculum from a “child-centered” education that nourished a love of learning. These are not mutually exclusive at all. Modern technology and techniques can make any learning exciting, including the history and skills our forefathers hoped would teach children an allegiance to their larger community. But over the 20th century, specific content slipped slowly from the curriculum, leaving little common knowledge.
Back in the 1950s, baby boomers (like me) learned the happy story of the Thanksgiving feast shared by the Pilgrims and the Indians. Good teachers beefed up the lesson with interesting details, timelines and pictures to guide us to the historical period, the religious reasons the Pilgrims made the dangerous journey, and the place on the map where they landed (far away from my hometown). The story only became nuanced later in our schooling.
Hirsch observes that in the 1980s, people began to draw away from our commonality and into constituencies — gender, race, religious and national origins. While culturally important, Hirsch calls the era of ROOTS the “neo-tribalism,” that eventually grew into the shrill partisanship now dominating modern public discourse. Cynicism grew like mold around the pie-in-the-sky ideal of the common good.
Ideologues became offended by the Thanksgiving story, because it omitted the admittedly serious downside to the Native Americans of the coming of the white man. Educators became fearful of offending any group. But no parent wanted their small child subjected to an Indian-oppression story at holiday time. So Thanksgiving morphed into a generic food event with no historical content at all.
The simple Thanksgiving story isn’t a lie; it just isn’t the whole story, as we know history unfolded. But it is a foundational myth, as Hirsch says, “to achieve commonality of language and knowledge and a shared loyalty to the public good.”
By scrubbing the curriculum of anything that does not meet political correctness, we fail to teach our children about the democratic faith. And by doing so, we invite them to take our freedom and heritage for granted. American children need to understand that cultivating the common good allows each of us to thrive as a unique, even eccentric individual.
Hirsch says, “Students need to leave school with a good understanding of the civic principles under which the United States operates and with an emotional commitment to making this political experiment continue to work.”
By all means, help the students become job-ready. But let it be secondary. Schools and public officials, like labor and management, would do well to model and teach the mutual benefits of holding the entire community’s common welfare as the primary value.
It’s the American way, or should be.
History and geography 'diminishing' in British schools, says head
Subjects such as English, history and geography are being marginalised as schools ditch academic rigour in favour of “accessibility”, according to a leading headmistress. Key swathes of the traditional curriculum are being lost in state schools to make lessons more appealing to bored pupils, it is claimed.
Bernice McCabe, head of fee-paying North London Collegiate School, says subject content has been stripped from history classes and geography has been transformed into a “vehicle” for pursuing a political agenda, increasingly focusing on issues such as citizenship, sustainability and climate change.
The comments will be made in a speech today to the Prince’s Teaching Institute, a charity established by the Prince of Wales to help teachers rediscover their passion for subjects.
Mrs McCabe, the charity’s director, has been critical of reforms to the education system in recent years, claiming that schools have been forced to focus on social issues such as obesity, drug abuse, teenage pregnancy and bullying at the expense of proper subject teaching.
Addressing teachers at the charity’s summer school in Cambridge, she will say that the trend has led to a decline in the number of children studying vital subjects as schools struggle to "reconcile academic rigour with accessibility".
“English literature, history and geography are of fundamental importance and should be at the centre of every child’s educational experience, as the means whereby they acquire a fuller understanding of themselves and of their place in the world,” she says.
“My greatest worry, which I am sure many of you share, is that a diminishing number of children in our schools are now getting the benefit of studying them in any depth.”
She says that more than a quarter of teenagers now fail to study English literature at GCSE “and the number is rising”. Compulsory history and geography syllabuses are often “compressed” into the first two years of secondary school, she says, and “no more than a third of the cohort carry on with either subject to GCSE”.
The charity’s summer school – an annual conference promoting high standards of secondary teaching – will focus on the three subject areas this year.
Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, is due to address the event on Tuesday. The Coalition has already pledged to review the National Curriculum to set out the subject content children will be expected to master at each key stage of education.
Speaking earlier this year, Mr Gove said that most parents supported a “traditional education” in which children learned the “kings and queens of England, the great works of literature, proper mental arithmetic, algebra by the age of 11 [and] modern foreign languages”.
Mrs McCabe will use her speech today to say that history “has suffered more than most from attempts to make it more relevant and less boring”.
She adds: “Geography has no difficulty in establishing its credentials of relevance to the modern world and its challenges, since that is its field. “The educational problem is that it has been increasingly treated just as a vehicle for pursuing different agenda – citizenship, sustainability, and climate change for instance – rather than as an academic discipline in its own right.”
British Education standards are a 'disgrace', claims BT boss
A BT boss has condemned education standards as a 'disgrace' after receiving thousands of applications from 'illiterate' school-leavers. Sir Michael Rake, chairman of the telecoms giant, said the firm had received 26,000 applications for 170 places on its apprenticeship scheme starting this autumn.
But 6,000 - nearly a quarter - were not even worthy of consideration. 'They were unable to complete the form because they could not spell, put it together or read properly - completely illiterate,' said Sir Michael. 'It's a disgrace. The politicians have a huge amount to answer for over the past 50 to 60 years.'
Sir Michael, who is also chairman of easyJet, was speaking ahead of a 'festival of education' being staged at Wellington College next weekend. He was educated there and is on the public school's board of governors. 'We have some of the best schools in the world and some of the worst,' he said. 'Those basic skills are still a massive problem.'
He is the latest in a string of industry bosses to lament British education in recent months. Sir Terry Leahy, Tesco's chief executive, said standards were 'still woefully low in to many schools' and that companies were 'often left to pick up the pieces'.
Lucy Neville-Rolfe, Tesco's director of corporate and legal affairs and one of the most powerful women in British business, condemned a lack of discipline at school as she complained that growing numbers of British school-leavers have 'attitude problems' and believe the world 'owes them a living'.
Meanwhile Sir Stuart Rose, the Marks and Spencer boss, said too many school-leavers 'cannot to reading..cannot do arithmetic ..cannot do writing'.
In the latest intervention, Sir Michael, in an interview with the Sunday Times, attacked an 'obsession' with pushing more school-leavers to university. 'If you look at Scotland, it has the highest graduation rate [in the UK], but lower productivity than northeast England,' he said.
'There is a very interesting question about whether university degrees turn into productivity. 'Too many people are going into the wrong courses....many universities are just desperate to fill places and get their grants.'
Sir Mike said school-leavers were increasingly choosing apprenticeships over university. 'A lot of their friends are finding themselves coming out of university or college with a degree that may not be very useful from a practical point of view, with a big debt and no job,' he said. 'The realisation that an apprenticeship could be a better option than university for many people reminded us starkly of this huge literacy problem. 'We have people who want them but don't have the basic skills to do them. It's really disturbing.'
27 June, 2010
Secular Israeli court attacks freedom of religion in the name of anti-discrimination
Persecutes strictly Orthodox Jews of European origin over separate religious schooling for their children
What could the High Court have been hoping to achieve by ordering 43 parents from Emmanuel jailed for contempt of court for sending their children to a hassidic school in Bnei Brak, after it had banned a separate hassidic track within the Beit Ya’acov school in Emmanuel?
All the court succeeded in doing was unifying the diverse haredi community by striking directly at the very heart of haredi life – the right of parents to transmit the Torah to the children, according to their convictions. Even a neighbor who regularly stops me to air his criticisms of the haredi leadership was gung-ho for last week’s Jerusalem protest rally.
The prayer gathering on Thursday drew a crowd estimated at 100,000 or more, and was the antithesis of a series of demonstrations involving a few hundred demonstrators, primarily drawn from Mea She’arim, over the past year. The broader haredi community looked on the latter with horror when they turned violent. Last week’s gathering, called by a broad cross-section of rabbinical authorities, was, by contrast, completely peaceful.
BESIDES UNIFYING the diverse haredi community, a second unintended consequence of the court’s sentencing of the parents to jail was to reinforce the most conservative elements in the haredi community. A community that feels besieged will draw the wagons tighter. At a time when many in the haredi community seek greater economic integration into the broader society, the court unwittingly gave credence to those who suspect the government of seeking to destroy haredi society, and dealt a setback to those who do not believe that relations between haredim and non-haredim are a zero-sum game.
The court foolishly chose to enter a power struggle it could not win. For haredim raised on stories of Jews throughout history who gave up their lives rather than betray their beliefs, the relatively minor “martyrdom” of two weeks in jail is little deterrent. By sentencing mothers and fathers of large families to jail, Justice Edmond Levy cast himself in the role of Antiochus trying to force each of Hannah’s seven sons to bow down to him.
Sunday’s report that he asked the attorney-general to launch a criminal investigation of haredi MKs for their criticism of the court demonstrates the degree to which he has been maddened by the desire to prevail, no matter how Pyrrhic the victory.
The court’s contempt order was not only strategically counterproductive, but legally dubious. Contempt orders normally apply only to the parties to a case. The parents were not parties to the original suit against the Education Ministry and Hinuch Atzma’i. Nor did the court’s original order direct them to do anything.
So what did the court gain from its efforts? In less than two weeks, the school year ends and the parents will be freed. And the court has already indicated that next year the Slonimer Hassidim will be allowed to establish their own fully independent school in Emmanuel or bus their children to Bnei Brak. Ironically, the ones most hurt by the court’s order are the Sephardi girls currently enrolled in the hassidic track. If no hassidic school is established next year in Emmanuel, they may be forced to return to the general Beit Ya’acov school, where a number of them have complained of being bullied for acting “too Ashkenazi” – i.e. too observant.
FROM THE BEGINNING, the dispute over the two tracks in the Emmanuel Beit Ya’acov – hassidic and general – has been falsely portrayed as a case of blatant ethnic discrimination.
It would not be surprising if there were few Sephardi girls in the hassidic track – there were, after all, few Sephardim in the areas of Eastern Europe from which Slonimer Hassidim hail – but, in fact, over a quarter of the girls in the hassidic track are of Sephardi origin.
Advocate Mordechai Bas, who was appointed by the Education Ministry to evaluate the school, found that while the split of the school was administratively improper, “it was not done with the intention of discriminating against students because of their ethnic background.”
“No parent who wanted or wants to register their daughters in the new school, and who was or is prepared to meet the conditions for doing so, has been refused,” Bas determined.
One might think that the religious restrictions in the hassidic track are too strict. (My daughter, for instance, would not have been accepted.) In the Internet age, however, when one student exposed to pornographic material can affect an entire class, the trend in all haredi schools has been toward greater protections.
And one might support a more inclusive approach, such as that of the Klausenberger Hassidim in Netanya, whose school system includes a very large percentage of Sephardi girls from the orphanage founded by the late Klausenberger Rebbe. But there are dozens of government-supported hassidic girls’ schools in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak made up primarily of students drawn from one hassidic court or another. (Ironically, when other hassidic groups broke away from the general Jerusalem Beit Ya’acov system in 1989, Slonimer Hassidim remained behind with the “Lithuanians” and Sephardim.)
The court has explicitly recognized the right of Beit Ya’acov schools to determine criteria of religious conduct. The only thing different in Emmanuel is that the hassidic track shared the same building with the general track.
The High Court did not question the finding that no parent seeking admission to the hassidic track had been turned away. Rather, Justice Levy summarily concluded that the underrepresentation of Sephardim in the hassidic track demonstrates ipso facto discriminatory intent. By that standard, the High Court is the most discriminatory institution in the country.
Levy is the only one of the 14 permanent members of the current court of Sephardi origin, a consistent pattern since 1948. Former court president Aharon Barak once told a group of journalists that it would be impossible to increase Sephardi representation on the court without diluting its quality. Yet that remark was largely covered up by the media.
AFTER THE court, the most overwhelmingly Ashkenazi institution in the country is broadcast journalism. Yet the media have been quick to hurl the racism label at Slonimer Hassidim. I listened to radio interviews in which the interviewer simply ignored hassidic parents when they cited the significant number of Sephardim in the hassidic track, and returned, without pause, to badgering them about why they discriminated against Sephardim.
The AP report of last week’s demonstrations reflected the Israeli media in willfully ignoring the undisputed fact that no Sephardi parent had been discriminated against: “Parents of European, or Ashkenazi, descent at a girls’ school in the West Bank settlement of Emmanuel don’t want their daughters to study with schoolgirls of Mideast and North African descent, known as Sephardim.”
Last Friday’s front-page headline in The Jerusalem Post described the hassidic track in Emmanuel as a “segregated” school – a characterization about as accurate as the frequent characterization of Israel as an “apartheid state.”
Indeed there are numerous parallels between the recent media treatment of haredim and the world media’s treatment of Israel – something perhaps worth pondering.
Is the haredi community free of all taint of ethnic prejudice? Of course not. There are yeshivot, for instance, where a Sephardi applicant from an impeccable haredi home will need to be better than his Ashkenazi counterpart to be accepted – a point noted critically by numerous haredi commentators last week.
But Emmanuel was not a reflection of that prejudice. And unless one believes, as some do, that it does not matter that Muhammad al-Dura was not shot by Israeli bullets because other Palestinian children may have been, it is an injustice to report the dispute in Emmanuel that way.
Wealthier CA cities ready to pay more to preserve school standards
To help protect their schools from California's unrelenting budget crisis, some communities are voting to pay more property taxes to preserve teacher jobs, smaller class sizes and electives such as art and music.
So far this year, more than 20 districts have held elections for school parcel taxes, which are levied on individual parcels of property, and at least 16 have approved them. More districts are trying to place such measures on the ballot later this year.
But the tax measures, which require a two-thirds majority to pass, are mostly winning approval in smaller, wealthier districts, according to education experts, raising worries about growing inequality between schools in rich and poor communities.
"It's a story of widening disparity," said John Rogers, who heads the UCLA Institute for Democracy, Education and Access. "Across the state, the pain is felt everywhere, but because of the unequal distribution of wealth, some areas are able to respond."
Some California lawmakers and education advocates are pushing legislation that would lower the percentage of the vote needed to pass a school parcel tax to 55 percent.
The two-thirds threshold was just out of reach for Alameda, a San Francisco Bay area city that failed to pass a school parcel tax Tuesday even though nearly 66 percent of voters approved it.
Hundreds of volunteers staffed phone banks and knocked on doors to campaign for Measure E, which would have given the city some of California's highest school taxes, with homeowners paying $659 annually. But it was fiercely opposed by commercial property owners who would pay up to $9,500 per parcel each year.
"Measure E won. It just didn't pass," said John Knox White, a parent with two children in Alameda schools. "Where else do we say that one-third of voters should have veto power over a huge majority? That's not representative democracy."
Now the 9,500-student school district is moving ahead with a plan to increase class sizes, cut adult education, eliminate its gifted student program, shorten the school year and lay off dozens of teachers and guidance counselors. Several neighborhood schools could be closed next year.
"The kind of impact it's going to have on students and incoming students is going to be immense," said Maya Robles-Wong, an incoming senior at Alameda High School. "I'm more worried for my sister and future generations of Alameda High School students."
Robles-Wong and Alameda Unified School District are among the plaintiffs in a high-profile lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of California's school finance system. They allege the system leads to unequal learning opportunities and doesn't provide enough money for students to meet the state's rigorous academic standards.
Education advocates, meanwhile, are urging Congress to provide another round of emergency money for schools, warning that up to 300,000 teachers could lose their jobs as federal stimulus funds dry up.
"I'm desperately worried about the loss of teacher jobs as we go into the fall," U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told teachers at a meeting in Marin County Friday. "We have to take action now."
By voting to raise local property taxes at the district level, some locales are reversing a 30-year-old trend in which states took the more prominent role in education funding, said Kim Rueben, an economist with the Urban Center's Tax Policy Center. But Rueben also noted the resulting disparity: "Some places will be more able to pass these taxes than others."
Between 2001 and June 2009, 83 of California's 980 school districts approved parcel taxes, but most of those districts have less than 10,000 students and serve fewer low-income children than the average district, according to Edsource, an education research group.
The wealthy Bay Area suburb of Piedmont, which has some of California's top public schools, has passed parcel taxes seven times in the past 25 years, including two last year. Homeowners in the 2,550-student district pay more than $2,000 in school parcel taxes each year.
By contrast, Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation's second largest with nearly 700,000 students, failed to pass a modest $100 per parcel tax in June. The district is laying off thousands of teachers and other school employees as it grapples with a massive budget deficit.
Jack O'Connell, California's superintendent of public instruction, wants to reduce the threshold to pass school parcel taxes from 66.7 percent to 55 percent, which would allow more communities to secure extra money for schools and reduce inequality among districts.
"We should provide the mechanism for districts to have a legitimate shot" at passing school parcel taxes, O'Connell said. "Think about how many school districts don't even try to pass a parcel tax because they don't think they can get the two-thirds vote."
But taxpayer advocates say there should be a high bar to raise property taxes, especially at a time when many homeowners are struggling financially.
"The two-thirds threshold forces the proponents of the tax make a good argument about why the tax is needed," said David Kline, a spokesman for the California Taxpayers Association. "It gives more protection to the homeowners who will ultimately be paying a higher property tax for many years to come."
An independent school makes an attempt to revive history teaching in Britain
If it were not so poignant, it would be hilarious. Ignorance of British history among British schoolchildren has now reached the point that, in a recent survey of young people, one in six thought Oliver Cromwell had led England to victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. Nelson’s column might as well not have been erected. History doesn’t relate who those surveyed thought had won the Civil War. Henry the Fifth? Gladstone? W G Grace?
Great tranches of British history are ignored in schools, squeezed out of the curriculum by the events of the 20th century. When my daughters were doing history for GCSE, they knew more about the Nazis than the Nazis did. But ask them about earlier British history and they struggled.
David Cameron, in a fine phrase, has railed against the “tapas” approach to the teaching of history: bite-sized chunks, largely unrelated to each other. The Government will have its work cut out if it is to reverse an alarming trend. The percentage of pupils opting to take a history GCSE fell from 35 per cent to 31 per cent during the Labour years. Something meatier than tapas is needed. But what?
At one leading independent school, Brighton College, they think they have found the answer. In September 2009, the school introduced a non-examined Story of Our Land course for pupils in years 7 and 8, before the GCSE syllabus kicks in. More than three hours of teaching a week are devoted to the new course, which is an ambitious synthesis of history, geography and religion, tracing the development of the British Isles from the pre-Christian era to the present day.
"For too long, the teaching of history in schools was coloured by anti-imperialist thinking, embarrassment about battles England had won or countries it had colonised," explains Simon Smith, Second Master at the school. "The syllabus became too compartmentalised as a result. Pupils lost sight of the bigger picture. Teach children about the Anglo-Saxons, say, and they are fascinated. But how many of them are taught that far back?"
For Smith, it makes sense to teach history sequentially, rather than dipping into it at random, because young minds cope best with a simple narrative structure. "When I was at school, we were taught the Kings and Queens of England by rote. Willie Willie Harry Stee, Harry Dick John Harry Three, et cetera. That was useful, but limiting. We got the scaffolding, but not the cladding. I hope our new course does more to put historical events in their proper context."
Among 11 and 12 year-olds, the course has been a hit, particularly the classes dealing with early British history. Long before pupils get to the Battle of Hastings, they have learnt about prehistoric Britain, the emergence of the Celtic races, the Roman invasion and the coming of Christianity. "The kids cannot seem to get enough of Caractacus, St Alban, and Kings Alfred, Guthrum and Cnut," says deputy headmistress Jo-Anne Riley, who has been responsible for structuring the Story of Our Land course. "I have also been able to push forward the idea of strong medieval women like Matilda and Eleanor of Aquitaine alongside Thomas Becket."
Where old-style history teaching placed too much emphasis on facts – which monarch followed which, the dates of major battles – the Brighton College course attempts a more holistic approach. Thus the geographical shaping of Britain – how towns and villages were settled and the impact of agriculture on the land – is studied alongside the changing nature of faith, with paganism being overtaken by Christianity which, in turn, has been overtaken by the religious pluralism of the 21st century.
As the different pieces of the jigsaw begin to fall into place, pupils will be able to see that our modern democracy does not date from the 1832 Great Reform Act, but has roots stretching back hundreds of years.
The course is so ambitious in scope that, inevitably, there is a danger that less bright pupils will struggle to assimilate so much material. But better, surely, to be too ambitious than not ambitious enough. Brighton College has thrown down the gauntlet to other schools, who despair of turning out children with more than the most sketchy knowledge of British history.
"Once children see the big picture, they are able to make connections between the world they see around them and historical patterns that have repeated themselves over time," Smith says.
He believes that the course will help children to be proud of their country. "We are a mongrel race. We were invaded many times. We imported far more from others, in terms of religion and culture, than we ever exported. And it is those rich multicultural roots that make this country so special." [That's a bit absurd but it's good spin in an era of political correctness]
26 June, 2010
Mass. school district under fire for condom policy
A new policy in a Massachusetts public school district that makes condoms available to all students, even those in elementary school, is drawing criticism from some who say it goes too far.
Provincetown School Board Chairman Peter Grosso says because there is no set age when sexual activity starts, the committee decided not to set an age for condom availability.
Under the policy, any student requesting a condom from a school nurse must first receive counseling, which includes information on abstinence. The policy does not require the school to contact parents.
The policy was approved by Provincetown's school committee June 10. It takes effect in the fall.
Kris Mineau, president of the conservative Massachusetts Family Institute, calls the idea absurd.
31 states seek standardized academic exam
This is reasonable as long as the curriculum is sound -- unlikely
Thirty-one states have banded together to compete for a federal grant to create a series of new national academic tests to replace the current patchwork system.
Currently, every state gives a different test to its students. In some states, including Massachusetts, passing the exam is a graduation requirement.
The federal government has said it will award up to two grants of up to $160 million to create a testing system based on proposed new national academic standards in reading and math.
Washington state is submitting the application on behalf of the group of states.
The coalition’s proposal describes a testing system different from what is happening in most states in a number of ways:
* Testing would be online and given at least twice a year to help teachers and parents track student progress.
* The exams would adapt to measure each student’s abilities. It is expensive technology that most individual states could not afford on their own.
* Teachers would be given other tools for ongoing, informal assessment to help them figure out if students are learning on a daily basis.
Individual states will still determine whether to use the high school test as a graduation requirement, said Chris Barron, spokesman for the Washington state education department.
“These funds will go a long way to building the innovative system we need to help our children succeed,’’ Washington Governor Chris Gregoire said in a statement.
Return of REAL school sports: British Tories to revive competitive games in bid to turn nation back into champions
Competitive games are to be revived in schools in a bid to turn Britain back into a nation of sporting champions. As the country holds its breath over the World Cup and Wimbledon, ministers want their new 'School Olympics' programme to end the culture of 'prizes for all'.
The sports championships are intended to give every child experience of hard-fought competition. They will reverse a decline in competitive sport brought about by Left-wing councils that scorned it as 'elitist' and insisted on politically correct activities with no winners or losers.
The competitions will involve a wide range of sports including football, rugby, netball, golf, cricket, tennis, athletics, judo, gymnastics, swimming, table tennis, cycling and volleyball. Schools will be able to nominate any sport in any age group as long as they can find opponents.
Details of the championships will be unveiled on Monday, hard on the heels of a weekend of sporting drama with England playing old rivals Germany in the World Cup tomorrow and Andy Murray today vying for a spot in Wimbledon's fourth round.
As they launch the initiative, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Education Secretary Michael Gove will say it is intended to ensure the 2012 London Olympics leave a lasting sporting legacy.
The first championship will take place in the run-up to the 2012 Games with further competitions planned beyond that. Paralympic-style events will be staged in parallel for youngsters with disabilities.
Mr Hunt said: 'I want to give a real boost to competitive sport in schools using the power of hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games to encourage young people – whatever age or ability – to take part in this new competition. 'Sport – whether you win or lose – teaches young people great lessons for life. It encourages teamwork, dedication and striving to be the best that you can be.'
Steve Grainger, chief executive of the Youth Sport Trust, said: 'Competition has been happening on an ad hoc school to school basis since the demise of district-level sport. 'It was down to schools to sort something out with another school which is maybe a utopian view of how it might happen.
'We have built up a network of 450 school sport partnerships with every school locked in so we now have a really solid base from which to develop competitive sport up to 2012 and lever off the back of 2012 to enable every kid in the country to have a suitable competitive experience in a whole range of sports.'
Schools will compete against each other in district leagues from 2011 with winning athletes and teams qualifying for up to 60 county finals. The most talented budding sports stars will then be selected for national finals – although this currently covers England only.
The pc spoilsports
Lottery funding of up to £10million a year, distributed by Sport England, will be used to create a new sports league structure for primary and secondary schools, culminating in the 2012 finals.
But ministers also hope the championships will reinvigorate PE lessons, within-school tournaments and local leagues. Schools will be expected to host in-house Olympic-style sports days so that children of all abilities have the opportunity to compete and join teams.
The coalition government plans to publish information about schools' sporting facilities and the amount of sport and competitive sport they provide for pupils.
There would also be school sports league tables, so parents can track the success of their children's schools' sports results.
Mr Gove said: 'We need to revive competitive sport in our schools. Fewer than a third of school pupils take part in regular competitive sport within schools, and fewer than one in five take part in regular competition between schools. 'The School Olympics give us a chance to change that for good.'
Ministers hope the initiative will finally end a culture that has seen schools refuse to pit youngsters directly against each other.
In one directive to schools during the last Labour government, schools were encouraged to replace competitive races with 'problem-solving' exercises for their sports days. Teams were also encouraged to perform tasks in rotation rather than compete directly with each other.
A series of Labour initiatives aimed at reviving competitive sport were undermined by the continued sell-off of school playing fields.
25 June, 2010
For a long life, upbringing may trump education (?)
The attribution to upbringing below is entirely unsupported by the data. Given the hereditary nature of many ailments, the much more likely conclusion from the data is that good genes, not education per se, give educated people longer lifespans
Good health and a long life may have more to do with how you grew up than how much education you have under your belt, research from Denmark hints.
Studies, including the Danish one, have generally found that people with more education tend to live longer and are healthier than those with shorter transcripts. But in the small Scandinavian country, much of that effect vanished when comparing twins who differed in how long they had been in school.
"We were interested in the social inequality in health that we see on the population level," said Mia Madsen, a doctoral candidate at the University of Southern Denmark, Odense, who worked on the study. "What's so great about the twins is that you can use them to get a little closer to understanding that inequality."
Madsen said her study was one of the largest of its kind so far. Tapping into national data from 1921 to 1950, she and her colleagues searched for same-sex or identical twins whose educations differed in length and at least one of whom had died.
The researchers found more than 2,000 twin pairs. Overall, the ones with no more than seven years of study -- the minimal requirement -- were about 25 percent more likely to have died. But when comparing twins within each pair, both for identical and same-sex twins, that difference became much less pronounced and could have been due to chance. "The social inequality seems to get smaller when you account for genetics and upbringing," said Madsen. "Maybe it's an indication that very early life conditions play a big role later on."
She added that an earlier study, based on the same data, had found a similar pattern in the twins' general health, also stressing the importance of early life conditions. What those might be is still up in the air, but Madsen said unhealthy eating habits were one likely culprit.
Still, the researchers said the picture wasn't clear-cut. When focusing on those twin pairs who had the largest difference in education -- at least eight years -- they did find a positive effect on life span.
Madsen said her findings seemed at odds with some of the research from the US. "When I look at the twin literature on social inequality, I see two different pictures in Denmark and the US," she said, noting that the two countries had different access to healthcare. "It makes sense that your social position and education in adulthood would matter more in the US than in Denmark."
Maria Glymour, of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, said twin studies were sometimes hard to interpret because twins with the right differences are hard to come by. Even with a study as big as this there is still a lot of uncertainty, she told Reuters Health by e-mail. "To the extent that there are differences between the results of this study and prior work in the US, it is likely due to study design differences, not necessarily differences in medical care," she said.
"Inequalities in health by education level have been shown in many countries with universal access to medical care, so these inequalities must partially be driven by other pathways." However, Glymour said the idea that some of the tie between education and life span might be explained by early life conditions was important. "It would help us understand the most important ways to focus resources for children."
Britain's evil white middle class students
Big brother is watching how much alcohol you drink. What you put into your mouth is no longer your business.
There is no doubt that middle and upper class British people do drink but they also learn how to control it or not, as desired. Both the present British Prime Minister and the present Mayor of London are, for instance, former members of Oxford's hard-drinking and aristocratic Bullingdon club. The grog would seem not to have done them much harm
Researchers have warned of a “drinking culture” in schools with large numbers of white, middle-class children. Schools filled with pupils from relatively wealthy homes were more likely to be gripped by alcohol problems, it was claimed, raising their chances of indulging in other “risky behaviours” such as drug taking, smoking and shoplifting.
The study, commissioned by the Department for Education, also said that girls were more likely to drink than boys.
The conclusions come amid concerns over a rise in binge drinking among middle-class adults in recent years. A comprehensive study last year claimed that middle aged, professional Britons are more likely to exceed recommended daily levels of alcohol consumption than the working-classes, with twice as many drinking every night of the week.
In the latest study, the National Centre for Social Research analysed drinking patterns among 14- to 17-year-olds in England. The report – based on data from an on-going survey of 15,500 young people – found some 55 per cent had tried alcohol by the age of 14. Numbers increased to 85 per cent among 17-year-olds.
It added: “We also found some evidence of a ‘drinking culture’ in certain types of school, with pupils more likely to drink in schools where there was a higher proportion of white pupils or pupils who did not receive free school meals, regardless of their own ethnicity.”
The study said that children who drank alcohol were "more likely to take part in risky behaviours". This included smoking, trying cannabis, shoplifting and graffiti. They were also more likely to hang around with groups of friends, go to parties and have negative attitudes to education.
The report added: "We found that girls were slightly more likely to have tried alcohol than boys up to the age of 17."
Calif. gets $416M to turn around failing schools
Pissing into the wind
State education officials say the federal government has awarded $416 million to California to turn around dozens of its lowest public schools.
Jack O'Connell, the state superintendent of public instruction, said Thursday that California received the money from the U.S. Department of Education's School Improvement Grants program.
School districts can apply for grants of $50,000 to $2 million to turn around 188 "persistently lowest achieving schools" that state education officials identified in March.
To get the grants, districts will have to take drastic measures to reform the struggling schools, such as converting to a charter school, replacing the principal, firing half the staff or closing entirely and sending the students to another school.
24 June, 2010
Layoffs across the board for Los Angeles schools
Despite the pleas and protests of hundreds of employees, Los Angeles Unified officials Tuesday approved a 2010-11 budget that includes thousands of layoffs of teachers, custodians, office workers and other staff. [Let's hope the "office workers" take the brunt of it -- but I'm not optimistic]
The school board also approved hiring John Deasy as the district's new deputy superintendent, seen as a potential successor to Superintendent Ramon Cortines, who is rumored to be eyeing early retirement. For now, Deasy, currently a deputy director at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, would advise Cortines and stand in for him in his absence.
LAUSD faced a deficit of some $640 million for the 2010-11 school year and officials had initially looked at raising class sizes at grade levels through middle school and cutting some 6,300 jobs.
Tuesday, district officials said that attendance increases, spending cuts and some additional state funding helped save some district jobs and programs.
District officials estimate about 2,700 employees are expected to be laid off starting July 1.
However, some district employee unions dispute that figure and estimate that the final layoff figure will be closer to 4,000.
Many of the employees who in March had been notified they would lose their jobs were later saved under a deal with the local teachers and administrators unions that reduced the school calendar by 12 days over the next two years through furloughs by teachers and administrators.
The Kids Can't Read
By RiShawn Biddle (who has a good solution in his final paragraph)
Forty percent of Atlanta eight-grade students tested Below Basic proficiency in reading on the 2009 edition of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the federal exam of academic achievement. Essentially two out of every five Atlanta students heading into high school are functionally illiterate -- unable to comprehend a work as simple as Anne of Greene Gables or even complete mathematical word problems such as "Marty has 6 red pencils, 4 green pencils, and 5 blue pencils."
Atlanta isn't an isolated case. Twenty-eight percent of Georgia's eighth-graders -- one in every four -- read Below Basic proficiency. This is a problem with nearly every race, age, and social class. Thirty-four percent of eighth-grade boys tested Below Basic in reading, as did one in every five white students and 40 percent of black students [I can do that sum: Blacks are twice as likely to be illiterate]. The low levels of literacy also aren't confined to the Peach State: Twenty-six percent of America's eighth-graders and one in three fourth-graders are functionally illiterate.
If you've wondered why 1.3 million students drop out every year, why six million students languish in the nation's special ed ghettos, or why girls outnumber boys on campus by as much as two-to-one, just take a look at America's abysmally low levels of literacy. Far too few children, no matter their socioeconomic background, can read well enough to function in an economy in which literacy is more-important than ever. Boys are especially hit hard, often trailing their female peers in reading and falling far behind in other academic studies by the time they reach middle school.
Although the problem may begin at home, America's public schools and education policies have also exacerbated the literacy problem. Few teachers at the elementary level are well-skilled in teaching children how to read; theories such as whole language -- which emphasized reading whole books without dealing with phonics or understanding the context behind sentences and paragraphs -- have also wreaked havoc on reading instruction.
The latest concerns over literacy have been, in part, spurred on by the Obama administration, which unveiled a project called Reading for Understanding Research Initiative to help improve literacy. Under the program, the U.S. Department of Education is awarding $100 million in grants to six groups of researchers (including those from the Educational Testing Service, the administrator of the SAT college entrance exam) to conduct research on how teachers can improve classroom reading instruction. [We already know that: Teach phonics] This, in turn, marks the latest of several efforts (almost all ill-fated) by federal officials to improve how reading is taught in America's schools.
But concerns about reading have become especially acute because of one of the most-troubling trends in higher education: The dearth of young men on campus. Between 1995-1996 and 2007-2008, the percentage of men on college campuses declined from 48 percent to 43 percent, according to the American Council on Education; there are now 1.39 women for every male on campus. Women now make up 55 percent of overall enrollment within the State University of New York system. The gaps are even larger elsewhere: At some colleges, women account for as many as 70 percent of the undergraduate population. Society is only grasping the consequences of this achievement gap, including the high rates of unemployment among males (especially those without high school diplomas) to the rash of more men living at home with their parents. The new gender gap has also become the subject of one of the hottest books in education, Why Boys Fail, by Education Week blogger Richard Whitmire.
But many students are failing to develop all the skills for proper reading. As a result, they are falling behind long before they reach sixth grade. One out of every three fourth-graders read Below Basic proficiency, according to NAEP; although slightly lower than the 36 percent of fourth graders reading Below Basic in 2002, the average reading score remains almost unchanged. Black and Latino students -- the latter of which include first-generation Americans from immigrant homes -- do poorly; 53 percent of black fourth-graders and 52 percent of their Latino counterparts are reading Below Basic. The illiteracy levels know no income barrier: Forty-nine of poor students read Below Basic proficiency while a (less-abysmal) 21 percent of wealthier students also have poor reading comprehension skills.
Boys, in particular, are struggling mightily in reading, no matter the race or income level of their parents. Thirty-six of all male fourth-graders tested Below Basic in reading, trailing their female peers by six percentage points. One out of every four male high school seniors with college-educated parents suffered from functional illiteracy.
The consequences of the failure to achieve full literacy are wide-ranging. The very skills involved in reading (including understanding abstract concepts) are also involved in more-complex mathematics including word problems and algebra. Being a good reader may not mean being equally skilled in math, but poor readers tend also to fail in math computations as well. Fifty-four percent of Atlanta eighth-graders scored Below Basic on the math portion of the 2009 NAEP, equivalent to the low reading levels. Nor are students likely to improve over time. The result is usually the path to dropping out of school and into welfare and prison.
Poor reading also partly explains the 63-percent increase in the nation's special education population (now 13 percent of the nation's public school enrollment) between 1976 and 2006. Among the largest categories of special ed students include developmental delay -- which can just as often mean that the child wasn't taught to read at home, dyslexic as it may mean that a child suffers from cognitive damage -- or emotional disturbance (which can also be caused by the natural rebelliousness arising from frustration over poor reading skills).
Reid Lyon, an education official under George W. Bush, determined in 1997 that most black boys landed in special education because they struggled in reading. As Stanford University Researchers Deborah Stipek and Sarah Miles determined in a 2006 study, low literacy levels in first grade are strong predictors of long-term disciplinary problems.
CERTAINLY READING PROBLEMS CAN begin at home. Families at all income levels who spend less time reading and engaging in conversation with their children -- especially those from impoverished households whose parents tend to be poor readers themselves -- will produce children with low reading skills. But it's not all about income or interaction. Forty percent of all kindergarten students can only learn to read if they are specifically taught syllables, words, letter sounds and spelling. Boys, in particular, struggle because the area of their brains in which language and literacy is developed lags behind that of their female schoolmates.
Educators have understood these problems for decades; reading experts have spent years developing new ways to help lagging students improve reading before they reach fifth grade and work with boys to get them up to speed. This includes identifying poor readers early on and intensive teaching of linguistic skills every day. Few schools have implemented such practices in their classrooms.
The low quality of America's teaching corps -- the biggest reason for the nation's dropout crisis -- also affects reading instruction. Few university schools of education (which educate most of our teachers) do a proper job of teaching aspiring students how to address reading. Just 11 of 71 ed schools surveyed by the National Council on Teacher Quality in 2006 taught teachers all that they needed to provide adequate reading instruction.
A four-decade war over whether reading instruction should emphasize phonics and spelling or Whole Language (a system by which students should learn the meaning behind sentences) has also fueled the literacy crisis. During the 1970s and 1980s, states embraced Whole Language and ignored phonics, forgetting that kids need to know how to also sound words. Only after states saw reading scores decline did they reverse course. Most reading experts argue that phonics and Whole Language are both needed in order to learn reading. But schools aren't doing a good job instructing in either area.
Federal efforts to improve reading instruction -- most-notably President George W. Bush's Reading First initiative -- have either fallen to seed amid controversy or haven't gained traction. The best solution may start at home: Parents could buy a copy of Hooked on Phonics and organize community reading sessions. It may be a while before public schools actually learn how to teach reading correctly -- and improve literacy.
Experienced headteacher suspended after 'argument with pupil'
Sounds like she told the kid how stupid he/she was. That's not allowed in Britain these days. Expect discipline at the school to go even further downhill now
An experienced primary school head has been suspended after allegedly making comments about a pupil. Police were also called but said yesterday that the teacher, who successfully oversaw the merger of two schools to form Eaton Primary, had not committed an offence and officers would not be taking any action.
Mrs Neville-Jones was allegedly involved in an argument with a pupil. The youngster reported what was said to their parents who complained to the school. Mrs Neville-Jones was suspended last Friday and parents were told when they came to pick up their children on Monday.
Fiona Prickett, 34, who has two children at the successful school, said people were in the dark. She said: “Everyone is shocked. She’s ever so nice. “She’s brilliant. She greets everyone and is really approachable. It’s very strange and we just can't believe it."
Bill Taylor, 65, who has a grandson at the school, said: “The pupils came just came out with a letter. It seems a funny way of doing it.”
it is understood that during the argument Mrs Neville-Jones made a comment specifically relating to the pupil. A police source said it was "a case of him saying this, her saying that, and something has got misinterpreted".
Victoria MacDonald, chair of governors at Eaton Primary School, said: "We can confirm that our head teacher Diana Neville-Jones is currently suspended following an alleged incident. "This to ensure a full and fair investigation can take place.”
During a 25-year career, Mrs Neville-Jones has been a headteacher at several other Norfolk schools, including Coltishall Airfield First School and Northfields First and Nursery School in Norwich.
She was appointed head of the former Fairway First and Middle Schools and led the schools through a reorganisation which saw them merge to become 367-pupil Eaton Primary School in September 2007. The school was praised for its work during the restructuring process by inspectors from the Office for Standards in Education as a "caring school" that is "moving forward in all aspects of its work". The school was deemed "satisfactory" while the leadership and management of Mrs Neville-Jones was praised as "good".
Mrs Neville-Jones, who has three grown up children and is a grandmother, resigned from the school in February and was seeing out her notice when she was suspended. The suspension means she is unlikely to return.
A Norfolk police spokesman said: “This matter was referred to police under agreed procedures. Initial inquiries have been carried out and no criminal offences have been have been committed. No further police action will be taken in relation to this matter.
23 June, 2010
The Jews and the Bloody-Minded Professors
No wonder Obama sent Winston Churchill's sculpted bust right back to London. Would you want Winnie's beetling brows staring down at you when your White House is just swarming with bloody-minded professors? If Churchill had done nothing else but simply pin the label "bloody-minded professors" on the fascists and Stalinists who ran much of British intellectual life from the 1930s onward, he would still have been Obama's natural enemy.
Without bloody-minded professors in the cozy West, there would have been no Nazi Germany and no Stalinist Russia.
Fascism and communism were the very sweaty exudations of those professors. Karl Marx was a bloodthirsty intellectual whose biggest hero was Herr Doktor-Professor Friedrich Hegel, the Kaiser's own philosopher in Berlin. Prussia was in fact the model for Hegel's utopian state, complete with mustachioed, goose-stepping soldiers with funny-looking helmets with little spears on top. Karl Marx just loved the idea of a militarized society, and in Lenin's Moscow, his followers finally got their chance.
As you might remember, everything worked just like clockwork, just the way the professors said it would. We saw how everybody prospered wherever Marxism took hold. No more poverty, no more inequality, just love and peace for all. You can see it in North Korea today.
Obama's White House is chock full of the bloody-minded. They have learned nothing since the Soviet Empire crumbled. You can't suddenly open a door in this White House without pinning a leftist professor behind it, like a wriggling butterfly. They infest the place, all of them buzzing with bright schemes to fix the world, if only everybody would finally listen to them.
That was Obama's answer to the Gulf oil disaster, to send in a team of professors with no visible expertise in oil engineering. In a comparable, if not direr, situation in Kuwait in 1992, George Bush 41 sent in Red Adair. We can see today how well the professors have solved the Gulf oil disaster.
Importing café talkers from Harvard Square was also Obama's solution to the sub-prime mortgage crisis, and we know how that got solved in a jiffy.
Today, the bloody-minded intellectuals are Obama's answer to the very existence of Israel. And America.
A lot of those professors are Jewish -- by ancestry, but not by faith. Or anything else by faith. They are secularists, profoundly alienated from normal people. Like secularists everywhere, they have fallen in love with a goofy messianic fantasy instead of the bad old beliefs. Their spitting rage against Christianity and Orthodox Judaism is a measure of their alienation. They worshiped Obama -- until it turned out that he couldn't stop the oil exploding in the Gulf after all. But don't worry -- they'll find another savior soon, because they're always on the lookout.
I have a friend who is a Jewish secularist, and also a bloody-minded professor -- particularly about Israel. Like Obama, he is willing to see Israel destroyed to protect his faith in utopian internationalism. That's who Obama is. Obama doesn't hate America; he only hates America as a country. See, the Founders got it all wrong. Lincoln was wrong to save the Union. Reagan was wrong to invite the Evil Empire to crumble of its own inner contradictions. It would be good for America to stop being a nation and leave everything to Obama and his buds. That's "progressivism." As G.K. Chesterton wrote, the left loves humanity, but it doesn't have much truck with real people.
In Obama's eyes, America and Israel should not be sovereign nations with the ability to defend themselves. They are just obstacles to utopia, an enlightened world run by bloody-minded professors. Peacefully, of course.
So we see the walking contradiction of MIT Professor Noam Chomsky, the son of a Talmudic scholar, who hates Israel so much that his best buds are in Islamofascist terror groups that crank out an endless stream of murder-propaganda against Israel and Jews. These people would have killed Chomsky's family members in Russia, yet Chomsky is the biggest anti-Israel propagandist on the Left. Chomsky has probably done more to reverse the crumbling of the Soviet Faith in the last twenty years than anyone else. All the Palestinian groups are officially sworn to destroy Israel, and it's fine with Chomsky. He's looking forward to the end with bright anticipation.
The Turkish suiciders on the Mavi Marmara worked hand-in-hand with bloody-minded professors of the left -- Bill Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn, Jodie Evans, and Code Pink. This is the left-fascist alliance of our times, our Hitler-Stalin Pact. Don't ever forget it just because it's not an official treaty. The Left and the fascist Muslims are working hand-in-glove wherever they can, including the White House.
Islamofascists are exactly the same kind of utopians as the left. They just happen to have their heads stuck in the 7th century; they are Dark Age utopians, ready to bring a nuclear Armageddon to clear the way for Paradise on Earth. Al-Qaeda was started by an Islamist intellectual. Jimmy Carter's favorite holy man, Ayatollah Khomeini, was a Shiite scholar who stepped straight out of the 10th century, ready to chop heads for Allah. A million people died as a direct result in the Iran-Iraq war. All because Jimmy decided that Khomeini would be better than the bad old Shah. As for little fascist Ahmadinejad, his favorite suicide theorist, Masbeh-Yazdi, is a Islamic scholar who gave his official stamp of approval to Iran's thugs to rape women and boys before they were executed.
Bloody-minded professors are the unloveliest people in the world. They are the smug enablers for all the totalitarians since the French Revolution. Celebrated philosophers like Martin Heidegger were true-believing Nazis, and famous French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre lent his immense prestige to Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot, one after the other. How's that for a triple slam?
When Israel refused to let Noam Chomsky into the country a month ago, he responded by calling Israel "Stalinist." If you ever see a video of the Knesseth conducting its debates in Jerusalem, notice how Stalinist it looks, how everybody stands up en masse and enthusiastically applauds the Supreme Leader when he deigns to...no, come to think of it, that's Tehran, not Jerusalem. It's also Moscow, Beijing, Pyongyang, Damascus, and Gaza today. In the Age of Obama, even the United States Senate looks more Stalinist than the Knesseth. Some Stalinist state.
Malcolm Muggeridge saw the rise of British fascism -- pardon me, the British Fabians, who started the Labour Party and the European welfare state in the 1920s. They were all utopians, all raving leftists, and all very pleased to see an ocean of blood in Russia, Spain, China, Germany, Poland, Vietnam, Cambodia, and any other place that was far enough from their own cozy lives. All for a good cause. Muggeridge started as a true believer, and then, as the Moscow correspondent of the Guardian during the purposely inflicted Ukrainian famine, he gradually fell away from the Soviet faith.
Muggeridge wrote about an evening with the two fabled founders of the Fabian Society, Beatrice and Sydney Webb:[Sydney] Webb, complacently stroking his goatee beard, explained how under capitalism there might be as many as thirty or more varieties of fountain pen, whereas in the USSR we should find but one. A much more satisfactory arrangement. As he made the point, his bulbous eyes positive[ly] glowed behind the pince-nez. She, fluttering her hands like a mesmerist to shut him up, spoke about Man as consumer and Man as a producer, and how under Socialism ever the twain must meet. ... "Sydney and I," Mrs. Webb had told me, "have become icons in the Soviet Union." ... She sat warming her hands at the fire, holding them out as though warding something off. "It's true," she said suddenly, a propos of nothing, that in the USSR people disappear." She accented the word, showing her teeth as as she did so. (pp. 206-209)
The mass purges started soon afterward in Moscow.
Churchill's "bloody-minded professors" were not innocent idealists, and they still are not today. Sydney and Beatrice Webb knew what they were lying about in the West while a hundred million people died in Russia, and later, China.
Today's bloody-minded professors are not innocent, either. They know that millions of people will die if they get their way. It's their nature to thrive on the suffering of others. They are idealists, you see.
Study supports KIPP success: Review shows school isn't gaming system
A common refrain among those who question the impressive test scores consistently posted by low-income children attending Houston-based KIPP charter schools is that school administrators game the system by skimming top students from traditional public schools and kicking out those who can't keep up.
But a study being released today concludes most students come to KIPP academically behind their peers and finds their average attrition rate is in line with other schools. "What we're finding is results that are positive," said Brian Gill, a senior social scientist with Mathematica Policy Research Inc., a Princeton, N.J.-based nonprofit research group. "They're statistically significant in most cases, and they're educationally big."
The research, based on data from 22 of the charter chain's middle schools, was commissioned by KIPP in 2007. To date, three benefactors have paid the $1.5 million tab.
KIPP co-founder Mike Feinberg said he hopes the work reassures supporters and silences naysayers. "This is great news for the people who have already had faith in us," he said. "For the people who have been on the fence, I hope this makes them true believers."
Houston and other cities must expect schools to prepare all children — including those from poor, minority families - to succeed in college, Feinberg said. Campuses in San Antonio, Dallas, Austin and Houston - where KIPP was founded in the mid-1990s - were included in the study.
Motivated to succeed
Jeffrey R. Henig, a professor of political science and education at Columbia University's Teachers College, cautioned in 2008 that some of KIPP's claims were exaggerated and that policymakers should proceed cautiously with plans to emulate the schools' techniques. Henig called this study well-crafted, adding that it makes "serious effort to address methodological challenges that have plagued earlier studies."
While it controls for attrition, Henig noted that KIPP students most likely come from families who are more motivated to see their children succeed in school. He wonders whether the strong results will hold among newer campuses as KIPP completes a $100 million expansion plan over the next decade.
"Some have speculated that KIPP's expansion creates challenges in staffing newer schools with principals and teachers with the same skills and dedication that were present in the 'pioneer' schools, and it is also possible that later waves of schools locate in areas with less conducive environments," he said. "If that's the case, there is a chance that the sample studied here may have better outcomes than newer KIPP schools or those still to come."
Plenty of evidence
But Nelson Smith, president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, said there is already plenty of evidence to convince policy-makers to allow KIPP and other successful charters to expand. Texas, however, only has a handful of charters to issue before the state reaches its cap of 215. "It helps demolish some of the myths that people hold about KIPP," Smith said. "Some of the ways people have tried to excuse or explain KIPP's success just don't hold water."
The report showed that KIPP schools are much more likely to hold students back a grade if they can't do the work, especially in the fifth and sixth grades. At KIPP's southeast Houston middle school, for example, 6.6 percent of fifth-graders were retained, compared to the state average of less than 2 percent. "The differences likely capture KIPP's philosophy that students should be promoted to the next grade level only after they have demonstrated mastery of their current grade's material," according to the report.
Or as Feinberg put it: "I remind everyone all the time that climbing the mountain to college is not a race. It's not when you get to the top, it's what you know when you get there."
Researchers tout the positive, often substantial, effects of KIPP schools, which feature a strong school culture and about 50 percent more instructional time than traditional schools. Results are immediate, according to researchers, and by the third year, half of the KIPP schools studied helped students attain 1.2 years of extra growth in math.
Students at nearly every KIPP campus included outperformed their peers in traditional public school. "It was a little remarkable to us how little variation there was," researcher Christina Clark Tuttle said.
The study attempted to control for the extra motivation of families who select charter schools by comparing students' academic trajectories prior to entering KIPP and by keeping students who withdraw from KIPP after a year included in the charters' performance measures. "It is a conservative approach," Gills said. "The kids who are actually staying in KIPP are probably experiencing even larger effects."
Researchers concede that KIPP schools enroll fewer special education students and non-English speakers. They also note that more lower-performing students end up withdrawing from KIPP. "It is true that the ones who leave are lower achieving than average, but that tends to be true of kids leaving any school," Gill said. "Kids who are highly mobile tend to be lower performers."
The Mathmatica study will continue through 2014 with the next set of results expected to be released in 2012.
More British students 'opting for vocational courses'
Record numbers of teenagers are opting for practical courses such as construction and tourism to secure jobs in the recession, according to research. More than four million vocational qualifications were awarded last year, an increase of more than 11 per cent in just 12 months, figures show.
The biggest rises were in subjects such as travel and tourism, leisure, engineering, manufacturing, construction and business.
It comes as growing numbers of young people struggle to get into university following a surge in applications during the economic downturn. Last year, almost 160,000 people missed out on traditional degree courses and there are fears that numbers will soar further this year.
Lord Baker, chairman of the charity Edge, which promotes vocational qualifications, insisted that the traditional “snobbery” surrounding practical courses was being eroded as more young people adopted for qualifications leading directly to a job.
“There is a massive national shortage of technicians and if we are going to build the nuclear power stations, high-speed rail networks, Crossrail, new housing programmes and broadband links we are going to need many more of them.
“Industry wants more skilled employees and it is encouraging to see so many young people down doing this route, but there is still room for improvement.”
According to figures, the number of people taking practical maths and science courses last year increased by 33 per cent. Leisure, travel and tourism qualifications rose by 24 per cent, while construction was up by 22 per cent and engineering and manufacturing by 21 per cent.
The figures cover a range of qualifications, including apprenticeships, City and Guilds courses and BTecs.
The study also showed that higher-level practical courses were also increasing, with foundation degrees growing in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. These two year degree courses have been championed by the Government as a cheaper – and faster – alternative to traditional three year undergraduate courses.
The data was released by Edge to mark VQ Day on Wednesday, the annual celebration of vocational qualifications.
22 June, 2010
Free Condoms in a U.S. Public Elementary School
These days public schools don't pay much attention to the tired old topics of yesteryear — reading, writing, arithmetic, etc. Now the emphasis is on learning fun stuff, like sexual intercourse and disregarding the wishes of parents:A New England school district has approved a measure that will provide free condoms to elementary school students and direct teachers not to comply with parental wishes to the contrary.
The policy, unanimously approved by the Provincetown School Committee does not include an age limit — meaning children of any age ask for — and receive — free condoms.
The committee also directed school leaders not to honor requests from any parent who might object to their child receiving condoms. In other words mommy and daddy — you don't have a right to prevent your 7-year-old from getting a contraceptive device.
With their emphasis on corrupting children and arrogating parental authority on behalf of The State, you would think liberals would love this policy. But not necessarily:The policy does stipulate that kids must consult with a nurse or trained counselor before getting their sexual protection — and that upset some of the committee members, according to the Provincetown Banner.
"I can see some kids opting out because of the conversation. I'm not against [the policy]. I'm just trying to put myself in that teenager's spot," said committee member Carrie Notaro.
"I don't like that students can't be discreet about this," committee member Shannon Patrick told the newspaper. "They have to go and ask for it. I'd rather them not have the conservation [with counselors] and have the condom than not have the condom."
School superintendent Beth Singer attempted to quell these objections by explaining that the kids are so young, they wouldn't know how or when to use a condom if taxpayer-financed counselors didn't teach them. Most likely the kids will want the free condoms to use as water balloons; to instill degeneracy at the youngest possible age, it's crucial that our public employees explain what they're really for.
Britain's independent ("Public") schools have nothing to apologise for
More than 20 years ago, a proud mother dropped her 11-year-old son at the gates of the independent school of which I was head. She had a top First in PPE from Oxford and was being retained as a consultant at a salary that made my eyes water. She was driving an ancient Vauxhall and there were non-designer holes in her non-designer jeans. She sidled up to me and said: "I don't really want the people I work with to know I send my son to a public school."
There is a culture in the UK which is ashamed of independent schools, highlighted by the departure of Vicky Tuck, the Principal of Cheltenham Ladies' College, to head the International School of Geneva. She gave as one of her reasons the perpetual pressure that puts head teachers on the defensive, the feeling that by running a private school you are doing something "slightly immoral".
Go back 150 years and this sense of shame might have been justified. The burgeoning Victorian upper middle class used private schools to buy social status, and as colleges that would allow their sons to graduate to being gentlemen. In the curriculum, the classics ruled all; as a result, the system offered a good education, but one that was simply not broad enough, so that we fell behind our European competitors in the teaching of maths and science.
There probably was less of a drive back then to create an outstanding state education system, because some of the movers and shakers could opt out (though this has been overstated). Indeed, in those days, the last thing independent schools wanted was social inclusivity. They sold themselves in part on their social exclusivity.
Yet that situation has now been reversed. In their desire for inclusion, independent schools embraced the Assisted Places scheme, and of their own volition have been ditching scholarships in favour of means-tested bursaries. A third of pupils receive fee assistance of one form or another, although some schools offer no bursaries and instead keep their fees down to the lowest possible level so that places are available to many thousands of parents who defy the public-school stereotype.
Many schools charge fees only by default – yet it is a measure of the negativity surrounding the sector that when, some years ago, independent schools collectively offered to educate state-sector pupils at exactly the same cost as at their state school (the balance to be made up by the independent school), this was summarily rejected.
So why should schools that have been described by objective international studies as the best in the world be apologetic? Independent schools should stop saying they are sorry and realise they have a lot to be proud of. Our only remaining natural resource is the intellectual capital of our children, and independent schools out-perform all others. It is telling that overseas students do not seem to share any of the shame some natives feel about independent schools: they flock to them, boosting the economy and often moving on to provide much-needed income for UK universities.
There is another point here, too. For the first time in very many years, independent schools are vital to the knowledge economy of the UK. More than a third of A* grades in GCSE chemistry, biology or physics are obtained from the 7 per cent of pupils who attend independent schools, as are a third of the A grades at A-level in maths, further maths and science, and 49 per cent of the A grades in modern languages. UK plc could not do without the pupils who attend independent schools.
There are other causes for pride. The independent sector has kept the flag flying for competitive and team sport. It blew the whistle when government tried to fix A-level results. It has been a voice of sanity when some of the more insane proposals for reform have been put forward, yet has been at the sharp edge of innovation in other areas.
And it could, and wants to, do much more. It could use its skill in attracting graduate scientists to teaching to provide a soft landing for them, employing such people for, say, half of the week but releasing them to teach in local maintained schools for the other half. In a successful pilot scheme, such a teacher was used to offer masterclasses for the state students their school had identified as gifted in science, but who did not have sufficient access to graduate teachers. The schools involved each paid the teacher for the time they use. The joy is that this does not run into the Somme-like mud of the selection debate. The children in the maintained sector schools remain in their comprehensive.
To remedy the situation, two cultural issues need to be addressed. The first is our tendency to adopt the politics of envy, to which the solution is to provide equal opportunity for everyone to attend an independent school. The second is the issue of selection. We expect Christian and Jew, Muslim and Hindu to live side by side. Are we really not grown-up enough to recognise that there is room in a good education system for both selective and non‑selective schools?
We need our children to be the best-educated in the world. It's time we let independent schools help in that aim, and recognised them as a jewel in our crown.
Australia: Teenager faces life in a wheelchair after bullying sparked suicide bid
And what's the response of the hateful NSW bureaucrats in charge of school safety? A new email address! No word that anything has happened to the bullies
EXTREME bullying has left a teenage boy in a wheelchair unable to speak or walk and taking food and liquids through a tube to his stomach. Dakoda-Lee Stainer, 14, suffered brain damage when deprived of oxygen for more than 20 minutes after attempting to take his own life.
The teen, now under around-the-clock care in priority disability housing, endured months of relentless attacks by bullies before reaching the point of despair. Friends said Dakoda had rocks thrown at him and was admitted to hospital for a head injury as the cruel bullying turned physical.
On the day he tried to end it all he had been accosted by the same gang of youths on the school bus. The teen, who attended Melville High School at Kempsey, on the North Coast, was found in a bedroom at home on September 4 last year - about 13 months after another 14-year-old, Alex Wildman, killed himself at Lismore because of violent run-ins with schoolmates.
Dakoda's family and friends agreed to speak about his plight in a bid to get authorities to take bullying more seriously and prevent further tragedies.
In the wake of the Wildman case, the Department of Education and Training said it would review the way in which counsellors were allocated to schools and trial a new email address in selected schools inviting people to report bullying.
Dakoda's mum Theresa said yesterday: "I can't imagine what those kids (bullies) would have put him through to get him to that state. "I don't know how these mongrels ate away at my boy's strength ... "
Theresa, now living on Queensland's Sunshine Coast, said her son was making progress, communicating with his eyes and by shaking. He was attempting to move his arms and legs. "He lost oxygen to the brain for at least 22 or 23 minutes," she said. "When we got to hospital it took them 12 minutes to restart his heart."
21 June, 2010
The relentless decay of real scholarship in American universities
Not many people will see Arkansas as a fortress against the barbarism that is threatening to bring this nation down. This kind of barbarism is often displayed by college students -- and not with old-fashioned Animal House hijinks, but by Obama zombies who celebrated in front of the White House by tauntingly singing the old Beatles "Good-bye" song and waving the Soviet flag.
Today's college students have also graduated to high-level anti-Semitism, inquisitions about fellow students' attitudes on such things as gay marriage, and a belief in confiscating private property to redistribute wealth. All this is done after childhoods spent being pampered and flattered while being put into little groups to discuss such problems as global warming -- after watching a former vice president narrate a film about the coming environmental apocalypse.
Very few people knew that the University of Arkansas WAS a holdout, maintaining hearty general education requirements for the past fifty years. ACTA (American Council of Trustees and Alumni) recently awarded the university a rare A on its report card on general education requirements. It praised the university for a healthy 66-hour general education requirement that included math, science, foreign languages, literature, and philosophy.
ACTA is not a fashionable group in academic circles. They provide donors and trustees information about what goes on behind the ivy-covered walls, where faculty, indoctrinated by the 1960s radicals, devise classes, determine requirements, and plot to keep out critics.
In May, ACTA president Anne Neal wrote two letters to the trustees and an editorial in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette deploring the dumbing down of the curriculum.
But according to John Ed Anthony, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, the fact that a student at the University of Arkansas will be able to substitute Gender Studies for Introduction to Philosophy and graduate with only college algebra, eight hours in science (which could include "Chemistry in the Modern World"), no literature classes, and no foreign language does not mean that the curriculum is being dumbed down.
Anthony, in a letter to Neal, states that such changes are overdue because...the core curriculum has not changed in fifty years! He describes the university's ambition as twofold: "to bring the university's core curriculum in line with peer institutions across the nation, and to empower faculty at the departmental level to determine what their students need to be successful." The passage of Arkansas's Act 182, which makes it easier for students to transfer from community colleges, "expedited a process that was already underway and very much needed."
Chancellor G. David Gearhart, in his editorial published in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in response to Neal's, echoed Anthony's call to "empower" faculty, saying, "Faculty must be the driving force on setting the new requirements."
That might explain why Intro to Gender Studies will count as a class to fulfill the six hours required in Fine Arts/Humanities, and why someone earning a bachelor of arts degree no longer is required to the take the sophomore-level philosophy class previously required. At some colleges, such classes in gender oppression are required as standalone classes or are the focus of other mandated classes, like "American Gender History."
The love of wisdom is being replaced by the love of grievances.
Of course, to the newly minted Ph.D.s in such fields, Intro to Gender Studies is more important than those old-fashioned subjects like philosophy, math, science, and foreign languages. They are carrying out Woodstock nation's poet-warriors' battle cry: "Hey, hey, ho, ho. Western civilization's got to go!"
The old subjects are deemed guilty of "Eurocentrism." They encourage linear thinking. They are remnants of the old patriarchy that values logic and skills. Capitalists think those abilities are worth much more than the circular, emotive (illogical) thinking used in gender studies. Philosophy, math, science, literature, and foreign languages do not encourage students to become social activists and community organizers. They encourage students to study the structure of language, learn the philosophical and literary heritage of the West, weigh evidence, solve problems, innovate, express ideas logically, and seek truth.
Gearhart's response to Neal's op-ed demonstrates the rampant institutional decay of higher education. He charged that ACTA's criteria for curriculum "lie outside generally accepted academic norms," noting that ACTA "issued less favorable letter grades of 'D' and 'F' to the following institutions: Vanderbilt, Harvard, University of California-Berkley, and the University of Virginia." He sniffed, "In light of Ms. Neal's column, it appears we are now in danger of joining the ranks of these institutions."
Then he offered, "If so, we are prepared to be judged by the company we keep."
The company the University of Arkansas will keep will be Henry Louis "Beer Summit" Gates at Harvard; Kelly Oliver, philosophy and women's studies professor at Vanderbilt, whose latest book deals with "animal studies"; Michael Mann, former professor of environmental science at the University of Virginia, now at the University of Pennsylvania, implicated in Climategate; and all those partaking in the proud tradition of radicalism at Berkley, from the "free [profanity] speech movement" in the 1960s to protests for continued largesse from taxpayers.
When students aren't even exposed to dialogues on justice and love or the Socratic method, how can they think in a truly "critical" way about "hope" and "change"? If the idea of evidence and truth is dispensed with in favor of perspective (such as that of women or any number of groups), how can students recognize the origins of "spreading the wealth"? Does anybody care if they don't know that there is no such language as "Austrian" or that a pop star president can't get a simple phrase right in the language he says Americans should be teaching their children? Or if the vice president talks about President Roosevelt addressing the American people on television? Doing a Google search doesn't help if you can't distinguish between sources, or if your grade depends on attitude, and not academics.
Chancellor Gearhart wrote, "We are committed to increasing the number of degree holders in the state of Arkansas."
Arkansas is in forty-ninth place in terms of percentage of citizens holding college degrees. And under a system of federal aid that follows bodies in classroom seats, it's to administrators' benefit to make it easy for students to enroll and graduate.
President Obama, in (of course) asking for more spending on education, recently announced his of goal making the U.S. the country with the highest percentage of college graduates by 2020. Gee, I wonder why.
Global warming book withdrawn
Millard Public Schools will stop using a children's book about global warming -- but only until the district can obtain copies with a factual error corrected.
A review committee, convened after parents complained, concluded that author Laurie David's book, "The Down-to-Earth Guide to Global Warming," contained "a major factual error" in a graphic about rising temperatures and carbon dioxide levels.
Mark Feldhausen, associate superintendent for educational services, this week sent a letter to parents who complained, including the wife of U.S. Rep. Lee Terry of Nebraska, outlining the committee's findings.
"Although the authors have pledged to correct the graph in subsequent editions, the committee recommends that this correction be made to all MPS-owned texts before using it with students in the future," Feldhausen wrote.
Corrected versions will continue to be used in Millard's sixth-grade language arts curriculum, he wrote.
However, the district will cease to use a companion video about global warming, narrated by actor Leonardo DiCaprio, he wrote. The committee found the video "without merit" and recommended that it not be used. Robyn Terry, the congressman's wife, had described the video as a "political commercial."
Lee and Robyn Terry released a statement saying they were pleased with the decision and "impressed" by the district’s handling of the case. "We are pleased with their decision not to use the politically natured global warming video as a classroom instruction tool and that they have set a standard that information-based texts must be factually correct to be put in front of our children," they wrote.
A committee of five middle school parents, three teachers and one administrator met to determine whether the book and video served a proper purpose within the curriculum.
The book, new to the Millard curriculum this year, was part of "Plugged in to Non-Fiction," a collection of books on a variety of subjects. Parts of the book were required reading for sixth-graders in Millard reading and language-arts classes.
Three parents, including Robyn Terry, complained to the district. The Terrys’ 12-year-old son attended Beadle Middle School last year. Mrs. Terry said that the materials used in his class portrayed global warming as fact when scientists disagree.
In the video, DiCaprio attributes global warming to mankind’s "destructive addiction" to oil. He says "big corporations" and politicians gained too much money and power "on our addiction," making them "dangerously resistant to change."
In the letter to parents, Feldhausen said the committee recognized there are "multiple viewpoints" on global warming. The committee recommended that all teachers using the book "make students aware of both sides of the global warming theory," he said.
The Tories have a precious chance to save British schools from the state
The educational establishment has seen off previous reforms – but this time, the revolution could finally take hold , writes Matthew d'Ancona
In the past few days, we have heard much sound sense from the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, about schools reform. But here is what the Prime Minister had to say, and it is worth quoting at length:
“No one will be able to veto parents starting new schools or new providers coming in, simply on the basis that there are local surplus places. The role of the LEA [local education authority] will change fundamentally. There will be relentless focus on failing schools to turn them round. Ofsted will continue to measure performance, albeit with a lighter touch. But otherwise the schools will be accountable not to government at the centre or locally, but to parents, with the creativity and enterprise of the teachers and school leaders set free.”
The PM continued: “Where parents are dissatisfied, they need a range of good schools to choose from; or where there is no such choice, [to be] able to take the remedy into their own hands. Where business, the voluntary sector, philanthropy, which in every other field is an increasing part of our national life, want to play a key role in education, and schools want them to, they can. Where local employers feel local schools aren’t meeting local skill needs, they can get involved. The system is being empowered to make change. The centre will provide the resources and enable local change-makers to work the change. We will set the framework and make the rules necessary for fairness. Where there is chronic failure, we will intervene. But the state’s role will be strategic; as the system evolves, its hand will be lifted, except to help where help is needed.”
Good stuff, isn’t it? Except that I am cheating. The Prime Minister who spoke those words was not David Cameron but Tony Blair, and he did so in October 2005, rather than June 2010. But a good idea is a good idea. The Coalition’s plans to enable parents, teachers and other groups to set up free schools, liberated from the dead hand of town-hall control, is a logical extension of the structural education reforms to which Blair (as opposed to his party) became converted all too late in his premiership. Ministers are happy to quote this speech as the ur-text for what they are now doing.
Beyond this ancestry, the free school plan, launched last Friday, is also a practical example of what Cameron means when he talks about the “Big Society”: an idea which achieved negligible traction with voters during the election campaign. As with most stories, political or otherwise, it is better to show than to tell. At the level of political rhetoric, the “Big Society” sounded much too abstract, too formless, too vague. In practice – when translated into specific policies – it is easy to grasp, and appeals to the fundamental human instinct to seek control over our destinies and our communities. The opportunity to set up a school may not animate every citizen: but it has already attracted interest from more than 700 groups. Those who say that the Cameroon campaign to fire up community activism is doomed are dead wrong.
The best book I have read for ages is Matthew Crawford’s The Case for Working With Your Hands, an inquiry into the nature of manual work which has caused great excitement in America. Although the book is notionally about Crawford’s own decision to stop being a think-tank director and become a motorcycle mechanic, it is actually a profound exploration of modern education, work and capitalism. One of its many arresting conclusions is that legions of 21st-century white-collar employees who consider themselves “knowledge workers” are in fact little more than clerks, merely following rules and stripped of all discretion. In Crawford’s phrase, they are nothing more than cogs, subject to the “intellectual technology” imposed upon them by centralised bureaucracy.
I mention this book in this context both because I happen to know it is in Mr Gove’s in-tray, and because its analysis applies with horrible precision to our education system. Teachers have been incrementally stripped of the discretion that used to define them as professionals. Most schools are outposts of the town hall and local branches of the Department for Education before they are autonomous civic institutions. The Gove plan for free schools, inspired by similar policies in Sweden and the United States, completely recasts the role of the state in secondary education. No more command-and-control: central government will assess applications (so no state-funded madrassas, Jerry Falwell Academies, or Satanist Sixth Form Colleges), provide funding, and stand well back, intervening only in extremis.
In common with most good plans, this will not be easy to implement. Although Tuesday’s emergency Budget is unlikely to include any major decisions regarding school funding, the spending review later this year is another matter. The Treasury has already made it clear that other sectors of the education budget will need to be cut if the free schools programme is to be fully funded. “Efficiency gains”, the closure of quangos and the axing of redundant schemes will save some money, but nowhere near enough. If it means business about its free schools programme – and I am sure it does – the Cameron Government faces some very thorny decisions this year. The language of priorities, as Nye Bevan said, is the religion of socialism. It is also the reality of fiscal retrenchment.
Second, the free schools plan will be opposed by the education establishment with every fibre of its being. Already, the Anti Academies Alliance (whose patrons include Lord Hattersley, Tony Benn and Fiona Millar) is hard at work opposing the plan. The teaching unions will soon follow. So will the town halls. And we have been here before. In the early Nineties, John Patten, the Conservative education secretary, fought a lion-hearted campaign to enable schools to opt out of local authority control, keeping a totaliser of those that did so on his desk. Lord Patten could tell Mr Gove a tale or two about the lengths to which the education establishment will go to frighten parents and spread misinformation.
In particular, ministers and the New Schools Network (which will assist those seeking to set up free schools) must nail the lie that this is all about entrenching social and educational segregation. In fact, the opposite is true. The status quo is centralised segregation: that is, a multi-tiered system about which parents can do nothing, except by paying fees direct to a private school or the stealth fees of higher house prices near to good state schools. The free school programme gives parents and community groups the chance to take the initiative in the most radical sense.
No government can prosper simply by taking things away, even when a fiscal crisis gives it no option but to do so. Margaret Thatcher won elections because of what she offered: council house sales, shares in privatised utilities, an end to penal taxation. This week will be dominated by bleak news of cuts, and the price we must all pay for Labour’s recklessness. So Mr Gove’s invitation could not be more timely or reassuring: a reminder that there will be gain, as well as pain, in the transformative years ahead.
20 June, 2010
Detroit school board chief resigns amid obscenity complaint
Mathis is also illiterate -- Only in Detroit
Detroit's school board is refusing to reinstate its former president after he was accused of fondling himself in front of the district's superintendent. Board members gave a letter to Otis Mathis on Friday, saying his request for reinstatement was denied.
The 56-year-old resigned Thursday, the same day General Superintendent Teresa Gueyser filed her complaint. In a detailed letter to the board, she says Mathis repeatedly fondled himself using a handkerchief as they discussed school matters Wednesday.
The letter says she "asked him not to touch himself" on several occasions and he eventually apologized. Mathis declined comment Friday. In his resignation letter, he says he "made inappropriate actions."
Messages left Friday at Gueyser's office weren't returned.
Jewish, Muslim Tensions Rise at UC Irvine After Suspension of Muslim Group
Tensions are high at the University of California-Irvine after the school recommended suspending a Muslim student group for its role in the disruption of an Israeli ambassador's speech earlier this year.
Students at the university say Jews and Muslims have been accusing each other of discrimination and harassment, as both sides have embraced campus speakers seen as hostile to Israel or Islam. Now the proposed suspension of the Muslim Student Union for at least a year has made an already hostile situation worse.
The school revealed this week that it had recommended suspending the Muslim group after 11 students were arrested in February for repeatedly disrupting a speech by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, who was repeatedly interrupted and called "murderer" and "war criminal" by pro-Palestinian students as he gave a talk on the Middle East peace process.
The Muslim group is appealing the recommendation -- a process that is expected to be completed before the next school year begins.
The appeal comes after more than 60 faculty members at UC Irvine signed an open letter last month condemning what they said was an anti-Semitic atmosphere at the school. "We…are deeply disturbed about activities on campus that foment hatred against Jews and Israelis," the letter read, citing incidents over the past few years that included "the painting of swastikas in university buildings and the Star of David depicted as akin to a swastika." "Some community members, students, and faculty indeed feel intimidated, and at times even unsafe," the letter read.
But a lawyer for the Muslim Student Union said any tensions on campus derive from a Jewish organization that is not connected to the college: the Jewish Federation Orange County. "A lot of the tension and friction is not on the campus," attorney and activist Reem Salahi said. "It's not divided between Jewish and Muslim organizations. There's more tension between Muslim students and these Jewish organizations pressuring the university."
She said Muslim students have been intimidated and harassed and have even received death threats in which they've been called "every type of superlative imagined."
In recent years, UC Irvine has been accused of fostering anti-Semitic activity as the MSU hosted pro-Palestinian speakers critical of Israel. In 2005, the Education Department's Office of Civil Rights found that Muslim students had engaged in offensive behavior, but that their actions stemmed from opposition to the politics of Israel rather than to Jewish students themselves.
Three years later, Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee wrote to the Education Department expressing concerns that the office decided not to further investigate charges that UC Irvine had failed to respond quickly and effectively to complaints by Jewish students of being repeatedly intimidated and harassed.
But now Muslim students find themselves on the defensive. The university on Monday released a letter from a student affairs disciplinary committee to a Muslim Student Union leader saying the group was found guilty of disorderly conduct, obstructing university activities and other violations of campus policy.
The committee recommended suspending the group for one year, placing it on disciplinary probation for an additional year and requiring the student organization to collectively complete 50 hours of community service, a move that would prevent the group from conducting organized campus events until at least the fall of 2011.
University spokeswoman Cathy Lawhon said the committee's decision will be a binding recommendation to the campus' office of student affairs if the group's appeal does not succeed.
Lawhon said all the focus and attention paid to tensions between Jewish and Muslim students "has largely been generated by the outside community." "There's been a lot of attention on us by outsider groups for whatever reason for things that go on at every UC campus around the state," she said, adding that controversial speakers usually go to all the UC schools in the state. "The only time you hear about it is when they're at UC Irvine."
The Jewish Federation Orange County, which compelled the school to release the letter after filing a Freedom of Information Act, praised the school for its decision. "While we would have liked for the administration to have come to this conclusion more quickly, we are please that after due process, the MSU has finally been sanctioned," Shalom Elcott, president of the group, said in a written statement.
Elcott told FoxNews.com that the MSU has been largely responsible for creating an anti-Semitic atmosphere on the campus by inviting speakers who equate Jews to Nazis and rally support for jihad, or holy war. "The MSU has been looking for a battle for a long time," he said, adding that his group is only trying to help bridge the differences between the two sides.
Salahi declined to say whether legal action is being planned in the event of an unsuccessful appeal. But she said students were "outraged" and "disappointed" with the university's decision. "It's unprecedented a university would ever do this," she said, adding that the suspension would "create a really dangerous precedent for shutting down dissent."
Boss of British education regulator given the boot
The education chief responsible for monitoring standards in schools is to be ousted from her post as part of a cull of advisers close to the old Labour regime. Christine Gilbert – the Chief Inspector of Schools, who is married to former Labour minister Tony McNulty – is to quit her £200,000-a-year job as head of Ofsted before the end of her term.
It means the couple will have to make dramatic changes to their envious lifestyle.
Just 18 months ago, before Mr McNulty was forced to resign from the Government over his expenses claims, they enjoyed a combined income of £300,000, chauffeur-driven limousines paid for by the taxpayer and thousands in expenses.
News of Ms Gilbert’s demise follows last week’s disclosure that the country’s most senior military officer, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, would step down early as chief of the defence staff. He had faced criticism over his handling of the Afghanistan campaign.
Ms Gilbert was due to stay on in the post until October next year but has been told she can leave at a time of her choosing within the next few months. The former headmistress and Labour council education boss, became the first woman to head Ofsted in October 2006. But her appointment led to accusations of cronyism because her husband was a Minister at the time.
Apart from her strong associations with Labour, it is unlikely that her views on education policy would have chimed with those of new Education Minister Michael Gove. Mr Gove has made clear his determination to drive up school standards by beefing up the inspection regime. Ofsted will also have a role in monitoring new ‘free’ state schools, which can be set up by groups of parents and teachers, and operate outside town hall control.
One Whitehall insider said last night: ‘It is felt that it is good time for new leadership at Ofsted. It will have vital new tasks to perform under the new Government and it is seen as important that it has the kind of leadership that can embrace fully this change.’
Mr McNulty, the former Labour MP for Harrow East, was seen as a loyal Blairite and was once a high-flyer in the New Labour ranks.
As well as a joint annual income of £300,000, the couple also had chauffeur-driven limousines paid for by the taxpayer. Ms Gilbert’s was provided by Ofsted while Mr McNulty had a ministerial car. But he was forced to resign as Employment Minister in March last year after The Mail on Sunday revealed that he had breached rules governing Commons’ second homes expenses.
Mr McNulty admitted claiming expenses on his second home while his parents were living in it but insisted he made ‘considerable’ use of the property, which was just eight miles away from his primary residence in Hammersmith, West London. Both properties are worth around £1.2million.
Mr McNulty was later forced to pay back almost £14,000 of taxpayers’ money and lost his seat to a Tory candidate in last month’s General Election. The couple are understood to still be living in the Hammersmith house, which records show is owned by Ms Gilbert.
Her style of leadership at Ofsted, which had a budget of around £230million in 2008/09 and employs 2,150 staff, has been relatively low-key compared to that of her predecessors, Chris Woodhead.
While the abrasive Mr Woodhead – the scourge of teachers and trendy teaching methods – was rarely out of the limelight, Ms Gilbert has virtually no media profile. Mr Woodhead said of her management style: ‘Ofsted has become much more mechanical and bureaucratic under her stewardship. ‘There is also less evidence Ofsted has been prepared to speak out in a way that might embarrass the Government, which is what it should be doing.’
Details of Ms Gilbert’s personal life are also sparse. She was educated at a convent school in London and at Reading University before training to become a teacher. She later became headmistress of a school in Harrow, North London, when she was 32 before becoming director of education in the borough. She moved across London to become head of Tower Hamlets Educational Services in 1997, where she was credited with raising school standards, later becoming chief executive of the council.
Ms Gilbert was awarded a CBE for services to education in the New Year’s honours list in 2006.
A spokesman for Ofsted said: ‘We are not commenting on rumour and speculation.’
Private school fees soaring in Australia too
As discipline in government schools continues to deteriorate, the demand for private schools rises
CASH-strapped parents are paying $7 billion more for school fees and education costs than five years ago, putting unprecedented pressure on the household budget.
Figures obtained by The Daily Telegraph yesterday showed parents paid a staggering $22 billion in education expenses in the past 12 months as private school fees surged to unseen levels due to increased demand for schooling.
That total spend is almost a 50 per cent increase on what parents were paying in school fees in 2005, while inflation over the same period has only risen by a moderate 9 per cent.
The biggest increase was in higher education, where fees and costs surged from $1.9 billion to $2.8 billion, mostly in the last 12 months.
Commsec economist Savanth Sebastian said the massive hikes were a direct result of rising populations in a nation that is simply not building enough schools.
Where healthcare services and childcare providers - sectors also feeling the strain of population growth - maintained only minimal growth in fees and costs, schools have been found guilty of blatantly gouging parents.
Given the growing importance parents are placing on education, according to Mr Sebastian, elite private schools and universities know their classrooms will be full whatever price they demand.
"The fact population is growing at the fastest rate in 40 years is adding to the strain on the education system, which warrants the increase in fees because it is a supply and demand issue," he said.
"We have had rising wealth over the past five years, given the commodity boom and improvement in sharemarkets that may have propelled more parents into private eduction.
"But the growth in education fees seems excessive."
Despite a backlash from parents and a Federal Government which was injecting $28 billion into education, elite schools pushed ahead with a 6 per cent increase in fees at the start of the 2010 school year.
The largest fee hike this year was posted by Brisbane Girls' Grammar and East Brisbane's Anglican Church Grammar School which locked in rises of more than 8 per cent.
Australia's most expensive school, Geelong Grammar, lifted its fees 5.5 per cent to $27,700 per student, a step ahead of Sydney's Kings School which increased fees by the same amount to $24,730.
19 June, 2010
Ultra-Orthodox Jews protest ruling to desegregate Israeli school
The Sephardim are browner and quite a lot dumber on average -- and it is true that the religious practices of the Sephardim and Ashkenazim do differ
Tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews protested Thursday against a Supreme Court decision to jail parents who have refused to comply with their order to desegregate a religious girls' school.
Dressed in black hats and carrying posters denouncing the court as "fascists," the peaceful protesters continued Thursday afternoon until about 42 sets of parents turned themselves in to police custody to begin serving two-week sentences for contempt of court.
It was one of the largest protests in Jerusalem's history, and a reminder of the ultra-Orthodox minority's refusal to accept the authority of the state.
Also, the throngs of devout Jews showed to what extent the ultra-Orthodox live by their own rules, some of them archaic, while wielding disproportionate power in the modern state of Israel.
Parents of European, or Ashkenazi, descent at the Beit Yakov girls' school in the West Bank settlement of Emanuel don't want their daughters to study with schoolgirls of Mideast and North African descent, known as Sephardim. The state-funded independent school enrolls all students but maintains separate studies that largely keep the Ashkenazi students apart from Sephardi ones.
The Ashkenazi parents insist they aren't racist but want to keep the classrooms segregated, as they have been for years, arguing that the families of the Sephardi girls aren't religious enough.
Israel's Supreme Court rejected that argument and ruled that the 42 sets of parents who have defied the integration efforts by keeping their daughters from school were to be jailed Thursday for two weeks.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said about 100,000 people converged in downtown Jerusalem in support of the Ashkenazi parents. An additional 20,000 demonstrated in the central city of Bnei Brak. He said 10,000 police were deployed.
Parents of the Ashkenazi girls insist the separation at the school is based on religion, not skin color, saying Sephardi customs are generally less stringent in terms of dress and conduct, such as watching television or using the Internet. Many Ashkenazi reject outside culture and don't have televisions in their homes.
Ashkenazi leaders denied ethnicity played a role in the school's decision. "There is not a drop of racism," Deputy Health Minister Rabbi Yakov Litzman, a leader in the ultra-Orthodox party United Torah Judaism, told Israel Radio. "The problem is that the communities adhere to different standards."
Not so, according to Yonatan Danino, spokesman for the nonprofit organization that petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn the policy. "Sephardic Jewry is no less pious, and the girls of these families suffered clear discrimination," he said.
The court agreed, ruling last year that the practice was based on discrimination. Comparing the case to desegregation of the American South in the 1950s, the court ordered the separation at the school to end.
Parents to date have refused to comply, withholding their daughters from school and saying their religious convictions trump the court order. The dispute culminated in a courtroom standoff this week, during which justices ordered about 84 parents to either abide by its order or go to jail.
Sephardi religious leaders have not publicly criticized the demonstration or the Ashkenazi parents' conduct. Nissim Zeev, a lawmaker from the Orthodox Sephardic political party Shas, said the issue should have been settled by a rabbinical court and that the parents' prison sentence was "puzzling." He insisted the Sephardi girls had the right to choose to attend a mixed school.
The protests come amid a recent flare-up of tensions between Israel's secular and religious citizens. In a separate decision this week, the Supreme Court ruled that special government subsidies given to support religious students must end next year because they discriminate against nonreligious students.
Violent protests also rocked the cities of Jaffa and Ashkelon in recent weeks as the ultra-Orthodox protested development projects they say will disturb ancient Jewish graves.
Israel's ultra-Orthodox minority of some 650,000 Jews — slightly less than 10 percent of the nation's population — is an insular community that has been known to riot over the state's intrusion into its affairs.
End them, don’t mend them
It’s time to shutter America’s bloated schools
The school year is drawing to a close. Time to balance the educational accounts and see what’s been learned. Though not by my kids. I don’t worry about them. They’re geniuses like your kids and soak up knowledge the way a sponge (or a SpongeBob) does. Muffin, in sixth grade, has learned that Justin Bieber is very talented and doesn’t—really, Dad—sing like a girl. Poppet, third grade, has learned how the Plains Indians made tepees. (They waited until after dinner to announce that their “Lifestyles of the Cheyenne” project was due tomorrow so that all the Cheyenne dads were up until one in the morning gluing dowels and brown wrapping paper to a piece of AstroTurf.) And Buster, kindergarten, has learned he can make himself giggle hysterically by adding “poop” to any phrase. The Little Engine That Could Poop.
No, the accounts that I’m balancing —and it’s quite educational— are bank accounts. What’s been learned is that it costs a fortune to send kids to school. Figures in the Statistical Abstract of the United States show that we are spending $11,749 per pupil per year in the U.S. public schools, grades pre-K through 12. That’s an average. And you, like me, don’t have average children. So we pay the $11,749 in school taxes for the children who are average and then we pay private school tuition for our own outstanding children or we move to a suburb we can’t afford and pay even more property taxes for schools in the belief that this makes every child outstanding.
Parents of average students believe it too. According to an annual Gallup poll conducted from 2004 through 2007, Americans think insufficient funding is the top problem with the public schools in their communities. But if throwing money is what’s needed, American school kids are getting smacked in the head with gobs of cash aplenty. That $11,749 is a lot more than the $7,848 private school pre-K through 12 national spending norm. It’s also a lot more than the $7,171 median tuition at four-year public colleges. Plus $11,749 is much less than what’s really being spent.
In March the Cato Institute issued a report on the cost of public schools. Policy analyst Adam Schaeffer made a detailed examination of the budgets of 18 school districts in the five largest U.S. metro areas and the District of Columbia. He found that school districts were understating their per-pupil spending by between 23 and 90 percent. The school districts cried poor by excluding various categories of spending from their budgets —debt service, employee benefits, transportation costs, capital costs, and, presumably, those cans of aerosol spray used to give all public schools that special public school smell.
Schaeffer calculated that Los Angeles, which claims $19,000 per-pupil spending, actually spends $25,000. The New York metropolitan area admits to a per-pupil average of $18,700, but the true cost is about $26,900. The District of Columbia’s per-pupil outlay is claimed to be $17,542. The real number is an astonishing $28,170—155 percent more than the average tuition at the famously pricey private academies of the capital region.
School districts also cheat by simple slowness in publishing their budgets. The $11,749 is from 2007, the most recent figure available. It’s certainly grown. The Digest of Educational Statistics (read by Monday, there will be a quiz) says inflation-adjusted per-pupil spending increased by 49 percent from 1984 to 2004 and by more than 100 percent from 1970 to 2005.
Bell bottoms and Jerry Rubin hair versus piercings and tattoos —are kids getting smarter? No. National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test scores remained essentially the same from 1970 to 2004. SAT scores in 1970 averaged 537 in reading and 512 in math, and 38 years later the scores were 502 and 515. (More kids are taking SATs, but the nitwit factor can be discounted—scores below 400 have decreased slightly.) American College Testing (ACT) composite scores have increased only slightly from 20.6 (out of 36) in 1990 to 21.1 in 2008. And the extraordinary expense of the D.C. public school system produced a 2007 class of eighth graders in which, according to the NAEP, 12 percent of the students were at or above proficiency in reading and 8 percent were at or above proficiency in math. Many of these young people are now entering the work force. Count your change in D.C.
British Private school fees increase three times faster than incomes
As discipline in government schools continues to deteriorate, the demand for private schools rises
Private school fees have risen at three times the rate of household income since the early 1990s, according to new research. Average annual fees for independent day schools rose from £5,280 to £9,650 between 1992 and 2008, the study said, an increase of 83 per cent.
The figures – which are adjusted for inflation – show that boarding school fees went up 65 per cent from £13,400 to £22,100 during the same period. In the meantime household earnings increased just 30 per cent, meaning the average income of a family with two young children rose from £14,500 to £18,900, after taxes and benefits.
The spiralling cost of private education was thrown into light by a report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), which revealed that independent school fees are still on the rise. This year the cost of private day schools reached an average of £10,100 a year, while boarding schools fees were about £24,000.
Despite the growing expense, the cost of fees is less of a factor in determining whether a child goes to an independent school than whether one of their parents was privately educated, the IFS said.
The study, which examined why parents choose to send their children to independent schools and the cost of doing so, found that a further increase in fees of £1,300 a year would reduce uptake of private education by just 0.33 per cent.
Children were at least three times more likely to go to a private school if their parents had also attended one, the report said.
Researcher Luke Sibieta said: "One of the strongest predictors is if one of a child's parents went to private school they are three times more likely to go to private school themselves."
Young people who grew up in areas where there were diverse levels of family income were more likely to be privately educated than children from neighbourhoods where incomes were broadly the same.
The study also analysed political factors, with Conservative voters 2.5 to 5 per cent more likely to send their child to an independent school than undecided voters, while Labour supporters were 2 to 3 times less likely to do so.
There are about 628,000 students at 2,600 independent schools in Britain – about 6.5 per cent of pupils in the country. Of those in the private system approximately 87 per cent are day pupils, with the other 13 per cent boarding.
The Independent Schools Council (ISC), which represents about half the independent schools in Britain, said the rise in fees was down to increasing costs of providing education, adding that demand for private education had risen during the period of the study.
Rudolf Eliott Lockhart, ISC Head of Research & Intelligence, said: "The vast majority of independent schools are not-for-profit and reinvest all of their income from fees into the education of their children.
“The IFS study also shows the success of bursary schemes at independent schools. Children from the poorest 0.5 per cent of families are twice as likely to attend independent schools as children from families with average incomes."
18 June, 2010
Kids told not to have "best friends"
America's Leftist educators really are little Stalins. They actually WANT the "Brave New World" dystopia. The maxim "everyone belongs to everyone else" is repeated often in Huxley's "Brave New World".
I'm guessing that the Leftists behind this have been too egocentric to have good friends themselves so are determined that nobody else will have good friends either. Their rationale that they are preventing "bullying" makes no sense whatever
From the time they met in kindergarten until they were 15, Robin Shreeves and her friend Penny were inseparable. They rode bikes, played kickball in the street, swam all summer long and listened to Andy Gibb, the Bay City Rollers and Shaun Cassidy on the stereo. When they were little, they liked Barbies; when they were bigger, they hung out at the roller rink on Friday nights. They told each other secrets, like which boys they thought were cute, as best friends always do.
Today, Shreeves, of suburban Philadelphia, is the mother of two boys. Her 10-year-old has a best friend. In fact, he is the son of Shreeves’ own friend, Penny. But Shreeves’ younger son, 8, does not. His favorite playmate is a boy who was in his preschool class, but Shreeves says that the two don’t get together very often because scheduling play dates can be complicated; they usually have to be planned a week or more in advance. “He’ll say, ‘I wish I had someone I can always call,’” Shreeves said.
One might be tempted to feel some sympathy for the younger son. After all, from Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn to Harry Potter and Ron Weasley, the childhood “best friend” has long been romanticized in literature and pop culture — not to mention in the sentimental memories of countless adults.
But increasingly, some educators and other professionals who work with children are asking a question that might surprise their parents: Should a child really have a best friend?
Most children naturally seek close friends. In a survey of nearly 3,000 Americans ages 8 to 24 conducted last year by Harris Interactive, 94 percent said they had at least one close friend. But the classic best-friend bond — the two special pals who share secrets and exploits, who gravitate to each other on the playground and who head out the door together every day after school — signals potential trouble for school officials intent on discouraging anything that hints of exclusivity, because of concerns about bullying.
“I think it is kids’ preference to pair up and have that one best friend. As adults — teachers and counselors — we try to encourage them not to do that,” said Christine Laycob, director of counseling at Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School in St. Louis. “We try to talk to kids and work with them to get them to have big groups of friends and not be so possessive about friends. “Parents sometimes say Johnny needs that one special friend,“ she continued. “We say he doesn’t need a best friend.“
That attitude is a blunt manifestation of a mind-set that has led adults to become ever more involved in children’s social lives in recent years. The days when children roamed the neighborhood and played with whomever they wanted to until the streetlights came on disappeared long ago, replaced by the scheduled play date. While in the past, a social slight in backyard games rarely came to teachers’ attention the next day, today an upsetting text message from one middle school student to another is often forwarded to school administrators, who frequently feel compelled to intervene in the relationship. (Laycob was speaking in an interview after spending much of the previous day dealing with a “really awful“ text message one girl had sent another.) Indeed, much of the effort to encourage children to be friends with everyone is meant to head off bullying and other extreme consequences of social exclusion.
For many child-rearing experts, the ideal situation might well be that of Matthew and Margaret Guest, 12-year-old twins in suburban Atlanta who almost always socialize in a pack. One typical Friday afternoon, about 10 boys and girls filled the Guest family backyard. Children were jumping on the trampoline, shooting baskets and playing manhunt, a variation on hide-and-seek.
Neither Margaret nor Matthew has ever had a best friend. “I just really don’t have one person I like more than others,“ Margaret said. “Most people have lots of friends.“ Matthew said he considers 12 boys to be his good friends and says he sees most of them “pretty much every weekend.“
Their mother, Laura Guest, said their school tries to prevent bullying through workshops and posters. And extracurricular activities keep her children group-oriented — Margaret is on the swim team and does gymnastics; Matthew plays football and baseball.
As the calendar moves into summer, efforts to manage friendships don’t stop with the closing of school. In recent years Timber Lake Camp, a co-ed sleep-away camp in Phoenicia, N.Y., has started employing “friendship coaches“ to work with campers to help every child become friends with everyone else. If two children seem to be too focused on each other, the camp will make sure to put them on different sports teams, seat them at different ends of the dining table or, perhaps, have a counselor invite one of them to participate in an activity with another child whom they haven’t yet gotten to know.
“I don’t think it’s particularly healthy for a child to rely on one friend,“ said Jay Jacobs, the camp’s director. “If something goes awry, it can be devastating. It also limits a child’s ability to explore other options in the world.“
But such an attitude worries some psychologists who fear that children will be denied the strong emotional support and security that come with intimate friendships. “Do we want to encourage kids to have all sorts of superficial relationships? Is that how we really want to rear our children?“ asked Brett Laursen, a psychology professor at Florida Atlantic University whose specialty is peer relationships. “Imagine the implication for romantic relationships. We want children to get good at leading close relationships, not superficial ones.“
Many psychologists believe that close childhood friendships not only increase a child’s self-esteem and confidence, but also help children develop the skills for healthy adult relationships — everything from empathy, the ability to listen and console, to the process of arguing and making up. If children’s friendships are choreographed and sanitized by adults, the argument goes, how is a child to prepare emotionally for both the affection and rejection likely to come later in life?
“No one can teach you what a great friend is, what a fair-weather friend is, what a treacherous and betraying friend is except to have a great friend, a fair-weather friend or a treacherous and betraying friend,“ said Michael Thompson, a psychologist who is an author of the book “Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of Children.“
“When a teacher is trying to tone down a best-friend culture, I would like to know why,“ Thompson said. “Is it causing misery for the class? Or is there one girl who does have friends but just can’t bear the thought that she doesn’t have as good a best friend as another? That to me is normal social pain. If you’re mucking around too much in the lives of kids who are just experiencing normal social pain, you shouldn’t be.“
Schools insist they don’t intend to break up close friendships but rather to encourage courtesy, respect and kindness to all. “I don’t see schools really in the business of trying to prevent friendships as far as they are trying to give students an opportunity to interact socially with other students in a variety of different ways,“ said Patti Kinney, who was a teacher and a principal in an Oregon middle school for 33 years and is now an official at the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
Still, school officials admit they watch close friendships carefully for adverse effects. “When two children discover a special bond between them, we honor that bond, provided that neither child overtly or covertly excludes or rejects others,” said Jan Mooney, a psychologist at the Town School, a nursery through eighth grade private school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. “However, the bottom line is that if we find a best friend pairing to be destructive to either child, or to others in the classroom [So "others" must give you permission for your friendships??], we will not hesitate to separate children and to work with the children and their parents to ensure healthier [brainless?] relationships in the future.”
NY State to set new degree of difficulty after determining graduation requirements need overhaul
They actually want their diplomas to mean something. Like Wow!
Get your diplomas while you can, kids, because next year the hammer's coming down. State officials expect graduation rates to drop after they make it tougher to get a diploma, Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said yesterday. "Right now, we are graduating kids with Regents diplomas who need to take remedial courses," Tisch said. "This is a joke. It's a game, and the game needs to come to an end."
The city's graduation rate has increased steadily over the past several years, peaking at 59% last year. Tisch noted that three-quarters of city high school graduates entering city community colleges fail the entrance exams. She said one way to make a diploma mean more is to raise the passing score to higher than 65.
"Maybe it means 75. Who knows, maybe it means 80," Tisch told the Daily News. "We are saying that with this diploma, they should be ready to enter a four-year college."
A city Education Department spokesman backed the state's attempt to make graduation requirements more rigorous. "We strongly support the state's effort to ensure all graduating students are prepared for college," Danny Kanner said.
British middle-income earners priced out of private education as fees soar
Thousand of middle-income families are being priced out of private schools as fees rocket three times faster than incomes.
A growing breed of super-rich parents prepared to use their financial muscle to buy a privileged education has caused demand for private schools to soar - despite inflation-shattering fee rises. Day school charges have risen 83 per cent since the early 1990s - even though the average income of families with children has grown only 31 per cent, according to research from the Institute of Fiscal Studies.
A boom in the number of families on six-figure salaries and a growing tendency for parents to make financial sacrifices for their children's education is thought to be fuelling the fee rises.
But middle-income parents such as police officers and teachers are increasingly unlikely to be able to afford private schools, the research suggests.
The study found children were three times more likely to go to private school if their parents attended one. But the cost of private education and the quality of local schools were also linked to parental decisions to choose independent schools.
If the proportion of pupils in state schools achieving five A* to C grades at GCSE was to rise by 5 per cent, the proportion of pupils attending private school would fall by 0.3 percentage points, the study found.
Meanwhile, a £1,300 rise in annual fees reduced the proportion of pupils attending private schools by 0.3 percentage points, according to the study.
The research found that the proportion of pupils attending fee-paying schools in England rose from 6.9 per cent in 1996 to 7.2 per cent in2008.
Toby Mullins, chairman of the Society of Headmasters and Headmistresses of Independent Schools, risked inflaming parental anger earlier this year when he revealed how fee rises during the economic boom years had been plucked out of the air. He said schools had been acutely conscious of financial pressures on parents during the recession, and added: 'I'm not anticipating we'll go back to a sort of free-for-all where everybody just puts them up by whatever they first think of, I just think that won't happen.'
17 June, 2010
Big man shortage on U.S. campuses
Partly caused by government regulations
It's well-known that there's a severe gender imbalance in undergraduate college populations: About 57 percent of undergrads these days are female and just 43 percent male, the culmination of a trend in which significantly fewer young men than young women either graduate from high school or enroll in college.
It's also well-known - at least among college admissions officers - that many private institutions have tried to close the gender gap by quietly relaxing admissions standards for males, essentially practicing affirmative action for young men. What they're doing is perfectly legal, even under Title IX, the 1972 federal law that bans sex discrimination by institutions of higher learning receiving federal funds. Title IX contains an exemption that specifically allows private colleges that aren't professional or technical institutions to prefer one sex over the other in undergraduate admissions.
Militant feminists and principled opponents of affirmative action might complain about the discrimination against women that Title IX permits, but for many second- and third-tier liberal arts colleges lacking male educational magnets such as engineering and business programs, the exemption may be a lifesaver, preventing those smaller and less prestigious schools from turning into de facto women's colleges that few young people of either sex might want to attend.
Now, however, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has decided to turn over this rock carefully set in place by admissions committees. The commission launched an investigation in the fall into the extent of male preferences in admissions decisions at 19 institutions of higher learning. These include public universities (where such preferences are illegal under Title IX); elite private institutions such as Georgetown and Johns Hopkins; smaller liberal arts schools (Gettysburg College, with 2,600 undergraduates, is on the list); religious schools (the University of Richmond and Messiah College in Grantham, Pa.); and historically black Virginia Union University, also in Richmond.
On May 14, the commission's general counsel, David P. Blackwood, announced that four of the 19 schools - Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, Gettysburg and Messiah - had raised legal issues concerning compliance with the commission's subpoenas and that Virginia Union, while responding politely, had not complied in any way. Mr. Blackwood said the commission might have to ask the Justice Department for help in obtaining admissions data from Virginia Union.
The commission's investigation has triggered a variety of ideological conflicts and created some unusual ideological allies - and it ultimately may provide a forum for rethinking Title IX itself. Critics charge that the U.S. Education Department has interpreted the 1972 law so as to make it illegal for colleges to attract males by more palatable means such as men's sports teams, forcing them to resort to outright sex discrimination in admissions.
On one side of the current conflict are the opponents of affirmative action for any group, whether based on sex, ethnicity or religion. Typically, such opponents compare efforts to limit the number of women in a college population to the quotas for Jews that once prevailed in the Ivy League and the de facto quotas disfavoring high-achieving Asians that typically have arisen as a consequence of "diversity" measures favoring blacks and Hispanics.
Squarely in the anti-affirmative-action camp is the instigator of the Civil Rights Commission's admissions probe, Gail Heriot, a law professor at the University of San Diego appointed to the commission by the Senate in 2007 and one of the backers of Proposition 209, the 1996 ballot measure that outlawed racial and other preferences by public institutions in California. "The exemption in Title IX was created to protect single-sex schools - to allow men's schools to remain men's schools and women's schools to remain women's schools," Ms. Heriot said in a telephone interview. "The admissions policies of coeducational schools weren't covered."
On the other side is a group that might be called "biological realists," a group that undoubtedly includes many admissions officers and alumni fundraisers. Their argument is simple: Call it sexist or call it simply hormonal, but most young people want to attend a coeducational school where the number of students of each sex is roughly equal.
There are almost no all-men's colleges left in the United States, and only about 50 all-women's colleges (two longtime holdouts, Hood in Maryland and Randolph-Macon in Virginia, went fully co-educational in 2003 and 2007 respectively, and even the most academically prestigious of the survivors, such as Bryn Mawr and Mount Holyoke, draw a significant percentage of their student bodies from socially conservative populations in the Mideast and East Asia where single-sex education is the norm).
Furthermore, once any institution is perceived as predominantly female, whether it is a school noted for a profession such as kindergarten-to-grade-12 teaching or a college with a severe female-to-male gender imbalance, it loses prestige. Men shy away, and eventually, so do the most talented women, who want to be where the high-status men are. If high school seniors won't apply to a college because they don't like the sex mix, the college drops both in perceived selectivity - such as in the U.S. News & World Report rankings where the applications-to-acceptances ratio is paramount - and actual selectivity as it scrambles to fill seats with less able students.
It's a rule of thumb that the less academic prestige a college has, the more likely it is to suffer from imbalance among applicants and also among those who choose to attend (there's no gender imbalance at Harvard or the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, for example). At community colleges that take all comers, for example, 62 percent of students are female, and the for-profit open-admissions University of Phoenix boasts on its website that it has a 67 percent female student body. "The lower the pecking order, the more women," Ms. Heriot said.
It's a potential death spiral of which most college administrators and governing boards are well aware. In 2005, trustees at the University of North Carolina's flagship campus at Chapel Hill were distressed to discover that the entering freshman class was 58 percent female. Some trustees openly suggested that the university create some sort of affirmative action for men.
There's a third interest group in the mix, the hard-line feminists who insist either that males as historical oppressors should never qualify for admissions preferences or that men's general lack of interest in institutions and activities that are "too female" is not a biological but a cultural phenomenon that can be reversed by role-modeling, mentoring and sensitivity sessions. In a forum this spring for Education Next, Susan McGee Bailey, executive director of the Wellesley Centers for Women and principal author of the American Association of University Women's 1992 report "How Schools Shortchange Girls," argued that male high school graduation rates and male college enrollments would increase if there were a national campaign to encourage fathers to read to their children and more boys in the kindergarten-to-grade-12 system had access to "men who hold other than traditionally male jobs."
The Civil Rights Commission has the power only to make recommendations, not rules, and Ms. Heriot would not say whether it would consider recommending statutory changes to the Title IX admissions exemption that would, say, apply it only to historically single-sex schools. "The first step is getting the records from these schools and finding out whether they're giving preferential treatment to men," she said. Ms. Heriot did say that the commission might suggest steps that colleges could take to attract more male applicants and thus reduce overtly sex-preferential admissions.
Pupils aged five should be taught all about sex: British health watchdog's instruction to schools
Children as young as five should be taught about sex, the Government’s controversial health watchdog said last night. The National Institute for Clinical Excellence – whose main role is to ration NHS drugs – is to write to every primary school telling it to start sex education when pupils are five.
It will tell teachers that children should not be taught to say no to sex – but should learn about the value of ‘mutually rewarding sexual relationships’.
Sex education is not compulsory in English schools – and even where it is taught, parents have the right to take their children out of lessons. But this guidance from NICE – albeit in draft form – will put greater pressure on headteachers to provide sex education at an earlier age.
At present, the only part of sex education that is compulsory is the science element – the human reproductive system and how babies are made. This is taught at secondary school. Guidance from the Department for Education suggests that from the ages of five to seven, children should learn the names of parts of the body, how people change as they get older, the difference between right and wrong, and that friends and family should care for one another.
The 74-page document was produced on NICE’s own initiative after it convened a panel of public health officials and representatives from family planning groups to produce guidance on reducing teenage pregnancy. NICE says that public health is part of its core remit and that cutting teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease would save the NHS money.
Schools do not have to follow the sex education document – but it is the first ever comprehensive guide to what children should be taught produced by a Government department.
Critics said it was far beyond NICE’s remit and was in danger of actually encouraging children to experiment with sex after learning about it at far too young an age.
Recommendations from NICE include teaching children how to put a condom on and that excessive drinking can lead to sex. It advises schools to use social networking websites to get the sex message across and calls on teachers to offer children confidential sex advice if they need it – without their parents being told.
The report concludes that sex and relationships education is ‘more effective if it is introduced before young people first have sex’. It says sex education – including information about sexually-transmitted infections, methods of contraception, pregnancy and abortion – can help children and teens delay sex until they are ready. ‘It does not cause them to have sex at an earlier age, or to have more sex, or sex with more partners, and nor does it increase the number of unwanted or teenage conceptions and abortions,’ the guidance says. [On what evidence?]
Critics last night accused the body of pressuring schools to push the boundaries on sex education and said the guidance undermined traditional values. Norman Wells, of pressure group Family and Youth Concern, said: ‘The team that drafted the guidance included lobby groups with an agenda to break down moral standards and redefine the family. Organisations with a commitment to marriage and traditional family values were not represented.’
Margaret Morrissey, of lobby group Parents Out Loud, said: ‘They tell me that once you give indepth information about sex and drugs, 90 per cent will go and experiment – and there’s no way back from that.’
Britain’s teenage pregnancy rate is the highest in western Europe. There are now more than 40,000 under-18 conceptions every year. Last night the Department for Education would not comment on the guidance.
But Simon Blake, of young people’s sexual health charity Brook, who helped draw up the guidance, said: ‘It’s a myth that sex education encourages children to be more promiscuous or have sex at an early age. ‘In fact, evidence demonstrates this type of education helps children and young people resist pressures to get involved in activities that might damage their health.’
Half of British schools fail to offer good education
Almost half of all state schools in England are failing to offer pupils a good education, according to inspectors. The proportion of schools rated as either inadequate or only satisfactory by Ofsted has risen to 47 per cent. Last year inspectors said two in three schools offered pupils at least a "good" education. Since then however, the number of schools graded as "inadequate" has more than doubled.
Nearly one in 10 (9%) of schools investigated by Ofsted were declared inadequate in the autumn and spring term 2009/10. Throughout the 2008/09 school year, just 4% of schools in England visited by inspectors fell into the category. At the same time, the number of schools rated "outstanding" has almost halved to just over one in 10 (11%), the figures show.
The change comes after the Government reformed inspection criteria in September, placing a greater emphasis on exam results as the best way to measure standards at schools.
Inspectors now spend twice as much time monitoring lessons and schools must analyse their own strengths and weaknesses before they are visited. Under-performing schools are inspected more frequently than before, while the very top institutions are less likely to be visited by inspectors.
Lord Hill, the Schools Minister, said: "With almost half of schools inspected since September judged as only satisfactory or inadequate, it's clear there is urgent need for real reform. "We need to create more excellent schools and drive up standards across the board, and that's exactly what our academy proposals will help to do. We also intend to reform the inspection regime so that Ofsted's expertise is more targeted on the weakest schools."
John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said reforms to the grading system caused confusion because schools could be downgraded even if their standards of education improved.
There has been speculation that poor results could result in head teachers being sacked and schools turned into independent academies in order to improve standards.
Mr Dunford said: "Of course, we want schools to keep striving for higher standards but it is not helpful to parents or schools when the basis for the grading system changes every four years."
In almost 4,000 inspections carried out since September, just 11 per cent of schools were given an overall rating of "outstanding", compared with 19 per cent last year. Almost one in 20 schools (4%) was put in "special measures", meaning they could be taken over if results are not improved in 12 months.
The figures are a slight improvement on assessments from the first term of this school year, when only nine per cent of schools were marked "outstanding" and 10 per cent were judged to be "inadequate".
Ofsted Chief Inspector Christine Gilbert said: "The new framework is helping ensure schools are better able to understand their weaknesses and areas in need of development. "It is particularly pleasing to see that 11 per cent of schools considered to be serving areas of high deprivation have been graded outstanding in the last term, matching the overall national figure for schools."
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said: "The Ofsted inspection framework introduced in 2009 not only redefined the English language, but also shifted the goalposts for what would be deemed to be an 'outstanding', 'good', 'satisfactory' or 'inadequate' performance by a school.
"Ofsted accepts that disproportionately more of its time is spent inspecting particular categories of schools. The statistics published today are, therefore, heavily biased and do not present a true picture about how well the system as a whole is doing."
16 June, 2010
U.S. Education Department takes aim at for-profit colleges
The Education Department is proposing a number of rules today designed to protect college students and taxpayers from abusive or fraudulent practices, including aggressive recruitment tactics and allowing ineligible students to enroll and receive aid.
Though all colleges that receive federal aid would be affected by the changes, the most controversial proposals are aimed at for-profit colleges, which have come under more scrutiny as their enrollments have increased.
In an effort to rein in student debt and high default rates, for example, one proposal would require colleges to disclose graduation and job placement rates and information about the effectiveness of their career and technical programs. Federal data show that 44% of 2007 graduates who defaulted on loans within three years attended for-profit institutions.
Most of the 14 key issues, outlined in a 503-page document shown to reporters Tuesday, were developed through negotiations over the past year with the higher education community. A final version of the rules would take effect in July 2011.
Education officials will follow up this summer with details on a proposal that would cut off federal aid to for-profit colleges whose graduates can't earn enough to repay their loans.
The issues are complicated "and we want to get it right," Education Secretary Arne Duncan says. "This is about accountability, and protecting students."
Next week, a Senate education committee will examine federal spending at for-profit schools.
Advocates of stricter regulations are encouraged by a preliminary review of the proposals.
"There's a real concern that taxpayers are subsidizing programs that are overpromising and under-delivering," says Pauline Abernathy of the California-based Institute for College Access & Success.
Harris Miller, president of the Career College Association, which represents about 1,450 for-profit institutions, said the group doesn't agree with all the proposals, but "we agree that students need to be protected at all times from schools that color outside the lines."
Student complaints to adjudicator about their university soar by a third in Britain
Complaints by students about the way they have been treated by their university have soared by 37 per cent in the past two years.
Figures released today show just over 1,000 students complained this year, according to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education, which is responsible for dealing with the complaints. Most of the complaints concern universities' reaction to appeals against grades or accusations of plagiarism.
Rob Behrens, chief executive of the OIA, predicted a further rise in complaints as public spending is cut and student fees increase.
"The labour market is very difficult for students right now," he said. "They want to get the best they possibly can from their university experience, which means they will complain if they don't get what they think they deserve. Students see themselves more and more as customers and they are more assertive than they have ever been."
The year-on-year rise in complaints coincides with the introduction of top-up fees of £3,225 a year in 2006.
In one case, an international student who had been at a Chinese university for two years submitted a final year project which, after being run through a computer program, showed matches to submissions made at other universities. A panel determined it as plagiarism and failed the submission. The OIA ruled the finding was unsafe as the panel had only taken evidence from its chair and recommended she should be allowed to resubmit the project.
Aaron Porter, president of the National Union of Students, said: "It comes as no surprise that there have been more complaints than ever before and as students are being saddled with ever larger debts these figures show that they expect a better experience from their universities."
Of 1,007 complaints made, the OIA ruled that 811 were eligible for review. Of these 75 per cent were dismissed, 5 per cent were upheld and 13 per cent were declared partly justified.
Of the 811, 64 per cent were over "academic status", meaning they were related to appeals, assessments and grades. A further 11 per cent were about misconduct, including plagiarism and cheating.
British junior High School science exams 'still too easy'
New science GCSEs drawn up to replace exams that were not challenging enough have been rejected by the qualifications watchdog for being too easy. Ofqual ordered every major exam board in the country to revamp their science papers last summer, due to "serious concerns" about the dumbing down of courses.
But the latest efforts by examiners to "stretch and challenge" pupils have been turned down again by the watchdog because they are still not of a high enough standard. The 36 new courses drawn up by five examining bodies, including AQA, OCR and Edexcel, have all been dismissed because they are not demanding enough, especially for the brightest students.
Ofqual said each of the newly submitted qualifications does "not address the concerns raised" in its review last summer, and sent them back to be redrafted.
The new outlines for courses in science, additional science, additional applied science, biology, chemistry and physics are due to be taught in schools across the country from September 2011.
Kathleen Tattersall, Chair of Ofqual and Chief Regulator, said: "Ofqual's job is to make sure that standards are maintained. If qualifications do not meet our standards, we cannot accept them into the regulated system.
"Schools are expecting detailed information about the new qualifications in time to prepare for first teaching in September 2011. Ofqual hopes that that will still be possible, but progress will depend on the quality of the revised qualifications."
No deadline has been set for exam boards to respond with further proposals, but Ofqual said it hopes to have all the new courses ready in time for schools to prepare to teach them in 15 months' time.
The NASUWT, the largest teachers' union, called for the replacement of separate exam boards with one qualifications body to provide more consistency and value for money. Chris Keates, NASUWT general secretary, said: "This latest development only highlights the inefficiency of having several awarding bodies struggling to interpret the requirements of the regulator, Ofqual."
Last summer Ofqual called for the courses to be revamped amid concerns that standards had slipped since an overhaul of the subjects under Labour in 2006. The introduction of flagship "21st century syllabuses" had been intended to make the subject more attractive to pupils, including topics such as recycling and mobile phone technology. But in a major embarrassment for ministers, experts said the reforms had led to classes being dumbed down and becoming "more suitable for the pub than the schoolroom".
The intervention by the watchdog was the first time it had formally stepped in to force exam boards – which also included CCEA, the Northern Irish qualification body and WJEC, which operates in England and Wales – to alter their tests.
A spokesperson for AQA said: "We are addressing the issues that Ofqual has raised, and will be resubmitting our specifications for accreditation. "Teachers and students can be assured that these new specifications will be ready in time for first teaching in 2011."
A spokeswoman for the OCR board said: "OCR is naturally disappointed that the regulator did not accredit its GCSE science specifications. Given that they were built to Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency (QCDA) criteria, this ruling clearly indicates that Ofqual had major problems with its partner quango - and that the Government was right to scrap it.
"OCR trusts that Ofqual will now reach a new level of transparency about what is required from awarding bodies and will start work on amending the syllabus immediately."
15 June, 2010
Credentialism marches on: U.S. Employers Increasingly Expect Some Education After High School
In 20 years time will a doctorate be required in order to be a bank clerk? It seems likely. The current practice is mainly designed to keep blacks out of workplaces, I suspect -- or am I not supposed to mention that? I suppose that at a minimum it shows a confidence that post-secondary qualifications still mean something, unlike black High School diplomas
The number of jobs requiring at least a two-year associate’s degree will outpace the number of people qualified to fill those positions by at least three million in 2018, according to a report being released Tuesday by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.
The report makes clear that some education after high school is an increasing prerequisite for entry into the middle class. In 1970, for example, nearly three-quarters of those workers considered to be middle class had not gone beyond high school in their education; in 2007, that figure had dropped below 40 percent, according to the report.
“High school graduates and dropouts will find themselves largely left behind in the coming decade as employer demand for workers with postsecondary degrees continues to surge,’’ write the authors of the report, led by Anthony P. Carnevale.
And yet, the report further underscores a trend evident in recent years in reports of the Bureau of Labor Statistics: that sometimes a certificate in a particular trade, a two-year associate’s degree or just a few years of college may be as valuable — if not more so — to one’s career (and income) as a traditional four-year bachelor’s degree.
Mr. Carnevale told me in an interview that almost 30 percent of those people with associate’s degrees earn more, on average, than others who earned bachelor’s degrees. Similarly, more than 25 percent of those with a certificate in a particular occupation or trade earn more, on average, than those with an associate’s degree.
This is a point increasingly advanced by a group of economists, whom I quoted several weeks ago in an article under the headline “Plan B: Skip College,” in The Times’s Week in Review section.
Mr. Carnevale does break ranks with the Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, on its predictions of some educational requirements for certain occupations in 2018.
For example, he said, the bureau predicts that education administrators will typically require no more than a bachelor’s degree in 2018. But already, he said nearly half of education administrators have a master’s degree, and 13 percent have a doctorate in education.
Similarly, he added, the bureau predicts that a nuclear technician in 2018 will typically need no more than an associate’s degree. But already, he said, 43 percent of nuclear technicians have at least a bachelor’s degree, and sometimes a more advanced degree.
In these and other examples, he said, “those with higher educational attainment have the highest earnings, and educational attainment is continually increasing in these occupations.”
British High school bans girls from wearing skirts
A secondary school has banned girls from wearing skirts, regardless of length, to prevent them from attracting unwanted attention. The head teacher of St Aidan's Church of England High School in Harrogate, North Yorkshire imposed a complete ban on skirts because young girls were "placing themselves at risk" by raising their hemlines.
From the start of the September term, all female pupils up to the age of 15 will have to wear long black trousers.
In a letter to parents at the mixed-sex school, Dennis Richards said that the strict new uniform rules were necessary because young children were "wholly unaware of the signals they are giving out" by wearing short skirts.
He said that earlier attempts to impose a minimum skirt length had led to "battles within the family home and unnecessary and time wasting confrontation at school", making a blanket ban the only effective solution.
The head teacher wrote: "We have been seriously concerned now, for a number of years, that girls as young as 12/13 years of age are placing themselves at risk by wearing skirts of a wholly inappropriate length. "We are also aware that parents are becoming increasingly frustrated that the school seems incapable of imposing its authority on such young children. In the end we could probably do so but the cost in terms of detentions and exclusions would be very high and disproportionate to the end we would achieve."
In a statement on the school website he added: "Parents who have come in have been astonished to see the difference between the length their daughter may wear her skirt as she leaves home and what has happened by the time she is walking the corridors of the school."
Addressing sceptical parents, Mr Richards said: "The world has moved on. It is bizarre in 2010 to see wearing trousers as 'some form of punishment'."
While Mr Richards claimed to have received supportive messages from parents, the school has been criticised for failing to enforce its previous rules outlawing only shorter skirts. Margaret Morrissey of the pressure group ParentsOutloud said: "Skirts of a reasonable length have a place in any school uniform.
"If a school can't get its pupils to abide by the rules there is a problem there. It sends out completely the wrong message to children if their misbehaviour leads to a change in the rules."
North Yorkshire County Council, the local authority with responsibility for education, said it did not comment on specific uniform policies. But a spokeswoman said: "Decisions about school uniform are taken in the best interests of children by school leaders and governing bodies often in consultation with parents."
The skirt ban at St Aidan's covers pupils in Years 7 to 10. As part of the new uniform policy, girls in Year 11, who are aged 15 and 16, will be allowed to wear dark navy skirts so long as they are no more than three inches above the knee.
St Aidan's is a specialist science school with 1,898 pupils. It was praised as "an outstanding school in all respects" by Ofsted in 2006.
Other schools across the country are also tightening their uniform rules for the new academic year; Chipping Camden School in Gloucestershire has students from wearing hoodies, short skirts, denim and crop-tops.
Australia: More schools furious about "stimulus" waste
MORE schools are blowing the whistle on the wastage, shoddy construction and rorting of the Rudd government's $16.2 billion Building the Education Revolution program.
The schools have complained about overcharging -- including $23,044 in "landscaping fees" for 17 pot plants and four square metres of turf -- and substandard construction, in submissions to the NSW parliamentary inquiry into the BER.
Mary Brooksbank School, which caters for disabled students in Sydney, was given a $592,000 special purpose room with a door "not constructed to disability standards". Two covered learning areas were built at a cost of $235,000 without safety reinforcements, so their roofs had to removed for repairs. "We will not accept that faults, repairs, failure to comply with standards, incompetence should be paid for out of our BER funds," the school's P&C Association says in its submission.
Building costs at 10 schools have blown out by identical amounts totalling $4.5 million after the price of modular libraries soared from $850,000 to $1.3m. Each of the northern NSW schools, granted $850,000 last year for new libraries, has blown its budget by $453,505 -- bringing the total cost to $1.3m each.
Reed Constructions, the managing contractor for each of the projects, has been allocated a total of $73,000 in "incentive fees" for delivering on time and within budget -- on top of $494,000 in project management fees, according to costing breakdowns published on the NSW Education Department website.
Each of the public schools -- Scotts Head, Durrumbul, Leeville, Main Arm Upper, Green Hill, Caniaba, Tabulam, Tyalgum, Copmanhurst and Stroud -- has been charged $570,985 for modular building costs, $149,968 for design documentation and site management, $74,244 for "preliminaries", $210,263 for the superstructure, $90,363 for site works, $47,420 for site services and $50,000 for electricity upgrades.
A NSW Education spokeswoman yesterday said the schools were receiving "an entire new administration building on top of their allocation for a library". But the "extra" building came as news to the schools' P&Cs, which insisted yesterday that the libraries already included an administration section. "It was always one building -- half library, half administration, right from the very beginning," said Kylie Gorton, the P&C president of Stroud Public School, north of Newcastle.
Ms Gorton is furious the $1.3m building does not include the solar panels, water tank, covered walkways and airconditioning the school was promised. She said Reed Constructions had shown her paperwork at a site meeting a year ago putting the cost at $800,806, including GST. "We thought we'd have money left over," she said yesterday. "This is atrocious; I consider this an absolute waste."
Scotts Head P&C president Karen Woldring said her school's new building, incorporating a library and administration area, had initially been budgeted at $850,000 and the plans had not changed. She revealed that an official from federal Education Minister Julia Gillard's BER taskforce had visited the school two weeks ago. "We asked how it happened and he said that's what he would investigate," she said.
Tabulam P&C treasurer Sharon White said the school was "getting one building with the library and administration in it". Durrumbul P&C vice-president Abby Bliss said her school was receiving only the single building originally planned.
14 June, 2010
For-profit colleges draw attention from regulators and millions of students
A year ago, Joseph Carrillo Jr. had to fight to get into crowded classes here at the public American River College. He couldn't find a guidance counselor, and he felt lost. So he switched to the private University of Phoenix. There, everything fell into place -- at 17 times the cost.
Carrillo's move from the community college to the for-profit university shows the allure of a higher-education sector that is growing so fast the federal government wants to rein it in. The 24-year-old, who hopes to own a business someday, said he was impressed by the ease of course scheduling at his new school and unconcerned about future debt. "What good is cheap tuition if classes are so packed you can't even get in?" he asked.
But Congress and the Obama administration are concerned. For-profit schools may be offering an educational alternative, but that choice often comes with crushing student debt, some observers say.
New federal rules, expected to be formally proposed in coming days, would tighten oversight of the industry. One much-debated proposal would cut federal aid to for-profit schools in certain cases if graduates spend more than 8 percent of their starting salaries to repay loans. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) also plans this month to begin hearings on the industry, examining recruiting practices and student loan default rates.
Supporters of the schools say the proposed rules could shut down hundreds of programs, undermining President Obama's goal of making the nation the world leader in college completion by 2020.
"It will have a horrendous effect on programs in California and nationally," said Harris N. Miller, president of the Career College Association, which represents more than 1,400 for-profit schools. The association, which wields some clout in Congress, is mobilizing to fight the proposal.
Nationwide, enrollment in for-profit colleges soared from 673,000 in 2000 to 1.8 million in 2008. The growth has been fueled in California and some other states by discounts and incentives the schools offer to help students apply credits earned online toward community college degrees.
For-profit schools such as the University of Phoenix, DeVry University and Kaplan University (owned by Kaplan, a subsidiary of The Washington Post) offer professional, vocational and technical training and serve a large number of minority, low-income and first-generation college students. But they face federal scrutiny and lawsuits for burying some students under mountains of debt.
Federal aid to for-profit colleges jumped to $26.5 billion in 2009, from $4.6 billion in 2000. Two-thirds of for-profit students receive federal Pell grants, which target low-income students and don't have to be repaid. Even so, more than half of bachelor-degree recipients in 2007 at for-profit schools fell into a "high debt" range of at least $30,000 in loans, a recent College Board study found.
"These schools lay it all out for students with Pell grants and student loans," said Stan Jones, president of a nonprofit organization called Complete College America. Students, he said, "don't feel like they are paying for anything, but it's really just like a credit card for higher education."
For-profit colleges rely more on federal aid than many other higher-education institutions. The aid helps offset tuition at for-profit schools, which averaged $14,174 in 2009, according to the College Board. The average for two-year state schools was $2,544.
California is in the vanguard of a movement toward cooperation between overstretched community colleges and for-profit schools. Its community college system, with nearly 3 million students, has the nation's lowest tuition: $26 per credit. Carrillo's credits at an outlet of the University of Phoenix near here cost $450 apiece. But community colleges in this state are so crowded that officials don't discourage students from attending for-profit schools or enrolling in their online courses to satisfy degree requirements.
For-profit enrollment surged more than 20 percent in California last year, while the state's 112 cash-strapped community colleges were reducing course offerings, canceling summer school and turning away up to half of applicants. An estimated 8,800 students, including Carrillo, transferred from the state's two-year schools to the University of Phoenix.
While the Obama administration seeks to increase oversight of for-profit schools, it acknowledges their significant role. Education Secretary Arne Duncan last month urged the sector "to get rid of bad actors." But Duncan added: "Among the for-profits, phenomenal players are out there making a huge difference in helping people take the next step in the economic ladder."
Exposed: British schools inflating their High School results
SCHOOLS are inflating their league table scores by entering pupils for “easier” vocational qualifications, previously secret government data have shown.
For the first time, the figures show separately the proportion of children gaining good grades at GCSEs and those gaining the grades in less academic alternatives. Until now, official league tables have combined the two, obscuring the difference between schools that are more or less academic.
One school where the difference in performance is joint first is St Hugh’s Church of England maths and computing college, a secondary modern in Grantham, Lincolnshire. There, 39% of pupils gained five GCSEs or equivalent last year under the official indicator, but that figure falls to just 1% when only GCSEs are counted. The gap in results reaches at least 20 percentage points in 15 English schools. Three of them are academies, a linchpin of the government’s education reforms.
Critics accuse schools of pushing some academically bright pupils into taking unsuitable vocational exams to boost their league position. Anastasia De Waal, deputy director of research at Civitas, the think tank, described the differences as “staggering”. She added: “There are people saying they have turned round failing schools, but they have been doing all these so-called equivalents and hiding behind lack of transparency.”
Critics believe many vocational qualifications, although they are valuable, are given far too high a weighting in league tables — for example, a GNVQ in information and communication technology is equivalent to four GCSEs.
The government has promised to overhaul league tables and plans to publish all results for schools rather than the current measure given most prominence — the proportion of children gaining five A* to C grades at GCSE or equivalent, including English and maths.
Nick Gibb, the schools minister, said: “We need to restore confidence in the exam system. It is important that young people are entered for the qualifications that are in their best interests rather than being entered for exams simply to boost the league table position of the school.”
Schools making heavy use of vocational courses, including St Hugh’s, insisted they were the right choice for pupils. Those in Lincolnshire, where three of the 10 schools with the biggest differences are located, also attributed the high numbers to local grammar schools taking academically bright pupils.
Chris Walls, head teacher of Giles school in Boston, said: “We need to move beyond this preoccupation with sieving children. [Exams] should be about celebrating what children have learnt.”
British writers demand return of Latin to curriculum to end Labour's 'discrimination' against classics
The sound of 'amo, amas, amat' being chanted by children learning Latin has long since faded from most of our classrooms. But not, perhaps, for much longer. A group of writers and broadcasters including Ian Hislop and Sir Tom Stoppard is calling for the return of Latin to the curriculum.
They are urging ministers to end Labour's 'discrimination' against the language of the Romans and give it the same status as French, German and Spanish.
They are backing a report, published today, by two Oxford University classics scholars which makes the case for a revival of Latin in primary and secondary schools. The experts say that studying Latin not only makes it easier for children to pick up other languages, it also improves their English and maths.
Those who learn Latin at primary school use more complex sentences and have a wider vocabulary than those who don't, it is claimed. They are also better at problem-solving and logical thinking.
The report, by the Politeia think-tank, calls on Education Secretary Michael Gove to give Latin the same status as modern foreign languages in primary schools. They should be able to choose to teach it in the same way they can offer French, German, Spanish, Urdu or Arabic.
Labour specified that primaries should teach only modern languages when it issued guidance to heads on fulfilling a new duty to ensure seven-year-olds learn a foreign language.
A statement has been signed by ten writers, broadcasters or teachers including Hislop, the Private Eye editor and a panellist on the BBC quiz Have I Got News For You, playwright Sir Tom and Inspector Morse author Colin Dexter. It says: 'We ask that the new Secretary of State gives Latin the same opportunity and official blessing as other foreign languages in the curriculum.'
An Education Department spokesman said Latin is 'an important subject', but is not classified in the national curriculum as a modern language because pupils 'are not able to interact with native Latin speakers'.
13 June, 2010
School Choice Victory in Oklahoma
School choice efforts took a substantial step forward yesterday when Oklahoma’s Democratic Governor Brad Henry signed into law the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Act. Special needs children in the state will now be able to attend a school of their parents’ choice through the help of vouchers. This program will provide significant opportunity for an estimated 15 percent of Oklahoma children and their families.
Support for the new law came from both sides of the political spectrum. The principal authors of the bill, Sen. Sally Kern (R) and Rep. Jason Nelson (R) were joined by representatives Anastasia Pittman (D), Jabar Shumate (D) and Sen. Patrick Anderson (R), to maneuver the legislation through the state congress and senate before its signing by Governor Henry. Nelson thanked Governor Henry in The Daily Oklahoman for his support and explained that the bill will provide children with special needs “a chance at a better education and a better life.”
Betsy DeVos, chairman of The American Federation for Children, commented on the school choice victory:We salute Governor Henry for his leadership in enacting this transformational new program, and we congratulate the bipartisan team of Oklahoma legislators who worked together and put politics aside for the sake of helping children with special needs.
Oklahoma joins a growing list of states who offer school choice for parents of special needs children, including Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Ohio, and Utah. The president and CEO of the Foundation for Educational Choice, Robert Enlow encouraged other states to take similar action:Because of the governor’s and legislature’s courageous acts, Oklahoma’s children with special needs have been afforded a new, better chance to succeed in life. … Other states should emulate Oklahoma and its willingness to put the interests of kids and parents first.
Back in Washington, the Obama administration has been turning back the clock on school choice, working to phase out the highly successful and popular D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. But states like Oklahoma are moving forward with policies to put power in the hands of parents and opportunity in the reach of children. Many families will now have the opportunity to send their children to those schools they feel will best meet their needs. Hopefully the administration will see state choice victories as a sign that it is indeed parents – not bureaucrats or union leaders – who should have control of their children’s educational future.
Teacher fraud rife
The staff of Normandy Crossing Elementary School outside Houston eagerly awaited the results of state achievement tests this spring. For the principal and assistant principal [Pix above], high scores could buoy their careers at a time when success is increasingly measured by such tests. For fifth-grade math and science teachers, the rewards were more tangible: a bonus of $2,850.
But when the results came back, some seemed too good to be true. Indeed, after an investigation by the Galena Park Independent School District, the principal, assistant principal and three teachers resigned May 24 in a scandal over test tampering.
The district said the educators had distributed a detailed study guide after stealing a look at the state science test by “tubing” it — squeezing a test booklet, without breaking its paper seal, to form an open tube so that questions inside could be seen and used in the guide. The district invalidated students’ scores.
Of all the forms of academic cheating, none may be as startling as educators tampering with children’s standardized tests. But investigations in Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, Virginia and elsewhere this year have pointed to cheating by educators. Experts say the phenomenon is increasing as the stakes over standardized testing ratchet higher — including, most recently, taking student progress on tests into consideration in teachers’ performance reviews.
Colorado passed a sweeping law last month making teachers’ tenure dependent on test results, and nearly a dozen other states have introduced plans to evaluate teachers partly on scores. Many school districts already link teachers’ bonuses to student improvement on state assessments. Houston decided this year to use the data to identify experienced teachers for dismissal, and New York City will use it to make tenure decisions on novice teachers.
The federal No Child Left Behind law is a further source of pressure. Like a high jump bar set intentionally low in the beginning, the law — which mandates that public schools bring all students up to grade level in reading and math by 2014 — was easy to satisfy early on. But the bar is notched higher annually, and the penalties for schools that fail to get over it also rise: teachers and administrators can lose jobs and see their school taken over.
No national data is collected on educator cheating. Experts who consult with school systems estimated that 1 percent to 3 percent of teachers — thousands annually — cross the line between accepted ways of boosting scores, like using old tests to prep students, and actual cheating.
“Educators feel that their schools’ reputation, their livelihoods, their psychic meaning in life is at stake,” said Robert Schaeffer, public education director for FairTest, a nonprofit group critical of standardized testing. “That ends up pushing more and more of them over the line.”
Others say that every profession has some bad apples, and that high-stakes testing is not to blame. Gregory J. Cizek, an education professor at the University of North Carolina who studies cheating, said infractions were often kept quiet. “One of the real problems is states have no incentive to pursue this kind of problem,” he said.
Recent scandals illustrate the many ways, some subtle, that educators improperly boost scores:
* At a charter school in Springfield, Mass., the principal told teachers to look over students’ shoulders and point out wrong answers as they took the 2009 state tests, according to a state investigation. The state revoked the charter for the school, Robert M. Hughes Academy, in May.
* In Norfolk, Va., an independent panel detailed in March how a principal — whose job evaluations had faulted the poor test results of special education students — pressured teachers to use an overhead projector to show those students answers for state reading assessments, according to The Virginian-Pilot, citing a leaked copy of the report.
* In Georgia, the state school board ordered investigations of 191 schools in February after an analysis of 2009 reading and math tests suggested that educators had erased students’ answers and penciled in correct responses. Computer scanners detected the erasures, and classrooms in which wrong-to-right erasures were far outside the statistical norm were flagged as suspicious.
The Georgia scandal is the most far-reaching in the country. It has already led to the referral of 11 teachers and administrators to a state agency with the power to revoke their licenses. More disciplinary referrals, including from a dozen Atlanta schools, are expected.
John Fremer, a specialist in data forensics who was hired by an independent panel to dig deeper into the Atlanta schools, and who investigated earlier scandals in Texas and elsewhere, said educator cheating was rising. “Every time you increase the stakes associated with any testing program, you get more cheating,” he said.
British University tuition fees don't really discriminate against the poor
Claim: Regardless of their background, people who are bright enough to get to university are also bright enough to be able to figure out that a university education is worth it
When David Willetts hinted last week that the cost of tuition fees might have to be increased, there were sighs of relief from most university administrators, and for one simple reason: the present level is unsustainably low, and will lead to the closure of whole departments.
The most obvious solution is to make those who benefit from a university education pay for more of its cost. No one likes to foot the bill for something that used to be paid for by someone else, so it's no surprise that most students (and the Lib Dems) are vehemently opposed to that idea. Their argument is that fees – which stand at £3,225 a year in England and Northern Ireland – deter people from poorer backgrounds from going to university.
If this were true, it would indeed be a powerful argument against fees. But it isn't true: since tuition fees were introduced, the number of poor students has increased rather than diminished. Regardless of their background, people who are bright enough to get to university are also bright enough to be able to figure out that a university education is worth it.
But hasn't social mobility been in decline? And haven't tuition fees accelerated that trend? Charles II once asked the Fellows of the Royal Society why a dead fish weighed more than a live one. Various sophisticated explanations were produced. Charles then pointed out that actually, it didn't. According to Peter Saunders, a professor of sociology at the University of Sussex, Britain's lack of social mobility is a "dead fish" problem. In a new pamphlet, he shows that social mobility has not declined at all – and that Britain is not significantly less mobile than other comparable economies.
There is a problem, in that far fewer students from the poorest backgrounds go to university. Although there has been an enormous expansion of university places over the past three decades, the people who have benefited are those from the richest fifth of the population: they now make up nearly half of all university students, which is double the proportion of 30 years ago. Over the same period, students from the poorest fifth have only increased from six to nine per cent of the total.
Yet the faster increase of students from wealthier families long predated the introduction of tuition fees. Partly, it is a result of many more middle-class women going to university: the increase in places helped to improve equality between the sexes, rather than equality across social classes. Indeed, it is hard to maintain that it would have been better to prevent more middle-class women from going to university in order to ensure that a larger number of working-class men ended up there – but that sometimes seems to be what those who insist that "universities must admit more students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds" are calling for.
What could universities do to increase the number of poor students? Short of drastic steps such as diminishing the qualifications required from applicants from that group, it's not obvious that they can do anything. Very few would wish to see universities discriminate against people who have proved their scholarly or scientific ability, solely in order to promote students of the "right" social background: that would be to make inverse snobbery the basis of educational policy.
The real problem is that the gap between the children of the advantaged and disadvantaged opens up very early on. By the age of 11 it is already very marked, and without intervention by the state on a massive scale (the outcome of which would certainly not be the one intended) it is very difficult to have much impact on it.
All of which points to a simple conclusion: it is better for universities to focus on being centres of educational excellence, than trying to make them engines of social transformation. If they try to do that, they will fail – both to transform society, and also to provide a decent education.
12 June, 2010
Public ed costlier than you think
We've been treated to hand-wringing all spring over the new school budgets for 2011, which are supposedly inadequate, underfunded and unacceptable. School district officials and politicians claim it's curtains for high-quality public education in Virginia.
However, what you think you know about K-12 education spending is wrong. We're not spending too little, we're spending too much.
I'd like you to guess how much we spend per child in the city of Charlottesville public schools and then in the Commonwealth of Virginia overall.
Have the number in your head? How does it match with the real numbers? In 2009, Charlottesville spent $16,200 per student, or $324,000 per classroom of 20 students, according to state data. And across Virginia we spent on average more than $13,000 to educate one child for the school year.
Don't feel silly if you guessed far lower than the real figure. According to a December 2009 poll of Virginians by the Friedman Foundation, nearly half of the respondents thought we spend $6,000 or less to educate a child each year. About one in five people thought we spend less than $3,000. Only 6 percent of the public guessed the correct spending range.
It's so simple as to seem trivial. To get control of a budget, you need to know how much you make, how much you spend, and what you're spending for.
We know that K-12 education is the biggest single cost to state and local governments. And yet, most citizens and politicians have little or no idea how much we are spend-ing on education at a per-pupil level.
American taxpayers spend around $600 billion per year on K-12 public education. A sobering 27 cents of every tax dollar collected at the state or local level is consumed by the government-run K-12 education system, compared to only 8 cents for Medicaid.
In Virginia, 29 cents out of every state or local tax dollar collected is spent on public K-12 education. In the seven years between 2002 and 2009, per-pupil spending in Virginia increased 44 percent according to state data. Even after correcting for inflation, it increased by 21 percent for that period.
Also, these figures leave out a large but completely unknown amount of capital expenses and debt payments that cities and counties spend on behalf of public schools but which never make it onto the school district's books or into the state's accounting.
Education spending is the single most serious burden on state and local budgets. And since runaway education spending is a major cause of our state and local budget problems, it's the best place to look for serious savings as the current fiscal crisis continues to unfold.
However, school district officials and many politicians aren't upfront about the kinds of resources we devote to education. And without a clear idea of spending levels in public and private schools, it's hard for the public and policymakers to know whether our current system is cost-effective or to assess the fiscal impact of expanding families' options with private school choice programs.
Based on federal data, we estimate the typical private school in Virginia charges just under $7,000 per student per year, and many far less than that. Government schools, at $13,000, spend a whop-ping 88 percent more.
Private school choice programs, in other words, aren't just a proven way to increase student achievement. They are a great way to save a huge amount of money.
In Florida, for instance, the state's education tax credit program that funds private school choice saves huge sums every year. The state gains $1.49 in savings for every $1 it loses in tax revenue according to a 2008 fiscal impact analysis by the government's Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability. That's one reason almost every Republican, 42 percent of Democrats and more than half of the black caucus voted for a dramatic expansion of the education tax credit program.
We spend more than enough on K-12 education in Virginia. It's just not being spent effectively. Virginia's children, families and taxpayers deserve a better, more efficient system of education.
Four excellent ideas on education, but how do we make them happen?
The requirement for innovation in order to drive U.S. economic growth -- and the tensions this creates -- is something I believe is central to our political debates in ways that are not always well articulated.
Grover J. Whitehurst has authored a Brookings piece on the requirement for innovation in the education sector, and the barriers to the needed reforms. In it, he makes four excellent recommendations:
1. Choose K-12 curricula based on evidence of effectiveness.
2. Evaluate teachers in ways that meaningfully differentiate levels of performance.
3. Accredit online education providers so they can compete with traditional schools across district and state lines.
4. Provide the public with information that will allow comparison of the labor-market outcomes and price of individual post-secondary degree and certificate programs.
Items 3 and 4 read like elements of a nearly libertarian manifesto. (Item 1 reads as motherhood and apple pie, unless you know the background, which is that Whitehurst, while director of the Institute for Education Sciences inside the U.S. Department of Education, pushed hard and somewhat successfully for a sustainable commitment to rigorous program evaluation anchored by randomized experiments.)
Here is his opening paragraph on the barriers to reform:Our present education system is structured in a way that discourages the innovation necessary for the United States to regain education leadership. K-12 education is delivered largely through a highly regulated public monopoly. Outputs such as high school graduation rates and student performance on standardized assessments are carefully measured and publicly available, but mechanisms that would allow these outputs to drive innovation and reform are missing or blocked. For example, many large urban districts and some states are now able to measure the effectiveness of individual teachers by assessing the annual academic growth of students in their classes. Huge differences in teacher effectiveness are evident, but collective bargaining agreements or state laws prevent most school district administrators from using that information in tenure or salary decisions.
It is striking how far thoughtful, mainstream liberal wonk opinion has moved on the question of educational reform. What's unclear in the paper (though beyond its scope) is a political theory for how the interest groups who have a huge interest in preventing these reforms can be overcome. Whitehead proposes some specific federal laws and guidelines, but doesn't explain how to get a sufficient number of legislators to vote for these. It would be very difficult for Democrats to pass such laws, for obvious reasons.
When one side of the political divide loses its own ideological belief in a specific position and defends it based purely on interest-group power, this often creates an opportunityfor real change. It seems to me that education reform is ripening as political issue for Republicans, if they are willing to seize it, as they did welfare reform 20 years ago. Like welfare reform, this would probably imply being willing to engage on the policy detail, and to work with Democrats in order to create a bipartisan solution with staying power. It looks to me like there is lots of common ground to be found.
British version of Head Start under fire
Labour's flagship scheme to help poor toddlers and children must be scrapped, an influential think-tank said yesterday. Axeing the £10billion Sure Start network would do no harm to vulnerable youngsters and save taxpayers a huge amount of money, the Centre for Policy Studies said.
Analysts have said that Sure Start centres are often used by middle-class families for free childcare but fail to reach out to many of the poor they are meant to help. Some of the money saved could go to local councils to run programmes where there is real demand, the centre-Right think-tank said.
Its call goes far beyond Coalition government plans to scale down spending on the scheme, which is meant to help children in worse-off areas, particularly those from single-parent families, get a better education and stay out of trouble. David Cameron and Nick Clegg have pledged to take Sure Start back to its original purpose of early intervention in these children's lives.
The programme, launched by then-Chancellor Gordon Brown in 1999, quickly ballooned. There are now 3,500 Sure Start centres.
The CPS report said that Sure Start and other schemes under Labour's £5billion-a-year Children's Plan were bureaucratic, secretive and in thrall to fashionable theories of childcare. Its author, charity chief Tom Burkard, said they were 'flawed in concept and practice'. All showed 'a remarkable and unfounded confidence in the ability of the state to regulate the lives of families'.
CPS director Jill Kirby said that Sure Start spending was 'a classic example of the failings of big government: billions of pounds wasted in pursuit of central targets, based on untested ideas and packaged in jargon and bureaucracy.' She added: 'The sooner these grandiose plans are abandoned in favour of practical localised support to the most needy families the better.'
Last year the state spending watchdog, the Audit Commission, said Sure Start and similar schemes had failed to improve the health of toddlers in poorer areas.
11 June, 2010
Kids Deserve Balance in the Classroom
We as parents have a lot on our minds these days. Too many of us are out of work and struggling to pay the bills. While trying to pay our mortgage and prepare for retirement, we are also trying to save to help our kids go to college. Of course, we are also concerned about the quality of our children's schools, though few have the time to follow closely what goes on in those classrooms each day.
As a father of six—five of whom still attend Attica, Indiana public schools—I know first-hand the difficulty of keeping up with all the responsibilities that parents face. Yet I also know how important it is to remain engaged in our children's schools to make sure that they get the education they need and deserve.
It has been more than a month since Earth Day, and most of our children are finishing their studies for the year. One area that I would encourage all parents to pay extra attention to is what's happening at your school regarding climate change education. Ideally, it is supposed to encourage students to consider the importance of preserving our natural resources. Unfortunately, too often it's used as a platform to push a misleading, ideological brand of environmentalism.
I’m a Ph.D. scientist and work as a Field Research Scientist for a global crop protection company, so I have a special interest in how my kids are taught the subject. To me, teaching science properly means presenting all sides of scientific theories and helping kids develop their own critical thinking skills. Regrettably, it seems that too many in our public education system see their role differently.
I first became concerned about how my children's school was teaching global warming last year when a group of teachers orchestrated a school-wide showing of An Inconvenient Truth during class in celebration of Earth Day. I was alarmed that parents weren't even able to pull their kids from this assignment (fortunately, with some work, I eventually got that policy changed). This was also at least the third time An Inconvenient Truth was shown at our school. Surely teachers could find a better use of our children's valuable learning time.
The problem isn't just that the school shows An Inconvenient Truth, a movie found by a judge to be riddled with serious scientific errors and which grossly exaggerates the potential damage of man-made global warming. It also fails to provide any counterweight to this environmentalist propaganda.
Schools do have options. For more than a year now, I've been trying to get another film, Not Evil, Just Wrong, shown in our school to provide some balance. Not Evil, Just Wrong thoroughly reviews the flawed science of global warming, specifically addressing the many errors and gross exaggerations in An Inconvenient Truth. Our children deserve to hear this information so they don't believe that there's only one truth about this important issue.
Unfortunately, getting balance into my children's school has been an uphill battle. I’ve spoken to teachers, the principal, the superintendent and the school board. I’ve loaned copies of the film so teachers could see it and make an informed decision. Yet only two teachers in the whole school bothered to view the film, and none of them would show it. I made my case publicly during the open session of a school board meeting. The only result was that a group of teachers publicly complained to the board for giving me a hearing.
Most recently, the superintendent declared Not Evil, Just Wrong isn’t suitable because it lacks the endorsement of the National Earth Day Foundation. You can see what I’m up against. This isn’t just ignorance of the science behind climate change, this is an ideological position.
I will continue to fight for our students to be taught rather than indoctrinated. I haven't been able to change the curriculum so far, but I have succeeded in raising awareness of the problem. I would urge other parent to do the same. Ask questions about how global warming is being presented in your school. Find out if movies like An Inconvenient Truth are being used on Earth Day or as pillars of the science curriculum. Make sure that your kids are hearing the other side of the story. We should encourage our schools and teachers to address this imbalance during the summer break.
I realize many of us are busy, but our children's education starts at home. You shouldn't trust that your local school is providing the balanced education your children deserve.
Storming the School Barricades
A new documentary by a 27-year-old filmmaker could change the national debate about public education
'What's funny," says Madeleine Sackler, "is that I'm not really a political person." Yet the petite 27-year-old is the force behind "The Lottery"—an explosive new documentary about the battle over the future of public education opening nationwide this Tuesday.
In the spring of 2008, Ms. Sackler, then a freelance film editor, caught a segment on the local news about New York's biggest lottery. It wasn't the Powerball. It was a chance for 475 lucky kids to get into one of the city's best charter schools (publicly funded schools that aren't subject to union rules).
"I was blown away by the number of parents that were there," Ms. Sackler tells me over coffee on Manhattan's Upper West Side, recalling the thousands of people packed into the Harlem Armory that day for the drawing. "I wanted to know why so many parents were entering their kids into the lottery and what it would mean for them." And so Ms. Sackler did what any aspiring filmmaker would do: She grabbed her camera.
Her initial aim was simple. "Going into the film I was excited just to tell a story," she says. "A vérité film, a really beautiful, independent story about four families that you wouldn't know otherwise" in the months leading up to the lottery for the Harlem Success Academy.
But on the way to making the film she imagined, she "stumbled on this political mayhem—really like a turf war about the future of public education." Or more accurately, she happened upon a raucous protest outside of a failing public school in which Harlem Success, already filled to capacity, had requested space.
"We drove by that protest," Ms. Sackler recalls. "We were on our way to another interview and we jumped out of the van and started filming." There she discovered that the majority of those protesting the proliferation of charter schools were not even from the neighborhood. They'd come from the Bronx and Queens.
"They all said 'We're not allowed to talk to you. We're just here to support the parents.'" But there were only two parents there, says Ms. Sackler, and both were members of Acorn. And so, "after not a lot of digging," she discovered that the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) had paid Acorn, the controversial community organizing group, "half a million dollars for the year." (It cost less to make the film.)
Finding out that the teachers union had hired a rent-a-mob to protest on its behalf was "the turn for us in the process." That story—of self-interested adults trying to deny poor parents choice for their children—provided an answer to Ms. Sackler's fundamental question: "If there are these high-performing schools that are closing the achievement gap, why aren't there more of them?"
The reason is what Eva Moskowitz, founder of the Harlem Success Academy network and a key character in the film, calls the "union-political-educational complex." That's a fancy term for the web of unions and politicians who defend the status quo in order to protect their jobs.
In the course of making "The Lottery," Ms. Sackler got to know the nature of that coalition intimately. "On day one, of course, I was very interested in all sides. I was in no way affiliated." From the beginning, she requested meetings with then UFT President Randi Weingarten, or anyone representing the union position. They refused. Harlem's public schools weren't much more accessible. "It was easier to film in a maximum security prison"—something Ms. Sackler did to interview a parent—"than it was to film in a traditional public school."
Viewers still get a sense of the union's position, but it comes from the mouths of some unsavory New York pols. Take, for example, a scene from the film featuring a City Council hearing on charter school expansion. "The UFT was exposed at this particular City Council hearing," she says, "because they were caught giving out scripted cue cards with specific questions for City Council members to ask charter representatives in the city." Unlike many of the politicians, who came and went from the chamber during the seven-hour hearing, Ms. Sackler remained. And she watched as the scripted questions were repeated and repeated and repeated.
"It was just a colossal waste of time," she says. "And it was incredibly frustrating as a citizen to be sitting there. Out of all the things they could be talking about—like the fact . . . that at the majority of schools in Harlem kids aren't passing the state exams—instead of talking about this stuff, they were cycling through those questions."'
Evasion is one tactic. So is propagating myths about Harlem Success—that it only succeeds because it has smaller class sizes; or that its children's test scores are so high because it gets more money. The truth is that the school gets superior results with the same or slightly bigger class sizes and less state money per pupil. In 2009, 95% of third-graders at Harlem Success passed the state's English Language Arts exam. Only 51% of third graders in P.S. 149, the traditional public school that shares the same building, did. That same year, Harlem Success was No. 1 in math out of 3,500 public schools in New York State.
The unions and the politicians also play on Harlemites' fears by alleging that charters divide the community and are a "tool for gentrification." This canard only holds up if you think uniforms and longer school days are a sign of cultural imperialism.
In a particularly cringe-inducing exchange captured on film, Councilwoman Maria Del Carmen Arroyo of the Bronx accuses Ms. Moskowitz of lying when the charter school leader talks about being a parent in Harlem (the neighborhood where she grew up, where she attended public school, and where she is raising her children, who attend the charter). The subtext, of course, is that Ms. Moskowitz is white and well-off.
This is par for the course, Ms. Sackler tells me. Harlem Success Academy is "protested more than any other charter school in this city—and there are some bad charter schools. So you would wonder why that would be."
Those wondering why need look no further than 2002, the year that Ms. Moskowitz, then a Democratic City Council member, became chair of the city's education committee. "She held a lot of hearings on the union contract—and the custodian contract, and the principal contract," says Ms. Sackler. New Yorkers learned that the teachers' contract is hundreds of pages long and littered with rules mandating every detail of how teachers will spend their workday.
The union was not pleased. So when Evil Moskowitz, as she was dubbed, ran for Manhattan borough president in 2005, the UFT campaigned hard for her opponent, Scott Stringer, who won.
Ms. Moskowitz, who confirmed in an interview that she has mayoral aspirations, was surely disappointed by the defeat. But her loss was Harlemites' gain. As one mother says of Ms. Moskowitz at a town hall meeting in Harlem, "She's our Obama. She brought change to our kids, okay?"
Some parents in the film do not know what exactly a charter school is. And the truth, as the film implicitly points out, is that such technical designations don't much matter. What these parents know is that they desperately want their children to have the best possible education, and to have opportunities that they themselves could only imagine. Winning a spot in Harlem Success Academy—or another high-performing school—is critical to reaching that goal.
"Going into it one of the goals was to expose one myth . . . which is that some parents don't care," says Ms. Sackler. "The reason for telling the parents' stories is that I never thought that was true."
In "The Lottery," we are introduced to Eric Roachford, who, like his father, works as a bus driver. As an MTA employee, Mr. Roachford is a "union man, but at the same time, we want our child to learn." He believes that going to college "is the difference between a job and a career." That's why his wife, Shawna, has taken time off to home school their two young sons.
Nadiyah Horne, a single mother who is also deaf, is raising 5-year-old Ammenah. "If others don't like this school, I don't care," she says, using sign language. "I want my child to get the best education." So does Emil Yoanson, who is raising his son Christian alone, and who prays to God that his name will be drawn.
"Being a single mom is very, very hard" says Laurie Brown-Goodwine, who has applied to several charters for her son, Gregory Jr. Her husband is serving 25 years to life in prison for a third-strike felony.
These are parents who don't have the means to move to a richer neighborhood with better public schools, so instead they have to rely on luck. When demand for a charter school exceeds supply, the random drawing is required by law. Some schools inform parents by mail, but Harlem Success holds a public lottery. "Harlem Success is very explicit about why they do it," Ms. Sackler says. They want to show demand. "I've heard them say to parents 'We hope that you'll come and show that this is something that you want. Because if you don't, we're not going to get more schools.'"
In the film, Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker says he can't go to lotteries anymore because they break his heart. "A child's destiny should not be determined on the pull of a draw." Nothing drives home this point more than seeing the parents and kids, perched at the edge of their chairs, hoping their names flash on the big screen.
Critics of "The Lottery" will probably contend that the absence of anti-charter voices hurts its credibility. But the scene Thursday night at Harlem's legendary Apollo Theater, where the film was screened, underscored the film's fundamental point about parents' apolitical dedication to educating their kids. After the documentary played, the film's parents took to the stage to answer questions from the theater's packed audience. Their message: Research options early and ignore labels—all that matters is the school's results. It's the same message, the parents said, that they now regularly share in neighborhood grocery markets and libraries.
Harlem Success, meanwhile, is trying to keep pace with parents' demand. Right now the network has four schools, but in 10 years it hopes to operate 40, with some 20,000 kids enrolled. Even then, there would be more work ahead: This year, some 40,000 New York kids will end up on charter school waiting lists.
"The public education system is at a crossroads," Ms. Sackler says. "Do we want to go back to the time when children are forced to attend their district school no matter how underperforming it is? Or do we want to let parents choose what's best for their kids and provide a lot of options? Sometimes those options might fail. But . . . I don't see how you could choose to settle for what we've been doing for half a century when it's been systemically screwing over the same kids—over and over and over."
What many British "comprehensive" schools produce
The frightening day a woman stood up to thugs in school uniform... while their teacher sat and did nothing
For most of the day, the number 70 bus trundles peacefully through some of the nicest parts of London - from leafy, suburban Ealing, via the million-pound houses of Notting Hill to the elegant stucco terraces of Kensington.
Yesterday, on a sunny, peaceful afternoon, I sat quietly reading a newspaper on this bus, with a variety of ordinary, mostly middle-aged people like me.
Then the doors opened - and all Hell broke loose. A tidal wave of children, fresh out of their local comprehensive, poured onto the bus, jostling and fighting, deliberately pushing passengers aside, pressing the emergency alarms and screaming obscenities.
Girls lolled against doors, chewing gum and swearing loudly. Two of the 'children' - the ringleaders, who looked about 25 but were probably 16 - were as tall as adult men, with dreadlocks, incipient beards and trousers worn to show their underpants topped with an approximation of school uniform.
They swore loudly, especially at the driver when he had the temerity to ask them to stop pressing the alarm, and stared challengingly around the bus, daring any of us to stare back.
We all looked away. A gentle-faced Muslim woman in a headscarf shrank back against the side of the bus, flinching at the vile language.
In front of me sat two small, bespectacled boys wearing neat versions of the same school uniform. They had got on at the previous stop, presumably to avoid sharing a bus stop with this rabble. They stared fixedly at the floor.
I realised, with a sense of shock, that we were all - old and young, male and female - scared stiff of a bunch of kids.
And how they revelled in it. Dripping with a terrifying self-confidence (all those lessons spent raising self-esteem as opposed to teaching, say, history had clearly paid off) and steeped in the toxic culture of 'respect' and entitlement, these kids knew they were the untouchables.
'This is so stressful,' I whispered to the middle-aged Asian man next to me. 'Yes, it is,' one of the small boys said. 'And it is like this every single day.'
A boy, aged about 13, plonked himself down beside the two small boys. They didn't say a word. Then suddenly one of the ringleaders approached this lad - who was also wearing the uniform - and started slapping him around the head. The boy, confused, put out his hand to stay the blows.
The older boy glared at him. 'Are you touchin' me? Are you disrespecting me? Take your hands off me or I will do something to you,' he hissed.
I felt my heart rate soar. The boy removed his hand quickly, only for the blows to start again. 'Please stop, I don't like it,' he pleaded. 'What are you going to do about it? Are you threatening me?' was the retort.
I turned to the man next to me and said: 'This is awful.' He nodded.
Then things stepped up. The boy who had been hit got up to get off the bus. 'You ain't going nowhere until I say so,' said his tormentor, blocking his way, as the other kids cackled with pleasure at this psychological terrorism. The doors closed.
The same happened at the next stop. Then something in me snapped. I felt sick and angry at myself for being frightened of these yobs. I imagined my own son being bullied and nobody daring to intervene and my mothering instinct took over.
I stood up, rang the bell so the driver would open the doors, looked the boy-as-big-as-a-man in the eye and said, calmly: 'Let him get off the bus now.' He was astounded. Clearly, being spoken to by an adult like this was a new experience.
'Why is you interfering?' he demanded. 'What's it got to do with you? I'm teachin' him a lesson.'
'This is unacceptable,' I said, adrenaline coursing through me. 'It is bullying. I want you to let him off the bus now.'
In the stand-off, the younger boy slipped under his tormentor's arm and scuttled off the bus. The older boy said to me: 'F***ing mind your own business.'
My hands were dripping with sweat. And yet he looked deflated. I sat back down, my heart racing and asked a child what school they went to. He told me.
'What you tellin' her for?' the ringleader demanded. Then, rightly surmising that I planned to complain, he sneered: 'I don't care. I'll tell you the head's name if you like.' Clearly, he was familiar with her office, but, equally clearly, she held no terrors for him.
Eventually, the bus disgorged its yobbish cargo and it was quiet again. A well-dressed woman in her 30s sighed: 'I have to travel on this bus regularly and it happens every time.' 'I can't believe I was the only person to say anything,' I exclaimed.
'I tried once,' she replied. 'With a man who was probably in his 70s and we asked them to stop swearing. They punched him.
'I asked the driver to throw them off the bus, but apparently he's not allowed to do that because they are "just children" and he doesn't call the police because they won't do anything because they are "just children".'
I felt shocked. No wonder these kids felt entitled to do anything they liked. They could do anything they liked.
But there was to be a further shock. I heard one of the well-behaved children address a fellow passenger as 'miss'. A teacher? I stared at her in disbelief. 'Do you know these kids?' I asked. 'Yes, I work at the school,' she said. 'But you didn't do anything,' I stuttered.
I thought of my Seventies and Eighties schooldays and the vigorous response of my old teachers to bad behaviour and quailed at the thought.
But the teacher was unrepentant. 'I will deal with it professionally in the school,' she replied.
To which I said: 'But that doesn't help the kids who are being bullied and the passengers who are being pushed around. Why are you scared to speak to your own pupils?'
She looked huffy and defensive. 'I'm not scared, but it's not professional. I will deal with it professionally tomorrow,' she repeated.
Now, I'm honestly not a teacher basher. I adore my own children's kind and committed teachers at their London state primary school. I certainly don't envy anyone who has to try to teach Shakespeare to quasi-adult thugs like these. It must be the toughest job in the world.
But it cannot make that job any easier if your pupils know you are too craven to ask them to stop bullying each other or intimidating members of the public while they are in school uniform. How can you expect to command the kids' respect in the classroom if they see you sitting silent outside it?
Of course, the teachers aren't to blame. The blame must lie with lazy parents, a culture that venerates foul-mouthed oiks, a music business that promotes the concept of unearned 'respect' in violent lyrics and videos, and adults who are too scared to challenge children's behaviour.
I think we need to start reclaiming our public places, buses, trains and the values of a civilised community.
Later, I looked up the school's Ofsted report and was unsurprised to see it had a 'good' rating and was praised for its excellent 'pastoral care' of pupils. Yet it was clear that bullying was rife. I pitied any conscientious child trying to learn in the shadow of such thugs.
As for me, I hope I will continue to have the courage to stand up to yobs.
And when, in three years' time, I need to choose a secondary school for my son, I shall ignore Ofsted reports and instead travel on the bus that passes the school at 3.30pm. I suspect it gives a rather more accurate picture.
10 June, 2010
NY: Educrats pass students who get wrong answers on tests
It's racism behind it, of course. Must not fail blacks. And blacks generally perform so poorly that even the tiniest shred of comprehension from a black is pounced on with gratitude
When does 2 + 2 = 5? When you're taking the state math test.
Despite promises that the exams -- which determine whether students advance to the next grade -- would not be dumbed down this year, students got "partial credit" for wrong answers after failing to correctly add, subtract, multiply and divide. Some got credit for no answer at all. "They were giving credit for blatantly wrong things," said an outraged Brooklyn teacher who was among those hired to score the fourth-grade test.
State education officials had vowed to "strengthen" and "increase the rigor" of both the questions and the scoring when about 1.2 million kids in grades 3 to 8 -- including 450,000 in New York City -- took English exams in April and math exams last month.
But scoring guides obtained by The Post reveal that kids get half-credit or more for showing fragments of work related to the problem -- even if they screw up the calculations or leave the answer blank. Examples in the fourth-grade scoring guide include:
* A kid who answers that a 2-foot-long skateboard is 48 inches long gets half-credit for adding 24 and 24 instead of the correct 12 plus 12.
* A miscalculation that 28 divided by 14 equals 4 instead of 2 is "partially correct" if the student uses the right method to verify the wrong answer.
* Setting up a division problem to find one-fifth of $400, but not solving the problem -- and leaving the answer blank -- gets half-credit.
* A kid who subtracts 57 cents from three quarters for the right change and comes up with 15 cents instead of 18 cents still gets half-credit.
* A student who figures the numbers of books in 35 boxes of 10 gets half-credit despite messed-up multiplication that yields the wrong answer, 150 instead of 350.
These questions ask students to show their work. The scoring guidelines, called "holistic rubrics," require that points be given if a kid's attempt at an answer reflects a "partial understanding" of the math concept, "addresses some element of the task correctly," or uses the "appropriate process" to arrive at a wrong solution. Despite flubbing the answer, students can get 1 point on a 2-point problem and 1 or 2 points on a 3-pointer.
The Brooklyn teacher said she and peers who had trained to score the tests were stunned at some instructions. "Everybody in the room was upset," she said. The teacher had scored tests with some "controversial questions" for several years, but "this time it was more outrageous," she said. "You feel like you're being forced to cheat."
Scorers joked about giving points to kids who wrote their names, brought a pencil or shared gum. However, score inflation is not funny, the whistleblower said. "The kids who really need the help are just being shuffled along to the next grade without the basic skills to have true success. They are given a hollow success -- that's the crime of it. The state DOE is doing a disservice to its children."
Some testing experts are also troubled. Ray Domanico, a former head of data analysis for city schools, said kids deserve a little credit for partial knowledge but agreed the scoring system "raises some questions about whether it's too generous."
State Education Department spokesman Tom Dunn defended the scoring. "All teachers who score exams receive clear training and rubrics that detail scoring criteria for every question on the tests," he said. "Students who show work and demonstrate a partial understanding of the mathematical concepts or procedures embodied in the question receive partial credit."
But a few extra points can let a failing kid squeak by. A year ago, Chancellor Joel Klein boasted that the city was making "dramatic progress" when 82 percent of city students passed the state math test and 69 percent passed in English, up sharply from 2002. And fewer kids have been left back in recent years. What officials didn't reveal was that the number of points needed to pass proficiency levels has, in most cases, steadily dropped.
The state Board of Regents, which oversees the tests, has postponed the release of results until late July, but let the city Department of Education set its own "promotional cut scores" to decide which kids may be held back. The DOE will release those scores in the next two weeks, a spokesman said.
British schools failing to teach the Christian foundations of British culture
The Christian religion is the foundation of most of Britain’s culture and traditions. The history of our nation is incomprehensible without some knowledge of it. And yet, as we report today, and as anyone who has school-age children attending a non-religious state school will already know, the rudiments of Christianity are frequently poorly taught — if, indeed, they are taught at all. A report by Ofsted has found that, although nominally required by the national curriculum, in many schools instruction is “superficial”, and is treated less seriously than the study of other religions.
In part, this is a result of a misplaced enthusiasm for “multiculturalism”, and a determination to include other faiths such as Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism, all of which the national curriculum requires pupils to study. But it is also a reflection of the ignorance of many of the teachers themselves. There is, as Ofsted euphemistically puts it, “uncertainty” about what the teaching of Christianity should involve.
That needs to be remedied as soon as possible, and Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, should ensure that it is. Our youngsters have no chance of understanding the history of Britain, or its fundamental values of equality, toleration, and freedom of conscience, unless they also understand where those values came from.
No one is required to adhere to Christianity’s precepts in order to teach them: atheists can do that job quite as well as committed Christians (or Muslims, come to that). But in failing to teach children about the religion of the country they live in, we are depriving them of a critical element in their education.
Degrees at Australian university 'dumbed down' for foreign students
Such complaints are familiar and undoubtedly true so one wonders if anything will ever be done about them. Graduating unqualified engineers etc. is of great concern
FOREIGN students are cheating and getting special treatment to ensure they get their degrees, according to evidence gathered in a secret investigation by the Ombudsman.
Victorian universities chasing a bigger slice of Australia's $17 billion a year foreign students industry have also been accused of pressuring staff to "dumb down" courses. Some international students who failed tests at Royal Melbourne Institite of Technology were allowed to keep sitting the same exams until they passed, the Ombudsman's investigators allegedly found.
RMIT's 26,000 international students bring in almost $204 million a year to the university.
An RMIT whistleblower sparked the Ombudsman's investigation early this year. Investigators have found evidence suggesting:
- A teacher allowed students to cheat in aerospace and aviation exams.
- At least one Middle Eastern student suspected of cheating spent months in a detention centre while intelligence agencies checked his background.
- An international student graduated from RMIT despite turning up drunk, missing lectures, failing exams, abusing staff and students, and sparking sex assault accusations.
The university, and the individuals accused of wrongdoing, will be able to respond to the allegations in the Ombudsman's draft report before the final report was tabled in State Parliament.
RMIT Vice-Chancellor Margaret Gardner said the Whistleblowers Protection Act prevented her from commenting on the allegations until after the report is tabled. She said she would be happy to answer questions when she was legally able to do so.
An RMIT teacher, who asked not to be named, said some staff were concerned foreign students were getting preferential treatment. "RMIT is falling over backwards to make sure these fee-paying international students don't fail," he said. "A big slice of RMIT's income is generated by international students and they don't want to jeopardise it."
Leading Monash University researcher Bob Birrell claimed some international students who got degrees didn't have enough English to to get a job in Australia in their chosen fields. Dr Birrell said he couldn't comment on the Ombudsman's report as he was not aware of its contents.
But he said competition between Victorian universities was so fierce that evidence suggested some were cutting corners as they desperately pursued the lucrative international student dollar. "In order to deal with the students who were being recruited, they had to dumb down the curriculum," he said.
Investigators from the Ombudsman's office are believed to have discovered the cheating during an investigation into other damaging claims against RMIT. They found evidence suggesting a long-serving teacher handed out an exam paper to a Middle Eastern aerospace student several days before the exam. The student allegedly allowed other Middle Eastern students to use the exam paper to cheat.
Telephone records of the teacher and several aerospace students allegedly reveal late-night contact in the days before a test on the stress on aeroplane components.
9 June, 2010
Higher education's bubble is about to burst
It's a story of an industry that may sound familiar. The buyers think what they're buying will appreciate in value, making them rich in the future. The product grows more and more elaborate, and more and more expensive, but the expense is offset by cheap credit provided by sellers eager to encourage buyers to buy.
Buyers see that everyone else is taking on mounds of debt, and so are more comfortable when they do so themselves; besides, for a generation, the value of what they're buying has gone up steadily. What could go wrong? Everything continues smoothly until, at some point, it doesn't.
Yes, this sounds like the housing bubble, but I'm afraid it's also sounding a lot like a still-inflating higher education bubble. And despite (or because of) the fact that my day job involves higher education, I think it's better for us to face up to what's going on before the bubble bursts messily.
College has gotten a lot more expensive. A recent Money magazine report notes: "After adjusting for financial aid, the amount families pay for college has skyrocketed 439 percent since 1982. ... Normal supply and demand can't begin to explain cost increases of this magnitude."
Consumers would balk, except for two things.
First -- as with the housing bubble -- cheap and readily available credit has let people borrow to finance education. They're willing to do so because of (1) consumer ignorance, as students (and, often, their parents) don't fully grasp just how harsh the impact of student loan payments will be after graduation; and (2) a belief that, whatever the cost, a college education is a necessary ticket to future prosperity.
Bubbles burst when there are no longer enough excessively optimistic and ignorant folks to fuel them. And there are signs that this is beginning to happen already.
A New York Times profile last week described Courtney Munna, a 26-year-old graduate of New York University with nearly $100,000 in student loan debt -- debt that her degree in Religious and Women's Studies did not equip her to repay. Payments on the debt are about $700 per month, equivalent to a respectable house payment, and a major bite on her monthly income of $2,300 as a photographer's assistant earning an hourly wage.
And, unlike a bad mortgage on an underwater house, Munna can't simply walk away from her student loans, which cannot be expunged in a bankruptcy. She's stuck in a financial trap.
Some might say that she deserves it -- who borrows $100,000 to finance a degree in women's and religious studies that won't make you any money? She should have wised up, and others should learn from her mistake, instead of learning too late, as she did: "I don't want to spend the rest of my life slaving away to pay for an education I got for four years and would happily give back."
But bubbles burst when people catch on, and there's some evidence that people are beginning to catch on. Student loan demand, according to a recent report in the Washington Post, is going soft, and students are expressing a willingness to go to a cheaper school rather than run up debt. Things haven't collapsed yet, but they're looking shakier -- kind of like the housing market looked in 2007.
So what happens if the bubble collapses? Will it be a tragedy, with millions of Americans losing their path to higher-paying jobs?
Maybe not. College is often described as a path to prosperity, but is it? A college education can help people make more money in three different ways.
First, it may actually make them more economically productive by teaching them skills valued in the workplace: Computer programming, nursing or engineering, say. (Religious and women's studies, not so much.)
Second, it may provide a credential that employers want, not because it represents actual skills, but because it's a weeding tool that doesn't produce civil-rights suits as, say, IQ tests might. A four-year college degree, even if its holder acquired no actual skills, at least indicates some ability to show up on time and perform as instructed.
And, third, a college degree -- at least an elite one -- may hook its holder up with a useful social network that can provide jobs and opportunities in the future. (This is more true if it's a degree from Yale than if it's one from Eastern Kentucky, but it's true everywhere to some degree).
While an individual might rationally pursue all three of these, only the first one -- actual added skills -- produces a net benefit for society. The other two are just distributional -- about who gets the goodies, not about making more of them.
Yet today's college education system seems to be in the business of selling parts two and three to a much greater degree than part one, along with selling the even-harder-to-quantify "college experience," which as often as not boils down to four (or more) years of partying.
Post-bubble, perhaps students -- and employers, not to mention parents and lenders -- will focus instead on education that fosters economic value. And that is likely to press colleges to focus more on providing useful majors. (That doesn't necessarily rule out traditional liberal-arts majors, so long as they are rigorous and require a real general education, rather than trendy and easy subjects, but the key word here is "rigorous.")
My question is whether traditional academic institutions will be able to keep up with the times, or whether -- as Anya Kamenetz suggests in her new book, "DIY U" -- the real pioneering will be in online education and the work of "edupunks" who are more interested in finding new ways of teaching and learning than in protecting existing interests.
I'm betting on the latter. Industries seldom reform themselves, and real competition usually comes from the outside. Keep your eyes open -- and, if you're planning on applying to college, watch out for those student loans.
The Lottery: Children’s Futures Left to Luck
Tomorrow, a new documentary, The Lottery, will premier in Washington, DC.
The film is based on the Harlem charter school lottery: a luck-of-the-draw process to determine who of thousands of vying New York City children will be offered 475 charter school slots. Specifically, it tells the stories of four New York families hoping to break free from New York City public schools to increase the likelihood of their children’s educational success. Madeleine Sackler, the film’s director tells the Wall Street Journal:These are parents who don’t have the means to move to a richer neighborhood with better public schools, so instead they have to rely on luck. When demand for a charter school exceeds supply, the random drawing is required by law. Some schools inform parents by mail, but Harlem Success holds a public lottery.
The film not only takes the viewer through the emotional roller coaster of the lottery process, but illustrates the political opposition that curbs the growth of more charter schools to fill the demand of these families. Why such opposition to educational opportunity for NY children? Eva Moskowitz, founder of the Harlem Success Academy network and a key character in the film, identifies the “union-political-educational complex.”
In one scene, viewers see the likes of Acorn, hired to protest a charter school on behalf of the teachers union. While the film was not originally meant to be political, Sackler comments:Finding out that the teachers union had hired a rent-a-mob to protest on its behalf was “the turn for us in the process.” That story—of self-interested adults trying to deny poor parents choice for their children—provided an answer to Ms. Sackler’s fundamental question: “If there are these high-performing schools that are closing the achievement gap, why aren’t there more of them?
The film also seeks to dispel the myth that children are failing because parents don’t care. As The Lottery reveals, there are many parents who are willing to fight for their children’s education. However, a broken system provides little chance at accomplishing that. The Lottery’s message will hopefully bring families one step closer to achieving that goal.
“The public education system is at a crossroads,” Ms. Sackler says. “Do we want to go back to the time when children are forced to attend their district school no matter how underperforming it is? Or do we want to let parents choose what’s best for their kids and provide a lot of options?”
Worst British universities 'could be closed', says CBI
The government should consider closing Britain's worst universities to stop them dragging down elite institutions, a business leader has suggested. Richard Lambert, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, said the move should be considered by the coalition government as it attempts to cut public spending.
He said the country’s top universities should not be forced to “pay the price for the incompetence of the worst”, particularly at a time of public sector cuts.
In a speech, he also suggested that so-called “premier league” institutions should be allowed to charge higher student tuition fees to protect academic standards.
The comments come weeks after the Government announced plans to cut £200 million from the higher education budget as part of sweeping public spending reductions. Three-quarters of universities were already facing real-terms funding cuts following allocations made by Labour earlier this year.
Mr Lambert said a small number of universities were currently in “serious financial difficulty” and many more were “heading into very big trouble”.
In a speech at Sheffield University on Tuesday evening, he warned that the Government would have to make difficult decisions to safeguard the world-class reputation of British higher education. “Would it take the politically explosive but probably economically sensible decision to close or merge the worst run institutions? Or would it instead attempt to bail them out?” he said. “That would mean the already reduced quantities of jam having to be spread even more thinly across the system, making our best universities pay the price for the incompetence of the worst.”
Lord Browne, the former head of BP, is heading a review into the existing system of university finance. He will make series of recommendations in the autumn that are expected to lead to a radical overhaul of student tuition fees, loans and grants.
Many vice-chancellors have already called for the existing £3,250-a-year cap on fees to be raised, with some calling for the complete abolition of the upper limit. This could pave the way for universities to set fees similar to those in the United States, where top Ivy League institutions can charge up to £20,000. Mr Lambert said ministers should consider allowing the best universities to charge more.
Britain currently has around 150 higher education institutions. Four universities - Cambridge, University College London, Oxford and Imperial - were ranked among the world's top 10 in a global league table last year. Eighteen were in the top 100.
Mr Lambert said: “If we want them to stay in this division in what is becoming an increasingly competitive marketplace – which we surely should – then we are going to have to find ways of channelling more money in their direction. “They already get a disproportionate share of public funding for research… But does the one size fits all approach to the tuition fee cap make sense in this environment?
“Provided they offered full bursaries to those who couldn’t afford to pay the full rate, why shouldn’t those in the premier league be allowed to raise their fees to something nearer what the market could bear? Or would have that have adverse consequences in terms of social mobility and equity?”
In further comments, Mr Lambert criticised the failure to properly open up higher education to the poorest students. According to figures, almost two thirds of universities recruited fewer students than expected from the poorest areas last year.
Mr Lambert said universities had “more to do”, but insisted that the real blame lay in the “earlier years of education”. Almost half of schoolchildren fail to get the GCSEs necessary to move onto A-level courses, he said, blocking their access to degree courses.
“Disproportionately large numbers of this group come from the most deprived backgrounds,” he said. “Some 16 per cent of children leave school in this country without any form of qualification, which is well above the [international] average. This represents a scandalous waste of human capital.”
8 June, 2010
DC and other cities give new teacher breed a proving ground
Keen teachers are a good start but even keen teachers get discouraged if there is no effective control over misbehaviour -- and that will probably ensue in many of the cases below
The new contract ratified by D.C. teachers has inspired speculation about who is going to get the most out of it. Will Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee be able to impose her test-driven evaluation system with no more teacher resistance? Will the American Federation of Teachers, and its president Randi Weingarten, garner new prestige and influence for endorsing reform?
Nope. That’s not it. This is not about District or union leaders. It is about teachers, particularly the innovative ones who have been taking jobs in city schools and joining Weingarten’s union in large numbers the last several years. The new contract in D.C. and related developments in Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Houston and elsewhere give this new bunch an opportunity to prove their creative and aggressive teaching will help inner-city children realize their untapped potential.
D.C. is a hot spot for the movement because the city has large numbers of top college graduates recruited by Teach for America and similar organizations. They now serve as teachers, principals and in Rhee’s case, chancellor. Like Houston, New York and Boston, D.C. also has many of the most effective public charter schools and several regular public schools that are innovative.
In Los Angeles, teachers with similar intentions are pushing the change even further. In the summer issue of the journal Education Next, University of California at Berkeley education and public policy professor Bruce Fuller reveals how renegade teacher groups outbid even the best charter organizations to run underperforming L.A. schools their way.
If this doesn’t work, it will be leaders like Rhee who get the blame. Test scores will deliver the final verdict, as far as the public is concerned. Tests are flawed measures, but they are pretty much all we have. That is why the new breed of teachers takes them seriously, and why Weingarten agreed to test-driven teacher evaluations. The fastest-growing part of her membership demanded them. If scores don’t continue to improve, the headlines will say Rhee failed. But the teachers driving schools in these new directions will blame themselves and try something different, a useful habit if we want urban schools to work.
One crucial element in all this can’t be easily measured — attitude, both in teachers and students. Leaders like Rhee have insisted on hiring only teachers who believe that they can make big gains despite the drag on learning that comes from poverty. This is evident in what happens in their classrooms. Students who fail to pay attention, taunt others or do anything to distract the class get a quick teacher response — a warning, a whisper in the ear, a lost privilege, something to underline the importance of what they are doing.
The way some of the new principals instill this emphasis in teachers is interesting. Susan Schaeffler, who created the most effective charter school network in the city, KIPP DC, told me what she said privately to a teacher who was five minutes late for a meeting: “Is there a problem? Should we rewrite your contract to let you come late? We can’t demand that kids stick with the rules if we don’t follow them ourselves.”
No matter how much salaries rise under the new contract, the teachers who make a difference will not dwell on that. They know that how much their students grow in knowledge and character will decide everything.
International examinations will be offered to state school pupils, says new British Government
State school pupils will be able to take the tougher International GCSE after the Government announced it was introducing the qualification, which is favoured by the private sector.
The move to recognise the IGCSE — which is likened to the old-style O level — is the strongest indication yet that the standard GCSE is no longer seen as fit for purpose. Independent schools have been using the international qualification, which lacks a coursework component, for some time but until now the Government had refused to allow it in the state sector.
Teachers’ leaders said the move would cause confusion for parents and pupils, but exam boards said the move would increase flexibility and choice.
Nick Gibb, the Schools Minister, said he wanted to give institutions greater freedom to offer qualifications that employers and universities demanded. The IGCSE would put state school pupils on a level playing field with their private school peers, he said. “For too long, children in state-maintained schools have been unfairly denied the right to study for qualifications like the IGCSE, which has only served to widen the already vast divide between state and independent schools.
“By removing the red tape, state school pupils will have the opportunity to leave school with the same set of qualifications as their peers from the top private schools — allowing them to better compete for university places and for the best jobs.”
From September state heads will be able to offer the IGCSE syllabus in dozens of subjects including English, maths and science.
John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, criticised the move. “GCSEs are well established as the major route at age 16, and have been hugely successful in giving many more young people the opportunity to achieve,” he said.
“Introducing the IGCSE more widely will increase uncertainty for parents, pupils, employers and the general public. Exams are not products on a store shelf. They determine young people’s futures and should not be subject to market pressures.”
The results of IGCSEs, which have no modules, will be placed in league tables and be regarded as equivalent to GCSE results. Until now private schools that take the qualification have been excluded from national league tables. The Government said that the move was not intended to discredit the GCSE examination, which has been part of the culmination of pre-16 education since 1986.
A spokeswoman for Edexcel, one of the largest exam boards in England, said: “It is vital that any education system offers flexibility and choice to ensure learners achieve their full potential. Teachers will now have more freedom to choose an exam format that best suits their learners’ needs.”
As part of the shake-up of qualifications for over 15s, the Government also said yesterday that it would scrap the next stage of the Diploma qualification — which was designed by Labour to bridge the gap between academic and vocational qualifications.
It will not fund the development of science, humanities and language diplomas that was expected to begin in September, saving £1.77 million. Diplomas in hair and beauty, and hospitality began last year.
Mr Gibb said: “It’s not for government to decide which qualifications pupils should take, or to force the development of new qualifications, which is why we are stopping development of the state-led Academic Diploma.
Not all British sink schools are "failing". Sometimes it's the pupils
The new Education Secretary’s eagerness to fire ‘underperforming’ headteachers could result in an own goal. Exam results do not tell the whole story in some instances
The brisk abolition of two quangos and the General Teaching Council was a good start, since teachers and parents on the whole prefer money to be spent on children rather than extra bureaucrats. The offer of academy status will be welcomed by many, though it will be interesting to see which local authorities (there are some) work so well and economically that their schools all turn it down. But in an interview at the end of last week, Mr Gove showed worrying signs of waving his scissors around too excitedly and stabbing himself.
What he said was that schools deemed “failing” and placed on special measures by Ofsted, the inspectorate, would have 12 months to climb out of that status before the heads were sacked and the school handed over to “organisations with a track record of educational excellence”. It sounds good — zero tolerance of failure, urgent repair of a broken system, every child a winner, all that. But I do not like to see a clever and principled minister veering away from reality.
For schools to fail children is obviously terrible. But know this: in the real world, unnoticed by amateur educational harrumphers, the definition of “failing” was sharply changed last autumn. Ofsted moved the goalposts, and the proportion of schools labelled as failing nearly doubled: from 4 to 7.5 per cent. This is not because they suddenly got worse. The change hinges on the word “attainment” replacing the word “achievement”: basically, under the new inspection criteria, all that really matters is a tally of exam results. More than 30 per cent must get five A-C grades at GCSE, including English and Maths.
Not only is it hard to raise everyone to the average (do the math!) but the raised bar takes little account of what a school adds to the lives and minds of pupils who started at a low mental, social and emotional level. Inspectors now have less flexibility to judge the difficult realities in front of them, but must tick boxes on exam results and compliance with “safeguarding” and “equality”.
For schools flying well above the average, this hardly matters. But for those who lead the most difficult ones it is a disaster. One gifted and dedicated secondary head who serves a tough estate in a middle-sized and otherwise affluent town says sadly: “There is absolutely no way that in a year’s time we cannot be still ‘failing’.”
The only thing that cheers him up is the reflection that if Mr Gove fulfils his rash promise of sacking, he’ll have the devil of a job finding any “organisation with a track record of educational excellence” willing to risk its reputation by taking on his particular lot — especially since the golden, long-awaited promise of decent new school buildings is now receding into the mists of recession.
This school serves one sprawling estate (nobody else would choose to go there) where many children are born to poverty, chaotic broken families and a drug culture fed by hard-eyed and armed dealers who target the most vulnerable. They grow up knowing that their patch of ground is shunned and feared by the comparatively affluent communities around, their school dubbed a “sink”.
Yet they are well cared for by this very school: it is the only calm, focused, kindly place in many of their lives, the only place they see an actual book. The head greets every one by name each day, they wear uniform, the teachers rejoice in every raising of interest and ability. Before the change, its last Ofsted report called it “good with outstanding features”, and spoke of inspiring leadership and staff commitment. Some of its pupils do remarkably well.
But to get a third hitting five A-C grades at 16 is probably a chimera. More than half the intake are on “special needs” registers. “Social needs” — that tidy euphemism — are high, as is the dread phrase “emotional and behavioural difficulties”. The poorest- performing local primary schools feed it. Among the parents, broken families, worklessness and criminality are common. The staff work hard to involve them, but many have negative memories of their own schooldays, resent the law that makes them send their children in, abuse the staff and counteract attempts at discipline.
There are not many schools like this, perhaps only a couple of hundred. Many are not in the multicultural and notoriously troublesome inner-city areas that get all the attention: they are in deprived corners of provincial towns that everyone forgets about. Of course they need help, and generous funding, and to be watched lest their morale plummet irretrievably. But they also need understanding, realism and some relief from the mass of legal, curricular and procedural stringencies loaded on them by decades of trigger-happy ministers.
To judge them on other things than raw grades is not to undervalue their children’s chances. It is just that there are more sophisticated measurements than pure exam grades: measures that set the entry level of pupils against their final academic and social achievements. On those criteria, schools such as this hit the same targets as top grammar schools.
And — since life goes on after schooldays — some of their alumni will later amplify their education and social progress, because they have been valued and shown a different path to that of their parents. But if Mr Gove means what he says, their failure to hit a statistical winning post from a start miles behind the line will get their school shamed and their heads sacked. Perhaps Mr Gove plans to get real and look again at the criteria for shouting “Failure!” I hope so.
7 June, 2010
Equality or diversity? Which one do Leftists want?
You can't have both
by Tibor R. Machan
For the last couple or so decades the universities and colleges where I have taught–and by all accounts, most of them in the USA–have had two mutually exclusive social objectives. (Yes, Virginia, higher education is now mostly embarked upon pursuing social policies, not so much educating students.) These two are equality and diversity.
On the one hand there is a big push toward eliminating any kind of inequality in the way students are being regarded and treated. Everyone is equal, just as Barrack Obama’s Vice President Joseph Biden insisted in one of his rallying cries. As he put it in the course of a moving eulogy for his mother (according to the Associated Press), “My mother’s creed is the American creed: No one is better than you,” he said. “Everyone is your equal, and everyone is equal to you. My parents taught us to live our faith, and to treasure our families. We learned the dignity of work, and we were told that anyone can make it if they just try hard enough.”
Of course Mr. Biden didn’t mean we are all equal today or will be tomorrow. What he meant is that in a rightly ordered world, one ruled by him and his associates, there would be total equality among human beings, on the model of, say, ants in their colony (excepting the chief ant, of course, just as this would be and has been the case with any large scale egalitarian experiment). I am not exaggerating. Just go and read Vice President Biden’s comment in full (here) and check out the many very prominently published books on the issue denouncing such dastardly inequalities, among others, as being more beautiful than someone else. Take, for example, Naomi Wolff’s The Beauty Myth from the 1980s and the recently published work of Deborah L. Rhode, The Beauty Bias (2010).
But at the same time that the push for full equality among people is carried out with official support, we also find widespread academic support for the idea of diversity –an idea that assumes, of course, that people aren’t the same at all but quite different–so our various prominent institutions must be inclusive of widely different people.
The differences at issue tend, of course, to be controversial. Some support ideological or philosophical or religious differences, so that those with different ideas, faiths, convictions and the like need all to be included. Some focus upon diversity in racial or ethnic or gender membership. Some stress differences in socio-economic status.
Whatever is the sort of diversity being considered, it is evident beyond any reasonable doubt that people are not equal by a long shot and their unequal status needs to be taken account of in how the relevant institutions–universities, high schools, clubs, corporations, etc.–are being managed, administered or governed. This is not merely a fact of life but a celebrated fact of life, given how so much of educational policy and administration is devoted to doing it justice.
One need but take account of the demographics of the United States of America, let alone the globe, in order to apprehend the underlying basis of this fact. People are not only of the same species, homo sapiens, but are at the same time individuals and members of innumerable special groups, most of them entirely legitimate (unlike, say, membership in the Ku Klux Klan or the Mafia). As a favorite social philosopher of mine, Steve Martin the very inventive and funny actor and writer, put it in the novel, The Pleasure of My Company, “People, I thought. These are people. Their general uniformity was interrupted only by their individual variety.”
So, on the one hand the objective is supposed to be, as VP Biden suggests, to erase all differences and render everyone equal in all important respects. On the other hand, as much of educational administrative policy suggests, diversity is to be celebrated, and the homogeneity that would be part and parcel of an egalitarian world, is to be rejected.
So then which will it be? An acknowledgement of benign human diversity or an insistence of homogenization so as to fulfill the egalitarian dream? There is no doubt about it for me: diversity is not just a fact of human life but a highly welcome one at that.
Britain's Tories take on the leather lady
THE new government is to throw a lifeline to independent schools by softening demands for them to provide more bursaries to pupils from poor families to justify retaining their charitable status.
Michael Gove, the education secretary, has ordered his officials to talk to the Charity Commission about giving the schools more credit for community work such as sharing teachers and facilities with comprehensives.
Under a law passed by Labour, schools have to prove they provide “public benefit” to retain the tax breaks they enjoy from charitable status.
Last year two schools failed pilot inspections by the commission, headed by Dame Suzi Leather, mainly because they were not providing enough bursaries. This provoked fury from independent school heads, who claimed Leather was over-interpreting the law and pursuing a politically motivated agenda.
Some wealthy schools with large endowments may have little difficulty providing sufficient bursaries, but poorer institutions have complained that they will struggle to do so.
Gove wants to soften the commission’s approach while also exploring new ways for schools to escape its jurisdiction altogether.
Before the election he looked at a plan for schools to become “non-profit trusts”. Under this option, which would require legislation, schools would lose the tax perks of charitable status but hold on to their assets and stay independent from commercial shareholders. Asked if Gove was still considering this, a source said it was “speculation”.
Another route may be for schools to become exempt charities, which are not subject to Charity Commission jurisdiction. New state academies will be given this status.
A small number of independent schools — mainly those in financial trouble — are expected to take a third route by converting into academies.
The source said: “[Gove] wants to meet the concerns of the independent schools and provide ways of escaping the jurisdiction of the Charity Commission for schools that wish to do so.”
The government will be reluctant to repeal Labour’s public benefit legislation entirely for fear of being seen to favour wealthy schools such as Eton and Westminster — attended by David Cameron and Nick Clegg respectively.
More than 1,000 independent schools are registered charities, meaning they are exempt from income tax and stamp duty and benefit from concessions on business rates and Vat. On average, these amount to 2%-3% of a school’s income.
David Lyscom, chief executive of the Independent Schools Council, said he would welcome the Charity Commission adopting “a more reasonable and legally defensible” approach, but strongly backed the introduction of legal alternatives to charitable status.
“We don’t want to have to rely on a political interpretation of public benefit depending on the whim of a particular government,” Lyscom said.
Simon Northcott, head of St Anselm’s, near Bakewell, Derbyshire, which failed its public benefit inspection for providing insufficient bursaries, said: “We’re aiming to play ball with [the commission] and pass. But I’m not sure they know what they’re doing ... after two visits to the school they have still not looked round it.”
Australia: Leftist educators still trying to dodge phonics
There is something in their addled brains which makes them hate the fact that it is the best way to teach literacy. They seem to see it as "too teacher-centred", or some such bulldust
THE place in the national curriculum for teaching letter-sound relationships to students learning to read is "submerged in a sea of competing strategies" that confuses teachers and students, say leading researchers.
In a submission on the national English curriculum, some of the nation's most respected scientists in reading research are concerned that while the requirement to teach phonics is included in the curriculum, it fails to clearly state the best way to teach it as shown by research.
The submission says the curriculum "makes reference" to sound-letter correspondences but it lacks a statement clearly specifying that all sound-letter correspondences be taught intensively and systematically. It also fails to specify the teaching of the skills of blending sounds for reading and of segmenting sounds for spelling, and that decoding skills be taught "to the level of fluency".
The signatories to the submission include Macquarie University professors Max Coltheart and Kevin Wheldall, who developed MULTILIT (Making Up for Lost Time In Literacy), a phonics-based remedial reading program that is being trialled in NSW schools this year. It is the first direct comparison in Australia between phonics-based and other teaching strategies for reading.
The submission argues that the curriculum continues to give emphasis to a discredited system for teaching reading, known as the three cues, which includes phonics as one part, but not the first step, in reading, alongside the syntax of the sentence and the shape of the word.
"The three-cueing system is a seriously flawed conception of the processes involved in skilled reading, and the practices flowing from its misconception may have contributed to the problems experienced by an unacceptably large number of students," the submission says.
"The Australian curriculum is unclear about which skills are crucial in learning to read. This leads to confusion between the processes involved in learning to read (decoding text) and the processes involved in understanding what has been read."
The dominant strategy for teaching reading in Australia since the late 1970s has been the "whole language" approach, which assumed children learned to read in the same way they learned to speak through exposure to books and reading.
Its proponents contend that children were taught to look at the picture on the page, the shape of the word, the initial letter and guess the word given its place in the sentence.
The submission quotes British studies of eye movement and brain research that have shown that, when reading takes place, decoding or sounding out always takes place before the understanding of words or sentences.
6 June, 2010
Cleveland specialty high schools celebrate first graduates, but resentment remains from traditional schools
The Cleveland School of Science and Medicine and Cleveland School of Architecture and Design, both at John Hay, and all-male Ginn will present diplomas this weekend to a combined 171 seniors. The count would have been higher, but two seniors failed to pass all five sections of the state graduation test.
All the John Hay graduates are bound for college or trade school. Two Ginn grads are entering the military; the rest plan to go to college. That's remarkable in a district where nearly half the students quit before completing 12th grade.
The new schools draw cries of favoritism. Support from foundations, the schools' small, boutique settings and their freedom to pick students stir resentment.
Urban systems face a dilemma: Large high schools are ineffective, but smaller models can be expensive and need union consent for the flexibility that proponents say is essential.
One thing for certain is that Cleveland's niche choices keep more students from dropping out or leaving for charter and suburban classrooms. The alternatives also may save students who would end up in jail or dead.
"When you look at the performance of most of the comprehensive high schools, it's pretty dreadful," said former district innovation chief Leigh McGuigan, describing conditions across the country. "The end game has to be to put in place in every school the characteristics that exist in these schools."
The John Hay Campus, in University Circle, gives off the vibe of a private school. You can't tell now, but not long ago, the building was so out of control that then-Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett resorted to a drastic solution: Shut the classic 1929 structure down for remodeling, kick out the neighborhood kids and start from scratch with new concepts.
Science and Medicine and Architecture and Design require a 3.0 grade-point average for admission, a big reason why John Hay, rated as a single entity, scored "excellent" on its most recent state report card.
"We have tons of good students [in the district]. Shouldn't there be some public options for parents?" said Edward Weber, head of school at Science and Medicine. "I wouldn't say it's cherry-picking so much as students earn the right to be here."
British Schools leave Christianity in the wilderness
Schools have been accused of ignoring the views of their Christian pupils while paying careful attention to children of other faiths. According to Ofsted, the schools inspectorate, teachers are failing to educate children in the core beliefs of Christianity, ignoring their legal obligation to do so.
An Ofsted report released today says stories from the Bible are often used simply to teach children about their feelings or about how to empathise with the sick, but their religious significance is neglected.
The inspectorate finds there has been a sharp decline in the quality of religious teaching, particularly in secondary schools, over the past three years. “Insufficient attention was paid to ... pupils who were actively engaged in Christian practice,” the report notes. “Often, their experience was ignored ... this sometimes contrasted sharply with the more careful attention paid to the experiences of pupils from other religious traditions.”
Critics argue that too many teachers are both ignorant and embarrassed about Christianity and are frightened of causing tension in multi-faith schools.
However, supporters of the approach identified by Ofsted argue that teachers are simply reflecting the secular views prevalent in society.
Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester, said: “There is generally in the culture a kind of embarrassment about talking openly about Christianity that doesn’t apply to other faiths.” He warned that teachers were in danger of presenting religions as a “smorgasbord of interesting rituals and feasts”.
Christine Gilbert, the chief inspector of schools, said: “All young people should have the opportunity to learn about religion [and] learn from religion. This requires good teaching based on strong subject knowledge and clarity about the purposes of religious education.”
The teaching of religion has become increasingly fraught. Last year, a primary school teacher from Tower Hamlets, east London, claimed he had been forced out of his job because he had complained to his headmistress about an anti-Christian bias among pupils.
Some had allegedly praised the September 11 hijackers, while one boy had said he was glad about the death of a lawyer who had been stabbed “because he’s a Christian”.
Schools are obliged to teach religion, although it is not part of the national curriculum. Lessons are also supposed to reflect the fact that Christianity is the main religion in Britain, while taking account of the other leading faiths.
To assess how well they were meeting their obligations, Ofsted inspectors studied 94 primary and 89 secondary schools and compared the teaching with what it had found in a similar study three years ago. The report says: “There is an urgent need to review the way the subject is supported.” It adds: “In the sample of primary schools ... not enough [religious education] was of good quality. The quality of RE in the secondary schools visited was worse than in the schools involved in the 2007 survey.”
Ofsted says: “It was common for teachers to use Jesus’s parables to explore personal feelings or to decide how people should behave, but not make any reference to their religious significance.” In one primary school lesson, a teacher told the story of Christ’s healing of a blind man and said the purpose was to understand how it felt to be blind. The pupils were given a “feely bag” and asked to write a poem about what they would miss if they could not see. “The pupils were confused and began to lose interest,” the report notes.
Ofsted also found that teaching about Islam in secondary schools avoided any reference to controversial topics such as the place of Islam in Britain.
Andrea Minichiello Williams, director of the campaign group Christian Concern for our Nation, said: “It’s good Ofsted is starting to recognise the marginalisation of Christianity. Increasingly teachers feel they are not free to talk about faith ... Christianity is not given a level playing field.”
However, Keith Porteous Wood, director of the National Secular Society, said: “In the last week, we have had complaints of children in community schools being forced to pray before lunch and their libraries having far more books on religion than science. Yet Ofsted is pressing for the indoctrination of pupils to be stepped up.”
Black educational achievement can be greatly improved -- by strict drill, not by woolly-headed Leftist methods
By Miranda Devine, writing from Australia
When the Cape York Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson was in year 5 at Hopevale primary school, in the mid-1970s, a fill-in teacher arrived to take his class. She was an older woman, but he can't remember her name. He can remember names of more charismatic teachers.
He just remembers a "long, torrid" year with this nameless teacher, who had once taught high-school English and who drilled the children in literacy so intensively it felt "like doing football practice day in and day out".
That was the year of his "literacy breakthrough", he remembers, and when he went away to boarding school in Brisbane at the Lutheran St Peter's, he outshone most of his contemporaries in English. He continued to do so at Sydney University where he took his history and law degrees.
It was in this teacher's classroom that the seeds were sown for the high-stakes education revolution he has launched on Cape York, to erase a generation's dysfunction and lost opportunity.
It was there that Pearson came to understand that the "essence of the good teacher is above all the quality of their instruction", as he wrote last year. This led him eventually to the door of a 78-year-old professor at the University of Oregon last year.
Pearson remembers his old teacher used a boxed set of cards for the literacy exercises, which the children called "SRA cards" because they were published by the mysterious sounding Science Research Associates. Thirty-five years later he discovered the SRA and its cards had been part of a teaching method known as Direct Instruction, designed by Professor Siegfried Engelmann.
The discovery came via Bernadine Denigan, the inspirational chief executive of Cape York Partnerships, who went to the US on a Churchill fellowship two years ago and discovered the startling successes Direct Instruction was having in similarly disadvantaged schools in places as diverse as Harlem and Nebraska.
As Pearson wrote in a brilliant article entitled Radical Hope in Quarterly Essay last year, Engelmann's contribution is "the most profound of any education theorist in the modern era and yet he labours in near complete-obscurity".
The American adman turned education professor designed the teacher-proof program that allows children, particularly those from disadvantaged background, to excel. The teacher reads exercises to children from a set script, with clear examples, consistent working and explicit phonics, delivered with high energy and at a fast pace. Children are placed in classes according to ability and only progress when they have mastered every lesson in the workbook. Like phonics, it is unfashionable in the "pupil-directed learning" milieu. Pearson had to fight to get the $7 million, three-year trial off the ground at Coen and Aurukun schools this year.
Undermined by elements of the Queensland education bureaucracy, he had to replace both principals this year and a number of teachers.
But he expects the program to work better than what he calls the Groundhog Day of "shameful failure" in which Aboriginal children are two to four years behind their non-indigenous counterparts.
At Aurukun school last week, where I saw the program in action, Lizzie Fuller, a 25-year-old from Orange, says Direct Instruction just "makes sense. It takes all the guesswork out of teaching. You thrive on the results and the kids thrive on the lessons."
She tells of the student who was moved into a higher ability group who came to her at the end of the day and said: "Miss, I am just so proud of myself."
This is real self-esteem, says Pearson, the kind that comes from achievement rather than the illusory sort that comes from people offering you false praise.
Last week, a year 4 girl, Imani Tamwoy, became the first child to catch up to her grade level in reading, a significant achievement in Aurukun.
Colleen Page, a 24-year-old teacher from the Sunshine Coast, in her third year at the school, says her students revel so much in synonyms they now will say, "Miss, I'm feeling indolent today" rather than "lazy".
Another teacher, Patricia Thompson, has also noticed "a big change in my kids - there's been a big improvement in behaviour because they've learned to read … We [teachers] love it."
At Coen School, where Pearson's cousin Cheryl Canon, from Hopevale, is the new principal, results are similarly pleasing after just 18 weeks.
Visiting the school last Friday, Pearson is delighted at what he sees in Majella Peter's class. A tall, elegant Coen local, she is not a trained teacher but a tutor who completed an 18-month traineeship at the school in 2006, and had a four-week crash course in Direct Instruction this year. With her script in front of her she briskly moves her small class through the morning's work. "Is this food?" she says in the instructor's bright, energetic voice. "What kind of food is it?"
"This food is a carrot."
Her pupils sit in rapt attention, calling out answers in unison.
Pearson says it was NAPLAN testing in 2008, showing abysmal scores for Aurukun, Coen and other Cape York schools, that prompted concerns by parents. For all the sophisticated explanations from teachers' unions about why NAPLAN rankings are a disaster for our children's education, there is a countervailing story out in the real Australia.
On Cape York, in the nation's most disadvantaged schools, the NAPLAN tests of 2008 actually empowered parents to demand a better education for their children. When they saw how far below the national average their schools had scored in the 2008 test, they demanded answers.
At Aurukun, test results were at least 70 per cent below the national benchmark in reading, writing, numeracy, spelling, grammar and punctuation. The precipitous step on a bar chart of comparative results says it all.
At Coen School, Pearson's Cape York Institute has been running a successful phonics-based remedial literacy program MULTILIT with Macquarie University. The results were more encouraging, with all year 7 students at or above the national minimum standard in writing, spelling and numeracy.
But having made the commitment to send their children to school - and with attendance rates climbing - Cape York parents felt the schools were letting them down on their side of the bargain.
It was welcome criticism for Pearson, who has spent years drumming up parental involvement in education and has introduced a suite of radical social reforms, including student trust accounts to pay for future education expenses. Education is the crucible around which his plans for Cape York revolve - for welfare reform and economic self-sufficiency to end the cycle of despair that comes from passive welfare dependency.
The next NAPLAN results in 2012 are expected to bear the fruits of his work.
5 June, 2010
Kids v. Unionists …Who’s Going to Win?
The refrain “do it for the kids” will be heard once again across Michigan, as the MEA plans a June 24th rally at the state capitol to make an impassioned plea for more money to prop up a self-serving education system that protects the adults at the expense of our children. Ironically, the teachers’ union bills this rally as their “Enough Is Enough” campaign…a perfect slogan, but misdirected.
Michigan taxpayers and students should adopt the phrase and demand an end to the MEA’s entitlement syndrome that is hurting our students and bleeding taxpayers dry, during an economic downturn that challenges Michigan’s very survival. If Michigan is to survive and prosper, it must re-invent the educational system, which can only be done if our legislators display the courage and independence to do what’s right for our kids. If we fail our students, we fail the entire state…forever.
Enough IS Enough…tell the Governor and legislature to stand up to the greed of the teacher unions and enact substantive and meaningful reforms to pensions and health care. Some steps have been made, but we need much more than that, if we are going to create a SUSTAINABLE educational system for the State of Michigan.
Follow the money. The tax dollars meant to educate your kids…aren’t (at least enough of them aren’t). Dollars that should be flowing into Michigan’s classrooms flow instead to the coffers of the insurance arm (MESSA) of the Michigan Education Association (MEA). In addition to being the most expensive insurer around, MESSA uses its profits to hire top-notch lobbyists and channel campaign donations to the governor and legislators, who subsequently find it difficult, if not impossible, to bring themselves to support the dramatic educational reforms necessary for Michigan to prosper and excel as a national educational leader.
Former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Watkins hit the nail on the head, way back in 2004, and lost his job for doing so. He correctly pointed out that, “escalating labor costs…exacerbate the financial situation of local schools…almost two-thirds of every new dollar provided is consumed by health care and pension costs.”
If we fall for the old trick of “raise taxes for our children”, then we will accomplish NOTHING toward inventing and investing in a quality 21st century education that will help prepare our students for the global knowledge economy they will inherit. Instead, those tax increases will do nothing more than fatten paychecks and retirement plans without adding any value to the education our kids receive. If you look at Michigan’s performance on the national NAEP test and compare the results with the rest of the nation, you’ll also see that there is plenty of room for improvement.
School boards are facing the financial crisis by having to make new decisions about where diminishing dollars are spent. Unfortunately, the kids are the losers once again. Some school districts have traded off instructional time in order to get less expensive teacher contract settlements (which they still cannot afford). Some districts are now down to a pitiful 160 days of instruction, while their teachers continue to enjoy salary increases AND the luxuries of MESSA insurance with minimal employee contributions through co-pays and deductibles.
Trading days for dollars equates to your children losing learning time at the expense of adult compensation...kids should not be the ones paying the price here. The same MEA that places picket lines in districts considering privatization is the same MEA that not only privatizes services used at their headquarters, but ultimately turns a blind eye when districts privatize services (thereby putting non-teacher MEA members like you child’s bus driver or school custodian out of work) for the “right” reason—to preserve pay increases and maintain MESSA insurance for teachers.
The poor local school boards truly live between a rock and a hard place, and face MEA supported recall action if they have the audacity to oppose the MEA. In addition, leadership salaries of the MEA make most local school superintendent’s wages look pitiful by comparison. It’s very typical for a superintendent to sit across the negotiating table from an MEA Uniserv Director (“hired gun”) who makes more money, drives a better car, and has much less educational experience…in essence, they’re well-paid strong-arms, hell-bent on a juicy settlement, whether or not it might bankrupt a district. The typical refrain is, “we don’t care…we deserve it.”
Well, they’re “deserving” their non-teaching union colleagues (as well as low-seniority teachers) out of jobs, and they’re hurting our kids by forcing larger class sizes (which they bemoan, and blame school administrators for implementing) and shorter school years to help offset the burgeoning costs of health care, built in “step” increases, and expected pay raises for all, all the while expecting to maintain their insurance-paid massages. The union tactics are repugnant enough that many, many teachers (either courageously, or much more often quietly) distance themselves from their own organization.
Encouragingly, some teachers have made attempts to have their local union contract “opened” for renegotiation, so they could offer concessions and creative solutions to help keep some of their colleagues working, and help keep their school district solvent. Ironically, but not surprisingly, the very union that claims to REPRESENT these teachers REFUSED to hear of it.
It’s time that Michigan teachers took control of their own union. Many thousands of great teachers are putting their total effort into teaching their students. This is laudable, but their political inaction also allows the MEA to continue to give teachers a bad name. Our teachers need to feel valued, and local superintendents and school boards want to work WITH their teachers, but the MEA often stands firmly in the way.
Great teachers are also true professionals. The MEA consistently exhibits and encourages anything but professionalism. Frankly, they need to change their name to represent what they’re about…and it’s certainly NOT about education. Perhaps the Michigan Organization for Bankrupting Schools (MOBS) might be a better descriptor.
If I was still teaching, I would be ashamed of the MEA’s obstructionist tactics, which most certainly helped keep Michigan from having any chance at the Federal “Reach to the Top” funding in Round One. I know I’m ashamed of them now. If they wanted to live up to their chosen name, the MEA would be first in line to offer realistic and creative solutions to help Michigan solve its educational problems. Instead, the MEA works myopically and tirelessly to obstruct reform and ignore reality…much like a spoiled child.
“It’s About the Children!”---NOT!
Texas rejects second round of Race to the Top money
Gov. Rick Perry said 'no thanks' to federal stimulus money for education, saying the state's application would probably be penalized for its unwillingness to buy into national curriculum standards.
Perry has argued that Texas' curriculum, made for and by Texans, is superior than what federal bureaucrats would produce. The state standards are set by the elected State Board of Education, which just earned national attention for setting social studies curriculum that has been criticized by educators and others as being politically driven. The state board decided, for example, that high school students will learn about leading U.S. conservative groups from the 1980s and 1990s but not about liberal or minority rights groups and they should question the division between church and state.
Perry has rejected the potentially hundreds of millions in federal dollars, saying he was rejecting federal encroachment on state decision-making.
But some state decisions are getting harder. The state faces an $18 billion budget deficit next year. Perry and other state leaders have called for a combined 15 percent cut from agencies across the state.
Perry and state leaders have accepted $16 billion in other federal stimulus money.
TV programs in curriculum for British High School exams in English
Teenagers will be encouraged to study reality TV programmes such as The Apprentice, Dragon’s Den and Britain's Got Talent as part of a new English GCSE. Pupils will be being asked to assess the delivery style and features of contestants’ language in a course designed to boost speaking and listening skills.
In one specimen paper, students are ordered to study the use of language in the Apprentice boardroom – the culmination of the BBC1 programme where Lord Sugar “fires” the weakest candidate.
Another task involves “presenting a product” based on Dragons’ Den, in which would be entrepreneurs attempt to sell ideas to successful businessmen.
And in another unit, pupils are encouraged to assess the different interviewing skills of Jeremy Paxman and Michael Parkinson.
The questions form part of a GCSE in English language created by the OCR examination board. It is designed to teach children how language can be adapted for the workplace and different social situations.
OCR said pupils taking the course would “become more conscious of which registers are more appropriate in which scenarios, making them more likely to succeed when it comes to influencing and negotiating in everyday life, their education and the world of work”.
The new English language GCSE will be available for teaching alongside an English literature GCSE from September. Under plans, teachers will be encouraged use reality TV, stand-up comedy routines, political speeches and chat shows to develop pupils’ language skills. As part of the GCSE, pupils will write a 1,000 word essay under teachers’ supervision.
A specimen question paper suggests that The Apprentice could be used as the basis of the work.
Pupils are asked to assess the “use/misuse/uncomfortable nature of certain registers (eg. the language of the professional discussion) and how this compares to candidates’ more natural speech styles”. Teenagers should also analyse the “language of self-promotion” and the pre-prepared or formulaic language used in the boardroom.
In one task, pupils are asked to create a presentation of their personal skills, based on Britain’s Got Talent.
Another question asks students to study a particular interviewer, such as Jeremy Paxman or Michael Parkinson.
The paper says pupils should consider “how rapport is established between interviewer and interviewee”, the use of pre-planned and follow-up questions, the impact of open and closed questions, how the interviewer challenges or supports a guest and the use of pauses and body language.
Another section encourages pupils to study speakers – listing Barack Obama, Eddie Izzard and Ronnie Corbett as possible subjects. Pupils are asked to consider how diction, register and rhetorical devices are used to create an impact, as well as the relevance of timing, pace, pauses and movement.
Bethan Marshall, senior lecturer in English at King’s College London, told the Times Educational Supplement said there was a risk that the syllabus would ignore the literary perspective of speech, but added: “Looking at spoken English and developing pupils’ consciousness of the spoken form is a very good thing.”
However, spokesman for the Plain English Campaign said: “I'm struggling to see the relevance of this. “Kids need a strong foundation for communicating in a useful way. This just confuses the issue.”
4 June, 2010
Head Start: Corrupt and useless
Just a pretentious child-minding service
Head Start, which provides child development services primarily to low-income families and their children, is one of the few popular programs that came out of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. But following up on hotline tips alleging fraud and abuse, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) began an undercover investigation of Head Start centers in California, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin. Heritage Senior Policy Analyst David Muhlhausen details what the GAO found:
* In eight of the 13 eligibility tests, the fictitious families were told by Head Start staff that they were eligible for the program and encouraged to attend class;
* In all of these eight cases, Head Start staff instructed the fictitious families to misrepresent their eligibility for the program;
* In seven of these cases, Head Start staff deliberately disregarded part of the fictitious families’ income to make these families eligible for participation;
* In at least four of the cases, the GAO later received doctored documents that excluded income information originally provided to the Head Start staff;
* In two cases, Head Start staff designated on application forms that one parent was unemployed, even though the GAO presented documentation of both parents’ income; and
* In one case, Head Start staff assured the fictitious family that no one would validate that the income information submitted was correct.
Fraud is just the latest of Head Start’s problems. Earlier this year the Department of Health and Human Services released the first scientifically rigorous experimental evaluation of Head Start. And contrary to Head Start’s usually great press clippings, the study found that Head Start has had little to no effect on cognitive, socio-emotional, health, and parenting outcomes of participating children. [There has been plenty of previous evidence to that effect -- going back many years]
CA: Blatant political propaganda in the classroom
LA students to be taught that Arizona immigration law “un-American”. Hate speech against Arizona?
The Los Angeles Unified School District school board wants all public school students in the city to be taught that Arizona's new immigration law is un-American.
The school board president made the announcement Tuesday night after the district's Board of Education passed a resolution to oppose the controversial law, which gives law enforcement officials in Arizona the power to question and detain people they suspect are in the U.S. illegally when they are stopped in relation to a crime or infraction.
Critics of the law say it will result in racial profiling.
The school board voted unanimously on Tuesday to “express outrage” and “condemnation” of the law, and it called on the school superintendent to look into curtailing economic support to the Grand Canyon State. About 73 percent of the students in the school district are Latino.
But supporters of the law say the school board is way out of bounds and that the measure will just distract from the children's education.
“This is ridiculous, it’s ridiculous for us to be involved in Arizona law,” said Jane Barnett, Chairman, Los Angeles County Republican Party. “There is a 50 percent dropout rate in some parts of the school district—is this going to keep kids in school?”
According to its press release, "The Los Angeles Board of Education also requested that Superintendent Ramon Cortines ensure that civics and history classes discuss the recent laws with students in the context of the American values of unity, diversity and equal protection for all people.”
"America must stand for tolerance, inclusiveness and equality,” said Board President Monica García, according to the release. “In our civics classes and in our hallways, we must give life to these values by teaching our students to value themselves; to respect others; and to demand fairness and justice for all who live within our borders. Any law which violates civil rights is un-American."
In an e-mail to FOXNews.com, school district spokesman Robert Alaniz elaborated:
“The Board of Education directed the Superintendent to ensure that LAUSD civics and history classes discuss the recent laws enacted in Arizona in the context of the American values of unity, diversity, and Equal Protection for all. Much like a number of controversial periods and laws that are part of our history and are currently taught including:
-- Jim Crowe laws and segregation
-- Native American reservations
-- Residential schools (for Native Americans)
-- The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882
-- Anti-Irish racism in the 19th century
-- Racism against immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe in the 20th century
-- Internment camps for Japanese Americans during World War II
-- The Mexican Repatriation Program (1929-1939)."
The school district resolution also opposed another new Arizona law that bans schools from teaching classes that promote the overthrow of the government or advocate ethnic solidarity.
The school board called on Arizona's leaders to reverse both of these “misguided” new laws, the press release said.
The board said the laws “effectively sanction and promote unconstitutional racial profiling and harassment,” and “blatantly violate the civil rights of both Arizona residents and all visitors to the State.”
They said Arizona’s new laws also “severely restrict the education of all children in Arizona by refusing to incorporate vital sections of history that incorporate the contributions of this country’s many diverse groups.”
The superintendent was also asked to investigate ways to curtail contracts with Arizona-based businesses and district travel to the state.
"We need to do everything in our power to help our students be global citizens, develop appreciation for the diversity in our midst, and reject any forms of racism or bias," said Board Vice President Yolie Flores. "This resolution highlights our commitment to ensuring that our students understand the ideals and constitutional rights that this great country is founded on, while also gaining an appreciation of the histories and cultural contributions of those who have helped build this nation."
“It is a sad day in America when the rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution are trampled upon under the color of law and authority,” said LAUSD Board Member Martinez. “Everyone, regardless of their status in the United States, has the right to equal protection under our laws. These Arizona laws are nothing but a knee-jerk backlash resulting from the lack of a comprehensive and well thought out immigration reform policy.”
The LA County Republican chairwoman said she’s been inundated with phone calls, e-mails and Facebook messages from people all over Los Angeles who say their school district has no business meddling in another state’s laws when they’ve got so many problems of their own to deal with.
“This is really crazy,” she said. “Everybody is upset about this.”
Barnett called the school board resolution a “pathetic stunt” that distracts educators from what they should be focusing on: educating the students.
“This is nothing we should be involved in. Let the courts deal with this,” she said. “We need to keep out of other people’s states’ business.”
Nathan Mintz, the founder of the South Bay Tea Party and the Republican nominee for the 53rd State Assembly seat.
“This is just another example of these embedded bureaucrats in California doing anything they can to deflect and distract from the poor job their doing of educating our children,” said Nathan Mintz, the founder of the South Bay Tea Party and the Republican nominee for the 53rd State Assembly seat.
He said attacking Arizona’s immigration law is just “a distraction from the key issue of educating the kids in our schools.”
“We support Arizona,” Barnett said. “In fact, I think we ought to go there right now for vacation.”
British University degrees now mean a lot less than they used to
Traditional university degree grades have been rendered meaningless by the mass expansion of higher education, say researchers. A sharp rise in the number of people admitted to university since the mid-80s makes it impossible to compare degrees awarded by different institutions in different subjects, it was claimed.
Researchers said the 200-year-old system of first, second and third-class degrees is also threatened by increased competition between universities - with lecturers under pressure to mark up work to justify higher fees.
The study, by the Higher Education Policy Institute think-tank, said there was evidence of “management intervention in academic judgments on standards." Some institutions have also been better at weeding out cheating by students than other universities, the report said.
The comments come amid growing criticism of the existing degree classification system. Figures show the number of students achieving a first has more than doubled since the mid-1990s and two years ago the Quality Assurance Agency, the university watchdog, said grades were based on "arbitrary and unreliable measures".
Last year, a number of universities introduced detailed report cards as an alternative to old-fashioned degree grades. Some 18 universities are piloting the so-called Higher Education Achievement Record, which lists detailed scores in individual modules alongside a breakdown of students’ membership of sports clubs and debating societies, before being expanded nationwide.
The report's author, Roger Brown, professor of higher education policy at Liverpool Hope University, said all students graduating from university should reach a minimum standard. This could be done by appointing academics to scrutinise degrees to check they are worthwhile, he said.
The report said: “At a time when only a very small proportion of the population went to university, and the student population was broadly equivalent in terms of background and ability…it may have been a reasonable expectation that the outcomes of degree courses should be broadly comparable.
“Today, the environment is radically different. “Nearly half of the young population now participate in higher education, the range of ability of those students is much wider, and the purpose, nature and intended outcomes of programmes all vary considerably. “It makes little sense to seek comparability of outcomes, and indeed it would actually be wrong to do so.”
It said degrees from Oxford and Cambridge could not be compared with those from other universities because of the “extraordinarily high” standard of students' previous exam results, combined with the quality of lecturers and intensity of the Oxbridge tutorial system.
The comments follow claims last year by Prof Rick Trainor, principal of King’s College London, that a first-class degree in tourism and management from a former polytechnic could not be compared with a first in ancient history from a top institution.
Under Labour, growing numbers of school-leaver have been encouraged to strive for university. Almost 400,000 more students are now in higher education than in 1997. The number of people applying for courses this year is already up by more than a fifth.
3 June, 2010
35 states, DC vie for education funding
Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia applied for the second phase of the Race to the Top federal education competition as the application deadline passed Tuesday night. The states are hoping to win a piece of the $3.4 billion available under President Barack Obama's signature education initiative.
Race to the Top aims to spur innovation by rewarding states that promote charter schools, tie teacher pay to student achievement and intervene in low-performing schools. Forty states and D.C. applied in the first round, but only Delaware and Tennessee won. They received a total of $600 million.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said applying for the money required elected officials and teacher unions to work together. "This took a lot of hard work and political courage," he said in a news release. "Every state that applied now has a blueprint for raising educational quality across America."
Since the competition kicked off last year, at least 23 states passed laws that strengthen their applications. In other states, such as Minnesota and Indiana, battles between elected officials and teacher's unions scuttled plans to apply.
Idaho, West Virginia and Minnesota, applied the first time around, but not this time. Texas and Alaska didn't apply in either round.
Federal officials expect to name finalists on or around July 26, with winners to be announced by the end of September. They said 10-15 states could win grants.
Teaching disciplinary body scrapped by Britain's Tories
The teachers’ regulator was scrapped yesterday in a surprise announcement by Michael Gove, the Education Secretary. The General Teaching Council for England did not earn its keep and was a “bureaucratic siphon” of money away from teaching, he said.
Teachers had long complained about the compulsory £36.50 that they had to pay each year to the council, which held professional conduct hearings. Last week Mr Gove abolished two other quangos: Becta, which advised schools on buying computer equipment, and the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Authority.
He told the Commons: “It [the teaching council] doesn’t improve classroom practice, it doesn’t help children, it doesn’t earn its keep, so it must go. Teachers say it gives them nothing.” He referred to the case of Adam Walker, a teacher who belonged to the British National Party, who described immigrants as animals and filth on a website. “The GTCE concluded his description wasn’t racist so he couldn’t be struck off,” he said.
Mr Gove also revealed that more than 1,000 schools — including hundreds of primaries — had applied to become academies in the past week. The semi-independent state schools are free from local authority control.
He said a week ago that the coalition wanted to expand the programme extensively. Any school rated outstanding by Ofsted would automatically qualify for academy status, he said, and yesterday revealed that more than half of outstanding schools had applied. He announced that 1,114 schools had sought to become academies, of which 626 were outstanding schools. Of the top-rated schools, 273 were primaries, which did not qualify to become academies under the previous regime.
Mr Gove said: “I believe that head teachers and teachers know best how to run schools, not local bureaucrats or politicians. That’s why last week I wrote to every school in the country inviting them to take up academy freedoms if they wished to do so. The response has been overwhelming.”
Academies were created by Tony Blair, and the first of the schools opened in September 2002, replacing failing institutions in deprived areas.
Their leaders were given freedoms from local authorities, including being able to vary the pay and conditions of teachers, and the length of the school day. But some academy heads complained that their powers were constrained under the last Government.
Before the election the Tories attracted much attention for their “free” schools policy, based on the Swedish model. This will make it easier for parents concerned about the lack of good schools in their areas to set up their own education establishments, run by not-for-profit organisations.
Mr Gove paid tribute to David Laws, who was the Liberal Democrat education spokesman when he was in opposition, describing him as unfailingly honest, fair, decent and principled.
He also praised his predecessor, Ed Balls, for his work on child protection, and for staying firm in the face of lobbying from teachers for the abolition of Key Stage 2 tests. These are taken at the end of primary school and were formerly known as SATs.
Some teachers are opposed to the tests, which they claim dominate Year 6 and squeeze any spontaneity from the curriculum. The tests are used to produce data for school league tables. Mr Gove said that the tests were a vital accountability measure.
He was criticised by the Opposition for failing to guarantee that Building Schools for the Future, a £55 billion programme, would proceed in full. But Mr Gove said that the scheme was not necessarily allocating resources to the front line in the most effective way.
Chris Keates, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers, said: “I have absolutely no doubt that the Secretary of State’s decision will be warmly welcomed by teachers across the country. I frequently said if the GTCE was abolished tomorrow few would notice and even less would care.”
Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “Any replacement for the GTCE needs to distance itself from the belief that a watchdog can also reserve the right to make intrusive judgments on teachers’ personal lives.”
Australia: A university that can't balance its books
I'm not surprised. I taught there for 12 years and most of my colleagues were mediocrities, to be polite about it. One can hardly therefore expect better of its administrators
THE University of NSW has written off $5.35 million in debts owed by students, reflecting a history of poor financial control. The 2009 annual report, tabled in NSW Parliament yesterday, shows a $2.9m write-off, following a $2.45m write-off the previous year.
The problem goes back to the 1990s when the university could not reconcile two key financial systems and nobody had clear, ultimate responsibility for student debt, according to a source who spoke on condition of anonymity.
A university spokeswoman said: "We now have very effective checks and balances in place and student debt provisions are being steadily reduced. "Our priority had to be to ensure students were not disadvantaged by our administrative problems. "So where there was inconsistency we preferred to write off the debt."
UNSW started 2008 with $7.68m owed by students and $6.67m of this was classified as "impaired" or unlikely to be recovered, according to notes to the financial statements. "Students were allowed to enrol, sit exams and even graduate without paying their fees," the HES source said.
"The [student debt hole in UNSW finances] means that the money needs to come from somewhere else and that means the taxpayers are funding it."
The 2009 report shows student debt reduced to $1.49m and that $621,000 of this was judged unlikely to be paid. UNSW recovered $221,000 in 2009 and $473,000 in 2008.
The source said UNSW had a problematic history of student creditors as well as debtors. By the middle of the 1990s, UNSW owed some 10,000 people about $2m in total, most being students mistakenly charged GST on a $35 fee in 2000, he said. He said the Australian Taxation Office had told UNSW to return the money.
The NSW Auditor-General raised concerns about the student money issue in five consecutive annual reports, the most recent being last year's.
The UNSW spokeswoman said a review of money owing to students was finished in 2009. She said $1.6m was refunded to students over an 18-month period from late 2008. In early 2009, UNSW handed over $468,000 to the NSW Office of State Revenue, the home for ownerless money.
The source said that between 1999 and 2006, the UNSW student and financial systems were giving inconsistent figures for student fees. Human error was the cause.
2 June, 2010
Early-age gender Gap for the Gifted in NYC Schools
Girls mature earlier so this is no surprise. The usual "penalty" for early maturation, however, is a lower final level of achievement -- something we have long seen in most walks of life.
IQ peaks in the late teens however and it is at that stage we should see the final distribution of intellectual ability. Among adults, females have a slightly lower final IQ but a smaller range. Both very bright and very dumb people tend to be male.
Interestingly, that narrower range has just been observed in final high school marks among Australian students.
Because the final IQ gap between males and females is quite small, however, other factors -- such as the greater docility of girls -- can come into play to determine the final overall level of achievement
Girls also seem to be more heavily affected by hormones. High-achieving girls in grade school will sometimes drop way back in High School because their attention is heavily diverted to "boys" -- which is another reason for the male "catchup" in High Schools noted below
At New York City schools for the gifted, like the Brooklyn School of Inquiry, 56 percent of kindergartners are girls. Though the school system over all is 51 percent male, its gifted classrooms generally have more girls.
When the kindergartners at the Brooklyn School of Inquiry, one of New York City’s schools for gifted students, form neat boy-girl rows for the start of recess, the lines of girls reach well beyond the lines of boys.
A similar imbalance exists at gifted schools in East Harlem, where almost three-fifths of the students at TAG Young Scholars are girls, and the Lower East Side, where Alec Kulakowski, a seventh grader at New Explorations in Science and Technology and Math, considered his status as part of the school’s second sex and remarked, “It’s kind of weird and stuff.”
Weird or not, the disparity at the three schools is not all that different from the gender makeup at similar programs across the city: though the school system over all is 51 percent male, its gifted classrooms generally have more girls.
Around the city, the current crop of gifted kindergartners, for example, is 56 percent girls, and in the 2008-9 year, 55 percent were girls.
Educators and experts have long known that boys lag behind girls in measures like high school graduation rates and college enrollment, but they are concerned that the disparity is also turning up at the very beginning of the school experience.
Why more girls than boys enter the programs is unclear, though there are some theories. Among the most popular is the idea that young girls are favored by the standardized tests the city uses to determine admission to gifted programs, because they tend to be more verbal and socially mature at ages 4 and 5 when they sit for the hourlong exam.
“Girls at that age tend to study more, and the boys kind of play more,” said Linda Gratta, a parent at the Anderson School on the Upper West Side, one of the most selective. “But it’s a mixed bag. The day of the test, you could be the smartest boy in the world and just have a bad day.” She said that Timothy, her first-grade son, had approximately 10 boys and 18 girls in his class.
Biases and expectations among adults are often in play when determining which children count as gifted, and fewer boys appear to end up in gifted programs nationally. A 2002 study by the National Academy of Sciences reported that boys were “overrepresented in programs for learning disabilities, mental retardation and emotional disturbance, and slightly underrepresented in gifted programs,” said Bruce A. Bracken, a professor at the College of William & Mary who wrote one of the two exams that the city uses to test gifted children. He said the implications of the study were “disturbing.”
Dr. Bracken’s assessment, which makes up 25 percent of a child’s gifted score in the city, has been field tested for gender bias, and during a recent round of testing in Virginia, no gender differences in the score were recorded. But the longer Otis-Lennon Ability Test, the other 75 percent of the gifted exam, is “more verbal than some of the other tests,” which could play to girls’ strengths, said David F. Lohman, a professor and testing expert at the University of Iowa.
The city’s Department of Education mandated the use of the two tests for admission to gifted programs beginning in 2008; before that, individual schools and districts each devised its own criteria. These typically included a mix of standardized intelligence tests, interviews, observation and, for later grades, class work. The additional leeway in admissions sometimes led to an effort to create gender balance in classes.
“Up until about five years ago, there was more of a conscious effort to balance by gender,” said Estelle Schmones, who retired last year as a gifted teacher at Public School 110 in Manhattan. Like other educators and parents, Ms. Schmones noted that the number of girls in some gifted programs had been creeping up over the past several years.
David Cantor, the press secretary for the Education Department, said that any role the tests might play in contributing to the gender gap was not known, because the city did not tally the gender of those who took or passed the test, only those who enrolled in gifted classes. Still, Mr. Cantor said, “A good test for giftedness should be able to control for differences in what children have been exposed to, and for the early verbal development we see more often in girls.”
The imbalance stands in contrast with the gender makeup of the eight high schools, including Stuyvesant High School, the Bronx High School of Science and Brooklyn Technical High School, that use the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test to select students. All have more boys than girls, in keeping with research that shows that boys tend to catch up with girls, especially in mathematics, through middle school and, at the high end of the achievement spectrum, surpass them.
Whatever might be keeping young boys from entering gifted programs at equal rates might also be what can cause stumbles once they get in. For some of the boys, “their social and emotional development is not at the same level as their intellectual development,” said Donna Taylor, the principal of the Brooklyn School of Inquiry. She estimated that she spent about half her day helping her kindergarten and first-grade boys as they ran into trouble with issues like collaboration, self-control and sharing.
"For profit" charter schools now OK in Britain
Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has said the Government has no "ideological objection" to firms making profits from his new academies and free schools. However, he said teachers should be the ones who decide how schools are run.
Speaking at the Hay Festival on Monday, Mr Gove said: "I am a Conservative, I do not have an ideological to businesses being involved but the professionals should make that decision. "My view is that school improvement will be driven by professionals not profit makers."
Companies can already make profits from schools under existing legislation that allows governing bodies to contract out services, under an arrangement known as the management fee model. However, this approach was not encouraged by the last government.
The Conservatives are keen to emulate the Swedish "free schools" system, in which the ability to make a profit is seen as a key way of drawing providers into the state system.
But this is the first time as Education Secretary that Mr Gove has publicly stated that firms would be free to make money from schools – including from teaching itself.
Mr Gove also sketched out the Government's plan to increase the number of academies, by allowing those judged "outstanding" by Ofsted to attain academy status sooner. And he said that new academies would help raise standards across the board by twinning them with failing schools. Each new academy will "be asked and expected to take under their wing an underperforming school", he said.
He added: "We believe that the academy movement has been successful because improvement in education is driven by heads and teachers."
Nonetheless, there are many critics of his strategy to concentrate on academies – which some believe can only have a detrimental effect on poorer schools.
Dumbing down English teaching in Australia
UNDER the new national schools curriculum students studying English as a Second Language will apparently study more literature than those studying Essential English.
The bulk of our students will encounter only a smattering of literature texts in something described as "functional English", while the true enjoyment of reading literature will be the preserve of just an elite few. This is hardly in line with true educational principles or Australia's egalitarian foundations.
It simply reveals how Barry McGaw, chairman of the curriculum developers, and his misguided team have botched such an important exercise. Every other civilised nation in the world ensures its future generations have the opportunity to study and appreciate the nation's key prose, poetry and drama. Literature as taught through text is the central feature of a nation's culture and enlightenment, as well as its knowledge and awareness.
Australia will now be the only developed country which places little importance on literature in the education of its young.
After an interminable waiting time, it has now become clear that these curriculum developers have been mugged as they conducted their task. They have dumbed down the English curriculum as they have been progressively captured by a number of forces.
They have fallen prey to the propaganda of the Left that literature is too hard for most students to understand, whereas the fact is that any good teacher can instill a love of all literature in all students no matter what their social background or capacity. Throughout history the study of literature has been a key element of social progression for young people who might otherwise have been trapped in the travails of their socio-economic circumstances.
The curriculum talks of analysing and dissecting authors' motives in literature, with little mention of enjoying, appreciating, and learning from literature: its vocabulary, flow, style, characterisation, and richness of language and expression. The authors have clearly fallen prey to the loony nihilistic deconstructionists.
They also make the dangerous and erroneous assertion that film, digital, and video modalities are equal to the written text, and so McGaw and his colleagues have surrendered to the current cohort of teachers and their union bosses, most of whom have never read a good novel themselves and would rather push a button or click a mouse than turn a page.
They have no appreciation of the significance and richness of literature text and the proper means of teaching it. It is not possible to curl up in bed with a good modem. Film makers are never true to the literature which they plunder, manipulate, and exploit.
How does the Rudd government square all of this with its controversial decision earlier this year to act contrary to the findings of the Productivity Commission on the importation of books? The government says it acted to protect the interests of Australian authors but what is the point if no schoolchildren will be reading them? All our Australian authors churning out all those books for a population incapable of reading and enjoying them.
There is also an extremely dangerous indication in these documents that in English, and other subjects of the proposed national curriculum, state governments will be able to determine assessment methods. Thus there will be no truly "national" curriculum and we are headed for continued lack of uniformity and consistency in school education systems across Australia. Another Rudd government promise broken.
The blame game will continue and any families moving interstate will face all the strangling complexities on their children's education which they suffer at the moment. McGaw has certainly been mugged by vested interests in state Labor governments.
As recently revealed in The Australian the nation's history scholars are already demolishing the curriculum development process for its lack of balance, despite all the promises from McGaw after his release of the earlier, biased, original discussion papers which he commissioned from so-called "experts".
The so-called national schools curriculum is shaping up as another Rudd-Gillard policy bungle and waste of public money, morphing into a broken election promise. The only solution seems to be to start again and cobble together the best of the NSW and Victorian curriculums as an interim measure, while a proper professional process is established. This issue is far more important than mining, taxation, infrastructure, emissions, or any of the matters that dominate our daily lives: the whole wellbeing of our youth is at stake; in other words the future of our nation.
1 June, 2010
No, we don’t need a teacher bailout
From the recent apocalyptic pronouncements of Education Secretary Arne Duncan and others, you may think our schools are selling their last bits of chalk and playground sand to employ mere skeleton crews of teachers and staff. The truth is "apocalypse not."
Yes, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten last week warned that, without a huge infusion of federal cash, public schools face "draconian cuts." And the American Association of School Administrators declared a few weeks ago that without a bailout, job losses "would deal a devastating blow to public education."
Then there's Duncan's warning, while making the TV-news rounds last week, of educational "catastrophe" if a federal rescue isn't forthcoming. And now the National Education Association has launched something called "Speak Up for Education & Kids" — a campaign to get people to call their congressmen and demand a handout for education.
The scaremongering is producing results. House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wisc.) is planning to put $23 billion to save education jobs in a supplemental spending package. The move appears to have widespread Democratic support.
But let's look beyond the hysteria. Duncan estimates that, absent a federal windfall, budget cuts will force layoffs of 100,000 to 300,000 public-school staff and teachers. The American Association of School Administrators has projected 275,000 layoffs under current conditions.
Sounds pretty terrible: Six-digit job losses are certainly nothing to sneeze at, and no one wants to see people unemployed. But these numbers — and the prophesying of Duncan & Co. — ignore some critical context.
The federal Digest of Education Statistics tells us that in the 2007-08 school year (the latest with available data), US public schools employed more than 6.2 million teachers and other staff. Losing 300,000 of those jobs would only be a 4.8 percent cut — unfortunate, perhaps, but hardly catastrophic.
And 300,000 is the worst-case scenario. The AASA figure of 275,000 would be just a 4.4 percent cut. The low end of Duncan's prediction, 100,000 positions, would constitute only a 1.6 percent trim. That's less than one out of every 60 public-school jobs.
Moreover, the projected cuts would be but a tiny step back after decades of spending and staffing leaps.
Between the 1970-71 school year and 2006-07, inflation-adjusted US public-school spending more than doubled, from $5,593 to $12,463 per pupil. The number of staff per pupil ballooned about 70 percent.
This might have been a fine investment — had it produced anything approaching commensurate improvements in achievement. But it didn't, according to scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress — the so-called Nation's Report Card.
Indeed, while resources were blasted into the schools with a fire hose, test scores for 17-year-olds — essentially, our schools' "final products" — remained almost completely unchanged.
So the supposedly huge cuts we're facing are actually pretty small, and we've been pouring money and people into schools for decades without producing any improvements. Those are reasons enough to say "no way" to any federal bailout.
But that's not all the context that taxpayers deserve before Congress and the Obama administration stick them for another $23 billion. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — the "stimulus" — already included about $100 billion for education, most of which was intended solely to keep educators employed.
So there is indeed a looming education catastrophe — but it's not funding or job cuts. It is the bailout now moving through Congress that ignores the reality of inefficient public schooling, and adds to the already crushing burden of our federal debt.
Unfortunately, none of that seems to matter to Duncan & Co., who no doubt know the truth yet continue their Chicken Little act. All that matters to them, apparently, is that the unionized public-schooling establishment stays fat and happy
British academics resist two year degrees
The normal British bachelor's degree is 3 years. Bond University in Australia offers 2 years degrees that seem well-accepted
University staff today attacked any move to introduce two-year degrees, warning they would lead to "academic sweatshops" and hit the quality of education to students.
The University and College Union warned that plans for two-year 'fast-track' degrees would damage the reputation of UK degrees and would lead to education being delivered "on the cheap."
The union's annual conference in Manchester voted against the introduction of the degrees, saying they would massively increase the workload of staff and reduce the amount of time they could spend carrying out research.
Delegates said squeezing three-year degrees into two years could not be achieved on the back of "swingeing cuts" to higher education and would have a "devastating impact" on the quality of students' experiences.
A handfull of universities already offer the shortened courses, which involve students working over their traditional holidays. In December, Lord Mandelson wrote to chancellors urging them to consider offering more of the courses as part of a more "flexible" approach to studying.
Karen Evans, from the University of Liverpool, said: "Accelerated degrees have no educational value and will stop students from having a well-rounded education. As well as placing a huge strain on staff it will also mean an additional burden on students, many of whom have to work through the summer to pay back the debts of tuition fees."
The union's general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: "Two-year degrees may sound great on paper but are in effect education on the cheap. They would be incredibly teacher-intensive and would stop staff from carrying out vital research and pastoral duties. Our universities are places of learning not academic sweatshops and we need to get away from the idea that more can be delivered for less.
"Cuts, such as the savage ones currently planned, will have consequences. I fail to see the logic of piling 'em high and teaching 'em cheap in a two-tier system designed purely to mask the failings of the Government to properly fund higher education."
Australia: Wadalba Community School is literally a place of hard knocks
This report comes after a particularly vicious bashing reported yesterday
DISTRESSED mum Rachelle Mawbey pulled her daughter out of Wadalba Community School amid fears she wouldn't survive, let alone graduate.
Appalled by the bullying and violence, Ms Mawbey decided to withdraw daughter Taylor Clarke-Pepper halfway through Year 8 three years ago.
"It was not uncommon for there to be lock-downs at least once a month, [playground] fights and stories coming home that a student had brought knives or guns to school," she said, claiming that teachers also openly admitted "giving up" on students and that 20-day suspensions "were the norm".
"They said they'd just keep suspending them until they left," Ms Mawbey said. "The school says it has an anti-bullying policy but it is just lip service: Violence is ongoing."
Another mother also pulled her then 12-year-old son out of Year 7 in 2005 after he was badly bullied. At the time she said he'd been pushed down stairs and beaten with sticks. The last straw was when she claimed teachers warned they couldn't guarantee his safety.
But an education department spokesman said: "Since 2007 there has been a significant fall in the suspension rate, [now] putting the school well within the regional average."
Australian Federal government sees no problems with wasteful school spending
Extraordinary complacency about well-documented waste of taxpayer funds. This is a refusal to stop an ongoing disaster. But Leftists always are destructive. It seems to be in their DNA
JULIA Gillard will push ahead with the troubled $16.2 billion schools stimulus scheme after claiming an investigative taskforce had not yet uncovered any evidence of problems.
The Education Minister said the government expected to commit the final $5.5bn of Building the Education Revolution funds next month as planned, because the taskforce, headed by former merchant banker Brad Orgill, had not recommended otherwise. "I have met with Mr Orgill (and) I will continue to meet with him regularly," she said. "At this stage, I am not in possession of any recommendations from Mr Orgill that would relate to the third tranche of funds. We are obviously all ears for his recommendations."
The BER taskforce is set to deliver its first report in August, but Ms Gillard has said it can provide recommendations earlier.
Ms Gillard's statements yesterday appear to be a move by the government to shift greater responsibility for the remaining $5.5bn yet to be spent on to Mr Orgill, whose $14 million taskforce has just ended its first month of investigations. Mr Orgill did not return calls from The Australian yesterday.
As revealed by The Australian, the BER scheme has been beset by widespread waste of taxpayer money, with overdesigned building templates, onerous documentation requirements and enormous fees, causing public schools to pay up to double the amount they should for buildings.
In NSW, Catholic schools are paying $2541 per square metre for school halls and $2451 per square metre for libraries under the BER - which is in line with industry standards. By contrast, the NSW Education Department is paying $6135/sq m for the standard "7 Core" school hall and $4005/sq m for the standard "14 Core" school library.
In NSW, seven managing contractors - who are receiving fees of more than $400 million to manage the scheme - are charging $850,000-plus for 189 prefabricated classrooms, which are manufactured and delivered to schools by other companies at a cost of up to $339,000.
If the federal government commits the $5.5bn of BER funds next month as planned, a further $1bn-plus will be wasted in overcharging for the delivery of public school buildings. The federal and NSW governments have been unable to explain why public schools are paying double industry rates and double the rates being paid by non-government schools.
A spokeswoman for NSW Education Minister Verity Firth said the government would push ahead and spend the remaining 40 per cent of BER funds under the current model, despite the revelations of public schools receiving poor value for money.
The NSW government also admitted it had no mechanism for ensuring public schools received value for money other than a "benchmark" test, whereby the government approves all buildings that are within 105 per cent of values it has set. As revealed by The Australian, those benchmark values are vastly inflated and average about double industry standard rates.
Ms Gillard said yesterday the government was "all ears" to hear Mr Orgill's recommendations and that there was still time to implement those recommendations. "This is a program that will run for almost two years from where we are now so there is time to implement recommendations from Mr Orgill's implementation taskforce," Ms Gillard said.
However, once contracts are signed between state governments and managing contractors, it becomes extremely difficult to recover funds.
Primarily covering events in Australia, the U.K. and the USA -- where the follies are sadly similar.
TERMINOLOGY: The British "A Level" exam is roughly equivalent to a U.S. High School diploma. Rather confusingly, you can get As, Bs or Cs in your "A Level" results. Entrance to the better universities normally requires several As in your "A Levels".
MORE TERMINOLOGY: Many of my posts mention the situation in Australia. Unlike the USA and Britain, there is virtually no local input into education in Australia. Education is mostly a State government responsibility, though the Feds have a lot of influence (via funding) at the university level. So it may be useful to know the usual abbreviations for the Australian States: QLD (Queensland), NSW (New South Wales), WA (Western Australia), VIC (Victoria), TAS (Tasmania), SA (South Australia).
There were two brothers from a famous family. One did very well at school while the other was a duffer. Which one went on the be acclaimed as the "Greatest Briton"? It was the duffer: Winston Churchill.
The current Left-inspired practice of going to great lengths to shield students from experience of failure and to tell students only good things about themselves is an appalling preparation for life. In adulthood, the vast majority of people are going to have to reconcile themselves to mundane jobs and no more than mediocrity in achievement. Illusions of themselves as "special" are going to be sorely disappointed
Perhaps it's some comfort that the idea of shielding kids from failure and having only "winners" is futile anyhow. When my son was about 3 years old he came bursting into the living room, threw himself down on the couch and burst into tears. When I asked what was wrong he said: "I can't always win!". The problem was that we had started him out on educational computer games where persistence only is needed to "win". But he had then started to play "real" computer games -- shootem-ups and the like. And you CAN lose in such games -- which he had just realized and become frustrated by. The upset lasted all of about 10 minutes, however and he has been happily playing computer games ever since. He also now has a degree in mathematics and is socially very pleasant. "Losing" certainly did not hurt him.
Even the famous Marxist theoretician Antonio Gramsci (and the world's most famous Sardine) was a deep opponent of "progressive" educational methods. He wrote: "The most paradoxical aspect is that this new type of school is advocated as being democratic, while in fact it is destined not merely to perpetuate social differences, but to crystallise them." He rightly saw that "progressive" methods were no help to the poor
I am an atheist of Protestant background who sent his son to Catholic schools. Why did I do that? Because I do not personally feel threatened by religion and I think Christianity is a generally good influence. I also felt that religion is a major part of life and that my son should therefore have a good introduction to it. He enjoyed his religion lessons but seems to have acquired minimal convictions from them.
Why have Leftist educators so relentlessly and so long opposed the teaching of phonics as the path to literacy when that opposition has been so enormously destructive of the education of so many? It is because of their addiction to simplistic explanations of everything (as in saying that Islamic hostility is caused by "poverty" -- even though Osama bin Laden is a billionaire!). And the relationship between letters and sounds in English is anything but simple compared to the beautifully simple but very unhelpful formula "look and learn".
For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.
The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"
A a small quote from the past that helps explain the Leftist dominance of education: "When an opponent says: 'I will not come over to your side,' I calmly say, 'Your child belongs to us already. You will pass on. Your descendents, however, now stand in the new camp. In a short time, they will know nothing else but this new community.'." Quote from Adolf Hitler. In a speech on 6th November 1933
I am rather pleased to report that I am a lifelong conservative. Out of intellectual curiosity, I did in my youth join organizations from right across the political spectrum so I am certainly not closed-minded and am very familiar with the full spectrum of political thinking. Nonetheless, I did not have to undergo the lurch from Left to Right that so many people undergo. At age 13 I used my pocket-money to subscribe to the "Reader's Digest" -- the main conservative organ available in small town Australia of the 1950s. I have learnt much since but am pleased and amused to note that history has since confirmed most of what I thought at that early age.
I imagine that the the RD is still sending mailouts to my 1950s address!
Discipline: With their love of simple generalizations, this will be Greek to Leftists but I see an important role for discipline in education DESPITE the fact that my father never laid a hand on me once in my entire life nor have I ever laid a hand on my son in his entire life. The plain fact is that people are DIFFERENT, not equal and some kids will not behave themselves in response to persuasion alone. In such cases, realism requires that they be MADE to behave by whatever means that works -- not necessarily for their own benefit but certainly for the benefit of others whose opportunities they disrupt and destroy.
Many newspaper articles are reproduced in full on this blog despite copyright claims attached to them. I believe that such reproductions here are protected by the "fair use" provisions of copyright law. Fair use is a legal doctrine that recognises that the monopoly rights protected by copyright laws are not absolute. The doctrine holds that, when someone uses a creative work in way that does not hurt the market for the original work and advances a public purpose - such as education or scholarship - it might be considered "fair" and not infringing.
Comments above by John Ray