Thursday, November 27, 2014

UK: Head of Tristram Hunt's old school criticises Labour's 'bigoted' attack on private education

Boiling Leftist hate of private schools

The headmaster of Tristram Hunt’s old school has accused Labour of peddling “offensive bigotry” after the shadow education secretary unveiled plans to strip fee-paying institutions of up to £700 million in tax breaks.

Mark Beard, the head of University College School, north London, said the party should spend more time attempting to raise standards in state schools rather than relying on the independent sector to do the job.

In an outspoken intervention, it was claimed that Labour’s “tasteless” policy displayed an ignorance of the realities of life in modern independent schools.

The reforms were also criticised by the biggest union representing state secondary head teachers amid warnings that it would merely provide “more legislative hoops for schools to jump through” with no impact.

The comments were made as Mr Hunt unveiled controversial plans to strip fee-paying schools of business rate relief – worth around £147m a year to the sector – unless they agree to work closely with local state schools.

Under the plan, independent schools will be expected to sponsor state academies, share teachers, train new staff, help state pupils apply to top universities, tap into alumni networks to offer more work experience placements, run summer schools and provide joint and run joint extra-curricular activities.

All schools will be subjected to a partnership “test” and could lose their business rate relief – which will total around £700m over the course of the next Parliament – if they fail to pass.

In a speech on Tuesday, Mr Hunt said the taxpayer was being expected to subsidise “the education of a privileged few”.

Asked whether independent schools currently earned their rate relief, he said the answer was a “resounding and unequivocal ‘no’”.

But the comments provoked a furious backlash from independent school leaders who claimed the Labour party was attempting to embark on a fresh “class war” following a previous attempt almost a decade ago to strip large numbers of institutions of their charitable status.

Mr Beard, the head of UCS in Hampstead, where Mr Hunt was educated in the late 80s, accused Labour of attempting to “rely on independent schools to solve the issues for the 93 per cent of children who are educated in the state sector”.

He told the Telegraph: “Isn’t it time for Labour to come up with some new, helpful initiatives rather than espousing what some might deem an offensive bigotry?”

Mr Beard invited the shadow education secretary to visit his old school, saying he would find that it already invested £1m a year in subsidised fees, including 100 per cent bursaries for some pupils, a range of collobrations with state secondary and primary schools and tens of thousands of pounds being raised for charities.

“Indeed, if Mr Hunt wanted to tastelessly quantify the value of public benefit that UCS generates each year then he would find that it far outstrips the value of tax relief that UCS receives through its charitable status,” he said.

Mr Beard insisted UCS was “not alone in this regard”, with the majority of independent schools taking part in similar initiatives.

"Mr Hunt seems to want independent schools to become pure business ventures," he said. "What happens then? Remove charitable status and he removes any pretence of encouraging those schools to play their part in society.

"Instead, they could charge whatever fees they wished, not bother about bursaries, not worry about pupil diversity and not share their facilities with the local community.

"There is not a head of an independent school in the land who would want that."

Barnaby Lenon, chairman of the Independent Schools Council, and the former headmaster of Harrow, accused Labour of promoting “patronising nonsense”, with the party "pointing the finger" at successful private schools and advocating a "1980s view" of education.

It was claimed that nine-in-10 independent schools already take part in partnerships with state schools.

Mr Lenon said: "I share with Dr Hunt his ambition to ensure that all pupils, whatever type of school they go to, can aspire to great things, but pointing the finger at independent schools is a 1980s view of education.

"Most independent schools are now involved in effective and two-way partnerships with state schools. And independent schools educate quite a lot of pupils from low-income homes.”

Peter Kent, president of the Association of School and College Leaders, and head of Lawrence Sheriff grammar school in Rugby, criticised the reforms, insisting that partnerships only worked when they were “entered into willingly”.

“More can be done to encourage and incentivise schools to work together, but forcing collaboration through regulation will not work,” he said.

“All partners need to see that there will be benefits for pupils on their investment of time and energy. Otherwise it is a waste of resources that could be better spent elsewhere. We don’t want more legislative hoops for schools to jump through. This would be a backwards step and not part of a self-improving system.

“In much of the country, state and independent schools have a healthy working relationship. We want to encourage this, but forcing schools to enter into partnerships is not the way to do it.”

But Mr Hunt said independent schools were failing to do enough, with only three per cent sponsoring academies, five per cent loaning teachers to state schools and only a third opening their doors for state school pupils to attend classes or educational events.

Changes will be made to the 1988 Local Government Act so that private schools’ business rate relief becomes conditional upon passing a new “Schools Partnership Standard”, he said.

The Independent Schools Inspectorate – which vets more than half of private schools – will also make the test a part of its inspection process, it was claimed.

"The only possible answer to whether they earn their £700m subsidy is a resounding and unequivocal: no,” he said.

He added: “I want private schools to run summer schools; sponsor academies; support the training of qualified teachers in subject knowledge; assist in the running of state boarding schools; run mentoring and enrichment programmes, lead teaching school alliances, tap into alumni networks for careers and work experience; nurture character; and prepare disadvantaged pupils for challenging university interviews.”


Thinking too highly of higher ed

By Peter Thiel

Perhaps the least controversial thing that President Obama ever said was that “in the coming decades, a high school diploma is not going to be enough. Folks need a college degree.” This vision is commonplace, but it implies a bleak future where everyone must work harder just to stay in place, and it’s just not true. Nothing forces us to funnel students into a tournament that bankrupts the losers and turns the winners into conformists. But that’s what will happen until we start questioning whether college is our only option.

Is higher education an investment? Everyone knows that college graduates earn more than those without degrees. Maybe that earning power comes from learning valuable skills, networking with smart people or obtaining a recognized credential. Well, maybe — it’s hard to say exactly, since “college” bundles so many different things into one arbitrary package. And if all the most ambitious kids in our society go to college just because it’s the conventional thing to do, then what happens on campus might not matter, anyway. The same kids would probably enjoy a wage premium even if they spent four years in the Peace Corps instead.

Or is college mostly about consumption? One look at a college brochure suggests that college students consume much more avidly than they invest. That’s why schools compete to attract student-consumers by furnishing a lively singles scene with plenty of time and space to party in glamorous surroundings. Or is college really insurance? Parents who despair of all the partying reassure themselves that college doesn’t have to guarantee a bright future so long as it wards off career disaster — sort of how nobody expects to make money buying car insurance.

But what if higher education is really just the final stage of a competitive tournament? From grades and test results through the U.S. News & World Report rankings of the colleges themselves, higher education sorts us all into a hierarchy. Kids at the top enjoy prestige because they’ve defeated everybody else in a competition to reach the schools that proudly exclude the most people. All the hard work at Harvard is done by the admissions officers who anoint an already-proven hypercompetitive elite. If that weren’t true — if superior instruction could explain the value of college — then why not franchise the Ivy League? Why not let more students benefit? It will never happen because the top U.S. colleges draw their mystique from zero-sum competition.

This tournament is obviously bad for the losers, who end up shut out of a self-satisfied “meritocratic” elite. But it’s bad for the winners, too, because it trains them to compete on old career tracks such as management consulting and investment banking instead of doing something new. And it’s worst of all for society at large because our economy stagnates when its leaders jockey to collect rents from old industries instead of working to create new ones that could raise the standard of living for everyone.

Today that’s the tournament-style economy we have. Median household wages are actually lower than they were in 1989 (adjusted for inflation), so Americans have flocked to the few things that seem to promise an escape from stagnation. In the 2000s, that was real estate. Was housing an investment? A way to consume bigger houses? Or was it a kind of middle-class insurance policy when everything else looked broken? Nobody thought very hard about it because everybody believed that house prices would always go up.

Now education has taken the place of housing. If a college degree always means higher wages, then everyone should get a college degree: That’s the conventional wisdom encapsulated by Obama. But how can everyone win a zero-sum tournament? No single path can work for everyone, and the promise of such an easy path is a sign of a bubble.

Of course, you can’t become successful just by dropping out of college. But you can’t become successful just by going to college, either, or by following any formula. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg aren’t famous because of the similar ways in which they left school. We know their names because of what each of them did differently from everybody else.

Learning from dropouts doesn’t require closing colleges but rather questioning them carefully. Higher education holds itself out as a kind of universal church, outside of which there is no salvation. Critics are cast as heretics or schismatics endangering the flock. But our greatest danger comes from the herd instinct that drives us to competition and crowds out difference.

A Reformation is coming, and its message will be the same as it was 500 years ago: Don’t outsource your future to a big institution. You need to figure it out for yourself.


Instapundit adds: “The “church” metaphor isn’t just a metaphor. Universities descend from clerical institutions, and have adopted poses, and enjoyed privileges — like internal disciplinary procedures and semi-immunity on their campuses from ordinary law enforcement — that descend from those institutions, too. But that’s problematic in today’s world, and the contradictions are becoming more apparent.”


Every teenage boy's dream? Computer game Football Manager could be introduced as homework for PE classes

Pupils in Scotland could be swapping the real football pitch for a virtual one during PE classes, under proposals put forward at an education conference.

Plans to introduce popular sport-related video games, such as Football Manager and Just Dance as part of PE lessons, were discussed during a meeting of the Scottish Association of Teachers of Physical Education.

Key speaker at the meeting Len Almond, former foundation director of the British Heart Foundation National Centre, suggested the games could be used to encourage more youngsters into sport.

'When you look at video gaming, the theory behind them has a lot to offer teachers in schools,' he told MailOnline.

'I'm not suggesting (pupils) just sit watch more video games. But we can learn an awful lot in how we attract young people to learning and we motivate them in that.

 'If a teacher felt it was appropriate to use video games for children's work- maybe part of examination subject- I'd have no problem with that. It's the learning potential that is the important criteria.

'In effect, what we are saying is, they have found a way of exciting young children, they have found a way of self-corrected learning, internal motivation, and ensured they become part of the story.'

Mr Almond said video games could never fully replace traditional physical education, but suggested games such as Football Manager could be a useful tool in encouraging more children into football.

'There is one way of using video gaming, where you're managing football teams which is an interesting thing you could do with young people,' he added.

'You're planning, directing and making decisions and if that helps a young person understand the game, that is very good.

'It shouldn't replace getting out into the countryside and participating in much more physical activities.  'But video games might have a role for some children.

'The important thing is, we have got to attract young people to sport and physical education.'

Association president and PE teacher at Aberdeen Grammar School, Iain Stanger, agreed and said other games, such as Wii Fit and Minecraft, could also have the potential to enhance learning for pupils in the city.

Mr Stanger told the Evening Express: 'I know some schools using fantasy role games and others such as Minecraft which have the potential to enhance people's learning. Games such as Just Dance and Wii Fit also have the potential to do this.'

Mr Almond said: 'Games such as Football Manager are a very good way to get people to understand football and the role it has in our society.'

The Scottish Association of Teachers of Physical Education, which has more than 300 members, aims to come up with ways of producing 'high quality, structured and progressive physical education'.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Boy, three, is banned from his first nursery school photograph after headteacher brands his haircut EXTREME

I wore a "short back and sides" haircut throughout my youth.  Most men did so at that time too.  I still do. What was once near universal is now "extreme"?

A three-year-old boy has been banned from taking part in his first ever school photograph - after his headteacher ruled his haircut wastoo short.

Delaney Templeton had been excitedly looking forward to having the picture taken with his classmates at his nursery.

But when mother Julieann Yates, 28, arrived to collect him from school later that day the youngster said he had not been allowed to be in the picture and instead had to sit out and watch.

Furious, she immediately went to see the head, who said Delaney's hair broke school rules and was 'extreme' as it had been cut too short.

'I was absolutely furious,' said Julieann, who lives in Marley Pots, Sunderland.

'I was really, really mad. We were really looking forward to having his picture taken with the other children and he was talking about it on the way to nursery that morning.

'It would have been his first ever school photos. I was very, very upset and angry.

'Most of the school had their photos taken.'

She added: 'My son was refused because of his hairstyle. 'He has had the exact same hairstyle since he started nursery in September and the school has never said it was inappropriate.the picture

'He was the only one in his year who was excluded, but there were a lot of children in the school, with comb overs, who had their photos taken.'

Delaney, who attends Southwick Community Primary School, has been left upset and he and his family have been denied his first ever set of photographs they had so been looking forward too.

'He is only three but he is quite bright for his age he did realise that other people got theirs' done and he didn't and he has been talking about it to me and his dad,' Julieann added.

Headteacher Mrs Stoker said: 'Every family with a child at our school receives a home school agreement which includes the school uniform policy and extreme haircuts.

'Also letters are regularly sent out to remind parents of the school rules on extreme haircuts.

'That agreement, drawn up and agreed by staff and parents/carers at our school is there to help maintain levels of attainment, behaviour and discipline and improve standards.

'For a number of years, we have taken the time and trouble to arrange a photographer to come into school to take pictures of children on behalf of their families without any problems.

'We are all disappointed that this year a handful of parents who chose to ignore the home school agreement policies and rules should deliberately disrupt those arrangements for everyone else.

'The vast majority of parents/carers of 370 pupils at our school respected the school uniform policy and will receive their photographs.'


Labour plans to strip independent schools of tax relief

Private schools would be stripped of £700 million in tax breaks if Labour is elected, under plans being drawn up by Ed Miliband.

The "class war" proposal could add up to £200 a year to the cost of a private school education.

Tristram Hunt, the shadow Education Secretary, is today expected to outline plans to "claw back" relief given to private schools from paying local authority business rates.

More than 2,000 private schools across Britain can claim up to 80 per cent cut in their business rates because they are charities, worth around £150 million annually.

Mr Hunt will say that a Labour government will legislate to ensure the schools only qualify for this “subsidy” if they pass a new “schools partnership standard”.

Under this system, private schools would be required to provide teachers in specialist subjects to state schools, and to share expertise to help state school pupils get into top universities.

The will also have to run joint extra-curricular programmes with state schools as equal partners so that children from the state and private sectors mix together and learn from each other.

Barnaby Lenon, the chairman of the Independent Schools Council, said that stripping schools of business rate relief would be “a very ineffective tool to improve social mobility in any meaningful way.”

“Independent schools are committed to helping widen access to their schools and to improving social mobility. Already 90% of our schools are already involved in meaningful and effective partnerships with state schools and their local communities,” said Mr Lenon.

He said that independent schools generate £4.7 billion in tax and save the tax payer a further £4 billion by educating children out of the state school sector.

“To subject independent schools to one-size-fits-all regulations does not take into account the diverse nature of our sector - many are small local schools,” he said.

Mr Hunt, who himself attended the private University College School in Hampstead, North London, is expected to announce that under the new system, independent schools would have to partner with local state schools in order to get tax relief.

Mr Hunt told the Guardian that the schools would lose the tax breaks if they did not break down the “corrosive divide of privilege”, saying it was creating a "Berlin Wall" in the country's education system.

“The next government will say to them: step up and play your part.Earn your keep. Because the time you could expect something for nothing is over," he said.

Mr Hunt believes some schools are only making token efforts to engage with local communities to maintain their charitable status.

The move is likely to resurrect the row between Labour and the country’s top private schools after the last government threatened to strip hundreds of institutions of up to millions in tax breaks.

In a hugely controversial move, Labour introduced the Charities Act in 2006 that ruled that fee-paying schools were no longer automatically entitled to charitable status.

Under the reforms, schools had to prove they provided wider benefit to those who could not afford to attend – allowing them to hang on to tax breaks and effectively remain in business.

Schools were told to provide more free and heavily subsidised places to poor pupils to pass the new "public benefit" test, with fears from some bursars that they would be forced to dramatically increase fees for existing parents to meet the requirements.

One private school leader accused Labour of a “medieval” attack on the sector, comparing the government’s crackdown on fee-paying schools’ to Henry VIII’s seizure of land and property in the 1500s.

The reforms resulted in a bitter court challenge brought by the Independent Schools Council that resulted in the rules being watered down in 2011.

Last year, an analysis by the Labour MP Simon Danczuk showed that charitable relief significantly reduced the amounts paid in business rates by independent schools, including Eton and Harrow.

Mr Danczuk used figures from the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) to show that more than 3,000 independent fee-paying schools had benefited from an estimated £141m in business rate relief in the last year.

He calculated that independent schools have a combined rateable value of £360m, which would require schools to pay £170m a year in business rates. Charitable reliefs reduce this to £34m.

Any charity can receive up to 80 per cent relief on rates relating to premises used wholly or mainly for charitable purposes. Relief for charities has risen from £770m in 2007-8 to an estimated £1.3bn last year, according to the VOA figures.

"For the charity sector to be robust and continue to enjoy high levels of public confidence, we need a fair assessment of what’s deemed to be a charity,” Mr Danczuk said at the time.”It seems wrong that commercially focused organisations such as Eton, which are geared towards meeting the needs of some of the most privileged people in society, are deemed to be charities – and receive business rates relief.”

This week, Andrew Halls, head of King's College School in Wimbledon, south west London, warned that middle class British families were already being priced out of independent schools and would end up relying on the state sector.

Mr Halls said an "endless queue" of rich families from outside Britain had led to a rise in fees at the £20,000-a-year school.

“We have allowed the apparently endless queue of wealthy families from across the world knocking at our doors to blind us to a simple truth: we charge too much,” he said.


Affirmative action: the real racism on campus

A lawsuit filed against Harvard and UNC reveals affirmative action’s racist heart.

The term ‘affirmative action’ first emerged during desegregation in the US in the mid-1960s. An executive order issued by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965 stated that people applying for jobs with government contractors should be selected ‘without regard to their race, colour, religion, sex or national origin’.

Over time, however, ‘affirmative action’ has come to mean something different. It now refers to the policy of actively favouring members of a particular social group, usually by ensuring that a sufficient quota of said social group is employed in a workplace or represented at an educational institution.

Of course, the idea that racism and other forms of discrimination can be mitigated by institutionalising perceived racial differences might seem counterintuitive, not to mention slightly racist. But, according to affirmative-action advocates, this doesn’t matter; it’s all about lessening the pre-eminence of those groups that have enjoyed more than their fair share of privilege – primarily, those who are white and male.

After all, one can’t be racist and sexist against white men because they’re the ones who do all the nasty racism and sexism. And so affirmative action, also known as ‘positive discrimination’, a process of putting people’s race and sex before their capabilities and achievements, pulled off the amazing trick of making itself look like a progressive force. The illusion of progressiveness could persist for as long as white males continued to be the highest achievers. If this was to cease to be the case, the policy might have to discriminate against another group, and that might end up making such policies look a little racist. Inevitably, that time has come.

A lawsuit has been filed in the US against the affirmative-action policies of Harvard University and the University of North Carolina (UNC). The Project on Fair Representation, a legal defence fund for students who have been discriminated against in university admissions, has called for an end to race-based admissions policies, which it claims unfairly discriminate against Asian students in particular. The lawsuit claims that high-achieving Asian students, who would otherwise easily gain entry to Harvard or UNC, are forced to fight it out for the allotted Asian places, while their non-Asian peers can sometimes easily secure a university place with the same grades.

The move is justified because it is now no longer enough for admissions policies not to be racist. They must also actively promote diversity, and Harvard and UNC just had far too many Asians in their classrooms. The term ‘diversity’ is often used as a synonym for ‘not-racist’, but a ‘diversity’ policy that judges a person’s suitability for something on the basis of race is the very definition of racism.

Of course, being denied a university place on the basis of one’s race is unjust, but more galling still is the fact that such discrimination takes place in the name of anti-racism. Apart from the inherent unfairness of these policies, such selection processes also undermine the academic integrity of the universities themselves. The fact that prestigious universities like Harvard or UNC are choosing students on any basis other than their academic achievement makes a mockery of the idea of the university. Here’s a quick fix that would restore academic integrity to these educational institutions: prospective students should be judged on their individual merits alone.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Top British independent schools are for children of oligarchs as British parents are priced out of the market says leading head

Top independent schools are for children of oligarchs as British parents have become priced out of the market, according to a leading headteacher.

Andrew Halls, head of King's College School in Wimbledon, south west London, said an 'endless queue' of rich families from outside Britain had led to a rise in fees at the £20,000-a-year school.

He claims the 'limitless' costs had forced local lawyers, accountants and military officers to stop sending their children there and it was a 'ticking time-bomb' he likened to the 2008 financial crisis. 

The 185-year-old school, which has been named by Sunday Times as independent school of the year, charges £19,455 a year for senior school boys aged 13-18 and girls aged 16-18.

Mr Halls told the paper: 'We have allowed the apparently endless queue of wealthy families from across the world knocking at our doors to blind us to a simple truth: we charge too much.

'Somewhere along the way, first the nurses stopped sending children to us, then the policemen, the armed forces officers, the even the local accountants and lawyers.

'The most prestigious schools in the world teach children of the very wealthiest families in the world.

'We are in danger of coming across as greedy because we can charge what appears to be limitless fees, but in truth there is a fees time-bomb ticking away. It feels like the build-up to the banking crisis.'

The cost of sending a child to private schools has risen by about a fifth in the last four years - around four times faster than rises in earnings, according to recent research. 

Mr Halls suggested a collapse could be brought about by the supply of foreign families eventually drying up, while British families could elect to send their children to high-performing state schools.


Teachers’ Challenge of Political Spending by Unions Appears Headed for Supreme Court

Christian schoolteachers who object to being forced to help finance the political agendas of unions yesterday moved a step closer to having their case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit issued an order that allows the teachers to petition the Supreme Court to consider their argument that California’s “agency shop” law is unconstitutional because it requires them to pay for political activity they do not support.

The teachers unions could ask the full 9th Circuit to reconsider the panel’s ruling. But Terry Pell, president of the Center for Individual Rights, the non-profit public-interest law firm representing the teachers along with the international law firm Jones Day, does not expect the unions to do so.

“The next stop is the U.S. Supreme Court,”  Pell told The Daily Signal adding:

This ruling [from the 9th Circuit] happened much more quickly lhan we had a right to expect. It’s a big step forward. The panel hit the nail on the head. There’s nothing left for the 9th Circuit to do. This is a question of law that has already been decided so it has to go to the Supreme Court.

Pell said the teachers are likely to petition the Supreme Court to hear the case by early January and the court to decide whether to take it in March or April. A ruling would not be expected until 2016.

Rebecca Friedrichs, a fourth-grade teacher in Anaheim, and nine other state schoolteachers–along with the Christian Educators Association International–last summer sued the California Teachers Association, several local unions and the National Educational Association.

California’s “agency shop” law makes payment of union dues a requirement for public employment. The Daily Signal previously reported that Friedrichs and her co-plaintiffs argue the law is unconstitutional because it requires them to finance political activism they oppose.

The California Teachers Association, the largest affiliate of the National Education Association, has argued that non-union employees should pay “fair share” fees because non-union members benefit from union representation.

Under the California agency shop law, schoolteachers are not required to join the union, and they can opt out of the approximately 30 percent of dues the union acknowledges are overtly political.

California teachers, who typically spend up to $1,000 a year in dues, can apply for a refund and generally receive $300 to $400 back. But Friedrichs has said this process brings scrutiny and stigma from the union and colleagues.

Pell said that, beginning in the mid-20th century, the Supreme Court essentially “carved out an exception to the First Amendment” where labor law is concerned in a series of decisions that culminated in the 1977 Abood v. Detroit Board of Education ruling.

In the interest of maintaining “labor peace,” the court reasoned, it was necessary to guard against “free-riders” who might dissent from the union position but still benefit from the collective-bargaining process.

Financial disclosure forms show the California Teachers Association spent more than $211 million on political activities from 2000 through 2009.

The union spent more than $26 million to oppose Proposition 38, a ballot measure that would have created a school-voucher program in California.

The union spent $50 million in 2005 to oppose three measures, one of which would have made changes to the probationary period for new teachers and another having to do with school-funding requirements. More closely related to this case, the third ballot initiative would have prohibited use of agency fees for political contributions without workers’ consent.

Friedrichs and several of the other teachers who filed suit have resigned from the California Teachers Association and now belong to the Christian Educators Association International.


A Third of All Federal Student Loans Could Go Bad, Treasury Advisory Committee Warns

Four years after the federal government took over the student loan program, nine percent of student loans are in default and another 23 percent have the potential to go bad as well, according to a report by the Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee (TBAC).
“Millions of student-loan borrowers are in default on their student loans; many more could face default in the near future,” Deputy Treasury Secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin said during a Tampa speech on Nov. 6th, two days after the report was released.

According to data released Nov. 7 by the Federal Reserve, Americans currently owe $1.3 trillion on their student loans. The level of education indebtedness has increased 84 percent since 2009.

”Since the passing of the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2010 (SAFRA), all federal student loans are made directly by the Department of Education and funded by the U.S. Treasury,” the TBAC report explained. “For a variety of reasons, loan growth is increasing and default rates are high and rising.”

And the current nine percent default rate, which exceeded auto loan delinquencies for the first time ever, is likely the tip of the iceberg.

In June, President Obama issued an executive order allowing borrowers to cap their loan payments at 10 percent of their monthly incomes. But TBAC pointed out that “the principal and interest on the loans capitalize” during this period, “making balances larger for students and exacerbating repayment potential.”

“Outstanding balances [are] declining more slowly than originally anticipated due to both increased volumes of loans in deferral and forbearance as well as longer loan tenors,” the advisory committee said. “Behind the default rate is a shadow book of potential future defaults, reflected in the volume of loans in deferment and forbearance. Those loans add 23% to the 9% that are already listed in default.”

The Class of 2014 is “the most indebted ever,” according to the Wall Street Journal, which pointed out that the average student loan increased 35 percent between 2005 and 2012, while the median salary for 25-to-34-year-olds with a bachelor’s degree decreased 2.2 percent. “It that continues, debt burdens could start to become more unwieldly,” the WSJ noted.

Although supporters of SAFRA initially assured American taxpayers that the federal takeover of the student loan program would save them $87 billion, TBAC says it will likely wind up costing taxpayers more than $88 billion instead.

And that estimate “does not include the potential cost or benefit associated with recent proposals to redesign elements of the student lending program, including: (i) reducing the interest rate; (ii) increasing repayment options; and (iii) addressing the pace of origination with a focus on qualifying institutions eligible for such programs.”

The personal consequences of default for some 40 million Americans with outstanding student loans are substantial. They include a damaged credit rating, loss of tax refunds and other government benefits such as Social Security, fines, revocation of professional licenses and possible wage garnishment until the debt is paid.

“While fixed-rate student debt is insulated from interest rate risk, given the consequences of default discussed earlier, political pressure may nevertheless mount to forgive or extend student debt,” the report added. If that happens, “the gross cost of maturity extension in order to increase the probability of repayment would be approximately $220 billion.”

The report also explained how the failure of many students to graduate is undermining the main goal of the student loan program.

“Today an average of 40% of students at four-year institutions (and 68% of students in for-profit institutions) do not graduate within six years, which means they most likely do not benefit from the income upside from a higher degree yet have the burden of student debt….

"This outcome contrasts to the goal behind the Federally subsidized student loans which has been to ensure access to higher education, economic opportunity and social mobility,” and raises “questions about the value of loans for most borrowers.”

“Failure to graduate remains the most deadly of traps for higher education,” the Treasury committee warned.

According to a March study by the New America Foundation, 40 percent of the trillion-dollar student debt was spent on expensive graduate programs, with one in ten borrowers racking up more than $153,000 in combined undergraduate/graduate student loans..

But the study points out that “students pursuing these degrees already have an undergraduate degree, and they should be far more informed consumers. Therefore, they shouldn’t need a lot of public support to finance their next credential.”


Monday, November 24, 2014

Wisconsin to Prioritize Common Core Repeal

As Ohio moves closer to repealing Common Core education standards, Wisconsin looks like it could be next in line. The State Senate Majority Leader, Scott Fitzgerald, has said that tackling Common Core is definitely on the agenda for next year’s legislative session. Fitzgerald has yet to offer any specific proposals, but it’s safe to assume that the changes will be more in line with the school choice platform that Governor Scott Walker ran on to win reelection.

Earlier this year, Walker stated definitively that he wanted to see the federal standards repealed and replaced with something crafted at the state or local level.

“Today, I call on the members of the state legislature to pass a bill in early January to repeal Common Core and replace it with standards set by people in Wisconsin,” he said in July.

More recently, Walker reaffirmed his position on education, during a visit to Northeast Wisconsin Technical College. "One of the things I mentioned throughout the campaign that I wanted to do early on is an overall education reform package,” he said. “I think that's something we can work on, whether it's a special session or not, it would be early in the next session. Having high standards, but standards that are set by people here in ... Wisconsin, not by people outside of the state would be a key part of that."

Back in February, several Senators introduced a bill that would have repealed Common Core in Wisconsin, but failed to pass. In the aftermath of the midterm elections,, however, as Republicans slightly expanded their majority in the state legislature, and as Common Core becomes increasingly unpopular across the country, repeal may well prove easier early in the next Congress.

So far, six states have withdrawn from Common Core, making new efforts to repeal the standards seem less radical than they did this time last year. For the sake of education freedom, let’s hope the momentum continues into 2015.


UK: Oxford students shut down abortion debate. Free speech is under assault on campus

I would’ve thought that the one place in Britain where you could agree to disagree amicably would be Oxford University. But I was wrong. For instance, I’ve discovered that you’re only allowed to debate abortion there if a) you’re a woman and b) you’re all for it. Any other approach to the subject is liable to attract a mob…

A few months ago I accepted an invitation by the Oxford Students for Life to debate Brendan O’Neill on the subject “This House believes Britain's Abortion Culture Hurts Us All". The setting was Christ Church College and around 60 people signed up to attend on Facebook. To be clear: this wasn’t a pro-life demo and the subject wasn’t whether or not women should have the right to choose abortion. Even though I was speaking for the proposition, my speech would’ve begun with noting that the motion has nothing to do with abortion rights per se and was simply a consideration of how having effective abortion on demand affects wider society. Brendan, speaking for the opposition, would've doubtless done a fine job and probably run rings round me. It was a fair and free debate that I half expected to lose.

But someone was outraged that we dared to discuss this issue at all. A protest group of around 300 people called “What the f**k is 'Abortion Culture'?” appeared on Facebook that promised to “take along some non-destructive but oh so disruptive instruments to help demonstrate to the anti-choicers just what we think of their 'debate'.” We were guilty of promoting "really sh*tty anti-choice rhetoric and probs some cissexism." The foul language indicates how sophisticated the protesters were, while the accusation of cissexism had me reaching for my online urban dictionary. Was I being called a sissy by homophobic feminists? Mais non. Apparently a “cis” is someone who identifies with the same gender that they were born with. So that’s a thing now.

The university’s students’ union also issued a statement that took aim at Brendan and me for being so offensively attached to our God-given genitals: “The Women’s Campaign (WomCam) condemn SFL for holding this debate. It is absurd to think we should be listening to two cisgender men debate about what people with uteruses should be doing with their bodies.” Next, the Christ Church Junior Common Room (posh talk for “the committee that run the students' bar”) passed a motion asking their college to decline to room the debate. Eventually, the college caved-in on the grounds that, “there was insufficient time between today and tomorrow to address some concerns they had about the meeting”. The pro-life society tried to find an alternative venue but everyone else said “no”. I believe that two colleges agreed only to later rescind their invitations. I was sitting in Paddington Station (in a duffel coat and hat!) ready to jump on a train to Oxford at 4.40pm when I was told that the debate was finally, totally called off. I said the same thing my mother says every time the car stalls or the TV goes on the blink: “this is why people vote Ukip.”

The arguments against hosting the debate were spurious. That only men were speaking was no reason to stop it. A) Anyone objecting to the subject matter or the virile masculinity of the speakers was free not to attend. B) A private society should be allowed to invite whoever they want to discuss whatever they want (providing it’s legal and doesn’t incite violence etc). C) The idea that an ethical issue can only be debated by the people directly affected by it is self-evidently unintelligent. And D) we weren’t debating women’s right to choose anyway but instead the effect of abortion on wider society, which does include a few men. Sorry, by “men” I mean “cisgendered heteronormative masculine pronouns in possession of a Hampton wick”.

Some tried to suggest that the presence of this debate might pose some sort of welfare issue to the incredibly vulnerable students of Christ Church, but that, too, is smoke and mirrors. Does this mean no debate may be had about democracy in Hong Kong for fear of upsetting those Chinese sons and daughters of communist apparatchiks paying hundreds of thousands of pounds to study in the UK? And as for the case that holding this debate would threaten abortion rights more generally, I would remind you for the thousandth time that WE WEREN’T DEBATING THEM - and even if we were that really wouldn’t change the fact that abortion in Britain is widely available, easy to get and a politically protected subject. As the successful attempt to shut down this debate proved.

What it also proved is that elements of the Left are working hard to define new parameters for freedom of speech. You are free to speak so long as it doesn’t offend certain sensibilities, which of course amounts to no real freedom at all. I’m reminded of the old Puritan ethic that a human being had liberty only in so far as that liberty led them to salvation. Any practice of liberty that led away from God represented slavery to lies and was thus outlawed – for the good of the so-called sinner. Many on the Left imitate the very authoritarian mindset of the people on the religious Right that they claim to hate, likewise trying to safeguard their definition of freedom by eradicating contrary ideas. On the subject of abortion, the Left can enjoy that authoritarianism because contemporary society broadly agrees with them. But a day will come when they try to argue for something that proves unpopular and they, too, will be gagged. And I’ll be there to defend their right to say something that I disagree with.

Because the older you get the more you realise that just as important as your beliefs are your freedom to articulate them without fear. I guess maturity makes wet liberals of us all.


UK: Ofsted fails top inner city state school for not safeguarding pupils from extremism

One of Britain’s most successful inner city state schools is to be failed by Ofsted for not sufficiently safeguarding its pupils from extremism.

Sir John Cass’s Foundation and Red Coat Church of England school in Tower Hamlets, east London will be placed in special measures by the education standards watchdog after inspectors found it failed to monitor the activities of an Islamic society set up by sixth formers at the school.

The inspections were launched in early October at the request of the Department for Education.

A Facebook site set up by the society contained links to hardline Islamist preachers, which potentially could have exposed pupils to radicalisation, the Independent reported.

The society also set up its own YouTube channel which was not monitored.

Ofsted said this constituted a failure to safeguard the pupils, a breach which led to it being placed in special measures.

It is the first school outside Birmingham to be failed on such a safeguarding issue.

The school was also criticised by Ofsted for allowing segregation between boys and girls in the playground.

Local education sources accused Ofsted of overreacting saying it was “taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”

The report, part of which was leaked to the Independent, will be published on Friday alongside reports on six other Muslim schools which are also said to have raised concerns about safeguarding issues.

It raises questions about how schools should monitor Islamic societies, which are increasing in state schools.

In September it emerged that schools were being hit by a series of “no notice” inspections as part of a crackdown on bad behaviour and the suspected radicalisation of pupils, Ofsted announced today.

Ofsted said around 40 schools were being subjected to lightning inspections over a two-week period amid major concerns over classroom standards.

The action is being taken in light of the alleged “Trojan Horse” plot in Birmingham that saw school governing bodies being infiltrated by hard-line Muslims.

Inspectors raised concerns over the segregation of boys and girls in lessons, the marginalisation of subjects such as religious education and a failure to challenge extremist views.

The watchdog had told regional inspectors to make greater use of existing powers to carry out lightning inspections – rather than the usual half-day notice period – to address a series of major concerns in their area.

This included “rapidly” declining teaching standards and a slump in teachers’ ability to maintain discipline.

Echoing concerns raised in Birmingham, inspectors will also target schools with poor governance and those failing to provide a broad and balanced curriculum.


NYC’s Success Academy Charter Schools Are Beating the Odds . . . and Powerful Unions

It’s no secret that labor union rules impose significant burdens on schools. More than a decade ago Lance Izumi oversaw a rigorous study that examined the impact of 25 years of collective bargaining on the effectiveness of California public schools. It found that rigid union rules put California schools and classrooms in a stranglehold that negatively impact not only day-to-day operations but, most importantly, student achievement.

More recently,’s Nick Gillespie sat down with Eva Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy, which is one of New York City’s most successful charter school networks, to talk about how charters are shaking up the education establishment. This eye-opening 17-minute interview, How Eva Moskowitz Outmuscled the Teachers Union, is a must-see for anyone frustrated by the schooling status quo in California and across the country.

Thank you to Lisa Snell, Education and Child Welfare Director at the Reason Foundation, for sharing it. As Reason’s Jim Epstein explains:

In November 2003, Eva Moskowitz, then a freshman member of the New York City Council, held explosive public hearings about how union contracts imposed inane work rules on public schools. The city’s political establishment was astonished.

Mosowitz—a former history professor, public school teacher, and self-proclaimed liberal, whose politics up until that point seemed to resemble those of every other Democratic politician in New York—was sacrificing her political career to take on organized labor. Exposing the consequences of teacher union contracts was a direct affront to the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), which wields enormous influence in New York City elections.

Moskowitz didn’t pussyfoot. At one point in the hearings, she even played audio testimony from a whistleblower with a disguised voice. She said that many of her sources declined to appear because they feared union retribution. She also went toe-to-toe with Randi Weingarten, the UFT’s confrontational leader.

Two years later, when Moskowitz ran for Manhattan Borough President, Weingarten and the UFT mobilized against her and sunk her candidacy. So Moskowitz left politics for the time being; if she couldn’t transform the system from within, she would build an alternative to the public schools.

Today, Moskowitz is the founder and CEO of Success Academy, which is the city’s largest and most successful charter school network. With 32 schools around New York City—staffed by a non-union teaching force—Success Academy posted test results last year that astounded education policy experts.

Moskowitz’s courage and conviction are inspirational, and her example serves as an important reminder of the power individuals have to accomplish positive reforms against the odds.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

UK: Six more independent schools in East London 'probed over links to Islamic extremism' after CoE institution put in special measures

Six more independent Muslim schools are being probed after a Church of England institution was put in special measures - amid claims that pupils have been exposed to Islamic extremism.

Inspectors visiting Sir John Cass’s Foundation and Redcoat Church of England Secondary School in Stepney, east London, discovered girls and boys were being segregated in the playground.

They also found an Islamic society set up by sixth formers had posted links on its Facebook page to hardline Islamist preachers. A YouTube channel created by the society was not checked by staff.

Tomorrow, inspection reports into six other independent faith schools in Tower Hamlets - all reported to be linked to the Muslim faith - will also be published.

And the Sir John Cass school will be criticised in an inspection report by the watchdog for failing to safeguard pupils from extremism.

The full report, which was partly leaked to a newspaper, will be published by Ofsted tomorrow alongside an advisory note to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan detailing the inspectors’ concerns.

The school, which has failed its inspection, is the first institution outside Birmingham to fail on such a safeguarding issue since the so-called Trojan Horse plot was uncovered.
Content uploaded by the Sir John Cass Islamic Society

There, 21 schools were inspected amid fears hardline Islamists were taking over. As a result, five of the city’s schools were placed in special measures and another told it must improve.

The latest Ofsted report which was leaked to the Independent newspaper, will show that six other independent Muslim schools facing safeguarding issues.

The revelations raise concerns over how Islamic societies, a growing feature in state schools, should be policed.

Sir John’s headmaster Haydn Evans, who was awarded a CBE this year, is said to have been ‘shell-shocked’ by the developments.

Previous Ofsted reports have ranked the school as ‘outstanding’. Despite its Church of England status, 80 per cent of pupils at the school are Bengali Muslim. Only 18 per cent of places are kept for CofE pupils.

Yesterday, Mr Evans was receiving an honorary degree from the University of East London after taking the school from one of the worst performing in Britain to outstanding status.

Last night, sources said Ofsted had over-reacted and was ‘taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut’.  A local headteacher, who would not be named, said: ‘This is in no way “Trojan Horse mark two”.

‘This is very, very, very different to Birmingham. There are no governors wanting to take over the school and introduce hardline Islamic practices.’

Defenders of the school said that children had long been segregated in the playground – even when the school was awarded the outstanding rating.

Robert McCulloch-Graham, of Tower Hamlets, the local education authority, told The Independent : ‘What we can say is that where any issues in our maintained schools do occur, we have a strong track record of intervening swiftly and successfully to address them.

'As is common practice, we will work with the leadership of this school to address any issues identified by Ofsted.'

Tony Mullee, chief executive of school trustee Sir John Cass’s Foundation, added: ‘We are greatly concerned by the report. ‘We remain committed to addressing the safeguarding issues and will be assessing the necessary action to return the school to an outstanding rating.’

In 2008, Ofsted estimated 93 per cent of the school’s intake was from ethnic minority groups, with two-thirds from Bangladeshi backgrounds. About 80 per cent of students were classed as bilingual.


UK: Schoolboy, 15, who made £14k from tuck-shop to pay Oxbridge fees threatened with suspension

An entrepreneurial schoolboy who made £14,000 towards his university fees by selling sweets from a “black market” tuck-shop has been threatened with suspension unless he stops the enterprise.

Tommie Rose, 15, buys chocolate, crisps and fizzy drinks in bulk from discount stores and sells them to fellow pupils at a competitive mark-up.

For three years, he has been putting his £60 to £70 daily earnings into a trust fund to pay the £9,000-a-year tuition fees for university, and has his eye on studying business at Oxford or Cambridge.

However, teachers at Buile Hill High School in Salford, Greater Manchester, have threatened the teenager with suspension if he does not shut down the unofficial tuck-shop, which they say breaches healthy-eating guidelines.

Tommie, who lives on the Ordsall estate in Salford, was suspended from his previous school, Oasis Academy, for 10 days for running a similar tuck-shop, which he said was inspired by television shows such as Dragons’ Den and The Apprentice.

Last night, leading figures in the business world, including Deborah Meaden of Dragons’ Den, leapt to the young entrepreneur’s defence.

Dave Fishwick, the Burnley businessman behind Bank of Dave, said: “If this lad is showing entrepreneurial spirit so young, then what we should be doing is, rather than dampen it, find some way of encouraging it in the right way and bringing that within the school as a way of getting other kids fired up.”

Miss Meaden wrote on Twitter: “He doesn’t need a degree in business … He’s a natural.”

Tommie opened his first tuck-shop three years ago and has been so successful that he pays two friends £5.50 per day to help run his business. His parents, Gary, 33, an office worker, and Tracy, also 33, a gym manager, said they would struggle to support their son through university on their own.

“He’s a typical teenage boy who saw what he wanted and worked hard for it,” said Mr Rose.

“He realised that if you want to get ahead in business and in life, you have to start at a young age.

“I could only dream of making that sort of money at his age.” James Inman, the head teacher at Buile Hill school, said: “We admire this pupil’s entrepreneurship but school is not the place to set up a black market of fizzy drinks, sweets and chocolates.

“We have extremely high standards and with our healthy-eating policy we don’t allow isotonic [sports] drinks, fizzy drinks and large amounts of sweets for the good of our children.”

David Fox, the co-founder of the Tampopo restaurant chain, praised Tommie but said he understood the school’s stance.

“Napoleon referred to us as a nation of shopkeepers and I admire the young fellows entrepreneurship,” he said.

“I do, however, see the tension between his actions and the responsibility of the school.”

He added: “You go to school to learn about many things of which entrepreneurship is only one.

“It is completely acceptable for the school to have policies on healthy eating agreed by [governors] voted in by parents of that school.

“I would congratulate him on his sense of enterprise which he should pursue out of the school gates.”


Clinging to Common Core? Expect Chaos

Last week, an ed pundit and a mom faced off to debate whether repealing Common Core had plunged Oklahoma into “chaos,” as pundit Michael Petrilli had asserted on Twitter. This week, new information suggests states clinging to Common Core are in for even more chaos than those that exit into a more productive course. From Politico’s Morning Education newsletter Tuesday:

"… hiring people to read all that student writing [on PARCC Common Core tests] is expensive. So Pearson’s four-year contract to administer the exams bases the pricing on a phase-in of automated scoring. All student writing will be scored by real people this coming spring. The following year, the plan calls for two-thirds to be scored by computer. The year after that, all the writing is scheduled to be robo-graded, with humans giving a small sampling a second read as quality control.

The contract required Pearson to submit a proof-of-concept study demonstrating the validity of automated grading by mid-October. … So where’s the Pearson study? PARCC spokesman David Connerty-Marin told Morning Education it’s being revised – but he declined to say who had asked for the revisions or what they entail. Pearson wouldn’t answer any questions on the subject, referring them all to PARCC. … Connerty-Marin wouldn’t answer questions about whether a vote has already taken place or will be held in the future."

Ahh, look at all that transparency in government! Oh, wait … Common Core testing organizations aren’t technically government agencies, just federally funded and monitored. So your tax dollars are paying for psychometricians to muck about with students and not release the studies and votes that result. So we have no idea if these Common Core tests can even be graded accurately, or at what cost. Government of the people, by the people, for the people, right?

PARCC is not the only Common Core test in trouble. The other federally backed testing consortia, Smarter Balanced, won’t be ready for true tests this coming spring, says psychometrician Doug McRae, who reviewed test items recently:

"The odds are that if a student uses a random marking strategy, he or she will get a proficient score quite often. This circumstance would result in many random (or invalid and unreliable) scores from the test, and reduce the overall credibility of the entire testing program. …

California plans to use the cut scores recommended by the panels that met in October for disseminating millions of test scores in spring 2015. These plans are faced with the prospect that those scores will have to be “recalled” and replaced with true or valid scores just months after incorrect scores are disseminated. This is not a pretty picture for any large-scale statewide assessment program."

He says the 2015 tests, the first “real” Common Core tests nationwide that will replace state tests, cannot offer valid data and really will only provide the information necessary for getting real tests in 2016. This would eliminate, for four to five years, the ability to know how students are doing nationally in grades 3 and 5–8 (since NAEP will still test grades 4, 8, and 12). In short, further evidence indicates withdrawing from Common Core could create less chaos for children, teachers, and taxpayers than remaining in its clutches.


Friday, November 21, 2014

UK: School marked down for being 'too white'

The delightful pupils concerned

Ofsted was accused of “political correctness” today after downgrading a top rural primary school for effectively being too English.

The education watchdog faced a backlash from MPs and parents following the decision to penalise Middle Rasen primary in Lincolnshire for not having enough back or Asian pupils.

In a report, inspectors said the school was “not yet outstanding” because pupils’ cultural development was limited by a “lack of first-hand experience of the diverse make up of modern British society”.

The move followed a shake-up of Ofsted inspections introduced in the wake of the “Trojan Horse” plot in Birmingham to impose hard-line Muslim values in state schools.

Schools are now told to place fundamental British values at the heart of the timetable including mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.

But the reforms have already been criticised for having a knock-on effect on faith schools and those dominated by pupils of a particular ethnic group.

Last month, it was claimed that a small Christian school in the Home Counties had been penalised after failing to other invite faith leaders, such as imams, in to lead assemblies.

Commenting on the latest case, Sir Edward Leigh, the Conservative MP for Gainsborough, said he had written to Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, “objecting strenuously to the new so-called 'equality' regulations she is implementing in schools”.

He added: “This is political correctness gone mad. Middle Rasen primary school is an outstanding school by any standards…

“Multiculturalism is an irrelevance in Lincolnshire with its low number of ethnic minorities, who are already welcomed and well-integrated into our local communities, as they should be."

The community primary school, which is based in the picturesque rural town of Market Rasen, has just 104 pupils aged four to 11.  It was handed a “satisfactory” rating during its last inspection in December 2012.

The latest report upgraded the school to “good” – the second highest mark – for making significant improvements, with staff creating an “environment in which learning flourishes".

But the primary missed out on the outstanding grade for occasionally failing to set difficult work and giving staff few opportunities to improve their skills. In a key move, it was also downgraded for limiting pupils’ “first-hand experience” of modern society.

The report said: "The large majority of pupils are white British. Very few are from other ethnic groups, and currently no pupils speak English as an additional language.

"The school needs to extend pupils' understanding of the cultural diversity of modern British Society by creating opportunities for them to have first-hand interaction with their counterparts from different backgrounds beyond the immediate vicinity.”

The school is now attempting to strike up a partnership with an inner city school to address the concerns.

Melonie Brunton, the head teacher, said school trips usually involved visits to the countryside, taking in farms and zoos, but it had recently focused on outings to a mosque and factory.

Ofsted’s comments were criticised by parents.  Jodie Miller, 35, whose six-year-old daughter attends the school, said: "We are a small rural community in Lincolnshire, there just aren't many children here from different backgrounds.

"The staff can't just wander the streets forcing people to come and attend.”

Benjamin Bannan, 33, a father-of-two, added: "It’s outrageous that a British school can be punished for being too British. It just doesn't make sense at all.  "We would welcome people from different cultures with open arms I'm sure - but there just aren't any ethnic minorities around here."

Reverend Charles Patrick, who was head of the governors at the time of the report, said: "This is a rural area, like 80 per cent of the country, we don't have many non-white residents.  "Perhaps it would be a different matter if we were in the middle of London or Manchester or something."

Ofsted denied that it was downgraded for one reason.  “The report highlights a small number of areas where the school should look to improve,” a spokesman said. “It was not denied an outstanding judgement solely because of pupils’ cultural development.

“All schools must teach pupils about fundamental British values including mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs. That way they will be prepared for the future wherever they go.”


Obama’s Undisciplined School Discipline Reforms

Keeping kids safe at school should go hand in hand with ensuring high-quality academics. The U.S. Department of Education’s record on both fronts has been poor at best.

During the No Child Left Behind era of George W. Bush, parents were supposed to have an Unsafe School Choice Option. Partisan politics and perverse incentives combined to ensure that fewer than 50 schools nationwide ever met Byzantine definitions of an unsafe school each year—so kids most at risk stayed stuck.

Flash forward to the Obama Administration, and things aren’t much better. Under the recently announced Now Is the Time plan, the U.S. Department of Education is throwing some $70 million at schools nationwide, in the coming year alone, for stricter background checks for gun purchases, banning military-style assault weapons, and adding more counselors and resource officers, as well as mental health officials to intervene with troubled youth sooner. Essentially, more government social workers and fewer guns in the hands of law-abiding private citizens are supposed to help keep kids safe at school.

But the politics don’t stop there. In 2010, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced his plans to investigate school districts’ discipline policies through the lens of disparate impact theory. In a nutshell, because students from some minority backgrounds are, overall, disciplined at higher rates than non-minority students, schools or districts must be discriminating against students—regardless of the individual students’ actual behavior. (For a great review, see the Federalist Society’s analysis and background resources here.) As explained in a 2011 briefing report prepared by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights:

The Department’s that statistically disparate results create a presumption of discrimination that must be rebutted by the school or district with evidence that the school or district has a legitimate educational justification and that there are no equally effective alternative policies that would achieve the school’s educational goals. (p. 1)

What this disparate impact policy shift means is that once the U.S. Department of Education identifies disparate discipline rates based on Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), the burden of proof shifts to the school district or school to justify its disciplinary actions.

To be sure, government-run schools are not the beacons of equality they purport to be. In fact, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) reported that it handled a record-breaking number of complaints from 2009 through 2012 compared to any previous four-year period, nearly 29,000 (pp. 6-7). More than half of those complaints (54 percent) concerned students with disabilities. Research has long shown that minority and non-native speaking students are disproportionately identified as learning disabled. The OCR also reports that it handled a significant number of complaints in which minority students denied equal access to high-quality educational opportunities (pp. 26-28).

So it should come as no surprise that minority students—African-Americans in particular—are disciplined differently. According to the OCR:

African-American students represent 18 percent of students in the 2009–10 CRDC sample but 35 percent of students suspended once, 46 percent of those suspended more than once, 39 percent of students expelled, and 36 percent of the students arrested on public-school grounds. Hispanic students are one-and-a-half times more likely to be expelled than their white counterparts. Additionally, in districts that showed at least one expulsion under zero-tolerance policies, African-Americans represent 19 percent of enrollment but 33 percent of the students expelled. ...

In fiscal years 2009 through 2012, OCR launched 20 proactive investigations in schools with significant racial disparities in discipline based on data from the most recent CRDC. Additionally, during the last four years, OCR received more than 1,250 complaints brought by parents, students or other concerned individuals about possible civil rights violations involving school discipline systems. (pp. 28-29)

But the “solutions” proposed by federal education bureaucrats simply perpetuate racial discrimination. As Investor’s Business Daily reports:

Minneapolis Public Schools have adopted racial quotas in discipline to settle an investigation by Obama’s diversity cops for alleged discrimination. So much for equal protection under the Constitution.

Ending a two-year probe by Education Department’s office for civil rights, Minneapolis has agreed to stop suspending black students for infractions that would still get whites suspended.

Every suspension of an African American must now be reviewed by the superintendent, according to the federal agreement.

Instead of being punished, unruly black kids will be put into “restorative talking circles,” where teachers will examine their own “cultural misunderstandings.”

White kids who act up won’t get off so easy. ...

“I and all of my staff will start to review all nonviolent suspensions of students of color—especially black boys—to understand why they’re being suspended so we can help intervene with teachers,” explained MPS Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson, who is running the new “equity policy” through something called the Office of Black Male Student Achievement.

If you think that sounds a bit racist, you’re not alone. ...

But the Obama regime, which sees racism behind every corner, blames biased teachers and administrators for the disparity—even though Johnson is black.

Minneapolis is just the latest target of the regime’s war on school discipline. The Education Department has aggressively investigated several other major school districts across the country for what it thinks are too many suspensions of black students.

They too have “reformed” their discipline codes to get the race-baiting educrats off their backs and safeguard their federal funding.

Closer to home, several California school districts are already in the throes of the Obama Administration’s discipline “reforms” and are having to contend with the ensuing chaos. As IBD continues:

Take San Diego. Just weeks after adopting similar racial discipline quotas, San Diego public schools have witnessed an explosion of violent assaults.

At its premier charter school, Lincoln High, students report daily fights now, mostly involving black kids. In the past month, there have been several arrests, including one involving a butcher knife, according to local reports. Victims have been hauled off by ambulance.

This result mirrors spikes in student crime in Los Angeles after the school superintendent followed federal orders to reduce suspensions of African-Americans.

“Last week I was terrified and bullied by a fourth-grade student,” a teacher at an urban Los Angeles Unified School District school said. “The black student told me to ‘back off, bitch.’ I told him to go to the office and he said, ‘No, bitch, and you and no one can make me.’”

Complained another LAUSD teacher: “We now have a ‘restorative justice’ counselor, but we still have the same problems. Kids aren’t even suspended for fights or drugs.”

Violence is still a problem in Oakland, Calif., schools after officials substituted counseling for suspensions on similar orders from the Obama regime.

If you think Obama is a lame duck and that his executive actions are meaningless, think again. His policies have dangerous consequences.

Rather than pursue yet another failed federal “solution,” parents should be empowered to enroll their children in any school they wish. Parental choice—far more than any government mandate—would introduce powerful incentives to ensure all students are disciplined fairly. If not, parents would be free to take their children—and their associated education funding—to schools that did.

Having to compete for students and funding would also make schools prioritize order and discipline instead of the feds’ latest fad-for-cash scheme.

Expanding parental choice, not federal overreach, is a far more effective approach to combat racially motivated discipline practices, and it wouldn’t compound existing racism with yet more racism.


The Federal Student Loan Racket

Since 2008, roughly $1 out of every $10 new dollars borrowed by the U.S. government through the end of its 2014 fiscal year has gone to fund the Federal Direct Student Loan program, which lends the money borrowed by Uncle Sam to college students at over double the interest rate that the U.S. government is charged by its lenders.

Federal borrowing for the sake of making student loans accounts for over $700 billion of the more than $7 trillion increase in the total public debt outstanding over that time. How much money do you think that the U.S. federal government is making from running that racket?

Earlier this year, the General Accounting Office (GAO) looked at the income that the U.S. Treasury was raking in as a result of its Direct Loans program for students for the federal government’s 2007 through 2012 fiscal years, when it originated a reported $454 billion in student loans. The GAO found that the U.S. federal government netted a profit of $66 billion.

We should note that well over 95% of this activity occurred after 2008, corresponding to President Obama’s tenure in office and the federal government’s effective takeover of the student loan industry from the private sector during that time.

Personal finance guru Suze Orman has some thoughts about the federal government’s profiteering:

If one were to ask me what I think is the most dangerous threat to our economy, the answer is very simple: student loans.

As I write this, we have more than $1.2 trillion of student loan debt. About 10 million federal students loans are taken out annually, and then there are the insanely dangerous private student loans on top of that staggering number.

And while 6.7 million borrowers in repayment mode are delinquent, the sad fact is that many lenders aren’t exactly incentivized to work with borrowers. Unlike all other forms of debt, student loans can’t be discharged in bankruptcy. Moreover, lenders can garnish wages and even Social Security benefits to get repaid. A new report by the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau details just how bad the situation is for private loan borrowers. (From Oct. 1, 2013, through Sept. 30, the agency handled about 5,300 private student loan complaints, an increase of nearly 38 percent from the previous year.)

And private student loans aren’t the only problem. Do you know that from 2007 to 2012, the government made $66 billion in profit on federal student loans? We can all debate how our government should generate revenue to support federal spending programs, but doing it on the backs of young adults who need an education to compete in the increasingly competitive global workforce is just appalling.

Orman doesn’t make the connection that borrowers who owe money to the federal government for student loans are even more disadvantaged than those who took out loans with private lenders, because the federal government is even less responsive. And because there is no limit on how long a debt owed to the federal government can be collected, it has even less incentive to work with borrowers.

Perhaps the most effective way to resolve this issue would be simply to make all student loans fully dischargeable in bankruptcy proceedings once more, whether originated by private lenders or by the federal government. That way, the people who need real and permanent relief from their student debts, regardless of who their lender might be, could get it.

Faced with the risk of losing massive amounts of money because of the bad decisions it made in getting into the business of making direct student loans in the first place, the federal government might then have an adequate incentive to adopt a more fiscally sound approach to its direct lending racket by getting out of it.

And that would go a very long way toward eliminating the federal government’s hidden budget deficit.


UK: Get textbooks back in class, schools are told: Minister says teachers must end reliance on worksheets and the internet during lessons

Ministers will today urge schools to bring back traditional textbooks to end a growing reliance on worksheets and the internet.

They will say that an ‘anti-textbook ethos’ has contributed to England’s slide in international rankings of pupils’ performance in key academic subjects.

In a speech to the Publishers Association, School Reform Minister Nick Gibb will call on all schools – both primary and secondary – to reintroduce good quality textbooks in most subjects.

He will complain that teachers too often neglect textbooks in favour of producing worksheets or ‘endlessly trawling the internet’ for suitable material for their lessons.

Mr Gibb will also highlight new research from exams body Cambridge Assessment which shows that teachers in top-performing countries are significantly more likely to use textbooks than in England.

The research ‘should rightly send shockwaves through the education system and the publishing industry,’ Mr Gibb will say.

In Finland, 95 per cent of maths teachers use a textbook as a basis for lessons and in Singapore, the figure is 70 per cent.  In contrast, only 10 per cent of maths teachers in England use a textbook for their core teaching – and only four per cent in science.

‘In the controversial search for the reasons why a range of key nations have improved their systems so dramatically and so quickly, the role of high quality textbooks has been seriously neglected,’ Mr Gibb will say.

‘Well-focused, forensic study of these nations highlights the extent to which good teaching and high academic standards are strongly associated with adequate provision and widespread use of high quality textbooks.’ And he will say: ‘Once again England has fallen behind.’

Mr Gibb will suggest that teacher trainers and researchers, rather than teachers themselves, are responsible for the marginalisation of textbooks.

He will also lay down a challenge to educational publishers to drive up the quality of textbooks in England. ‘All the evidence shows that high quality textbooks are good for teachers, students and parents,’ he will say.

‘For teachers, well-structured textbooks reduce workload and the perpetual ritual of producing worksheets; for students, knowledge-rich textbooks mean they can read beyond the confines of the exam syllabus and using textbooks helps to develop those all-important scholarship skills; and for parents, textbooks are a guide to what their children are being taught in school.

‘I would like to see all schools, both primary and secondary, using high quality textbooks in most academic subjects, bringing us closer to the norm in high performing countries.’


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Upset Mom Finds Herself Contacting the News After Reading the Answers on Her Son’s Islam Worksheet

A mother in Union County, North Carolina, told WJZY-TV that her son, a freshman at Porter Ridge High School, brought home a worksheet on Islam containing some questionable answers. She was upset enough over the assignment that she contacted the school and her local news station after reviewing the material.

The sentence that bothered the mom the most stated, “Most Muslims’ faith is stronger than the average Christian.”

It should be noted that school officials have yet to provide a completed version of the worksheet to the news outlet. Though it appears that the high school has not disputed the content, the answers were filled in by the student and seemingly have yet to be verified as 100 percent correct.

“If you are going to do it, let’s do it right,” the mother told WJYZ-TV. “I really feel there is a spin on this.”

The mother, who asked to remain anonymous so her child isn’t singled out at school, said officials didn’t provide a clear answer when she asked if Christianity is being taught in the same fashion.

A spokesman at the Islamic Center for Charlotte told the news station that schools shouldn’t teach that Muslims’ faith is automatically stronger than that of Christians.


One Nation Under Godlessness not Looking Good

By Michelle Malkin

Cheating. Bullying. Cybersexting. Hazing. Molestation. Suicide. Drug abuse. Murder. Scanning the headlines of the latest scandals in America’s schools, it’s quite clear that the problem is not that there’s too much God in students' lives.  The problem is that there isn’t nearly enough of Him.

With the malfunction of moral seatbelts and the erosion of moral guardrails, too many kids have turned to a pantheon of false gods, crutches and palliatives. They’re obsessed with “Slender Man” and “Vampire Diaries.” Alex from Target’s hair and Rihanna’s tattoos. Overpriced basketball sneakers and underdressed reality stars. Choking games and YouTube games. Gossip and hookups. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat.

It’s all about selfies over self-control, blurred lines over bright lines.

In a metastatic youth culture of soullessness and rootlessness, the idea of high school teens voluntarily using their free time to pray and sing hymns is not just a breath of fresh air. It’s salvation.

But leave it to secularists run amok to punish faithful young followers of Christ.

Last week, the Alliance Defending Freedom filed a religious freedom lawsuit against Pine Creek High School here in my adopted hometown of Colorado Springs. Chase Windebank, a senior at the District 20 school, had been convening an informal prayer group for the past three years “in a quiet area to sing Christian religious songs, pray, and to discuss issues of the day from a religious perspective.”

Windebank and his friends weren’t disrupting classroom time. They shared their Christian faith during an open period earned by high-achieving students. Other kids used the time to play on their phones, eat snacks, get fresh air outside, or schedule meetings for a wide variety of both official and unofficial school clubs.

A Pine Creek choir teacher had given permission to Windebank and his fellow worshipers to meet in an empty music practice room. No complaints ever ensued from other students or faculty. For three years, the group encountered no problems, according to ADF’s complaint. But in late September, Windebank was summoned to the assistant principal’s office and ordered to stop praying because of “the separation of church and state.”

The school singled out the young man of faith’s harmless activities and banned members of his group from discussing current issues of the day from a religious perspective during an open period in an unobtrusive meeting place.

As Todd Starnes of Fox News, who broke the story of the lawsuit last week, lamented: “Public school administrators and their lawyers have succeeded in suppressing and oppressing the Christian voice at Pine Creek High School.”

It defies common sense that in conservative-leaning Colorado Springs, home to a vibrant faith community and leading evangelical organizations, students would be reprimanded and deprived of basic constitutional rights. As a letter from local parents to the school district decried: “To what benefit does it serve a school to limit the ability for a student to pray with their friends, fellowship with their friends, or discuss daily events from a Christian perspective? It is obvious that School District 20 is taking a freedom FROM religion perspective, not a freedom OF religion perspective.”

Think about it: If the high-schoolers gathered in the cafeteria to listen to Billboard magazine’s No. 1 pop hit “Habits (Stay High)” – “You’re gone and I gotta stay high/ all the time/ to keep you off my mind” – school officials would have no issue.

If they lounged in a courtyard to joke about the latest girl-fight videos or off-color joke memes posted on Vine, no problem.  If they discussed the latest “Walking Dead” episode or napped in the library? All good.  But singing “Amazing Grace” and studying scripture? This subversion must be stopped!

How did we get here? And in Colorado Springs, of all places – not Berkeley or Boulder or Boston? Blame cowardice, ignorance and politically correct bureaucrats pledging allegiance to one nation, under godlessness, without religious liberty, and the occult of extreme secularism for all.


Kids Don’t Eat Much of "Healthy" School Lunches

Healthier lunches have become available in schools across the nation.  But students aren’t eating them.  According to a new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study, “Nearly 6 in 10 [students] put a vegetable on their tray, but only a quarter actually eat even a single bite.”

The researchers observed the eating habits of 274 children in 10 New York City public schools. The students were in kindergarten through second grade.

According to the press release, researchers “watched to see whether each of the six-through-eight-year-olds chose a fruit, vegetable, whole grain, low-fat milk and/or a lean protein, taking before and after photos of the trays.” They discovered:

"While 75 percent of the kids chose the lean protein (the entrée), only 58 percent chose a fruit and 59 percent chose a vegetable. And among those who put the various types of food on their trays, only 75 percent took even a single bite of the protein, while only 24 percent ate a bite of their vegetables."

Researchers also noted that there are several factors that influenced how much food the students ate, such as the presence or absence of their teacher, the noise level in the cafeteria, the length of the lunch period and even the size the pieces of food had been cut into.

“We have been thinking that if young children choose healthy food, they will eat it,” said Susan Gross, a research associate at Johns Hopkins. “But our research shows that is not necessarily so.”

According to Daren Bakst, a research fellow in agricultural policy at The Heritage Foundation:

"This study simply supports what school nutrition officials have been saying.  There’s major food waste.  It’s difficult to conclude that a law called the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is a success when the kids are hungry—you can’t be healthy if you are hungry all the time.  Getting the kids to eat should first and foremost be the primary concern.

However, the entire debate surrounding the new school nutrition standards often misses a fundamental question.  Do we need federal bureaucrats and Michelle Obama to dictate how kids should eat through this program, or should parents, possibly along with local governments, make decisions regarding nutrition?  Specifically, it is a question of whether we respect federal bureaucrats and their one-size-fits-all approach more than parents who know the best interests of their children."