Tuesday, September 02, 2014

OH: Pols say schools should be anti-suicide propagandists

 A bill is being proposed in Ohio that would require community colleges and universities to have suicide prevention programs on and off campus.

The proposal calls for access to mental health programs and crisis intervention, such as a hotline. Colleges would need plans for telling students about prevention activities and communicating with students, staff and parents after the loss of a student to suicide.

The Board of Regents and the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services would post free materials online to help schools meet the requirements.

Rep. Marlene Anielski (ahn-yel-SKEE') co-sponsored the measure. She lost her son to suicide in 2010.

Anielski, a Republican from Independence, says students need to know that programs and help are available to them should they find themselves struggling.


British pupils facing tough new curriculum as school year starts: Foreign languages will be compulsory at primary schools and children will learn computer programming in biggest shake-up for a decade

After six weeks of summer  holidays, children can find it quite a shock to be back at school.  But when term resumes this week, it may be even tougher than usual.  For the country is about to undergo the biggest education shake-up in a decade with a new, tougher national curriculum.

And further changes are planned, with Education Secretary Nicky Morgan saying the Conservatives will pledge at the next election to make every pupil study five core academic subjects until they are 16.

Under the new curriculum, children aged five will have to recite poetry by heart,  11-year-olds will sit maths exams without calculators and teenagers will study at least two Shakespeare plays.

Computer programming will be taught from five to 14, and foreign languages will be made compulsory at primary school.

There will be a new emphasis on spelling and grammar, and history will focus on the story of Britain.

The more traditional curriculum is the culmination of a four-year campaign started by Michael Gove. His successor Mrs Morgan has pledged to continue the drive.

But many parents have been left in the dark and teachers say they are not ready to teach the material.

Two-thirds of parents are totally unaware of the changes, a survey of 1,000 by the tuition firm Explore Learning found. And six out of ten teachers say their schools are not prepared, a poll by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers showed.

The curriculum was finalised last September – which eight out of ten teachers said left too little time to make changes. In the survey of 618 teachers, nine out of ten labelled the Department for Education’s approach ‘chaotic’ or ‘flawed’.

Nansi Ellis, of the ATL, said: ‘The Government has rushed through the biggest change to the national curriculum in a decade.   ‘Children . . . face an uncertain time as their teachers are still trying to make sense of the new curriculum. It is extremely unfair to jeopardise young people’s education through what seems to be national mismanagement of change.’

Carey Ann Dodah, of Explore Learning, said: ‘The curriculum is a response to fears that England is slipping behind international competitors and there are some drastic changes.’ Meanwhile, Mrs Morgan said the Tories will press for more reforms if they win the election.

She laid out plans yesterday for all pupils to study GCSE English, maths, science, one language and either history or geography.

Schools that do not teach the five subjects – which together make up an ‘English baccalaureate’ – will not be eligible for a ‘good’ rating from Ofsted, she said.

‘We want students to be able to keep their options open for as long as possible,’ Mrs Morgan added.   She said that while students in wealthy areas already learn these subjects, ‘that is not always happening in less advantaged areas’.

A Department for Education spokesman said teachers had time to prepare for the changes, adding: ‘We will not stand by and allow pupils to lose ground with peers in countries across the world.’


British private schools dumping GCSEs for tougher O-level-style tests that are seen as better preparation for A-levels

Private schools are ditching GCSEs in record numbers in favour of tougher qualifications based on the old O-level, figures published today show.

They are increasingly turning to International GCSEs, which are seen as better preparation for A-levels despite government reforms to conventional exams.

The number of independent school entries for IGCSEs leapt by 18 per cent this summer to 152,170 – accounting for 38.7 per cent of Year 11 exam entries. In 2010, just 11.1 per cent of private school exam entries were for IGCSEs.

GCSE entries, in comparison, fell from 274,183 last year to 242,181, according to exam data from 552 members of the Independent Schools Council.

More than 400 ISC schools had pupils taking at least one IGCSE.

The country’s top private school for GCSEs this year, North London Collegiate School, has ditched English literature GCSE altogether in favour of an AS-level in the subject.

Deputy head Matthew Shoults said the school always wanted students to ‘take the specifications that are not going to hamper them intellectually and not going to make them jump through hoops’.

At Cheltenham College, pupils study IGCSEs in maths, English language and literature, science, history, geography and modern languages alongside GCSEs in other subjects.

This year, the 111 pupils passed 34.9 per cent of exams at A* and 64.5 per cent at A or A*. Six pupils achieved ten or more A* grades.

Duncan Byrne, the school’s deputy head, said: ‘We believe that the specifications for IGCSE are more academically rigorous.

‘IGCSE, particularly in mathematics and sciences, contains content which is more challenging, and which prepares students better for further study.’

IGCSEs were primarily developed for schools overseas. They became favoured by private schools in the UK because they featured less coursework and more emphasis on exams taken after two years, like the old O-levels.

Their format was echoed in former education secretary Michael Gove’s reform of conventional GCSEs which featured less coursework, bite-sized modules being replaced with traditional end-of-course exams and new curbs placed on resits.

English GCSEs were also subject to major reform, with scores in speaking and listening tests no longer added to the final grade to combat inflated teacher assessment. In the next three years, entirely new GCSEs will be introduced, existing A* to G grades replaced by numbers 1 to 8 and league tables completely revamped.

Barnaby Lenon, chairman of the Independent Schools Council, said there had been a period of ‘turbulence’ for GCSEs, and schools ‘felt confident sticking with what they knew, less affected by some of the changes’.

He said schools may also wait and see what the reformed GCSEs were like, adding: ‘But, obviously, if the new GCSEs are felt by independent schools to be rigorous and a good preparation, there’s no reason why schools won’t switch back.’

The ISC statistics also show that 32.7 per cent of papers were awarded A*s, up from 32 per cent last year. Some 60.6 per cent of entries were graded A* or A, a rise from 60.4 per cent last year.

More than 100 leading schools – including Eton, Harrow and Westminster – have opted out of the ISC tables amid claims they distort education and give parents an incomplete picture.


Monday, September 01, 2014

CA: Pols pass “affirmative consent” law in name of stopping rape

Californian lawmakers passed a law on Thursday requiring universities to adopt "affirmative consent" language in their definitions of consensual sex, part of a nationwide drive to curb sexual assault on U.S. campuses.

The measure, passed unanimously by the California State Senate, has been called the "yes-means-yes" bill. It defines sexual consent between people as "an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity".

The bill states that silence and a lack of resistance do not signify consent and that drugs or alcohol do not excuse unwanted sexual activity.

Governor Jerry Brown must sign the bill into law by the end of September. If he does, it would mark the first time a U.S. state requires such language to be a central tenet of school sexual assault policies, said Claire Conlon, a spokeswoman for State Senator Kevin De Leon, who championed the legislation.

Opponents of the bill say it is politically over-reaching and could push universities into little charted legal waters.

The bill comes amid mounting pressure nationwide by lawmakers, activists and students on universities and colleges to curb sexual assaults on campuses and to reform investigations after allegations are made.

The White House has declared sex crimes to be "epidemic" on U.S. college campuses, with one in five students falling victim to sex assault during their college years.

Universities in California and beyond have already taken steps, including seeking to delineate whether consent has been given beyond 'no means no'.

Harvard University said last month it had created an office to investigate all claims of sexual harassment or sex assault, and that it would lower its evidentiary standard of proof in weighing the cases.

Under California's bill, state-funded colleges and universities must adopt strict policies regarding sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking, among other actions in order to receive financial aid money.

No college or university voiced opposition to the bill, Conlon said.

The U.S. Department of Education in May released a list of 55 colleges -- including three in California -- under investigation to determine whether their handling of sex assaults and harassment violated federal laws put in place to ensure equal treatment in higher education.

The Californian institutions on the list are University of California, Berkeley, Occidental College and the University of Southern California.


A Common-Sense Approach to Common Core, Part II: Third-Grade Fractions

This article is the second in a series that provides alternate and common-sense interpretations of the Common Core math standards.

In the first article,  I said Common Core (CC) lends itself to interpretations along reform math ideology, an ineffective method of teaching math that focuses on long, drawn-out ways to solve problems. In the wake of that first article, I have been asked, “How so, when the standards are touted as being neutral and not dictating pedagogy”? It is so because publishers, test makers, and schools take neutrality as a signal that techniques that caused many of our nation’s current math problems in the first place—and which many thought CC would fix—are to continue. On top of so-called neutrality, throw in Common Core’s Standards for Mathematical Practice, which require students to “explain” and “understand,” and the perfect storm exists to institutionalize the problems. In exchange, we get some expectations of  “procedural fluency” that will not be defined until we see the actual tests.

People have also asked: “If reform math techniques are being followed (and enforced) and the test-makers are essentially testing to the teach (my phrase, not the readers’) why then would anyone want to follow the alternative approaches you have been writing about here?”

It’s a valid question. Here is my answer. I’m not saying to abandon the standards. I’m showing how the standards can be taught in ways that make sense, and in ways that have for many years been taught with success. I advise that teachers rearrange the order of some CC standards to impart standard algorithms earlier, rather than later. The practices we are seeing written about on the Internet that require students to draw endless pictures for every problem are not dictated by Common Core, and even a lead writer of the standards (William McCallum) has said so.

I also point out that the approach I write about is not the only alternative—it is offered as a suggestion that may lead teachers to other equally sensible approaches. I welcome hearing other approaches. But we’re still left with the question: Where does this all leave us with respect to standardized tests, which may require reform math approaches to problems, as well as “explanations” and demonstrations of “understanding”? Of interest here is that PISA, the international exam that is given every several years, is essentially constructed along the same reform math principles; it tests for students’ ability to apply prior knowledge in new situations. Interestingly, the nations that teach math in the traditional fashion seem to do quite well. Basic foundational skills enable more thinking than a conglomeration of “rote understandings.”


Ofsted will mark down schools that refuse to teach all pupils five 'core' GCSEs, Tories pledge

All children should study a “core” of five traditional subjects until the age of 16 under plans to be set out in the Conservative election manifesto.

State schools will be urged to enrol all pupils for GCSEs in English, maths, science, a language and history or geography.

Head teachers who ignore the system will be penalised by Ofsted. The education watchdog will be banned from awarding its higher ratings of “good” and “outstanding” to any school that refuses to comply with the drive to boost traditional academic subjects.

The pledge is likely to be controversial among teachers who have enrolled pupils in less academic subjects, which experts say are easier to pass, to maximise their school’s position in league tables.

Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, told The Telegraph that the “presumption” that all children should study the core subjects would help address inequalities in the education system. While most children in wealthier areas already study academic subjects, many in poorer areas do not, limiting the children’s career choices.

“We want students to be able to keep their options open for as long as possible in terms of what they are going to do after school or college,” Mrs Morgan said.

“In selective schools or schools with a low proportion of free school meals, that is what they are already doing. But that is not always happening in less advantaged areas.” Under the Tory proposals, Ofsted could give a “good” or “outstanding” rating only to a school that enrols all its pupils in the core GCSE subjects, which together form the new “English Baccalaureate”.

“These core academic subjects offer children great opportunities,” Mrs Morgan said. “They are what universities are looking for.”

Mrs Morgan said she was keen to promote maths.

“I want to make it clear to pupils how important maths is, in terms of earnings and keeping career options open.”

Mrs Morgan said parents had a responsibility to encourage their children to take traditional academic subjects.

The minister, who replaced Michael Gove in the recent reshuffle, promised to allow popular schools to expand.

She said: “I want to work with schools and authorities to look at the provision of places. We want good schools to expand and Free Schools are very much a part of that.”


Sunday, August 31, 2014

TX: Some teachers packing heat, school district signs alert visitors

A school district outside Dallas will reportedly continue to allow some teachers to carry guns in school, and posted signs on school campuses warning that teachers "may use whatever force is necessary to protect our students."

NewFix's CW33 reported that Argyle teachers will continue to be allowed to be armed on campus under the state's Protection of Texas Children Act.

The report said these gun-toting teachers are required to have a handgun license, pass a psychological test and go through emergency response training.

"I trust that the administrators of this school district will put my kid's best interest at heart," one parent told the station.

The district policy was passed in January. Telena Wright, the district superintendent, said at the time that "armed staff answers the question. What about the first 1 to 2 minutes in [a] crisis situation where there’s an armed shooter? That seems to be a horrific situation that all schools across the nation are attempting to address," The Denton Record-Chronicle reported.


Authority Unlimited

Authority today, and by that I mean mostly those invested with political power, the government, its elected officials, agents, bureaucrats, and employees, seem to be, in many instances, just making up the rules as they go along, without regard to the law, the constitution and the fundamental rights of the people.

So we have Authority run amok; Authority unlimited.

Nowhere is this phenomenon more apparent, in my opinion, that in America’s public schools. Today’s school boards, superintendants, principals, administrators and teachers believe that they have the power and the authority, irrespective of the law, to run their institutions like penitentiaries.

Students and parents, the hapless victims of the system, enjoy no rights. They are compelled by law to participate and when they participate they’re expected shed their fundamental constitutional rights at the school house door.

Last week, high school freshman, Alex Stone, was actually arrested by the police and punished by school administrators for the “crime” of handing in class writing assignment in which he used the word “gun.”

Mind you, this kid didn’t bring a loaded gun to school. He didn’t threaten anyone with a gun. No one at the school was in any kind of danger because of a gun. There was absolutely no harm done; no potential harm; no reason for any concern on the part of his teacher or principal; no reason to call the cops; to have him arrested; to punish him – no reason whatsoever to exercise malevolent authority over him.

All he did was use the word “gun” in his class writing assignment. He wrote an imaginary tale about buying a gun to kill a dinosaur. It was supposed to be an amusing fantasy. It was a joke. There was no dinosaur. Dinosaurs don’t exist nowadays. He doesn’t own a gun, doesn’t have a gun. He simply wrote about an imaginary gun. He put the word “gun” on a sheet of paper and for that the police came swooping down upon him at school; he’s arrested and punished like a common criminal.

Now all of that is bad enough, but I’m left wondering in this matter about where in the world the school found the legal authority to do what they did to this innocent kid. Where in the world did the cops find the legal authority to arrest this innocent kid?

As far as I know there is no law on the books anywhere in the United States of America that calls what this kid did as a crime. There is no law that says the writing of the word “gun” on a sheet of paper is a crime.

Even if there were such a law it would be patently unconstitutional since everyone in America, including school children enjoys the fundamental First Amendment constitutional right of freedom of speech, and freedom of speech includes the right to write the word “gun” a sheet of paper; to write a fictional story about using a gun to “take care of” an imaginary dinosaur.

Guns are legal products in the United States of America. The Second Amendment confers upon Americans the right to bear arms and that means the right to own, use, and yes, even talk about using guns. No school administrator has the authority to punish a student for talking about a “gun.”

That school and those cops deliberately, and totally without justification, violated this kid’s fundamental constitutional rights. They’re just making up the rules as they go along without any regard to their actual legal authority. After cops were called they searched Alex's locker and book bag. The school suspended Alex for three days.

 “I regret it because they put it on my record, but I don’t see the harm in it,” Alex told reporters. “I think there might have been a better way of putting it, but I think me writing like that, it shouldn’t matter unless I put it out toward a person.” The boy’s lawyer declared in a statement that this “is a perfect example of ‘political correctness’ that has exceeded the boundaries of common sense.”

The Police Department defended the arrest. Of course they did. They said Alex was charged with disorderly conduct when he became disruptive after school officials confronted him about what he wrote. “The charges do not stem from anything involving a dinosaur or writing assignment, but the student’s conduct,” Capt. Jon Rogers said. 

The cops knew they had no legal authority to arrest this kid for the “crime” of writing about a gun. So they found a pretext to arrest him – and search his locker and book bag -- for another “crime” – the “crime” of asserting his constitutional rights to the “Authority.” Those cops should have known as well that school authorities had no justification to confront this innocent kid.

This is all about Authority run amok; Authority unlimited.


Classes of 70, four-year-olds forced to commute for three hours and a roof turned into a playground: Why no one will admit immigration is the reason Britain's primary schools are bursting at the seams

Next Tuesday at 6.50am, Olivia will leave home to begin the first leg of her three-hour daily commute. The journey will cost £35 a week and involve no less than three buses each way — assuming, of course, that everything runs smoothly.

Even for the most dedicated employee, it’s not the best way to start and finish a busy day. But for a four-year-old beginning school for the first time, it could hardly be less appropriate.

Due to over-crowding at her local primary school, that is the situation Olivia finds herself in — a situation that her mother, Melissa Stowe, is understandably furious about.

‘The first day at school is meant to be one you are excited about, but we are dreading it,’ says 22-year-old Melissa, who together with her eight-month-old daughter Daisy will accompany Olivia on the daily trip to and from school.

‘I am really worried that she will be exhausted and that she will hate the journey and not want to go.’

Melissa had wanted to send her older child to a primary school in the village of Methley, West Yorkshire, a ten-minute walk from home. But in April she was informed by the local council that Olivia could not go there because it was over-subscribed.

The same applied to two other nearby schools, meaning that in the end she was allocated a place at a school that she has to travel to via a complicated five-mile bus journey.

This year, one in eight — more than 76,000 children — were turned away by their first-choice school while 22,500 did not get a place at any of their preferred schools. In some areas the situation was much worse — in London’s Kensington and Chelsea, four out of ten missed out on first-choice schools.

The reason is simple — in these areas there are too many children applying for too few places.

And it is not just those forced to accept second-best who will feel hard done-by. As schools re-open across the country next week, pupils will find themselves crammed into temporary classrooms erected on playgrounds or shoe-horned into converted gyms and rented office space.

One school in Merseyside is now so short of room it has even had to create a roof-top playground, while another is considering teaching the children in shifts — one half in the morning, the other in the afternoon.

It all means that instead of entering a small, intimate learning environment, for many four and five-year-olds their first taste of formal education will be in establishments with more than 100 pupils in each school year.

Indeed, in the past 12 months, the number of so-called ‘supersize’ primaries with more than 800 pupils has risen from 58 to 77.

At the same time the total number of infant classes exceeding the supposed top limit of 30 pupils has more than doubled to 549.

It emerged this month from the Department for Education’s statistics that six primary schools had pupils crammed into classes of over 70.

How, then, is it that the provision of places continues to fall so badly short of demand?

The answer is that successive governments have singularly failed to react to the baby boom that is now convulsing the education system. While this spike in the birth-rate is partly due to women born in the late-Sixties and early-Seventies delaying motherhood, the main driver has been the decade of open-door immigration overseen by New Labour.

Between 2000 and 2010, the numbers attending English state nursery and primary schools actually fell — from 4.3 million to 3.9 million a year. During this time, 1,000 primary schools were closed.

But at the same time, official government statistics clearly indicated that the decline in numbers would soon be dramatically reversed.

Over the course of that decade, the number of births in England and Wales increased by 22 per cent. The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) — the number of children born per woman — steadily increased from 1.63 in 2001 to 2.0 in 2010. Again, immigration was one of the main drivers of this.

In 2000, 15 per cent of all births in the UK were to mothers born outside the country — in 2010, it had risen to more than 25 per cent. This is because the number of foreign-born women living here has increased, and also because they have more children than British-born women, since they are more likely to be aged 25 to 34, when fertility is at its highest.

Research by the Office of National Statistics has revealed that in 2011 the TFR was 1.84 for UK-born women and 2.21 for women born outside the UK. Women born in Romania had a TFR of 2.93, the highest of any EU country, while Polish women contributed the largest number of babies.

And it is not a trend that is likely to reverse any time soon. On Thursday, the ONS released figures that showed net migration to Britain has surged by 68,000 in the past year to 243,000.

That means that projections about future demand could already be too low.

The Department for Education has predicted that the number of pupils at primary schools will rise this decade from 4,305,000 to 4,684,000 — a growth of 8.8 per cent. The rise is equal to another 1,440 average–sized primary schools.

Much of the pressure is being felt in urban areas up and down the country, where migrants are more likely to settle.

In Sheffield, the annual birth rate has increased from 5,500 to 7,000 in the past decade. In Peterborough, the reception intake has increased from 2,100 in 2007 to 3,000 last year.

And in Bournemouth the number of children starting school leapt from 1,347 in 2006 to 1,924 last year.

The figures for London are particularly revealing as to the nature of the changing school population. While nationally, one in five primary school pupils have a first language other than English, in inner-London the figure now exceeds 50 per cent.

No clearer demonstration of all these trends — and their consequences — is to be found than at Gascoigne Primary School in Barking, East London, a borough that has seen a 60 per cent rise in the birth rate and a doubling of the foreign-born population in the past decade.

To cope with demand, in the past six years the school has had to create 13 new classrooms after pupil numbers soared by 50 per cent from 800 to 1,200.

Eight mobile classrooms have been placed in the playground, with a further five permanently built. One of these is placed on ‘stilts’ above the main entrance to save space.

The primary, the biggest in the country, has lost all its playing fields and at times has had to sacrifice its music-room and library for extra teaching space.

The latest casualty is the school’s IT suite, which has had to make way for an extra dining room to accommodate Nick Clegg’s new free school meals initiative for pupils under seven. The 1,200 children are split into 39 classes, and the school, which has 150 staff, runs with military precision on a rota of lunchtimes, lessons and play.

There are three assemblies a day — two in the morning and one after lunch — because the children cannot all fit into the school hall at once.

As for the playground, it is rationed into six shifts, while lunchtime is staggered from 11.45am to 1.20pm.

Sixty different languages are spoken at Gascoigne and more than 90 per cent of pupils have English as an additional language.

One third are Eastern European and a third are African.

‘I’m not going to pretend there aren’t difficulties, but you have to overcome them,’ admits head-teacher Bob Barton, 61. ‘There is no doubt that we are overcrowded. There is no way we can take any more children.’

And there are plans for Bristol Cathedral Choir Primary School, the city’s most over-subscribed primary, to move from its temporary base into several unused floors at the city’s central library.

That mirrors steps taken in Brighton, East Sussex, where the former Hove police station has been converted into a satellite school to accommodate 500 pupils.

For parents, of course, the main worry is that as more and more children are packed into ever-larger schools, their offspring’s education and well-being will suffer.

A survey this week by online parenting forum Netmums found that one in five parents think schools are squeezing too many children into classes.

Similar numbers told of their unease that their child might get ‘lost’ in the school system and not get the individual attention they needed.

Because while the Government may claim that it is giving unprecedented sums of money to councils to cope with growing demand (£5 billion over the course of this Parliament), on the ground, parents simply cannot understand why more was not done sooner to cope with an entirely predictable problem.

Nor why four-year-old Olivia, and tens of thousands of children like her, can’t begin their school life at their local school — and in primaries that are nurturing, rather than plain enormous.


Friday, August 29, 2014

USDA: Yucky School Lunches Can Produce 'Civic-Minded, Community-Conscious Adults'

Who imagined that the Obama administration's effort to make school lunches more nutritious (but less delicious) would encourage children to become little community organizers?

The U.S. Agriculture Department has found an upside to all those "healthy" school lunches that students refuse to eat: It says schools can use the plate waste as a "learning opportunity" to turn young students into "civic-minded, community-conscious adults."

A blog on the USDA website explains that an elementary school in Northern Virginia is now donating untouched food to a local food pantry.

"The school’s Eco Team, run by sixth graders, ensures their fellow students are putting waste into the correct bin," the blog says.

"The team then collects, weighs, categorizes, and places the food to be donated into separate refrigerators, provided by the Food Bus, a non-profit organization that works with schools to donate food that would otherwise go to waste.

"At the end of the week, PTA members or community volunteers deliver the food to the local food pantry."

USDA says the 12 schools that worked with the Virginia-based Food Bus in the last school year provided 13,502 pounds of food to local pantries. The donations included packaged peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, bananas and apples, yogurt, string cheese, containers of apple sauce and sliced peaches, granola bars, and cartons of milk.

According to USDA, "Food waste and recovery is also incorporated into science lesson plans."

And Food Bus founder Kathleen Weil was quoted as saying that children "are not only  learning how to not throw away their food and add it to the national waste stream, but they’re learning that it can be used by someone who is hungry. They are getting a little spark of community service now that may have an impact in their life and the lives of the many people around them when they are adults."

The USDA says schools can reduce plate waste with simple rule changes, such as serving lunch after recess; giving vegetables appealing names, such as "creamy corn"; and establishing a "healthy options only" convenience line.

"By implementing these ideas, schools play a vital role in scaling back the amount of food taking up precious landfill space. More importantly, if a school uses food waste as a learning opportunity, it instills better habits in our young people and produces more civic-minded, community-conscious adults."

The blog also quotes Anne Rosenbaum, a elementary school science specialist, as saying that some students "really have an affinity" for food donation.

"They want to go to the food pantry to see how it works. Their parents call in to help volunteer because the kids are so interested. We laugh because our Eco Team and Eco Patrols get blue rubber gloves so that if they find people who have thrown something in the wrong bin they can put it in the right one.  They take their jobs really seriously.”

The USDA says it takes around six months to set up a food recovery program, and it is urging urges schools to share their food recovery stories by joining the "U.S. Food Waste Challenge."


LA: Jindal reportedly to sue federal government over Common Core

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration in federal court Wednesday, claiming that the Department of Education has illegally manipulated grant money and regulations to force states to adopt the controversial Common Core standards.

In the suit, Jindal argues that the Education Department's $4.3 billion grant program "effectively forces states down a path toward a national curriculum" in violation of the state sovereignty clause in the Constitution and federal laws that prohibit national control of education content. The suit asks a judge to declare the department's actions unconstitutional and to keep it from disqualifying states from receiving Race to the Top funds based on a refusal to use Common Core or to participate in one of two state testing consortia tied to the department's grant program.

The legal challenge puts Jindal, who is considering a 2016 presidential bid, at the forefront of a dispute between conservatives and President Barack Obama, bolstering the governor's profile on the issue as he's trying to court conservative voters nationwide.

"The federal government has hijacked and destroyed the Common Core initiative," Jindal said in a statement. "Common Core is the latest effort by big government disciples to strip away state rights and put Washington, D.C., in control of everything."

The Common Core standards are math and English benchmarks describing what students should know after completing each grade. They were developed by states to allow comparison of students' performance. More than 40 states, including Louisiana, have adopted them.

When the state education board adopted the standards in 2010, Jindal supported them, saying they would help students to better prepare for college and careers. He reversed course earlier this year, however, and now says he opposes the standards because they are an effort by the Obama administration to meddle in state education policy.

The governor's change of heart is not shared by lawmakers, the state education board and his hand-picked education superintendent, all of whom refuse to jettison Common Core from Louisiana's classrooms. Jindal tried to derail use of the standards by suspending testing contracts, but a state judge lifted that suspension, calling the governor's actions harmful to parents, teachers and students.

Turning to federal court represents a new tactic in Jindal's efforts to undermine Louisiana's use of the standards.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has criticized the governor's opposition to Common Core as politically driven. In a June interview with "CBS This Morning," the secretary said of Jindal's switched position: "It's about politics, it's not about education."

The Obama administration embraced the standards and encouraged states to adopt them as part of the application process for the Race to the Top grant program. Two state testing consortia -- the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium -- received $330 million from the grant program to develop standardized testing material tied to Common Core.

"Louisiana now finds itself trapped in a federal scheme to nationalize curriculum," the lawsuit says. "What started as good state intentions has materialized into the federalization of education policy through federal economic incentives and duress."

Louisiana received more than $17 million from Race to the Top and joined the PARCC consortium. It also received a waiver from certain federal education requirements under a program enacted by the Obama administration in 2011 that Jindal's lawsuit says was designed to coerce states to use Common Core or risk the loss of billions in federal education funding.


Private schools for the poor

The accepted wisdom is that private schools serve the privileged; everyone else, especially the poor, requires public school. The poor, so this logic goes, need government assistance if they are to get a good education, which helps explain why, in the United States, many school choice enthusiasts believe that the only way the poor can get the education they deserve is through vouchers or charter schools, proxies for those better private or independent schools, paid for with public funds.

But if we reflect on these beliefs in a foreign context and observe low-income families in underprivileged and developing countries, we find these assumptions lacking: the poor have found remarkably innovative ways of helping themselves, educationally, and in some of the most destitute places on Earth have managed to nurture a large and growing industry of private schools for themselves.

For the past two years I have overseen research on such schools in India, China, and sub-Saharan Africa. The project, funded by the John Templeton Foundation, was inspired by a serendipitous discovery of mine while I was engaged in some consulting work for the International Finance Corporation, the private finance arm of the World Bank. Taking time off from evaluating an elite private school in Hyderabad, India, I stumbled on a crowd of private schools in slums behind the Charminar, the 16th-century tourist attraction in the central city. It was something that I had never imagined, and I immediately began to wonder whether private schools serving the poor could be found in other countries. That question eventually took me to five countries—Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, India, and China—and to dozens of different rural and urban locales, all incredibly poor. Since the data gathered from Lagos, Nigeria, and Delhi, India, are not yet fully analyzed, this article reports on findings only from Gansu Province, China; Ga, Ghana; Hyderabad, India; and Kibera, Kenya. These are in vastly different settings, but my research teams and I found large numbers of private schools for low-income families, many of which showed measurable achievement advantage over government schools serving equally disadvantaged students


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Pediatricians’ group: School should not start before 8:30 a.m.

Pediatricians have a new prescription for schools: later start
times for teens.

Delaying the start of the school day until at least 8:30 a.m. would help curb their lack of sleep, which has been linked with poor health, bad grades, car crashes and other problems, the American Academy of Pediatrics says in a new policy.

The influential group says teens are especially at risk; for them, "chronic sleep loss has increasingly become the norm."

Studies have found that most U.S. students in middle school and high school don't get the recommended amount of sleep — 8½ to 9½ hours on school nights; and that most high school seniors get an average of less than seven hours.

More than 40 percent of the nation's public high schools start classes before 8 a.m., according to government data cited in the policy. And even when the buzzer rings at 8 a.m., school bus pickup times typically mean kids have to get up before dawn if they want that ride.

"The issue is really cost," said Kristen Amundson, executive director of the National Association of State Boards of Education.

School buses often make multiple runs each morning for older and younger students. Adding bus drivers and rerouting buses is one of the biggest financial obstacles to later start times, Amundson said. The roughly 80 school districts that have adopted later times tend to be smaller, she said.

After-school sports are another often-cited obstacle because a later dismissal delays practices and games. The shift may also cut into time for homework and after-school jobs, Amundson said.

The policy, aimed at middle schools and high schools, was published online Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

Evidence on potential dangers for teens who get too little sleep is "extremely compelling" and includes depression, suicidal thoughts, obesity, poor performance in school and on standardized tests and car accidents from drowsy driving, said Dr. Judith Owens, the policy's lead author and director of sleep medicine at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

The policy cites studies showing that delaying start times can lead to more nighttime sleep and improve students' motivation in class and mood. Whether there are broader, long-term benefits requires more research, the policy says.

Many administrators support the idea but haven't resolved the challenges, said Amundson. She said the pediatricians' new policy likely will have some influence.

Parents seeking a change "will come now armed with this report," Amundson said.

Amundson is a former Virginia legislator and teacher who also served on the school board of Virginia's Fairfax County, near Washington, D.C. Owens, the policy author, has been working with that board on a proposal to delay start times. A vote is due in October and she's optimistic about its chances.

"This is a mechanism through which schools can really have a dramatic, positive impact for their students," Owens said.


For-profit colleges: Felonies or feeding frenzy?

For-profit colleges have been feeling a lot of heat over the last few years, and likely some of it has been fueled by politicians driven as much by politics or ideology as concerns about a uniquely awful higher ed sector.  That said, for-profits do have some atrocious outcomes, and no doubt some have very shady practices. So how does the public know if attacks on specific for-profits are about real malfeasance, or about politicians – including lots of attorneys general — trying to make names for themselves by aggressively going after easily demonized schools?

The answer, alas, is that it is essentially impossible for anyone who isn’t able to devote oodles of hours investigating the dealings of individual schools, and wading into the voluminous regulations that come, especially, with federal student aid. So is Corinthian really awful — deserving, essentially, of a federal death sentence – but the City College of San Francisco an obvious victim of a cruel, merciless accreditor? Or is one taken down because it is easily caricatured as uncaring and money-grubbing, while the other is defended because, thanks to its nonprofit status, it seems innocent? Who knows, unless one can wade deep into the operations and outcomes of both schools?

Importantly, on a macro level the evidence is pretty solid that all sectors of higher ed feature serious waste, failure, and profit-taking, which should make anyone suspicious of attacks only on openly for-profit schools. That said, look at the proprietary sector and there is little question that many of those schools truly aren’t producing decent outcomes. The question, then, is how do you weed out bad schools without opening up the potentially huge problem of politically driven “accountability”?

There is only one answer: make people pay for college with their own money, or funds they get voluntarily from others. In so doing, restore incentives for people to think long and hard about where they go to school and what they study, and eliminate the need for people other than those consuming the education – largely bureaucrats and politicians – to be in charge of accountability. It would provide the best outcomes not only for decent schools that shouldn’t be subjected to political feeding frenzies, but also prospective students who would no longer be encouraged to overpay for schools or studies that would ultimately hurt them – and taxpayers – more than they would help.


Australia: School chaplain funding to go ahead despite High Court decision

THE Abbott government has moved to circumvent a High Court decision, allowing school chaplains to still be funded in schools.

In June the High Court ruled the scheme’s funding was not constitutional, awarding a Queensland father Ron Williams his second victory against the Commonwealth.

But today the Coalition has announced the program will go ahead, but instead of giving funding directly to schools, it will flow to states and territories.

In a statement, Parliamentary Secretary Scott Ryan said he would be writing to state and territory leaders “in the near future” inviting them to participate.

The scheme, which sees schools given $20,000, will still be exempt from secular workers.

“The Government believes that school chaplains make a valuable contribution to the wellbeing of students and school communities,” Senator Ryan said.

“I encourage State and Territory Governments to accept the invitation of the Commonwealth to participate in the National School Chaplaincy Programme and give all schools the chance to apply for funding for a school chaplain.”

Labor had opened the program up to secular workers, but the Coalition reversed that decision when announcing an extra $245 million over four years in the May budget.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Closer Look at the Botched Common Core Results

Misleading title aside, the Buffalo News report was not good. “Students in Buffalo statewide make modest gains in math,” declared an article in the New York newspaper detailing the results from the second year of Common Core implementation. Well yes, math scores did overall improve. But, the rest of the report was not quite so rosy:

Despite another full year of preparation by schools after the rollout of state Common Core tests in 2013, there were no dramatic, across-the-board gains in English this year. Large-city districts saw slight year-to-year improvement, but wealthier suburban districts statewide actually saw overall declines on the English exam.

The detailed grade proficiency results in New York from 2012 through 2014 are downright embarrassing. Even the most successful schools weren’t spared from Common Core. Take Ledgeview Elementary School, for example. This school boasted a 91.2 percent proficiency in 2012 for third grade math. The next year, those scores slid down to 76.3 percent. It ticked back up slightly in 2014 to 82 percent, but that was small consolation.

City Honors School, a top rated school in the state, had an impressive 90.2 percent proficiency in eighth grade ELA in 2012. That shot down to 80.4 percent in 2013.

Orchard Park Middle School experienced a swift decline as well. Eighth grade ELA in 2012: 77 percent proficiency, 2013: 58.1 percent, 2014: 52 percent.

Most tragically, the schools already struggling were hit hardest by the new program. The Harriet Ross Tubman Academy, which had a 25.7 percent in third grade math, is now down to two percent.

While Buffalo had minor gains overall, the main issue is worth repeating:

The minor gains in Buffalo were carried by a relatively small number of schools, with the vast majority showing little to no improvement.

Many suburban schools saw significant declines in their eighth-grade scores this year. In Clarence, 52 percent of eighth-graders were proficient in English this year, compared with 64 percent the previous year. The decline was more dramatic in math – 30 percent were proficient this year, compared to 59 percent last year.

Despite these undeniably poor results, State Education Commissioner John King said this year’s statewide scores are “encouraging.”

I guess these students have to bring home ‘F’s to their parents before King dares to criticize the new program.

Unlike King, many parents and teachers are now rejecting the new Common Core standards. In a new poll released by PDK International and Gallup, 60 percent of those surveyed said they oppose the educational standards. What’s more, an education journal named Education Next found that 76 percent of teachers supported Common Core last year, but in 2014, that number has dropped to 46 percent.

In addition to hurting test scores, Common Core is threatening children's educational foundations with its misleading lessons. Take, for instance, the program's take on American history. Rebecca wrote about Common Core’s new standards for the AP US History exam, which leaves out inspiring details about our Founding Fathers and portrays America in a negative light.

Every state should take Governor Bobby Jindal’s (R-LA) lead. The Louisiana governor is fighting to delay Common Core implementation in his state. Although a judge recently ruled  against his efforts, Jindal is taking the right steps to try and defend these educators' freedom to teach as they wish, without worrying about these government standards.

Common Core is not in the best interests of students or teachers. How many more bad grades do children have to receive before the program is scrapped?


NC: Judge rules private school vouchers unconstitutional

A new school voucher program for low-income families was ruled unconstitutional Thursday by a judge who said taxpayer money should not be used for tuition to private or religious schools.

The vouchers pay for students to attend privately run K-12 schools that do not have to meet state curriculum requirements, violating the state constitution, Wake County Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood said.

"Appropriating taxpayer funds to unaccountable schools does not accomplish a public purpose," Hobgood said.

A teachers group and many of the state's 115 school boards challenged the voucher program. Advocates said they planned to appeal.

At least a dozen states and the District of Columbia provide state-funded school vouchers, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The State Educational Assistance Authority, which was given the task of managing $10 million in government-funded scholarships, planned to distribute the first $728,000 in tuition money to schools for 363 students on Tuesday. None of that money was given out, said the agency's grants director Elizabeth McDuffie.

Iris McElveen, 45, of Fayetteville got the news of the judge's ruling as she was running back-to-school errands, including a visit to the doctor's office. She'd already bought a uniform and school supplies for her 12-year-old son, who enrolled at a Christian school ready to accept the state payment.

"It's very stressful," said McElveen, a single mother whose three older children are in high school and college.

McElveen sought to send her son to the religious school because it "would have been a more one-on-one" than the charter school, where she said "the classes were too, too large. He was getting overlooked."

Hobgood blocked the state voucher program in February until there could be a trial. The state Supreme Court reversed him in May and allowed implementation to go ahead.

In June, the state agency moved up the date to distribute tuition funding so that it could do it before Hobgood's ruling. Executive director Steven Brooks said the agency decided distributing the money sooner was better, not that they wanted to get out ahead of the judge.

The program's supporters hoped an appeal would let the vouchers continue, said Darrell Allison, president of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina.

"While this court decision might represent a temporary roadblock on the path towards educational freedom in North Carolina, I believe it's just that — temporary," Allison said in a statement. "We're going to continue to fight for a parent's right to choose the educational setting that works best for their children."

The group Public Schools First NC praised the ruling.

"This upholds North Carolina's long-standing commitment to public education. Public education creates productive citizens, a strong economy, and a great democracy," Yevonne Brannon, the group's chairwoman, said in an emailed statement.

Children seeking the scholarships must qualify for the federal free or reduced-price school lunch program, which has an income limit of about $44,000 for a family of four. The grants aren't available to students already attending private schools.

The General Assembly set aside $10 million last year to give up to $4,200 each for up to 2,400 students. About 5,550 children applied for the lottery to select the first year's scholarship students, and of those 4,200 met the criteria to qualify, McDuffie said. Nearly 1,880 lottery-winning families had accepted vouchers by Thursday, she said.


Summerville Police arrest student for writing he shot dead dinosaur

YOU don’t need to be a Rhodes Scholar to know that dinosaurs became extinct about 66 million years ago.

Yet a high school student’s statement that he shot dead his neighbour’s pet dinosaur saw police officers called to the school.
Alex Stone, a 16-year-old student at Summerville High School in the town of Summerville in South Carolina, said that his class was asked to write a few sentences about themselves and to list a “status” as if they were filling in their Facebook page, WCSC-TV reported.

The teen wrote “I killed my neighbour’s pet dinosaur.” In the status section, he said he wrote: “I bought the gun to take care of the business.”

That prompted the school to call in Summerville Police Department. Stone was arrested and later charged with disorderly conduct after he argued with officers, who searched fruitlessly for a gun in his school bag and locker. He has also been suspended from school.
Stone’s mother, Karen Gray, is angry that she was not called before the police.

“I could understand if they made him rewrite it because he did have ‘gun’ in it,” she said.

“(But) I mean first of all we don’t have dinosaurs anymore. Second of all, he’s not even old enough to buy a gun.”

Stone said he meant no harm and is surprised his words could be construed that way.

“I regret it because they put it on my record, but I don’t see the harm in it,” he said. “I think there might have been a better way of putting it, but I think me writing like that, it shouldn’t matter unless I put it out towards a person.”


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The New, Shameful, Liberal High School History Curriculum

Imagine if the only thing you were taught by Advanced Placement curriculum about Thomas Jefferson, the author of the single most important document in our country’s history, was that he was a wealthy landowner.

CollegeBoard, the issuer of Advanced Placement Exams has been condemned by the Republic National Committee for their newly revised Advanced Placement U.S. History exam and framework for “reflect[ing] a radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation's history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects."

Some of our most influential historical figures are hardly mentioned, if at all.

George Washington is alluded to only once in the framework and it is in reference to his farewell address. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams are mentioned only in the “Long Essay Questions” section, where they are listed as examples to illustrate the lack of change in the upper class in the pre-Revolution and post-Revolution world.

College Board gave this example in a practice AP essay given by students:

 “[A good essay] might note, for example, that the outcome of the American Revolution saw no broad change in the composition of those who dominated the social, political, and economic structure of the former colonies. Those individuals who were wealthy, powerful, and influential before the event continued to possess wealth, power, and influence later. George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson could serve as examples.”

This new framework shows U.S. history in a negative light. It also has expanded the curriculum from five to 98 pages, allowing teachers less flexibility and making it harder for them to fulfill their state’s social studies standards.

While the new curriculum may be more “left-leaning,” I have had my own experiences with this issue specifically. Having taken AP US History last year, I experienced first-hand College Board curriculum. Even though the new standards had not yet been applied, I still could see how the most admirable aspects of our country’s history were often downplayed. This also could have been due to my very liberal teacher, who once when someone asked “Was Gerald Ford a Republican?” she replied saying, “Yes, wait what did you say?” After the question was repeated, my teacher said “Oh, I thought you asked if he was a bumpkin… although I can’t say that I would have changed my answer.” Or when we were discussing the 2008 election, she said “Oh well I hope none of you would have voted for Sarah Palin!” Don’t get me wrong, she was a great teacher, but the fact that her perspective was so biased, and the fact that I got a 5/5 on the exam, is indicative of how left-leaning the exam has become.

But that’s nothing compared to the new standards. How shameful and absurd that George Washington and the other founding fathers’ unprecedented and truly revolutionary vision is not highlighted.

While I intend to continue my study of US history in college, for many of those who got a high enough score on the exam, they may never have to take a US history class again.

 “Those who don’t go on to college to take US history in college, this is it. So, if this is the impression they come away with, I’m afraid that we are creating a cynical generation.”

College Board’s new framework and exam for AP US History are set to be implemented in the fall of 2014.


Most Americans Not Cool With Illegal Immigrants In Local Schools

President Obama has been very quietly distributing illegal immigrant children throughout the country, most of the time without even telling (much less asking) state and local governments. States such as Indiana and Virginia are now having to deal with the issue of allowing the immigrants to attend local schools.

Unsurprisingly, Americans are none too happy knowing these undocumented immigrants will be attending school alongside their children. According to a recent Rasmussen Reports poll:

Thirty-two percent (32%) of Likely U.S. Voters think these illegal immigrants should be allowed to enroll in local public schools this fall, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Fifty-three percent (53%) disagree and say they should not be permitted to attend local schools. Fourteen percent (14%) are undecided.

Where these illegal immigrants are now living remains unknown to most voters and many elected officials because the Obama administration has been transferring them secretly. Forty-seven percent (47%) of all voters believe the administration should have gotten the approval of elected officials in a state before housing the illegal immigrants there. Thirty-two percent (32%) feel such approval was not necessary, while 21% are not sure.

Allowing aliens to attend public schools while they reside illegally in our country is, apparently, a law, according to The Daily Signal's Genevieve Wood. Rather than paying to transport, extravagantly housing, and educating these children...we should be sending them home to their families.


UK: The school that proves Michael Gove is right

Success has many fathers, and on Twitter the fight to claim credit for the results at King Solomon Academy has already begun. KSA is an all-through school in Paddington, London, sponsored by ARK, and its results are breathtaking.

First, the context. Twelve per cent of the children at the school have special educational needs, 51.1 per cent are on free school meals and 65.2 per cent don't speak English as their first language. So a challenging cohort, the sort of pupils that critics of Michael Gove's education reforms claim simply cannot manage to get five GCSEs at grade C or above, including maths and English, let alone do well in the EBacc subjects. Expecting children from such deprived backgrounds to study the same curriculum and sit the same exams as children at Eton or Westminster is "elitist".

They're bound to do badly and that, in turn, will damage their "self esteem". Much better to teach working class children useful "life skills", such as how to walk (an actual recommendation made by the deputy general secretary of the ATL). Forcing them to do traditional subjects like History and Geography is "totalitarian".

Okay, so how did they do, these lumpen proles written off as too thick to tackle academically rigorous GCSEs by the teaching unions? Well, to begin with 93 per cent got five A*-C, including maths and English. Not only that, but 95 per cent got A*-B in English Literature and a whopping 75 per cent of the entire GCSE cohort achieved the EBacc benchmark. To give you an idea of what an achievement this is, the percentage of pupils achieving the EBacc benchmark at Rugby last year was 64 per cent.

So how did KSA manage to get such extraordinary results? Well, obviously, the children deserve a lot of the credit, as do their teachers. But would they have done as well if KSA was a local authority school? I visited KSA in January of 2010 when the pupils who've just sat their GCSEs were in Year 7. The school had opened the previous September and one of the remarkable things about it was that the headteacher, Max Haimendorf, was only 28. He was a graduate of the Teach First programme and was taking full advantage of the freedoms KSA enjoyed in virtue of its academy status, particularly the freedom to depart from the national curriculum.

Some people will point out that KSA was set up under the previous government and therefore Labour deserves the credit, not the Coalition. It's certainly true that Labour politicians who championed the academies policy, like Tony Blair and Andrew Adonis, deserve some of the credit for the success of KSA and other, similar schools, such as Mossbourne. But Labour's education spokesmen in this Parliament have been very half-hearted in their support for academies, primarily because they don't want to upset the teaching unions and the Left of the party, who've always been opposed to them.

To give just one example, Andy Burnham told The Guardian that he thought Labour's education reforms had undermined the comprehensive ideal. "Put it this way, I wasn't cheerleading for academies," he said. If Labour now feels embarrassed by its only successful education reform – remember when the 15-year-old girl was booed at the Labour Party Conference because she had the temerity to praise an academy? – it can't now claim credit for the success of KSA.

Gove, by contrast, has promoted academies with a messianic zeal, overseeing the conversion of over 50 per cent of England's secondary schools to academy status. Indeed, free schools are just academies by another name, a point Andrew Adonis has made. In an article for the New Statesman, Adonis defined free schools as "academies without an immediate predecessor state school". By that definition, KSA is a free school.

But the essential point is that KSA has been doing exactly what Michael Gove would like all schools to be doing, namely, teaching every child a knowledge-based, subject-specific curriculum and expecting each of them to achieve the same standard as a child at a top independent school, regardless of background. This was the original vision behind comprehensives, which Harold Wilson described as "grammar schools for all", and it's a vision that Gove has kept faith with while Labour and the teaching unions have moved further and further away.

The success of the pupils at KSA proves that teaching all children the best that's been thought and said isn't elitist or discriminatory, it doesn't penalise children from deprived backgrounds or ethnic minorities and it won't damage the "self esteem" of working-class children. It proves something Gove has always known, but the Left appears to have forgotten – that all children are capable of mastering advanced algebra and understanding Shakespeare, not just middle-class children.