Sunday, March 18, 2018

School officials are telling parents the walkout is meant to memorialize the Parkland shooting victims, when in fact it's about pushing gun control legislation

Parents across the country are being urged to let their children participate in the National School Walkout on March 14. Yet, few parents (and kids!) understand the walkout’s true mission. At my children’s elementary school in Northern Virginia, school officials are telling parents the walkout is meant to memorialize the 17 victims of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Yet, according to the National School Walkout website, the real mission of the walkout is to demand Congress pass more restrictive gun laws. The website specifically states: “Students and allies are organizing the national school walkout to demand Congress pass legislation … Congress must take meaningful action … and pass federal gun reform legislation.”

So, the children walking out of the classroom on March 14th won’t be spending the time in quiet prayer or reflection. Instead, school kids (even those in elementary school) are going to be used as props by professional anti-gun activists to push for specific legislation.

Some schools are even aiding in the effort by coordinating with the walkout organizers, providing “safe spaces” for kids who participate in the walkout, promoting the event on school Facebook and Twitter accounts, and allowing school buses to transport kids to and from gun control rallies.

Considering that many public schools are helping to rally more kids to the cause and are even supplying school resources and personnel time to the effort, tax payers should ask: Is this an acceptable use of school funds? More importantly, why is a publicly funded school supporting one side of a very contentious and complex constitutional matter?

Some might even wonder: What other political causes can I expect my public school to promote? Should conservatives in politically red areas of the country expect schools to help transport kids to next year’s March for Life? Or how about for the inauguration on the Mall when Trump is reelected in 2020?

Educators should also be concerned that the politicization of this issue avoids the nuance of what went wrong in Parkland that allowed the terrible shooting to occur, and what policies might actually help prevent the next one.

For instance, we now know that between 2008 and 2017, the Broward County sheriff’s office received 45 calls from concerned citizens related to the Parkland shooter and his brother. Social workers visited the his house multiple times. Yet, none of these reports (which included threats of violence and warnings that these troubled boys had access to weapons) were entered into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). If these many incidents had been logged into NICS, the shooter wouldn’t have passed a background check, and he wouldn’t have been able to purchase a firearm.

This isn’t just a problem in Broward County. According to a 2016 audit by the Justice Department, all 50 states are guilty of not properly submitting records to the database. Even mental health information largely goes unreported. Considering this, parents might want to ask if their own police departments and social service networks are consistently reporting incidents to the NICS.

They also might want to consider that at Parkland, three Broward County Sherriff’s deputies stood down outside the school, which allowed Cruz to continue his killing spree. Pushing for better police training and more effective communication with local schools is another area where parents should focus.

And there are more important areas to explore, such as the actions of the armed school resource officer employed by Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Instead of trying to keep students safe (as he was trained to do), he huddled in a stairwell with his gun holstered. In light of this, parents might want to ask questions about the level of training their school’s resource officers are receiving.

Americans ought to vigorously debate these issues, but we should also recognize that new laws won’t make a difference if they go unenforced. Moreover, there are already 300-plus million guns in the United States. That means regardless of how we restrict gun ownership, we need to be prepared to respond to acts of violence in the future.

Sadly, many parents have decided to pass on these hard questions and instead join a movement that is using children as props in a complex policy issue. We can all agree that children deserve safety and security at school. There are ways to help move toward that goal, but taking advantage of our kids for political ends isn’t one of them.


5 Ways Obama’s Discipline Policy Made Schools Less Effective and Safe

As is typical with so many other policies, federal meddling in what should be a local matter leads to poor results.

This is the conclusion reached Monday by a Heritage Foundation panel about a school discipline initiative, launched by the Obama administration, that suddenly became the subject of national debate after the Feb. 14 massacre at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

A “Dear Colleague” letter from the Department of Education in 2014—designed to crack down on racial disparities in school discipline and reduce the “school to prison pipeline”—created negative unintended consequences, according to Manhattan Institute scholar Max Eden, who was on the panel.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., recently suggested in a memo to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos that the guidance to schools led to “systematic failures” to report the Parkland shooter to legal authorities.

Eden and other panelists explained the specific problems the Obama policy created for schools around the country. They identified these five issues, among others:

1.) Schools Feared Investigation, Adopted Lower Standards for Discipline

Gail Heriot, a University of San Diego School of Law professor and member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, was part of the panel and explained how the Obama administration used the guidance as a potential cudgel against fearful schools.

In particular, Heriot said, the threat of an Education Department investigation had a chilling effect on schools that intended to discipline a minority student in particular.

“If the federal government had said, ‘Don’t discipline minority students unless it’s justified,’ it would have sounded reasonable,” Heriot said.

But how schools read it, she said, is more like “Don’t disciple a minority student unless you’re confident you can persuade some future federal investigator, whose judgment you have no reason to trust, that it was justified.”

The nature of bureaucracy, Heriot said, means that it’s “inevitable” for those trying to follow such guidelines to overreact.

Schools simply avoided disciplining troubled students because they were fearful of being caught up in a costly investigation, panelists said.

Eden, the Manhattan Institute scholar, also spoke about the chilling threat of investigation. The Obama policy was not guidance, he said, “these were orders.”

Any time a school had a racial disparity in school discipline cases, administrators faced an investigation, so the best way to hold down the number of punishments was simply to lower standards, Eden said.

Investigations began as well-intentioned means to find discrimination, Eden said, but after the Obama administration guidance, investigations “became pretext for prosecutions intended to force school districts to adopt lower standards.”

“These investigations hit hundreds of districts, serving millions of students,” Eden said. “The scope of it is breathtaking.”

2.) Unwillingness to Punish Minority Students Put Other Minority Students in Danger

A breakdown of school discipline made it more difficult for serious students to succeed in schools that serve mostly low-income families with high levels of minority students.

Virginia Walden Ford, a visiting fellow at The Heritage Foundation, also runs a program in Little Rock, Arkansas, that mostly serves low-income black and Hispanic students.

Ford described how students in Arkansas that she spoke to would often stay home because they were afraid of other students picking fights, and had concluded that teachers wouldn’t do anything about it.

One girl explained to Ford how students at her school didn’t feel safe “because the kids that were creating a lot of the discipline problems” got “a slap on the hand” instead of real punishments.

“There were no consequences to their actions,” Ford said, and this creates an environment in which good students feel “unsafe.”

Robert Pondiscio, a senior fellow and vice president for external affairs at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, said there are “very good reasons to be concerned about exclusionary discipline, but there are equally good reasons to be concerned about the concern.”

Most educators want students to be more civically engaged, said Pondiscio, a former fifth-grade teacher at a South Bronx public school. But, he said, it sends an awful message to children when the place that they do engage are places where they “feel unsafe, where they are bullied, or, God forbid, harmed, and there’s no meaningful consequence.”

3.) Teachers Feel Like They Have Lost Control

The guidance to schools from the Obama administration took discipline decisions out of teachers’ hands and put them in the hands of bureaucrats, critics said.

The discrepancy in school discipline is based on disparate rates of bad behavior in classrooms—black, white, asian, and other ethnic groups have different levels of discipline problems—and teachers are reacting to this.

Teachers are simply “identifying the students who are actually misbehaving,” Heriot said, “and especially for the worst offenders, it tends to be the same kids.”

“Once prior behavior is taken into account, race drops out as a predictor, entirely,” Heriot said.

But now it’s more difficult for teachers to use their best judgment to discipline students and it’s leading classrooms to get out of control, panelists said.

Classrooms are becoming a “battleground,” not a “safe haven,” Ford said.

“We’ve seen it since the Obama administration policy: Teachers are afraid to do anything, say anything,” Ford said, adding, “They’re not safe because they can’t make decisions on how to discipline kids.”

Students who misbehave understand that teachers can’t do anything to them, so bad behavior escalates and makes schools a poor environment for education, Ford said.

4.) Arrests and Suspensions Went Down, So Did Academic Standards

The Obama administration policy pressured schools to reduce arrests and suspensions. That occurred, panelists said, but the discipline problem escalated, and many schools suffered academically.

“A significant portion of the achievement gap is actually a time-on-task gap,” Pondiscio said he surmised. “And much of that time-on-task gap is caused because of disruptions in the classroom.”

Getting climate and culture right in the classroom is a delicate task for teachers, Pondiscio said, and it is often more important than the actual content of instruction.

Eden said “lazy reporters” focused on selected statistics that show suspensions going down, and then they insinuated it is a sign that schools are getting safer.

Eden said he reviewed data on school districts after the Obama guideline was put in place. From the little data that existed, he found “across the board” drops in achievement, higher levels of truancy, and in some cases, more time spent out of school specifically for black students because more serious incidents were taking place.

“When schools aren’t allowed to enforce basic norms, serious problems increase,” Eden said.

5.) Federal Meddling Leads to Local Failure

Ultimately, one of the biggest problems with the Obama guidance on school discipline is that it injected federal meddling into an issue best handled by states and localities, panelists said.

“A lot of this guidance comes with the discomfort of the excesses of ‘zero tolerance,’” Eden said.

Zero tolerance policies are the other side of the same coin, he said, explaining that they also took power out of teachers’ hands and forced them to take actions against students.

If we don’t want police to be stepping into classrooms, it’s important to allow teachers to use greater discretion about how they discipline students, Eden explained.

Additionally, policies that worked well in some areas failed in others because of the differences among localities, panelists said. The federal government is poorly equipped to handle these nuances.

“When a locality makes a mistake,” Heriot said, “it’s a lot easier to correct at a local level than when the federal government says, ‘You must do this.’”


PTA Responds Like Lightning After de Blasio Pulls Cops from Schools

A New York City Parent Teachers Association demanded city cops patrol a Queens high school, the New York Post reported Sunday.

Francis Lewis High School’s PTA in Fresh Meadows, Queens, is urging politicians to allow armed cops at their public school, following the Parkland Massacre, the New York Post reported.

The New York Police Department recently removed Sgt. Paul Esinet, 50, a well-respected high school cop, from his position.

The officer was reassigned due to Mayor de Blasio’s policy of using unarmed community policing units to patrol neighborhoods and high schools.

Esinet was a popular guard at Francis Lewis and put more than a dozen years into the job.

He regularly attended school meetings to help make the campus safer, staffers said.

PTA co-president Linda Lovett said a petition was circulated then submitted with more than 1,100 signatures to the Department of Education to bring an armed cop back to the school. “The community officer is in no way an acceptable replacement,” the petition reads.

The PTA has serious concerns regarding the lack of security at the overcrowded Queens high school with more than 4,400 students.

“It’s ridiculous,” Lovett said. “All over the country, they are telling you ‘arm the teachers; get an officer in your school.’ New York City had a designated officer and they are actually cutting the program … they are making us less secure.”

Staten Island City Councilmen Steven Matteo and Joe Borelli and Borough President James Oddo also asked de Blasio to have an armed police officer at each of New York City’s 1,700 public schools, at the state Senate Feb. 28.

De Blasio refused, saying the policy would be too expensive, claiming that it would cost the state $12 billion annually, he wrote in a letter in June 2017.

NYPD spokesman Lt. John Grimpel is not aware of any school that has a full-time police officer, he said. “I hope the NYPD and the administration listens to parents and students in the Fresh Meadows community and allows this officer to stay where he has obviously had such a positive impact,” Matteo said.

“Sadly, we live in a world where horrific attacks on our children have become a regular occurrence, but fortunately we also have the greatest police department in the world to protect us.”


Friday, March 16, 2018

‘60 Minutes’ Snubs the Facts on Education

Beth Richardson is committed to her son’s success. She expected Jed to do his homework once in school, so she did her homework first on the schools near their South Carolina home.

“I visited every single school that was available,” she says. She wasn’t satisfied with Jed’s assigned school, and her research led her to East Point Academy. East Point is a charter school—an independent public school—that provides instruction in both English and Mandarin Chinese.

“They are definitely absorbing the language both verbally and in writing,” Richardson told me in an interview when Jed entered the school in 2013. “I think they are teaching first grade at a second grade level—they are teaching one grade ahead.”

Earlier this week, CBS’ “60 Minutes” grilled Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on why she supports the idea that families like the Richardsons should be able to choose where and how their children learn.

Reporter Lesley Stahl said traditional public schools are doing better today at educating students, and that allowing families to make choices results in less money for traditional schools.

Stahl didn’t provide evidence for these claims, so her line of questioning is worth a closer look.

According to the Nation’s Report Card, a reliable indicator of average student learning state by state, 12th-graders are scoring the same today in reading and math as they did in the 1970s. And while scores for fourth- and eighth-graders have trended upward, the most recent results showed lower scores in math with mixed results in reading.

One data point doesn’t erase a trend, but whatever gains students may be realizing in lower grades appear to be lost by the end of high school.

Test scores aren’t the only way to measure success. One reason we want children to work hard in school is so that they can have more opportunities later in life.

Research on private school options found that students that chose a private school were more likely to finish high school and even enter college than their peers in traditional schools.

Students from low-income families in Washington, D.C., that used a K-12 private school scholarship graduated from high school at higher rates than their peers who didn’t use a scholarship. Similar results can be found in Milwaukee and New York City.

Later in the segment, Stahl says that when some families choose something other than an assigned public school, traditional schools are “left behind” and “can end up with less money.”

But Washington’s budget for the Department of Education sees consistent increases. The Trump administration’s recent efforts to trim spending are notable because budget increases are so familiar.

Regardless, if Stahl is pointing to Washington’s budget, she’s looking in the wrong place. State and local taxpayers account for most—90 percent—of education funding for K-12 schools.

Per student spending around the country also goes only one direction: up.

In 2016, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey led an effort to add $3.5 billion from state reserves to K-12 schools over 10 years, in addition to regular budget appropriations. Schools in Washington state saw a $4.57 billion increase in the latest budget, a jump of 25 percent, according to experts at the Washington Policy Center.

Nationwide, per student spending has increased nearly 30 percent since 1990 after adjusting for inflation.

Stahl’s comment that education research is “complicated” glosses over increases in taxpayer funding for education, uninspiring-to-mixed results, and examples of remarkable student success when parents have opportunities for their child’s education.

But the significance of average scores and percent funding increases is lost on parents that just want their child to succeed. “The ability to provide this in South Carolina is so wonderful, it is exactly what Jed needs,” Richardson says.

“I feel very fortunate to be able to live in [her city] and to be able to take advantage of this opportunity,” she says.

“60 Minutes” should have another look at the facts and then ask why every parent can’t say the same thing as her.


An Education in School Safety
There was a time when secretaries of education could focus on things like curriculum and better learning environments. Betsy DeVos would probably like to trade places with some of her predecessors when the job’s biggest demands were raising national test scores — not keeping children safe. Unfortunately for her and every other administrator in America, the world of education has changed — and it now has a lot more to do with combatting violence than fighting mediocrity.

It’s been almost a month since the latest wake-up call that something in America has gone terribly wrong. There are 17 more empty seats around dinner tables in Parkland, Florida, victims of a story that started in Columbine and continues to break hearts from Connecticut to Virginia Tech. In the days since a 19-year-old walked into the halls of his old school and started snuffing out the futures of so many innocent classmates, the entire nation has been grasping for solutions to spare other parents the unimaginable pain of losing a child. President Trump is a father too. And in the weeks since Florida’s heartbreak, he’s made it clear that he’s willing to cross any aisle and consider any idea to make sure the evil that happened in Parkland doesn’t happen again. At least as far as he can help it.

Over the weekend, the White House rolled out its newest plan for school safety. In it, DeVos explains, are a number of concrete steps the government and state leaders can take to harden their campuses against threats. As he’s said since the beginning, President Trump thinks it’s time to launch “rigorous firearms training” for teachers who volunteer to carry guns at school. “For those who are capable,” Secretary DeVos told reporters on a conference call, “this is one solution that can and should be considered. Keep in mind that among the ranks of teachers are military veterans who have had extensive training. Every state and every community is going to address this issue in a different way.” As the administration has reminded people, President Obama wanted to arm more people after the Sandy Hook tragedy — but he focused on school resource officers, which, as we saw in Parkland, may not be as effective as highly trained teachers themselves. What the White House doesn’t want to do is take more guns away from school officials. “A gun-free zone to a maniac — because they’re all cowards — a gun-free zone is, ‘Let’s go in and let’s attack, because bullets aren’t coming back at us.’”

Another piece of the president’s plan is establishing a Federal Commission on School Safety, which would be chaired by Secretary DeVos. The commission, administration officials say, would focus on several areas, like age restrictions for certain guns, entertainment ratings systems, violent video games, mental health treatment, funding for states to create threat assessment teams, and other recommendations. Apart from that, the president will keep the wheels in motion on tougher background checks, outlawing bump stocks, state-specific “risk protection orders,” and a formal review of the FBI’s tip line, which could (and should) have helped stop the attack in Parkland.

Fortunately, the president understands that these are important steps — but hardly the only ones. “The president,” assured Andrew Bremberg, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, “is determined to get to the root of the various societal issues that lead to violence in our country. No stone will be unturned.” Like us, he knows that Americans are facing a deeper problem than guns or even federal and state cooperation. If we want to reduce violence, we have to rebuild the family. That means an honest conversation about how the past several years of religious intolerance and outright hostility has kept this nation from focusing on what’s important. If Congress wants to stop these tragedies, then it has to start by encouraging the two things — faith and family — that can address the real problem: the human heart.

We can’t use laws to do what only God can. We have to get back to a basic understanding of right and wrong. As President George Washington warned in his farewell address, morality cannot be maintained without religion. If we want to become a more honest and decent people, the kind who care about human worth and dignity, then we can talk about access to guns — but we’ve also got to talk about access to God.

Nothing we do will matter if we don’t acknowledge that America has lost its way. As my friend Ken Blackwell says, “You can’t run faith out of the public square and not expect to have these sort of consequences.” So let’s protect our schools. Let’s harden the targets. But let’s work on softening hearts too.


Trump’s School Safety Plan Includes Hardening Schools, Strengthening Background Checks, Mental Health Reform

The White House on Monday rolled out President Donald Trump’s school safety plan, which focuses on four areas: hardening schools, strengthening background checks, mental health reform, and reviewing funding proposals for preventing school violence.

The president’s plan to harden schools includes providing firearms training to “specially qualified school personnel on a voluntary basis” using Department of Justice assistance programs that will allow schools to partner with local law enforcement.The administration plans to support military veterans and retired law enforcement who want to transition into a career in education.

As part of an effort to strengthen background checks, the president is calling on every state to adopt Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs), which allows the police - with court approval - to remove guns from people who are a demonstrated threat to themselves or others and to temporarily prevent certain people from buying new weapons.

The president also supports improving the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, as proposed by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), which holds federal agencies accountable for reporting information to NICS and incentivizes states to improve reporting.

Trump also supports the framework of the STOP School Violence Act, which gives state-based grants to implement evidence-based violence prevention programs.

The president is proposing increased integration of mental health, primary care, and family services, as well as support for programs that utilize court-ordered treatment. The plan also calls for a review of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and other statutory and regulatory privacy protections.

Finally, the president is calling for the establishment of a federal commission chaired by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos “to address school safety and the culture of violence.” It will study and make recommendations on a number of areas, including: age restrictions for certain firearm purchases; existing entertainment rating systems and youth consumption of violent entertainment; the effects of press coverage of mass shootings; repeal of the Obama administration’s ‘Rethink School Discipline’ policies; and the effectiveness and appropriateness of psychotropic medication for treatment of troubled youth.


Thursday, March 15, 2018

College Students Freak Out, Destroy Equipment When Biologist Explains That Men are Taller Than Women

When a college or university invites a speaker who challenges the preconceived notions of the student body (or some small part of it) there may be trouble. Campuses once known for their willing to allow free speech are now functioning as echo chambers where even the most well accepted scientific principles can wreak havoc on students’ fragile minds.

Consider this case from Portland State. It happened when James Damore came to talk about diversity at his former employer, Google. That alone was going to draw the opposition. Damore, though, wasn’t the one who caused the most disruption. It was a woman, a biologist, who talked about some basic distinctions common in men and women.

Sexual dimorphism, as these differences are collectively known, is easy enough to understand. The well accepted scientific principal is characterized by distinct difference in size or appearance between the sexes, and the more familiar difference between the sexual organs. This is easy enough to see in birds, for example, where the males and females are often completely different colors. In humans, though the fact is capable of inciting violence.

That’s what’s happening at Portland State University after a student group invited former Google engineer James Damore to speak on campus about diversity. Damore had the spotlight shine on him after he got fired over a 10-page Google memo he wrote criticizing the company’s internal gender diversity policies and accusing the tech giant of “alienating conservatives.”

Dr. Heather Heying, an evolutionary biologist, began talking about some differences between men and women. She even acknowledged that it struck her as odd to have to defend this notion that men and women are different.

As she spoke of differences in height and muscle mass, a few students stood and voiced their protest. Though there were not many, the students caused a scene. One went to the PA system and threw it from the table. The sound for the event was cut as a result of the damage.

“Event organizer, Andy Ngo, knew there would be controversy, but didn’t expect to become a target of the sometimes-violent and virulently leftwing Antifa group,” Fox reports.

As the protestor was being detained, she threw around the usual rhetoric. “Even the women in there have been brainwashed!” she explains. Others hurled insults at the police, and threw around terms like “fascists” and “Nazis.”

Protest flyers for the event read: “We have to work together to show James Damore and the PSU Freethinkers that they can’t get away with dressing up bigotry and calling it science.”

Portland State, in an attempt to make everyone happy, set up three different alternative events.

Portland State spokesman, Chris Broderick, told Fox the university itself stands opposed to Damore’s “ideas as sexist stereotypes.”

Damore, for his part, feels like his comments have been misconstrued. The memo he wrote about men and women working at Goolge got him fired.

“They’re worsening the divisions and generating outrage by misrepresenting what I’ve said,” Damore said. “I encourage any students to actually read what I’ve written, watch my interviews, and come to my event with questions and an open mind.”

“How many people who are upset about the memo have actually read the memo?” Peter Boghossian, the professor hosting the event told Fox News. “When we’re not willing to discuss difficult, complex issues, extremists step in with solutions.”


Male H.S. Dropouts Earned More in 1973 Than Female College Grads in 2016

Males who completed no more than 3 years of high school had a higher real median income in 1973, when Richard Nixon was president, than female college graduates had in 2016, the last full year of Barack Obama’s presidency.

In 1973, according to the Census Bureau’s Historical Income Table P-17, men 25 or older who had completed one to three years of high school had a median income of $41,645 in constant 2016 dollars.

That was the peak year for the median income of male high-school dropouts.

In 2016, according to the Census Bureau’s Historical Income Table P-16, women 25 and older who had earned a bachelor’s degree (but not a graduate degree) had a median income of $41,045 in constant 2016 dollars.

Thus, according to the Census Bureau, in 1973 men who had completed no more than three years of high school had a median income ($41,645) that was $600 more than the median income in 2016 of women who had earned bachelor’s degree but not graduate degrees ($41,045).

Starting in 1991, the Census Bureau made some adjustments to the way it categorized people’s educational attainment in its historical income tables. (“Data after 1990,” says Table P-17, “are not completely comparable due to changes to the educational attainment questions.”)

Table P-16 lists the median income for the post-1990 categories of educational attainment with 2016 being the latest year for which the data is available.

In 2016, men 25 and older who had stayed in school until sometime between the 9th and 12th grade, but who had not earned a high school diploma, had a median income of $23,165 (in constant 2016 dollars).

That was $18,480 (or 44.3 percent) less than the median income men who had finished not more than three years of high school had earned in the peak year of 1973 ($41,645).

Females 25 and older who had stayed in school until sometime between the 9th and 12th grade but did not graduate, had a median income of $13,666 (in constant 2016 dollars) in 2016. That was $32 (or 0.2 percent) less than the median income of females who had not finished more than three years of high school in 1973 ($13,698).

Men 25 and older who were high school graduates or had earned a GED had a median income of $33,516 (in constant 2016 dollars) in 2016. That was $18,804 (or 35.9 percent) less than the 1973 median income of men who had completed four years of high school ($52,320).

Women 25 and older who were high school graduates or had earned a GED had a median income of $19,904 (in constant 2016 dollars) in 2016. That is $728 (or 3.8 percent) more than the 1973 median income of females who had completed four years of high school ($19,176).

Men 25 and older who had earned a bachelor’s degree (but not a graduate degree) had a median income of $63,269 in 2016. That was $4,058 (or 6 percent) less than the 1973 median income for men who had completed four years of college ($67,327).

Women 25 and older who had a bachelor’s degree (but not a graduate degree) had a median income of $41,045 in 2016. That was $11,031 (or 36.8 percent) more than the 1973 median income of women who had completed four years of college ($30,014).

The Census bureau defines “money income” as “the income received on a regular basis (exclusive of certain money receipts such as capital gains and lump-sum payments) before payments for personal income taxes, Social Security, union dues, Medicare deductions, etc. It includes income received from wages, salary, commissions, bonuses, and tips; self-employment income from own nonfarm or farm businesses, including proprietorships and partnerships; interest, dividends, net rental income, royalty income, or income from estates and trusts; Social Security or Railroad Retirement income.”

It also includes welfare, disability, unemployment and other benefit payments.


My Bill to Expand Education Options for Military Families

Rep. Jim Banks   

All across America, military families are making personal sacrifices to keep our country safe. As a veteran who served overseas and away from my family, I know the toll service takes on those who wear the uniform and their families.

But military families should not have to sacrifice the quality of their children’s education to serve our country.

Currently, more than half of military families live in states with no school choice options whatsoever. For these families, if a child is assigned to a poor-performing local school, they must pay out of pocket for better alternatives—an option that is not feasible for many who are enlisted.

Our military is already struggling to recruit the best and the brightest to serve. Research shows the number of active-duty troops is at the lowest level since 2001, and the average age of those enlisted has steadily grown.

Americans need an alternative to the mainstream media. But this can't be done alone. Find out more >>

There is good reason to believe that the lack of education options for military families contributes to these results.

A survey conducted by the Military Times found that 35 percent of its readers would consider leaving the military due to the lack of education choice, and 40 percent have declined or would decline a career advancement if it meant their child would be forced to leave a higher-performing school.

The decision to serve is already a difficult and life-changing one for many families, and there shouldn’t be additional, unnecessary barriers. To address this issue, I recently introduced the Education Savings Accounts for Military Families Act.

This legislation would provide military families with the option of opening an education savings account that could fund education expenses such as private school tuition, textbooks, online classes, private tutoring, and college tuition. These accounts would be tax-free and give families the ability to tailor their child’s education to their needs.

Education savings accounts would use a small portion of funding from a federal program called Impact Aid. This program provides school districts with revenue lost due to the presence of tax-exempt federal property. Under Education Savings Accounts, that funding would directly benefit the individual student rather than the school.

Recent analysis has shown very limited impact on these schools, even when assuming a much higher utilization rate than we have seen from education savings account programs that are currently in place. Furthermore, no Impact Aid funding that goes to non-military-connected students would be used for this program.

The most important responsibility of the federal government is to maintain a military that is able to protect our country. We cannot continue to push away high-quality recruits by restricting the educational options available to their children.

The Education Savings Accounts for Military Families Act will ensure that this does not happen.

As a nation, we can show our support for the men and women who serve by giving them the choice of how to best educate our next generation of leaders.


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Betsy DeVos: Dept. Of Ed To Review Obama-Era School Discipline Reform Policy

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos told CBS’s “60 Minutes” Sunday Night that the Obama-era school discipline reform policy is now under review.

“We are studying that rule. We need to ensure that all students have an opportunity to learn in a safe and nurturing environment. And all students means all students,” DeVos told host Lesley Stahl.

Stahl reacted, “Yeah but let’s say there’s a disruption in the classroom and a bunch of whites kids are disruptive and they get punished, you know, go see the principal, but the black kids are, you know, they call in the cops. I mean, that’s the issue: who and how the kids who disrupt are being punished.”

DeVos responded, “Arguably, all of these issues or all of this issue comes down to individual kids.”

Stahl disagreed.

DeVos replied, “It does come down to individual kids. And–often comes down to–I am committed to making sure that students have the opportunity to learn in an environment that is conducive to their learning.”

Stahl asked, “Do you see this disproportion in discipline for the same infraction as institutional racism?”

“We’re studying it carefully. And are committed to making sure students have the opportunity to learn in safe and nurturing environments,” said DeVos.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel rejected the idea that a 2013 Obama Department of Education policy, intended to prevent minority students from being arrested in public schools for misdemeanor violations and implemented in the school district, may have contributed to the deadly Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting late last month.

“The school has the ability under certain circumstances not to call the police, not to get the police involved on misdemeanor offenses and take care of it within the school. It’s an excellent program,” Israel told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Feb. 25, “It’s helping many, many people. What this program does is not put a person at 14, 15, 16 years old into the criminal justice system.”

Known as a PROMISE agreement, Broward County struck a deal with the Department of Education that ceased school-based arrests based on “minor misbehavior.” The policy aimed to “reduce exclusionary disciplinary practices while implementing prevention and intervention programs for children and youth who are neglected, delinquent or at-risk.”

These violations included alcohol consumption, drug related abuses, bullying, harassment, and assault. Although the number of student arrests plunged 63 percent by the 2015-2016 school year in Broward, The Washington Post reported that critics of the policy like The Manhattan Institute’s Max Eden say law enforcement and school district were just turning a blind eye to the escalating behavioral problems in the school to keep their arrest numbers down

However, more evidence has emerged showing accused Stoneman Douglas Shooter Nikolas Cruz was reported to have multiple red flags raised about him over the years that became so serious, by high school some teachers did not want to be in a classroom alone with him, The Boston Globe reported.

According to The Miami Herald, as a response to Cruz’s escalating emotionally violent behavior, in 2014 he was sent to an alternative schooling facility for troubled youth, where he revealed to a therapist that he envisioned himself in a dream covered in human blood. Cruz did not remain in this setting, though. He was transferred back to Marjory Stoneman in 2016 and expelled one year later.

Cruz’s disciplinary record never included an intervention of some sort by law enforcement, despite tips given to the FBI about him documenting wanting to become “a professional school shooter” or a caller concerned that he was “going to explode” and get “into a school and just” start “shooting the place up.”

Democrats on Capitol Hill claim the Obama-era policy “had nothing to do with” the Cruz shooting. Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy, a member of the Health Education Labor and Pension Committee said, “The school discipline processes had nothing to do with why law enforcement didn’t intervene.”

Virginia Democratic Rep. Bobby Scott met with Sec. DeVos back in January in an effort to urge DeVos to keep the policy pushed by the NAACP.

“I strongly urged the Secretary to maintain the 2014 School Discipline Guidance Package. States and school districts need the tools and resources provided by this guidance package to ensure compliance with federal education and civil rights laws which require that they identify and address any racial bias in discipline policies and practices,” Scott said in a statement at the time.

Like Murphy, Scott strongly disagreed the policy contributed to Cruz shooting and killing 17 students and faculty at his former high school, while Florida Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson claims law enforcement probably missed Cruz “because of his socioeconomic status.” She continued, “That’s what happens in everyday life. It’s not anything new. He was wealthy. He was white. That wouldn’t have happened to a young man of color.”


Striking British professors and their students are raising big questions

Britain’s university leaders might feel that they had been through an ‘annus horribilis‘, said universities minister Sam Gyimah at last week’s official launch of the Office for Students. With scandalised reports of vice-chancellors’ pay, ongoing wrangles over university funding and student tuition fees, and now a large, sustained and well-organised lecturers’ strike paralysing dozens of pre-1992 universities, more and more angry questions are being raised over the mission and organisation of British higher education.

On every count, there is a serious case to answer. The strike, which was called over proposed changes to the USS pension scheme, has brought to a head much deeper anxieties among academic staff across the sector, to do with the security of their own positions, the insecurity facing increasing numbers of newer colleagues on temporary or sessional contracts, and the way academic work is regarded and rewarded.

For several years now, a particular construction of ‘the student’ has been marshalled to justify increasing scrutiny and regulation of academic life, with its demands that nobody ever gets upset by difficult ideas or unsatisfactory grades. This is a conceit designed to set lecturers and students against each other, despite the fact that ‘the student’ of the policy and media imagination is a cipher for other agendas, a caricature that bears little relation to the thousands of young people filling lecture halls and seminar rooms.

The spiralling despond of student debt, accrued by young people who are simultaneously told that they have to go to university to get a job and that they should be grateful for the privilege of paying for this ‘experience’, is prompting students and academics alike to ask, as the Cambridge academic Stefan Collini eloquently put it in 2012: ‘What are universities for?’ As Joanna Williams recently argued on spiked, it often seems that those in charge of higher-education policy know the price of everything, and the value of nothing.

But while the eruption of disquiet around staff pensions on one hand, and student fees on the other, has brought to the fore many of the problems confronting the university sector, it has also revealed something very positive. The debate about what universities should be for is raising some important questions about education and the pursuit of knowledge – questions that have been sidelined by the imperative of expansion and the promotion of ‘employability’. And as students and academic staff have come together in raising these questions, they have revealed what a university continues to be for: a conversation and collaboration between the generations.

The displays of student support for their striking lecturers have taken some by surprise. Whatever way you cut it, weeks of cancelled lectures do not serve the immediate self-interest of current undergraduates. But rather than turning on their lecturers, many students have voiced support for the action, and hit back instead at what they see as higher education’s view of students as a source of revenue, and staff an undervalued resource.

Some students have demanded compensation for missed lectures – a demand that could be seen as confirmation that students are individualistic, entitled consumers who want their ‘value for money’. But it has also been powerfully used as an expression of solidarity with academic staff: an attempt to subvert the student-as-consumer model to hit institutions where it hurts. Students are acutely sensitive to the way that higher-education policy now presents them as units of funding, and they know that this is at odds both with the way that lecturers see them, and the way they see themselves.

Of all the things that students have been told to expect and demand from their university experience – a job, a good time, a swanky hall of residence – they know, deep down, that what they are there to get is an education. Facilities, processes, or marketing material do not provide this education – it is academics and students, and the relationship between them, that do. One outcome of this recent turmoil is the sharp reminder that the heart of the university is education, embodied in the academic community and the ideas that are discussed day in, day out, as part of this collaboration. Far from being an ‘annus horribilis‘, this is a heartening reminder to all those engaged in higher education about why we do what we do.

Many students are cross and anxious about the effects of the strikes on their courses, but they know that the staff are not striking to get out of teaching or avoid doing their jobs. The strike has come about as a last-resort attempt to preserve some sense of security in their retirement, and at considerable expense to their pay packets in the here and now. And here again, the events of recent weeks have revealed a degree of solidarity between the generations that runs against the assumptions of the official imagination.

Policymakers increasingly promote the idea that it is in young people’s interest to reduce the ‘burden’ of pensions. There have been shameless attempts to whip up animosity against so-called wealthy, entitled pensioners, on the basis that younger generations will have to shoulder the cost of their cruises and golf-club memberships. Tight-fisted proposals to end the ‘triple lock’ guarantee on the state pension have provided the official backdrop to wider attempts by pension funds to reduce entitlements on the grounds of ‘unaffordability’.

The university lecturers’ strike has made clear what has for a long time been obvious to those with a basic grasp of mathematics – that those hardest hit by attacks on pensions and pensioners will be the younger generations, when they themselves come to retire. It has also stripped away the self-serving myth that a pension is some kind of nice-to-have benefit, by pointing out that a pension is part of a salary. It is something we earn through our years of work, not a gift kindly bestowed by employers at their own discretion. And very few pensioners live in anything approaching luxury.

The battle for pensions has brought fresh-faced academics out in opposition to the idea that attacking ‘unaffordable’ pensions somehow serves the cause of the young, and senior academics – who in practical terms will lose least from the USS reforms – out in support of their younger colleagues’ demand for decent provision in retirement. In exposing the mean-spiritedness of attempts to pit young and old against each other, the effects of this dispute are likely to resonate way beyond the ivory towers.


State Lawmakers Decide to Shut Down Dept. of Education, Arts

West Virginia just underwent the longest teachers’ strike in the state’s history. According to The Hill, after a nine-day strike that closed schools across all 55 of the state’s counties, teachers received a 5 percent pay raise for all government employees “and a commission to deal with issues with the Public Employees Insurance Agency.”

“We do believe this is what we were looking for, based on the announcement,” Kym Randolph, spokeswoman for the West Virginia Education Association, told reporters on Tuesday morning.

“All three parties — the House, the Senate and the governor — have agreed to the changes that will need to be made to the budget to get to 5 percent.”

Unfortunately, this didn’t really solve much in a larger sense. West Virginia’s finances are a bloody mess; a 2016 report by Truth in Accounting put the state’s debt at $16 billion, over $15,000 per taxpayer in a state where the median income per household is under $40,000. Closing schools across the state for nine days only to give in to public sector union demands didn’t exactly make things much better.

Liberals blame low taxes which the state’s Democrat leaders used to lure businesses there — kind of an important thing in a state not exactly known for its streets paved with gold. Conservatives have blamed the state’s woes on spending on stuff like — well, public sector union demands.

Regardless, money had to be saved somehow. So, on Saturday, the state legislature overwhelmingly passed a bill which dismantled the state’s Department of Education and Arts.

And, with a certainty that you could set your watch by (if you’re the type that still uses watches), liberals began vigorously protesting the utter indignity of cutting a single dollar of arts funding.

“The bill passed the state House by a vote of 60-36, with Democrats opposing the plan that they say will destroy public funding for the arts in the state,” The Hill reported.

“This is going to destroy arts in West Virginia,” Delegate Larry Rowe, a Democrat said. “Always, always the first thing to be cut is the arts.”

I’ll resist the snide remarks about “arts in West Virginia” that originally came to mind except to point out that I could only identify one artist from West Virginia in Wikipedia’s list of them and the only musician I could identify from that site’s list was Brad Paisley. I believe we, as a nation, could have suffered the loss of “Whiskey Lullaby” and “American Saturday Night.” It would have been tough, but I truly believe we would have made it through together.

The Department of Education and the Arts was established in 1989, according to West Virginia Metro News. And it’s certainly been a success; after all, the state now currently has a C- rating from EdWeek’s ranking of all fifty states by educational achievement. In all fairness, the Department of Education and the Arts has only been around for 29 years. I’m sure year 30 will be the charm.


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Elimination of Higher Education

"You're going to see, over the next five years, a real increase in the number of schools in serious trouble."

In less than a week, Americans will be exposed — with practically wall-to-wall coverage at that — to 68 of our institutions of higher learning as they take part in the annual NCAA basketball tournament. Teams that outperform expectations will benefit from an uptick in applications, and although many of the schools participating are already household names, who doesn’t take pride in seeing their alma mater in “The Big Dance?”

Unfortunately for the high school Class of 2019, whose students are just now beginning to determine where they’ll go to college, there’s a different sort of elimination going on, with much higher stakes. A long-term downturn in enrollment, along with a decline in the number of Americans who believe a college education is worth the money, is beginning to affect many schools’ bottom line. While this won’t immediately affect a state-supported public university or Ivy League schools with their multi-billion dollar endowments, those who’d prefer a smaller campus and more intimate setting may find that many small colleges are the first to fold.

As an example, based on a Wall Street Journal ranking of more than 1,000 schools accounting for a number of factors, one observer painted a bleak picture for schools near the bottom of the list. “You’re going to see, over the next five years, a real increase in the number of schools in serious trouble,” said Ohio University’s Richard Vedder, who heads the school’s Center for College Affordability and Productivity. “A degree from one of these lower schools doesn’t mean much of anything.” These closings will also expand the so-called “education deserts” that are defined in part as areas outside a convenient radius from four-year colleges.

Truth be told, though, the “desert” seems to be on campus, and it’s a desert where independent thought and ideological diversity are all but impossible to find. We joke about the “snowflakes” who can’t seem to cope when events don’t turn out as they hope, but the information silo being created by these schools is no laughing matter. When left-wing professors outnumber their right-leaning colleagues by more than 10 to 1 — leaving their unemployable graduates with useless degrees and student loan debt for which taxpayers will ultimately be on the hook — more and more concerned parents and prospective students are looking elsewhere.

“An increasing percentage of high school graduates are moving directly into job-prep education,” writes Peter Heck at The Resurgent. “Either offered by a business itself, or channeled through a trade school or online academy, these innovative programs give students direct training in the field they want to work in rather than forcing them to fill 90% of their course schedule with classes that don’t pertain to their desired field.”

Why spend well over $100,000, they reason, when there are good-paying jobs that don’t require a degree or, if a more traditional degree is desired, online institutions that provide a good, basic education to “nontraditional students” for a fraction of the cost?

Over the last 75 years, college has evolved from a place where only the best and brightest went to pursue higher education to its current marketing as a basic necessity. However, while students, parents and (mostly) taxpayers have “invested” billions to make state-supported public schools a luxurious interim experience for those soon to join the “real world” beyond campus, the model and mode of education has changed. Today, thousands have gained their degrees without ever setting foot on a campus, while still others are making the companies that sponsored and provided their post-high-school education more successful as they apply the skills and knowledge they were taught in these programs.

While none of these schools and institutes for training will ever make the field of 68 for “March Madness,” they provide the key for stopping the madness of spiraling student debt and useless but politically correct degrees. And have we mentioned that the world needs skilled tradespeople and entrepreneurs that do well without setting foot on a college campus? Yes, we have. But it bears repeating.


Feds tell state officials to back off student loan debt collectors

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has a message for Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and officials in other states hoping to rein in student loan debt collectors: Back off.

The US Department of Education announced Friday that it considers state efforts to regulate collection companies — many of which have been accused of unfair consumer practices — inappropriate and that they “undermine” federal authority.

The notice from the Education Department and DeVos infuriated consumer advocates and Healey, who called it a move to protect debt collectors at the expense of student loan borrowers across the country.

“Secretary DeVos can write as many love letters to the loan servicing industry as she wants,” Healey said in a statement. “The last thing we need is to give this industry a free pass while millions of students cannot afford to pay their loans.”

Under DeVos’s watch, the Education Department has, in the past year, tried to unravel many of the policies and practices put in place by the Obama administration on everything from campus sexual assault to for-profit schools. DeVos has argued that many of the rules went too far or were too hastily conceived.

Mass. AG Maura Healey sues Betsy DeVos, againAs recently as 2016, the Education Department had told states that their regulation of student loan debt collectors would not conflict with federal law.

“There’s a pattern here of knee-jerk reversals,” said Suzanne Martindale, senior attorney for Consumers Union, an arm of Consumer Reports.

In Friday’s notice, the federal education agency singled out Healey’s ongoing lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency as a particularly egregious example of state officials overstepping their authority. The federal government has stepped in on behalf of the debt servicer in the state case.

Healey has alleged that the servicer, which does business as FedLoan Servicing, violated state and federal laws by causing teachers and others to lose benefits and financial help under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. Under the program, students can have loans forgiven after 10 years of public service, a benefit designed to encourage graduates to take jobs in government and nonprofits. But processing delays by FedLoan Servicing and errors in its billing systems caused thousands of borrowers to be overcharged and extended their loan periods, costing consumers more money, the state lawsuit alleges.

Legislators in other states have also adopted new laws requiring student loan collection companies to get state licenses, meet certain business standards, and comply with investigations launched by local authorities.

These new state requirements “may conflict with legal, regulatory, and contractual requirements, and may skew the balance the department has sought in calibrating its enforcement decisions to the objectives of the program,” the Department of Education said in its notice.

They may also cost taxpayers more money by piling regulations onto these companies, who are likely to pass on the cost to the Education Department, DeVos said in the notice filed on Friday.

The Department of Education hires companies such as FedLoan Servicing and Navient to collect payments on more than $1 trillion of the $1.4 trillion in outstanding student loan debt owed by Americans.

Trade groups representing these companies said the Education Department was right to step in and assert its authority.

“Clear, uniform student loan servicing guidance from the federal government will help borrowers avoid the frustrations of an inconsistent patchwork of policies from individual states,” the Student Loan Servicing Alliance said in a statement. “It is critical that we set aside political . . . rhetoric and focus on creating effective solutions for the biggest issues facing borrowers, like simplifying complex repayment programs and improving college completion rates.”

Alan Collinge: Trump is pushing the student loan system to the brink of failureYet borrowers have for years complained about these companies, and federal and state investigations have found problems in their collection practices and the Education Department’s oversight.

For example, an investigation by states and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau alleged that Navient, a major student loan collection company, encouraged struggling consumers into a short-term loan forbearance program that required less paperwork for the company but meant that borrowers who postponed payments accrued more interest on their debt. Many borrowers could have instead qualified for repayment options based on their incomes and how much they could afford, which would have lowered their monthly bill and put them on a potential path for loan forgiveness.

Authorities said Navient offered its employees incentives to get borrowers into forbearance plans, a move that allowed the company to collect $4 billion in interest charges over five years. Navient has denied any wrongdoing and said that 53 percent of the loan balances it services for the federal government are in income-driven repayment plans. Still, several states have sued the company.

Mass. AG Healey can pursue student loan debt lawsuit, judge rulesThe Department of Education, which contracts with these companies, hasn’t always been the best enforcer of consumer laws, said Persis Yu, a staff attorney at the National Consumer Law Center, a Boston-based organization that operates a borrower assistance project.

Errors and delays by these collections companies have extended borrower loan periods by years and cost them thousands of dollars, Yu said. “Having more cops on the beat to look out for student loan borrowers [is] better,” she said.

Healey said her office plans to continue its investigations into student loan collection companies, but consumer groups worry that other state authorities may be discouraged by the Education Department’s warning. Some states may abandon stronger consumer protection efforts as a result, they said.

Ultimately, legal experts said the courts will likely have to determine who has authority to regulate the industry.


Australia: The NAPLAN nervous ninnies

NAPLAN [national school tests] results are out and high gain schools are receiving their just recognition. Yet, critics are calling for a review of NAPLAN because results have not improved as much as we would like.

Criticising NAPLAN for poor literacy and numeracy is like blaming your thermometer for your fever. NAPLAN is not responsible for the deplorable differences in performance between wealthy and disadvantaged students. NAPLAN’s job is to expose the truth about those gaps, and that is what it is doing.

Perhaps it would help to see what NAPLAN really involves. Here are two sample questions:

* Ben collected 68 cans. Jack collected 109 cans. How many cans did Ben and Jack collect altogether?

* The following sentence has one word that is incorrect. We bought fresh bred. Write the correct spelling of the word.

These questions may appear harmless, but critics claim they traumatise our children, pervert classroom teaching and undermine education. They say that asking children to calculate sums and spell ‘bread’ can cause insomnia, stomach aches and nail-biting — and getting the answers wrong crushes students’ self-esteem. Teachers report they are forced to ‘waste’ valuable class time teaching students to spell and do arithmetic when they could be focusing on more important things such as ‘creativity’.

Ludicrous? Welcome to the surreal world of opposition to the National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy, commonly known as NAPLAN.

Questions 1 and 2 come from NAPLAN’s Year 3 numeracy and literacy assessments, respectively. To answer them, a child must know how to read, add and spell. These are vital skills. NAPLAN simply tells us whether children have learnt them.

Testing did not begin with NAPLAN. Teachers have always used assessments to monitor students’ progress and identify those who need extra help. In addition, state education authorities administered examinations to ensure that schools were preparing children adequately for further learning.

Unfortunately, the curriculum, the assessment tests and the standards children were expected to achieve differed across teachers, schools and states. As a result, students participated in a postcode lottery — the content and quality of their education depended on where they lived and which school they attended.

The Australian Curriculum and NAPLAN have eliminated these inequities. For the first time, all Australian children are taught the same content, undertake identical assessments and are held to common performance standards. The benefits have been enormous. Using NAPLAN, teachers can identify students’ strengths and weaknesses and plan lessons accordingly. In addition, because NAPLAN is administered in years 3, 5, 7, and 9, schools can see how their students’ learning grows over time.

Because their curriculum and the assessment methods are now comparable, schools in one state can compare their educational outcomes with those of similar schools in other states. Authorities can identify high performing schools and disseminate their successful teaching methods nationally.

NAPLAN will eventually move from paper and pencil to online assessment. When this occurs, results will be available much earlier in the school year, but that is not the only benefit. In contrast to the present one-size-fits-all paper test, NAPLAN online will be tailored to the abilities of each student. Teachers will be given a precise picture of each student’s strengths and weaknesses. Moreover, moving NAPLAN online will allow the test to be customised for the special needs of students with disabilities.

Instead of welcoming these benefits, the critics of NAPLAN have stepped up their attacks. In addition to lowering self-esteem, making children ill and occupying too much time, NAPLAN is also blamed for low levels of literacy and numeracy, and for not measuring creativity, critical thinking and ‘personal attributes’. These claims are all baseless.  Apart from anecdotes, there is no evidence that asking students how to spell ‘bread’ makes them ill.

Critics of NAPLAN believe that self-esteem is protected by never allowing children to fail. But the truth is precisely the opposite.  By preventing children from experiencing failure, we stop them from gaining the self-confidence that comes from overcoming it.

If we want young people to be able to handle life’s inevitable slings and arrows, then we should not encourage them to avoid difficult situations. Instead, we should teach children how to cope with them. If children find NAPLAN stressful, imagine the stress they will encounter trying to find jobs if they leave school unable to read, spell and do arithmetic.

Claims that NAPLAN takes up valuable teaching time are simply untrue. Over 10 years of schooling, NAPLAN testing occupies an average of 3 minutes per week. Surely this leaves enough time for teaching. Teachers claim that they are ‘forced to waste time’ drilling students on sample NAPLAN questions. It is not clear who is exerting this force, but drilling is not an effective teaching method.  The only way to prepare students for NAPLAN is to teach them to read, write and do mathematics.

And perhaps this is one reason that some educators are so critical of NAPLAN — it exposes the truth. By identifying good and poor performers (such as the high gain schools recognized this week), NAPLAN makes school learning transparent.  Some may find the spotlight uncomfortable, and criticise NAPLAN even as online delivery promises timelier and more useful tests. It is time for parents, policymakers, and community leaders to enter the debate.


Monday, March 12, 2018

Cincinnati professor forced out after claiming Muslim women are safer in U.S.

A University of Cincinnati professor is being forced to retire after he told a Muslim student that female Muslims are safer in the U.S. than in the Middle East.

University of Cincinnati assistant professor Clifford Adams has been placed on administrative for the remainder of the semester and will retire May 1, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

The news comes after the university investigated Mr. Adams in the fall for comments he made on a female student’s paper that another student had posted on Facebook.

“Muslim females are safer in America than in any Middle Eastern country. How dare you complain while enjoying our protection!” Mr. Adams reportedly wrote.

“The U.S. President’s first sworn duty is to protect America from enemies, and the greatest threat to our freedom is not the President, it is radical Islam. Review this list of Islamic terrorist attacks and then tell me about your hurt feelings,” he wrote in another comment.

Mr. Adams later apologized for his remarks in a letter to The Enquirer.


Student barred from class for claiming there are two genders

A student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania was recently barred from attending a religious studies class that he needs in order to graduate after he questioned his instructor's claims regarding the "reality of white male privilege."
Lake Ingle said he objected to some of the claims made in a video featuring a transgender woman, and countered by arguing that there are only two genders and that the "gender wage gap" is a myth.

A student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania has been barred from attending a religious studies class required for graduation after pointing out that there are only two genders.

“Later this week I will be defending myself and my FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS in front of the Academic Integrity Board (AIB) of the Indiana Univ. of Pennsylvania (IUP) against allegations of Classroom Conduct violations,” Lake Ingle stated in a Facebook post, which was deleted after Ingle retained legal representation.

"I am fighting to make my voice heard. Not only my voice, but the voices of others that oppose popular university opinion."    Tweet This

“The decision made by the AIB that day will determine whether I will be able to continue participating in my full course load, as well as graduate this May as scheduled,” Ingle continued, adding, “This is not transgender, woman’s rights, or wage issue. This is about free speech and the constant misuse of intellectual power in universities.”

According to Ingle, the class was forced to watch a Ted-Talk on February 28 featuring Paula Stone, a transgender woman, who gave examples of “mansplaining,” “male privilege,” and systematic sexism. Following the video, Ingle wrote that the instructor “opened the floor to WOMEN ONLY. Barring men from speaking until the women in the class have had their chance to speak.”

After some time had elapsed, Ingle stated he “took this opportunity to point out the official view of biologists who claim there are only two biological genders,” and refuted the “gender wage gap,” after which class resumed as normal.

“The floor was opened, and not a single woman spoke. Thirty seconds or so passed and still no woman had spoken. So, I decided it was permissible for me to enter the conversation, especially because I felt the conversation itself was completely inappropriate in its structure,” Ingle told Campus Reform. “I objected to the use of the anecdotal accounts of one woman’s experience to begin a discussion in which they were considered reality. It was during my objection that Dr. Downie attempted to silence me because I am not a woman.”

On February 29, Ingle met with his instructor, who he says gave him two documents—an Academic Integrity Referral Form and Documented Agreement. Photos of each document, along with a letter from IUP Provost Dr. Tomothy Moerland, were provided to Campus Reform.

Both the referral form and agreement charge Ingle with “Disrespectful objection to the professor’s class discussion structure; refusal to stop talking out of turn; angry outbursts in response to being required to listen to a trans speaker discuss the reality of white male privilege and sexism; disrespectful references to the validity of trans identity and experience; [and making a] disrespectful claim that a low score on any class work would be evidence of professor’s personal prejudice.”

According to the documented agreement, IUP is now attempting to force Ingle to apologize, stipulating that “Lake will write an apology to the professor which specifically addresses each of the disrespectful behaviors described above.”

Moreover, the agreement proclaims that on March 8, “Lake will begin class with an apology to the class for his behavior and then listen in silence as the professor and/or any student who wishes to speak shares how he or she felt during Lake’s disrespectful and disruptive outbursts on 2-28.”

“The Office of the Provost has received a request from [REDACTED] Instructor for RLST 481 – Special Topic – Self, Sin, and Salvation, to remove you from class due to behaviors that significantly disrupt the learning process in this class,” the letter to Ingle from Provost Moerland states. “Due to the serious nature of the issue, you are barred from attending this class in accordance with the Classroom Disruption policy.”

Although the instructor of the course is redacted, Professor Alison Downie is listed as the only instructor for that particular course on IUP’s website.

“During my time as a Religious Studies major, I have had professors insult me for opposing views, call me names such as ‘racist’ or ‘sexist’, and have had my views discredited due my race, gender, and sexual orientation,” Ingle stated in his Facebook post.

“In short - this is not the first time an instructor and I have had a disagreement over course material or that I have objected to the views being pushed on the class,” he continued. “That being said, the wording in the documents is not only exaggerated, but more than one line is entirely untruthful and is done so purposefully to discredit my views and paint me as intolerant and ignorant.”

“It is my belief that the instructor’s decision to file these sanctions is an attempt to bully me into redacting my views, making it a matter of free speech,” Ingle concluded.

Ingle told Campus Reform that he will be defending his First Amendment rights to the university’s Academic Integrity Board, which will determine whether he will be allowed to resume attending class regularly, or be forced to graduate late.

“The censorship on college campuses is an issue I have tried to take head on in many of my courses as well as offering the opposing, conservative view that many classroom discussion beg for,” he said, adding that he is fighting less for himself than for the many other conservative students who endure similar experiences.

“With regards to my conflict with the university and instructor, I am fighting to make my voice heard. Not only my voice, but the voices of others that oppose popular university opinion,” he explained. “I am not battling my professor to prove that I am right about gender wage gaps or transgenderism, I am fighting to ensure that students may disagree with their professors and if they do, must speak up.”


To Keep Students Safe, This School Allows Teachers to Carry Guns

When Charles McMahan agreed to talk with The Daily Signal about his program enabling trained teachers and other staff to carry guns in school, the Oklahoma school superintendent knew he’d be falling on the politically incorrect end of a sensitive conversation.

But as the educator who oversees more than 500 prekindergarten through 12th-grade students in the rural town of Porter, Oklahoma—40 minutes outside Tulsa—McMahan says he stands by his decision to arm qualified teachers and staff.

“My main job as superintendent is the safety of those kids,” McMahan told The Daily Signal in a phone interview.

On a good day, law enforcement is 20 minutes away from the Porter Consolidated Schools district and its campus with multiple buildings, McMahan said. For that reason, he said, concealed carry permits for highly trained and qualified teachers and staff makes sense.

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“In 20 minutes with an active shooter, it’s done,” McMahan said. “Seconds matter. Not minutes. So having somebody on campus that’s able to do this job and do it well—that’s important to me.”

Before the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead, the concealed carry program in Porter’s schools hardly was a topic among locals.

“The community loved it, everyone understood,” McMahan said.

Post-Parkland, though, with President Donald Trump advocating the arming of some teachers and many students, teachers, and politicians speaking against it, McMahan’s phone has been ringing off the hook.

At least eight states already have programs allowing school faculty and other staff to carry concealed weapons on K-12 campuses, according to the Education Commission of the States. More states have introduced legislation to allow it, and a private, firearms training group called Faster Saves Lives says it has worked with 1,300 school staffers in 12 different states.

Concealed carry programs differ from state to state, and school district to school district. In Oklahoma, for example, lawmakers passed legislation in 2015 allowing school employees, including teachers, to carry guns on school grounds.

McMahan, 50, helped launch one of the first programs in the state at Okay Public Schools in Wagoner County, then replicated it at Porter Consolidated Schools, also in Wagoner, where he became superintendent last year.

When The Daily Signal interviewed him, McMahan said he had just finished a two-and-a-half-hour training session on a shooting range.

Porter’s school board is responsible for establishing requirements for the concealed carry program. McMahan said it’s “probably one of the most stringent” in the entire country.

For starters, the program requires that interested teachers and other school district employees take a Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory test. “They test to see if you’re crazy,” McMahan said, in non-politically correct terminology.

It also requires employees to have a valid license under the Oklahoma Self-Defense Act, and a valid license as an armed security guard or reserve peace officer, issued through Oklahoma’s Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training.

The course set up by the state agency involves qualification on a pistol range as required for all police officers in the state, including reserve officers and armed security guards. To pass, applicants must score a minimum of 72 out of a possible 100.

But for McMahan, a 72 wasn’t good enough.

“If I ever have to use this, I’m going to have a backdrop of students. And I can’t afford to hit a student,” McMahan said. “I’ve got to be able to hit the threat and put him down, and stop the killing immediately.”

In addition to his role at the Porter Consolidated Schools district, McMahan serves as a volunteer firefighter.
For that reason, McMahan said, he requires armed faculty to reach a proficiency rate of 80 percent on the field exam, eight points higher than the qualification required for Oklahoma police, sheriff, and highway patrol officers.

“To us, this is very serious. Your average police officer … when they’re out shooting, they won’t have a full backdrop of a school of students like I would,” the superintendent said. “So I feel like our requirements have to be higher.”

In the Okay school district where McMahan used to work, faculty who carry a firearm on school grounds are required to qualify three times a year. In Porter, McMahan requires participants to do the same.

In Oklahoma, law enforcement officers must qualify on firearms only once a year.

“It’s not just some fly-by-night thing that we’ve come up with, that anybody that wants to carry a concealed weapon can carry at school,” McMahan said. “We are highly trained, we’re pretty good at what we do.”

The names of those authorized to carry a firearm on school grounds are kept confidential at school and among the general public, but they are known to the school board and local law enforcement.

“We have to make sure they understand we’re not the bad guy, because we’re dressed in regular clothes,” McMahan said. “So part of our training is when somebody comes up behind you, what to do with the weapon.”

In Oklahoma, concealed carry programs on school grounds are young, and McMahan said he is always looking for ways to improve. And although he has the support of the community, the program is self-funded.

“The school’s not reimbursing me for anything when I’m on the gun range or for any of these classes—I’m using my own money and my own time to train myself to be able to protect these kids,” he said. “I just do what I can do.”

Ultimately, McMahan said, he would like to see other types of reforms to prevent and respond to active school shooters. But for now, he’s confident about what he’s doing.

“I look at every one of those kids as my own kids,” McMahan said. “I’ve got boy and girl twins at home, and I protect them with everything I’ve got at home. I’m going to protect my kids at school the same way. And if I’m empty-handed going up against an active shooter, I can’t protect them.”


Sunday, March 11, 2018

Calif. Public School Caught Working With Islamic Terror Front Group

A federal judge ordered the San Diego Unified School District on Tuesday to hand over evidence detailing its correspondence with the Council on American-Islamic Relations about the implementation of a controversial anti-Islamophobia bullying initiative at San Diego public schools.

The development is the latest in a long-running saga concerning school officials in San Diego coordinating with CAIR, an American-Muslim civil rights and religious organization with known links to a number of anti-Israel groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

The controversy began in April when the San Diego school district announced it was launching an anti-Islamophobia initiative to combat what it described as a vast and underreported epidemic of anti-Muslim bullying in the district’s schools.

The multi-year anti-bullying plan, developed with assistance from CAIR, called for adding Muslim holidays to staff calendars, introducing new library materials on Muslim culture, encouraging Muslim-centered high school clubs, creating “safe spaces” for Muslim students and providing staff training about Muslim culture.

Hanif Mohebi, the executive director of CAIR-San Diego, praised the initiative and said it should serve as a model for school districts across the country.

“If we do this right, San Diego Unified School District would be the leading school district in the nation to come up with a robust and beautiful anti-bully and anti-Islamophobic program,” Mohebi told The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Mohebi was invited to give talks at more than a dozen San Diego schools starting in late 2016 to teach students and teachers how to reduce bullying of Muslim students.

Hanif gave pamphlets to students that advised Muslim youth to contact CAIR if they faced bullying, which according to CAIR includes “insulting comments about Islam.”

Handing out such pamphlets is considered to be “both a religious and educational exercise,” according to the CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad who testified before the National Labor Relations Board in 2016.

Many parents were outraged. They thought the initiative looked more like a religious advocacy program than an anti-bullying initiative.

A lawsuit filed in May by the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund accused the school district of entangling itself with CAIR to set up a “subtle, discriminatory scheme that establishes Muslim students as the privileged religious group.”

“Consequently, students of other faiths are left on the outside looking in, vulnerable to religiously motivated bullying, while Muslim students enjoy an exclusive right to the School District’s benevolent protection,” the lawsuit stated.

Charles LiMandri, president and chief counsel of the FCDF, urged the San Diego school system to rescind the policy, saying it likely violated the First Amendment because it was drafted with assistance from CAIR, an overtly religious organization.

“The San Diego Unified School District has gone out on a limb, more than most school districts would be willing to do, to partner with a group that identifies itself as a religious group,” LiMandri told The Daily Caller News Foundation in a phone interview.

LiMandri also accused CAIR of intentionally targeting public schools as a way to covertly spread the Muslim faith.


Military Spouse Says Education Savings Accounts Would Create ‘Phenomenal’ Freedom for Those Who Serve

The spouse of a retired Air Force colonel says a bill creating federally funded savings accounts for military families would provide more school choices and flexibility in educating the children of those in the armed forces.

“It absolutely would give them the freedom to make the educational choices that they need to make for their particular family members,” Melinda Bargery, a mother of four and wife of Col. Chris Bargery, who served in the Air Force for more than 28 years, told The Daily Signal in a phone interview.

The bill, introduced Wednesday by Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., would create a new kind of education savings account that military families could use to increase their school choice options by paying for certain costs.

Options covered would include private school tuition, private online learning programs, individual classes and extracurriculars at public schools, computer hardware, textbooks, curriculum, and other instructional materials, according to a report from The Heritage Foundation, which has championed the idea.

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“Thirty-five percent of service members have considered leaving the military because of the limited education options available, and 40 percent have either declined or would decline a career-advancing opportunity at a different installation if it meant their child would have to leave a high-performing school,” Banks wrote in an op-ed that appeared Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal.

Sens. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., and Tim Scott, R-S.C., introduced a companion bill Wednesday in the Senate.

Bargery, a resident of Mount Vernon, Virginia, says she homeschooled each of the couple’s four children “at one point along the way.”

She said she knows from experience that military education savings accounts would provide needed flexibility for military families, which often are on the move.

“If we had had an educational savings account where we could have drawn from that to pay for our homeschool supplies, or extracurricular classes, or tutoring for our kids, that would have been phenomenal,” Bargery said.

The family made 21 moves during her husband’s 14 different assignments, she said.

The Bargerys’ four children are Sarah, now 28; Haley, 27; Jackson, 24; and Mary Margaret, 15.

During son Jackson’s senior year at Ramstein High School, a Department of Defense school in Germany, school officials said he would not be able to graduate since he had not met all of the school’s requirements.

“They wanted him to take all these classes that were not going to help him in any sort of way, but just to fulfill their requirements,” Bargery said. “And eventually, after much, much discussion and frustration, we found out that he could be allowed to graduate essentially from the school that he had previously been in, with their requirements.”

Had the family been able to use a program such as education savings accounts, Bargery said, they might not have had the issue to begin with.

“It just took so much of our time, and we thought we were going to have to put him in classes like ‘Dress for Success’ rather than an AP [Advanced Placement] psych class or something like that,” she said. “So you just run up against situations like that over and over.”

Bargery said military families would be able to give their children more consistency if they were able to access “great online academies” and other choices through education savings accounts.

The quality of education also would increase if military families had the funds and ability to choose a school for their children, rather than being confined to a school on base.

“Oftentimes the schools that are zoned for military bases are subpar, or don’t offer the services that your kids might need,” Bargery said. “Having that money given straight to us, instead of going to the school district, would be amazing because we could just choose how we wanted to do that along the way.”

Sometimes military families decide not to live on a base because of the quality of the school or schools there.

“I have noticed over the years that people less and less chose to live on base, and oftentimes it was because the school that was zoned for the base was so poor,” Bargery said, adding: “They wanted better for their children, so they would be willing to live further out, away from the base, just to give their kids a better education.”

“I hope it passes,” she said of the legislation.


Australia: Tough school deputy head supported by the students

School authorities making mountains out of a molehill

The student who had his hair cut by a long-standing deputy principal of an elite private high school has revealed he never wanted he wanted him to be sacked.

A woman who claimed to be the boy's aunt told The Herald Sun they did not try to force Rohan Brown out of Trinity Grammar School in Melbourne. She also said that her nephew had been the target of bullying since the announcement of Mr Brown's dismissal and that the student and Mr Brown had sorted the issue out between themselves.

Students were seen passionately protesting the dismissal of Mr Brown, with one student claiming students and teachers alike were crying over it.

However despite more than 500 people signing an online petition to 'Bring Brownie Back' and parents threatening to withhold fees, the school is standing firm on its decision.

Principal Michael Davies said he would consult with advisors and leaders so that the school could provide more insight into the issue in the coming weeks.

Trinity Grammar School council chairman Roderick Lyle told parents on Thursday night Mr Brown had left the school. Mr Lyle said Mr Brown's actions were 'inconsistent with community expectations in this day and age', The Age reported.

It is understood Mr Brown cut a student's hair because it was too long on the school's photo day.

The school's policy is that hair must be off the collar.

'As a result, the school council was of the view that Mr Brown's leadership position at the school was no longer tenable,' the letter read. 'We are all very disappointed and deeply saddened by the situation.'

Mr Brown had worked at the school for almost 30 years, and said he was upset about what had happened. 'I would like to go back. It's a good school and this is tearing me apart. I can't comment further,' he said.

Former students said they believed the decision to sack Mr Brown was political.

'This was a school which produced well-rounded men who had an interest in the wider community not just their pay packets and status. The school is being destroyed,' a former Trinity Grammar student said.

Former teachers said there had been high staff turnover after current principal Michael Davies took the role in 2014. A teacher estimates 152 staff had left the school since then.

In his letter to parents, Mr Lyle said Mr Brown had served the school and had made a strong contribution.

An interim leadership structure has been put in place at the school while the council looked for a replacement for Mr Brown.