Thursday, October 07, 2004


Charles Clark is the minister in charge of British education under the present Labour government there

"Charles Clarke vowed to launch a "crusade" to reform education today, listing a catalogue of problems currently blighting schools.... He gave a frank assessment of the education system's failings, particularly for 14 to 19-year-olds. "Too much of the work does not stretch the ablest pupils enough," he said. "Too much of the work leads some pupils to switch off entirely and to turn to truancy and disruption. "Too much of the assessment is an excessive burden rather than a stimulation. "Too many students leave school without knowing their grammar and being properly numerate," he said. "There is too much of a division between the academic and the vocational streams of study.

Mr Clarke insisted that work-related qualifications would take a much higher priority when the eagerly awaited Tomlinson review of 14-19 education is published in the next few weeks. "Too little of the education is relevant to the world of work and the real lives of 14 to 19-year-olds."

Chris Keates, acting general secretary of teachers' union NASUWT, said it was "a robust address setting out an impressive record of achievement" [Huh?? Failure = achievement?? Good Leftist thinking, I guess.]

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said it was "a welcome relief" that Mr Clarke announced no new initiatives, given the Government's already "massive agenda for reform". [At least the Head-teachers recognize it all as empty talk].

Shadow education secretary Tim Collins dismissed what he called Labour's increasingly "outlandish" rhetoric. "Charles Clarke is talking about it as his `crusade', but once again this is all talk," he said. "Ministers are now running from one desperate measure to another as the evidence of falling standards mounts daily.""

More here.


Urban public school teachers are nearly twice as likely as other parents to send their kids to private schools, a study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education-reform group, found last month.... The report should serve to mobilize educators and communities to intensify efforts to improve public schools. Instead, teachers unions and many school officials dismiss the report as a flawed ploy by an interest group intent on diverting resources from public schools to private ones.

While there's no instant panacea for fixing failing schools, a first step requires recognizing the problem, not denying it. Political leaders and school officials in some cities, such as New York and Chicago, acknowledge that their schools are in crisis. They've shaken up their systems by closing dozens of chronically low-performing schools and opening up dozens of new ones, many under the charter-schools concept, which promotes greater innovation. More needs to be done. Other reforms worth considering:

Expand school choice. More than 750,000 students are enrolled in 3,000 charter schools, public schools that operate free of many bureaucratic rules in return for the promise of higher student achievement. Chicago's 17 charter schools outperform their adjacent neighborhood schools, and most have waiting lists, says Chicago public schools CEO Arne Duncan. Five states have voucher programs that offer public money for low-income students to attend private schools. Supporters say such competition will prod public schools to improve.

Merit pay. Union contracts often make it difficult to reward excellent teachers and get rid of poor ones. But linking teacher pay to student performance has produced solid academic gains in pilot programs in Denver and Phoenix. Ending tenure for teachers who fail to meet accountability standards also can improve classroom instruction, as can bonuses paid to encourage effective teachers to work in poor-performing schools. In Chattanooga, Tenn., a bonus plan reduced teacher turnover by 50% during two years, and student scores improved dramatically.

Teachers unions and some school officials point to studies that question whether charter schools and voucher programs improve student performance. By contrast, reformers cite other studies showing progress. What is clear, however, is that too many traditional public school systems are failing, and too few alternatives are being tried.

The latest study ought to create a new sense of urgency for opponents to get on board the reform movement. After all, if so many teachers think public schools aren't good enough for their children, why should anyone else have faith in the current system?

From USA Today.


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

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