Saturday, March 05, 2005


From Smith College's "Sophian"

Women in the Middle East and Afghanistan have been recently granted far more freedom, yielding immediate results and power to those who have been traditionally marginalized within their countries.

The new Iraqi Parliament is indicative of this exciting change. In order to smooth the transition of women into government, a quota was implemented which required one in four candidates to be a woman. While this quota was designed to ensure women a quarter of the seats in the parliament, Iraqis went above expectations by electing women into 86 of the 275 seats of the Parliament. Women will constitute approximately 31 percent of this new governmental system.

The political position of women in Afghanistan has also improved drastically. Women constituted 41 percent of all registered voters in the last election, representing an enormous triumph over their terrible conditions prior to the war. It is unfortunate that our incredible success in Afghanistan often goes unnoted, precisely because it has been such a smooth process.

Recently, in Saudi Arabia, Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal's election commission recommended that women be granted suffrage. Though this has not yet been confirmed, it is evidence that Middle Eastern countries now feel compelled toward equality for women. You can be sure that these leaders would not feel this pressure without the push of democracy and women's rights during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

It would be naive to say that this is indicative of solid gender equality in these countries. But it is a step forward, and the first step must be taken before a destination is reached.

Though I am confident that no rational liberal would condemn these steps forward, they are unwilling to celebrate any action taken by the Bush administration. Liberals have been taught, and believe, that President Bush represents everything they are against, that he is stupid, and that everything he does is detrimental to our country and the world. How, then, can they reconcile their sense of justice in women's rights with an action taken by an "evil" administration?

The feminist silence over the conditions of women in the Middle East has been deafening. Liberals and feminists are hesitant, if not completely opposed, to the idea that the greater goal of equality might be reached through the abhorred medium of war. Liberals may never concede that the ends justify the means in Iraq. However, now that the actions of war appear to be nearing the end, we can, hopefully, appreciate the amazing final results of our involvement in the Middle East and in Afghanistan.


A national movement that supporters say protects college students from indoctrination by college professors but opponents say stifles debate made its way to Minnesota on Wednesday when two legislators proposed legislation that they call the "Academic Bill of Rights." Sen. Michele Bachmann, R-Stillwater, and Rep. Ray Vandeveer, R-Forest Lake, said their bill would require the state's publicly funded colleges and universities to adopt policies that would mandate that professors not use their classrooms to promote their personal political or ideological beliefs. It also says that students would not be punished for disagreeing with their instructors' politics.

While Bachmann, who has announced that she is a candidate for Congress, said the law would apply across the political spectrum, the focus nationally has been complaints from conservative students that left-wing professors have tried to use their classrooms to indoctrinate young minds with liberal propaganda.

At a morning news conference, speakers included students and professors who talked of feeling punished for their conservative views. No speakers complained about conservative instructors.

Lawmakers in 21 other states have introduced similar bills, part of a national movement spearheaded by Students for Academic Freedom, a Washington-based student network founded by conservative activist David Horowitz. Horowitz spoke at the news conference, saying it was unprofessional for professors to impose their political ideologies on their students. "You don't go into a doctor's office and expect to get a political lecture or see on his office door cartoons bashing John Kerry or bashing George Bush," he said.

Critics of such measures, including the American Association of University Professors, have said the bills could stifle debate and questioned whether its supporters had ulterior motives, such as wanting more conservative professors. Michael Livingston, president of the Minnesota Chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said he has heard the classroom horror stories anecdotally but believes they are rare occurrences at best. "I find this very puzzling because it's a solution to a problem that doesn't exist," Livingston said. "The purpose of college professors is to help students think. We help them by presenting divergent perspectives. Sometimes we believe those perspectives, but a lot of times we don't. We just need to present our students with perspectives so they can think them through and understand them."

(From the Minneapolis Star Tribune. See Here for a comment on the usual form of the Strib)

Tennessee: Bill of Rights for college students stirs debate: "A move to create a bill of rights for college students, protecting them from political or religious 'indoctrination' by faculty members, is part of a larger nationwide push by a conservative group. Bills filed in the state House and Senate are similar to legislation proposed in at least 20 states and based on ideals backed by Students for Academic Freedom, a Washington, D.C.-based student network founded by conservative activist David Horowitz. It's intended to 'uphold the presence of multisided academic debate on our campuses,' said Rep. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, a sponsor of the House bill. 'Most campuses are very liberal, and professors are ashamedly not very open-minded toward our point of view,' he said. 'When somebody speaks up, a lot of times it ends up costing the student their grade.'"


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.

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


Friday, March 04, 2005


Below are some excerpts from a rather dogmatic article about the benefits of pre-school, followed by a reply from a reader of the article:

"The link between preschool and success in adulthood is pretty elementary. The corollaries are predictable, and potent. Kids who go are much more likely to get a head start on learning and good, lifelong habits. Kids who don't are less likely to graduate from high school and twice as likely to become career criminals. The lesson? More preschools are needed so that all children from families of all socioeconomic groups can attend if they so choose.....

Preschool, perhaps the best crime-prevention tool, especially for at-risk kids, often isn't available where it's needed most. For every 10 students enrolled in preschool programs statewide, four are turned away. Many preschool programs in Los Angeles County have waiting lists. Some are out of sight, out of mind for many poor families......

The advantages of preschool aren't lost on state educators, either. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell, in his statewide education address last month, proposed universal preschool, replete with standards for what all preschoolers should learn and a credentials program for preschool teachers. We still believe parents ought to make that choice but that more and more are seeking preschools for their children. The knowledge and learning skills developed in preschool even could close the achievement gap that often leaves blacks, Latinos, the poor and the disabled lagging in standardized test scores, O'Connell said...."

More here

The reply:

"I disagree with your editorial, "Preschool a link to success!'

What's ironic about my position is that I have a degree in early childhood education. Purposefully, none of my six children went to preschool. None of my children are criminals. In fact, they are successful students in elementary, high school, college, and graduate school. Two are college graduates. So far, they are all well adjusted, for which I am grateful.

Early in our marriage, I supported my husband as he pursued advanced education. This allowed him to secure an adequate paying job to support our family, and gave me the privilege to be a stay-at-home mother.

When my children were preschool age, I took them to story hour at our local library. At home we listened to music, made crafts, went on walks, and made cookies. We planted a vegetable garden, read books, did chores, and wrote letters to grandparents.

Could it be that the statistics that favor preschool are in reality linked to broken homes and absentee parenting? I believe that in order to prepare young children for a successful kindergarten and beyond, it is the parent who needs to be in the home nurturing and teaching them, and not relegating this responsibility to a preschool.

I acknowledge that some family circumstances are different than mine. Single parents have fewer choices. In doing the best they can, they may have to turn to preschool. Yet, this needs to be the exception and not the rule.

Wise teaching and disciplining of young children by their own parent is really the smart investment that should be considered, not preschool."



"In a keynote speech hardwired to be provocative, Bill Gates told the nation's governors that "America's high schools are obsolete."

Some data points: The US has one of the highest high school dropout rates in the industrialized world. Only 68 out of every 100 ninth-graders graduate from high school on time, and most need extensive remediation after that. Only 28 of the original ninth-graders make it to their sophomore year in college. "When I compare our high schools to what I see when I'm traveling abroad, I am terrified for our workforce of tomorrow," said the Microsoft chairman, who is hiring about half of his new talent overseas.

While President Bush's proposal to expand his signature No Child Left Behind law to the nation's high schools has all but flunked before arrival on Capitol Hill, many of the nation's governors are claiming the mantle of high school reform as their own. Proposals at this weekend's national education summit include a rigorous college-prep curriculum for all students, more opportunities to earn college credits or industry certification while still in high school, and statewide goals for retention and graduation rates, including at two- and four-year colleges.

For the last quarter century, most of the national reform effort has focused on the pre-K-8 years. Experts and policymakers assumed that if the nation could get all students reading by third grade, the achievement gap between races and classes - and, increasingly, between the performance of US students and those in many other industrialized nations - could be bridged.

While younger students did show improvement, that didn't carry into high school years. "The attention to high school is long overdue, but I don't think there will be additional federal money for it," says Jack Jennings, director of the Center on Education Policy in Washington. "The governors will have to go back to their states and change high schools on their own."

At a historic 1989 education summit, the governors and the elder President Bush launched the movement to set goals for what students should learn in the nation's public schools. Those new standards set a baseline for the 2002 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, which uses federal dollars to leverage these goals in Grades 3 through 8. But three years into the new law, many states are falling short of benchmarks that get tougher every year. Moreover, at a time of tight budgets for nonsecurity spending, federal funding for education is dropping. In a slap at Washington, Utah's House of Representatives this month voted unanimously to give local education goals priority over NCLB requirements. Twenty-six other states have considered bills to curb NCLB.

"Expanding No Child Left Behind to high schools is going to be an uphill battle, but there's a lot that governors can do to redeploy existing resources now," says Gov. Mark Warner (D) of Virginia, chairman of the National Governors Association.

While many schools are meeting new standards, some 11,008 low-performing public schools face penalties under the new law - up from 5,869 last year, according to a survey by Education Week.

Last week, the National Conference on State Legislatures called for an end to the law's "one size fits all" approach to measuring student performance and asked Washington to fully fund the law. Instead, the president's FY 2006 budget calls for deep cuts in federal dollars for schools. The budget calls for eliminating or downsizing $4.2 billion in programs, including $2.17 billion targeted to high schools. With proposed caps on future nondefense discretionary spending, K-12 education funding faces an additional $11 billion in cuts over the next five years.

In such a political and fiscal climate, NCLB supporters on both sides of the aisle worry that expanding the law to US high schools would give opponents an opening to gut it. Many Republicans worry that the law has imposed too strong a federal footprint on a state and local function. Demo crats say it's vastly underfunded.

In a speech to the National Association of Secondary School Principals on Friday, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings urged principals to "finish the job" of education reform by supporting Mr. Bush's high school Initiative. The $1.5 billion plan requires schools to test students three times during the course of high school and help those falling behind. Responding to critics, she said that the Education Department wants to be "as flexible as possible" but that the annual testing required in the law "is a must."

Governors say they can move ahead even if the president's plan falters. At the very least, states can adopt a common definition of a dropout rate, to have an accurate measure of the extent of the problem, says Ohio Gov. Bob Taft (R), a member of the NGA Committee on Redesigning the High School. Until recently, many states claimed a dropout rate of about 5 percent. The national rate is now closer to 30 percent - and even higher in many urban schools. The requirements for a high school diploma should keep pace with the demands of college and the economy, especially in states like Ohio that have been hard hit by a loss of manufacturing jobs, Governor Taft says.

Reformers say that if the governors are successful, the new focus on high schools could give a boost to reform efforts in earlier grades. "People thought you could do reform up, but almost all the examples we have of change comes when higher levels dictate what happens at lower levels," says Kati Haycock, director of the Education Trust, a leading advocate for poor children. "It's long overdue that we acknowledge that the standards of high schools are set so low. And the fact that 45 governors are coming to work on this is promising.""



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.

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


Thursday, March 03, 2005


What is wrong with leaving school at 16? It was good enough for Sir Alan Sugar and Sir Richard Branson, who are now worth billions of pounds between them. It was good enough for Sophie Okonedo, who may receive an Oscar tonight for her performance in Hotel Rwanda; and good enough for Delia Smith, who made a fortune from telling people how to cook simply.

But it is not good enough for Ruth Kelly. The Education Secretary said last week that she plans to "effectively" raise the school leaving age from 16 to 18, forcing youngsters to find an academic or vocational course to see them through to 18, whether they like it or not. At the moment many of them do not. Only 71 per cent of 16-year-olds stay on in full-time education, putting Britain 24th out of the top 28 industrialised nations. Ms Kelly wants the percentage staying on to be above 90.

Kayle Cavalla chose to leave, and does not regret it. She has worked as an assistant hairdresser at a Toni & Guy salon since finishing school in south east London last year. She is 16.... Kayle believes staying on would have been wrong. "It felt the right time for me to leave," she says. "I was happy at school but I wanted to get out there and do what I wanted to do. If I had gone to college for three years to train then I might have ended up going to work in a hairdressing salon then, only to find that I hated it. This way I get to train a day a week and the rest of the time I'm earning money, I'm getting used to the environment and I'm getting hands-on experience. "Some of my teachers tried to persuade me to stay on to do A-levels, but I can't imagine I'll regret not taking their advice. If I ever want a job that needs more qualifications, I'll just go back to college."...

Moving to sixth-form college suits many youngsters who want to continue their education but are ready for a change: Nazimah Muhammad, 17, says life at Sir George Monoux College in Walthamstow is a lot more relaxed than school and there's more independence. She is against making it compulsory to stay on, though. "It would cause a lot of disruption - at the moment, people are there because they want to learn." Not everyone agrees: Nicola Owusu-Akontoh, 16, who's in the sixth form at Trinity Catholic High School in Woodford Green in Essex, says the friends she knew who left school last summer aren't all thriving. "Some are still looking for work or aren't happy in their jobs and keep moving from one thing to another. Most jobs these days need qualifications, so what's the point of letting young people leave school without them?"

John Doyle, head of the 1,500-pupil Ormskirk School, an 11-18 comprehensive in Lancashire, says it is only worth keeping young people at school if they want to stay there and if there is something useful for them to do. "At the moment the curriculum doesn't engage everyone effectively - it doesn't cater for the aptitudes of every student. "There's also a problem about schools being expected to be all things to all people: my school is big enough to be able to provide a vocational curriculum, but that isn't available everywhere," he adds.

Before the Second World War it was not uncommon for people to leave school at 14. After the war ended, the expectation was that most would finish at 15 or later 16, while the brightest went on to study for A-levels and university. But since the massive expansion of the university system, which has yet to be matched by funding for students or colleges, the expectation has become that most pupils will want to stay on. Now Ruth Kelly is making that formal.

More here


Any parent with a child in a public school has likely discovered our education system is little more than a means by which liberals indoctrinate children with socialist ideology. If this seems a radical assertion, I assure you it is not. In fact, examples abound indicating its accuracy.

Take the "community box," for instance. How many elementary school kids across the country show up the first day of school, only to have their brand-new supplies pilfered by their teacher and thrown into one big box, to be distributed henceforth as said teacher sees fit? (Karl Marx also had very little regard for private property rights.)

Or how about "cooperative learning" methods of instruction? I use quotation marks to point out how impossible it usually is to get kids to cooperate or learn when they sit in groups a pencil length from their neighbors. But if a teacher is blessed with darling little angels who would never think of misbehaving, students who have "more" knowledge are regularly expected to help those with "less." (How's that saying go again? "From each according to his ability.")

Ever heard of social promotion? This egalitarian concept is standard procedure at most public schools, where students are promoted from one grade to the next regardless of academic aptitude. It practically takes an act of Congress to retain failing students these days, lest we give them the impression they are responsible for their accomplishments.

These are not isolated examples, nor is this short list exhaustive. This is business-as-usual in many American public schools. But as ridiculous as these concepts are, one would think some ideas would be beyond the pale. Not anymore. According to a WorldNetDaily report, California schools have been barred from informing parents if their children leave school grounds "to receive certain confidential medical services that include abortion, AIDS treatment and psychological analysis, according to an opinion issued by the office of state Attorney General Bill Lockyer."

It may come as a surprise, but it's not altogether uncommon for high schools to allow students -- namely, seniors -- to leave campus for various reasons during the normal schoolday without informing the front office -- say, at lunch time or to attend local college courses. But I would bet my lunch money parents are made aware of any such policies.

Make no mistake, this decree handed down by Attorney General Lockyer is not some unambiguous legal maneuver to protect the public school if it loses track of a student, or to safeguard a student's doctor-patient privilege. To the contrary,Mr. Lockyer is announcing his intent to protect organizations like teachers' unions and Planned Parenthood, who have resisted efforts to require parental notification policies for medical procedures like abortions. Think about this for a second. If California's attorney general gets away with this absurd policy, your kid's geometry teacher essentially has more right to know your child is pregnant -- or has contracted HIV, or is potentially suicidal -- than you do. And how is a "medical service" still confidential if someone other than a doctor and patient is aware of it?

In plain English, it isn't. But this hasn't stopped school officials and liberal lawyers from assuming they know better than parents what's best for their own kids.

It is irrefutable there are many outstanding teachers, and still more who are appalled by the actions of people like Bill Lockyer. But alas, this has not prevented public school districts from believing they have the right to act tyrannically, even if usurping authority from abusive or irresponsible parents generates policies that apply equally to the vast majority who are not abusive or irresponsible.

In the "perfect" society, there is no private property because everything belongs to the state (or the "village," in Hillary Clinton's mind) -- even your children. It is a sad day in public education when teachers and administrators -- who so adamantly proclaim their love for "the children" -- would even consider actively deceiving parents by concealing matters that pose such clear emotional burdens to youngsters.

What's worse, we're not even talking about forcing schools to report such distressing information, as we do if they suspect child abuse. We're talking about encouraging, even requiring, schools to intentionally withhold vital student health information from parents even if the parents ask for it. Public schools can't even take students on field trips or hand out Tylenol without consent of a parent or guardian, but if they want to toss out condoms and, apparently, schedule abortions for teenagers, why, that's just not our business. If this doesn't convince you that parents practically forfeit all control over their kids upon subjecting them to the draconian fancies of today's state "education" facilities, nothing will.



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.

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


Wednesday, March 02, 2005


It felt more like a juvenile detention center during lockdown than lunchtime in my neighborhood public middle school. Teachers were strategically stationed throughout the cafeteria about 20 feet apart. One of the vice principals had taken her customary place at the microphone. Every few seconds the noisy room was punctuated with her constant commands: “You, in the green shirt, sit down.” “Students standing at the back table, find a seat quickly.” “Young man at the soda machine, move to a table.” ....

The lunch experience was depressing, stifling and insulting to both teachers and students alike. How did things get so bad that what used to be a welcome break in the middle of the day for both faculty and kids is now a necessary evil?

I talked with other teachers when I got the chance. Stepping out into the hallway with one teacher to monitor the changing of classes (yes, Virginia, the police state is real -- it’s the easiest solution to disorder), the 20-year veteran of the school bemoaned the disrespect for authority, the lazy attitudes, the violent outbreaks, and the general unpleasantness. “The kids used to be so good.” She once enjoyed teaching, but not any more.

On this particular day I subbed for English class, following the normal lesson plans for the day, which called for the students to take took turns reading aloud. As kids droned on, stumbling over even the most basic words, I glanced around the room. There were kids sleeping in the back, and others just staring into space. Disinterest abounded. Taped to the walls were book reports, each with its own hand-made cover. As I leafed through the pages between classes it was obvious the students’ time was spent more on their “creative covers” than on the actual exercise of analyzing or writing about books. And this was 8th grade.....

The depressing atmosphere I had experienced the first day resumed the minute I arrived in the locker room. The PE coach warned me, “Make sure you keep an eye on the stalls while the girls are changing. We have to keep close watch. No one is to take a shower. There are two girls who need to take a make-up test. Be sure and seat them to the side while the other kids are playing volleyball -- keep an eye out because the girls will try to cheat.” She was right. Three times I had to move the girls away from each other and their friends.

The class was co-ed, as are most PE classes these days. While younger boys still waiting to develop failed miserably in their struggle to show their great athletic ability in front of the physically mature girls, it was obvious the girls knew how to use their well-developed female bodies to intimidate and belittle. I was shocked at how aggressive they were. Taller than most of the boys, several of them shoved their breasts into the necks of the boys as they teased and laughed at their mistakes. Many of the girls had their gym shorts rolled up so far, their buttocks showed. “Unroll your waistband,” I said. A flat voice responded, “But everyone wears them this way all the time.”

More here


The Los Angeles Unified School District faces a potential financial crisis that threatens its future because of its unfunded $5 billion liability to provide full medical coverage to retired employees and their families, according to a new state analysis. The report by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office warned that soaring health-care costs, generous employee contracts and the failure to earmark money for the expenses pose a serious danger. It said the LAUSD needs to put away $500 million a year -- about 8 percent of its current budget -- for 30 years to cover a liability that could reach $11 billion under a worst-case scenario. Citing the LAUSD as a prime example of a problem faced by many other districts, the report said: "The liabilities some districts face are very large -- so large they potentially threaten the district's ability to operate in the future."

While school board and union officials shrug off the seriousness of health care without cost to retirees, Tim Buresh, the LAUSD's chief operating officer, said he's been warning district leaders about the problem for some time. "In the corporate world, I'd go to jail for this," Buresh said. "Corporations could never do this. L.A. has a Cadillac free-benefits system and we haven't put any money away to pay for it." If the LAUSD can't figure out how the benefits can be funded by 2007 when new federally recommended accounting changes take effect, it will have to quit promising benefits to retirees, he said.

About 150 school districts in the state provide substantial health benefits to retirees, with about 80 of those, including the LAUSD, providing lifetime benefits. The LAUSD and Fresno were cited as facing the most serious problem.....

LAUSD board member David Tokofsky said paying health benefits of retired teachers is not the most pressing problem facing the state. Districts fail to meet all kinds of conservative recommendations for workers' compensation, economic uncertainty and health benefit reserves, he said, adding that retiree health benefits are one of the only perks educators have. "Things will change. Solutions will be found and we should keep Ducky Lucky, Henny Penny and other Chicken Littles from pushing an extremist agenda in the face of real problems."

The LAUSD expects to pay about $170 million this year for 32,000 retirees to receive health benefits, and the amount is expected to more than double within 10 years. The LAUSD, like many districts, writes checks out of its general fund each year to pay for that year's benefits. The more fiscally responsible approach, according to the state report, is to treat the benefits like a pension fund and invest money now for each teacher currently in the system.....

Legally, school districts cannot deny benefits to current retirees, but they can negotiate with the unions to stop providing them for new employees. Dan Basalone, staff member for the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles union, said benefit decisions are made on an annual basis and could be revised. "(Cutting them) would politically be disastrous, obviously. It isn't something where it's this horrendous unfunded mandate that they're somehow locked into."

Assemblyman Keith Richman, R-Granada Hills, this week wrote to LAUSD Superintendent Roy Romer to find out what the district plans to do about the issue. Richman, a member of the Assembly Education committee, said if districts do not start addressing the problem, the state may have to step in. "The first thing they need to do is stop digging the hole deeper," Richman said. "The school district needs to negotiate with the teachers union and simply say we can no longer afford to continue to give benefits that are going to bankrupt the district."

More here


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.

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


Tuesday, March 01, 2005


Harding Elementary School PTA President Meredith Brace has led a battle for several years to stop her white neighbors from transferring out of the heavily Latino Westside campus. Now she's joining them, saying she's not willing to make her son the guinea pig any longer. The Braces are like hundreds of other local families who, over the years, have sought transfers out of neighborhood schools that are filled with mostly poor Latino children. "I'm gone," said Mrs. Brace, who on Tuesday requested and was granted a transfer for her first-grade son out of Harding and into the more affluent Hope School, within the nearby Hope Elementary District. "I've just got to the point where, 'Sorry guys, I need what's best for my kids and there's a school that's two miles away that offers all those things I want.' "

About 40 percent of the 462 students at Hope School are there on transfers from the Goleta or Santa Barbara elementary districts. Some school officials and neighborhood families view Mrs. Brace's departure as a red flag. If someone who has advocated so fiercely against white flight won't stick it out, who will? A liberal whose father is Superior Court Judge George Eskin and stepmother is former Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson, Mrs. Brace had been considered over the years as the Great White Hope for Harding. "This is a major blow," said Santa Barbara school trustee Bob Noel. "Meredith was kind of like Supermom in terms of doing things for her school. . . . You can read racism into this, but I read more of an issue of social class. People don't want to look and see their kid is in a classroom where most of the students are underachievers and where friendship circle possibilities are very, very small because they don't speak the same language."

Harding is 90 percent Latino, 6 percent white. Hope is 73 percent white, 20 percent Latino. Hope families have raised enough money every year to keep on staff an array of specialists in art, music, computers and science -- all the "extras" Mrs. Brace wants for her son, who is 7, and her 4-year-old daughter. As PTA president, Mrs. Brace said she has tried to start after-school enrichment programs in art and theater at Harding. "We made it so affordable, $20 for a six- to eight-week session. We told everybody, 'Come on, do something extra for your kids.' We had so few people sign up, we had to eliminate a lot of the classes," she said. "I've met some very lovely people, but we have nothing in common. Every time my husband and I would go over for an event, my husband would feel like it was his first time. We haven't made any friends."

Harding parent Cristina Hernandez said she's seen the school's racial mix change, but that Mrs. Brace shouldn't give up. "I've been here 14 years now, and all of a sudden we turned around and all the white parents had gone," she said, speaking in Spanish. "They don't want their children side by side with our children. (Mrs. Brace) shouldn't leave. She should stay and keep fighting."

It was about three years ago, before her son entered kindergarten, that Mrs. Brace started going door to door touting Harding's achievements, trying to convince her neighbors to join her in giving the school a try. She even took on the PTA president post before her son had entered kindergarten. Once her son started, she remained PTA president, volunteered in the classroom, boosted fund-raising efforts, and continued to hold regular neighborhood meetings to make other white families feel comfortable with the campus. While she said she's not bilingual, she used the Spanish she picked up while living in Costa Rica and Mexico to try to connect with Latino parents.

Some of the white families she had convinced to enroll their kids at Harding later bailed out. She said her son has struggled to make friends. "He hasn't been invited to a birthday party. There is absolutely no after-school interaction," she said. "For his birthday, he invited four of his classmates. Only one came." Then she was miffed that her skills -- she's a credentialed librarian -- weren't capitalized on in her son's classroom.

Another Harding mother and friend of the Braces, Brenda McDonald, said she had independently decided to transfer her kindergartner out of the campus. Mrs. McDonald is also considering Hope School, or Washington Elementary, which is still within the Santa Barbara district. "At Harding, the teachers are wonderful. The principal is great. It's the socioeconomic chasm. It's not a gap, it's a huge difference in the population," said Mrs. McDonald, who described herself as a middle-class professional. "We don't have a lot in common with the other families. At the same time, do I want to drive five days a week now every day for the next six years? Then again, if half of the Westside is going in that direction, maybe we can carpool."

More here


In the Australian State of Victoria

Underperforming principals and teachers are being removed from government schools under a crackdown on standards by the State Government. In a significant policy shift from an era when underperforming staff were tolerated, it is believed the contracts of five principals have not been renewed, and another eight have been given 12 months to shape up. The Age also believes the contracts of about 100 teachers have not been renewed. Education Minister Lynne Kosky confirmed the hardline approach, which she said was part of a new resolve to ensure government schools had the best teachers. "We're serious about making sure we've got the best performers," Ms Kosky said. "It's a new resolve. I don't expect it to be many people at all. But it just sends a clear message to parents and to students that where there is obviously underperformance, then we will act on that. That means principals and teachers we've got in place are really terrific."

The Education Department is also negotiating payouts with about half a dozen teachers who have been deemed to be "in excess" of their school's staffing requirements.

In the case of underperforming principals, Ms Kosky said the department first offered support, mentoring and new ideas. "But where that fails, then contracts are not being renewed," she said. The department has also sent a clear message to principals that they will be supported in removing underperforming teachers, provided due process is followed. "It is within the power of the principal, and we'll provide that support," Ms Kosky said. "But teachers' rights do have to be respected." She said the department and previous governments had been "a little too relaxed" in dealing with underperforming teachers.

Opposition education spokesman Victor Perton said the problems in Victorian schools went far deeper than could be dealt with by the removal of five principals. He said the OECD had assessed Victoria as having the worst literacy and numeracy performance on mainland Australia, and truancy was out of control. He said the key concern was a lack of transparency on which schools were failing. Mr Perton said the Government had admitted last year that if parents knew the literacy and numeracy results in many state schools, the schools would be forced to close as parents removed their children.

The hard line on performance follows the release of the Government blueprint for education in 2003, which flagged the Government's willingness to act when schools were struggling. The Government has been able to implement its new staffing policy without a confrontation with the Australian Education Union, which has both teacher and principal members. But the union's state president, Mary Bluett, raised concerns about the treatment of some principals who had not had their contracts renewed. She said that under the Government's education blueprint, underperforming principals were to be offered support. But she questioned whether the help had been provided to the principals involved.

More here


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Monday, February 28, 2005


A 13-year-old student in Orange County, Fla., was suspended for 10 days and could be banned from school over an alleged assault with a rubber band, according to a Local 6 News report. Robert Gomez, a seventh-grader at Liberty Middle School, said he picked up a rubber band at school and slipped it on his wrist. Gomez said when his science teacher demanded the rubber band, the student said he tossed it on her desk.

After the incident, Gomez received a 10-day suspension for threatening his teacher with what administrators say was a weapon, Local 6 News reported. "They said if he would have aimed it a little more and he would have gotten it closer to her face he would have hit her in the eye," mother Jenette Rojas said. Rojas said she was shocked to learn that her son was being punished for a Level 4 offense -- the highest Level at the school. Other violations that also receive level 4 punishment include arson, assault and battery, bomb threats and explosives, according to the Code of Student Conduct.

The district said a Level 4 offense includes the use of any object or instrument used to make a threat or inflict harm, including a rubber band. Rojas plans to fight the ruling but her son still faces expulsion. "It's ridiculous, it's a rubber band," Rojas said.

The school's principal could not comment because the case is still under investigation. A district spokesman said there is still a series of meetings the district will have before Gomez is officially expelled.


Bilingual education fails the kids but the Leftist elites still love it

(Of course! Keep the peasants in their place!)

When test scores came out recently showing that Latino immigrant kids are getting much better at reading and writing English, California Superintendent of Schools Jack O'Connell urged schools to find ways to move them out of special English and into mainstream classes. Good idea, since many can't get access to advanced placement courses for college so long as they're designated as "English learners" and kept too long in training-wheels-style English immersion classes.

I found it rich that O'Connell is urging schools to act. To a large degree, it's his fault they haven't. Under Proposition 227, immigrant children were only supposed to stay in special immersion for a year or so, then go to mainstream class. But O'Connell has refused to credit English immersion for soaring English literacy rates. His silence emboldens the anti-English ideologues who still strive to keep Latino kids in a separate world. Again this month, O'Connell refused to credit English immersion, telling the San Francisco Chronicle he won't guess why kids are learning English so well. Guess? Year after year, he's failed to crunch data that could compare kids still stuck in "bilingual" to those in English immersion. The state Board of Education finally ordered O'Connell to produce a study withthat in mind.

While we wait, I did my own study. I found that school districts like Los Angeles Unified - where moderate Democrats stamped out failing bilingual education amidst fierce lefty resistance - are producing big, lasting gains in English literacy. By contrast, districts controlled by left-wing Democrats with an attitude of "they won't be able to talk to grandma!" are producing smaller gains. In 2001, of 244,000 L.A. kids who weren't native English speakers, only 17 percent scored as "advanced or early advanced" on statewide English tests. Today, a stunning 49 percent get those high scores.

Back then, L.A. was paying 6,000 teachers a yearly bonus ($2,500 to $5,000) to teach in Spanish - the disastrous bilingual program. Now, only 679 teachers get the bonuses and teach "bilingual." See any pattern there, Mr. O'Connell?

By contrast, San Diego Unified was run by sad, fad-obsessed school honchos Alan Bersin and Tony Alvarado, who kowtowed to its anti-reform teachers union. It shows. In 2001, of 33,800 San Diego kids who weren't native English speakers, 24 percent got "advanced or early advanced" scores on the English tests. Today, 41 percent get those high scores - well behind L.A.

Virulently anti-Prop. 227 Berkeley Unified is almost frozen in place. In 2001, of the 1,000 Berkeley kids who weren't native English speakers, 42 percent scored "advanced or early advanced" on English tests. Today, 45 percent do. L.A. - far more urban and poverty-riddled - has blown past leafy Berkeley. O'Connell's silence emboldens these people. In Sacramento, legislators will soon hold education hearings aimed at dumbing-down Latino kids with a separate curriculum. The key guest speaker is an outrageous Pied Piper from the "bilingual" fiasco days, dead-wrong Canadian theorist Jim Cummins.

We should pray that pragmatic Democrats, the Republicans and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger stop the hard left. But unfortunately, many Democrats are scared and Republicans are a minority in the Legislature. One pragmatic Democrat - Reed Hastings - just lost his job on the state Board of Education for defying the lefties on immersion.

While pragmatists from both parties base their views on facts, the left nurses its longtime religious fervor against immersion. Just to remind you how bad their fervor is, let's look back to 1998: Then-San Francisco school board President Carlota del Portillo declared that English immersion "has no educational basis and would set our students back 30 years." Jerry Perenchio, chief of Spanish-language Univision, spent $1.5 million fighting Prop. 227. A Republican, he adopted the views of lefty aides at Univision. One Perenchio aide derided English immersion - the most common method used in the United States - as an ''untested teaching method." Then-Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa, now running for mayor of Los Angeles, denounced Prop. 227 as another Proposition 187. Then-state Sen. Richard Polanco insisted, "[Prop. 227] will do more damage to the [children] in the long run."

The left should grow up. Each year, California must educate a massive new influx of non-English speaking kids from Third World Mexico and other Central American countries, in numbers seen nowhere else in the nation. Ronni Ephraim, the gifted chief instructional officer at L.A. Unified, says Latino parents "recognize that at school their child should acquire a strong base of English, and at home they can support them in maintaining their home language. Parents want their children to be competitive."

So why is the Legislature still pursuing a separate curriculum and lower standards for Latinos, and inviting in one of the worst Pied Pipers of the bilingual fiasco? "I don't understand Sacramento," Ephraim told me. "Why would anyone want to hold a kid back?" Well, that's a true conundrum. But abetted by O'Connell's silence, that's precisely what's afoot.



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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Sunday, February 27, 2005


They can afford to

Utah's state Legislature is poised to repudiate the No Child Left Behind Act and spurn $116 million in federal aid tied to it because state policy-makers are fed up with federal control of education and dictates. "This is not a partisan issue; this is a states' rights issue," said Rep. Margaret Dayton, a 55-year-old Republican and mother of 12 who has led the rebellion to make Utah the first state to opt out of No Child Left Behind. "We share the same passion President Bush has for quality education, but there is not one opponent [to opting out] in the entire Legislature, which is 2-to-1 Republican," Mrs. Dayton said.

Mrs. Dayton's bill and another giving primacy to state education standards won unanimous House approval last week. The state Senate, whose education committee also unanimously passed the measures to pull out of No Child Left Behind, will act this week. No senator has voiced opposition, and Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., a Republican, is prepared to sign the measures, state officials said.

Bush administration officials have conducted round-the-clock negotiations in an attempt to prevent Utah from becoming the first state to ignore the school accountability law. The law establishes conditions for states and school districts with low-income families to receive about $13 billion a year in federal grants. Utah's share is about $116 million, which the state would lose if it spurns No Child Left Behind requirements.

Utah wants to use state definitions for "highly qualified teachers" and school quality rather than definitions prescribed by No Child Left Behind. The state has been demanding more flexibility in required student testing to measure reading and math achievement, saying handicapped students and children with learning disabilities in special education cannot keep pace with other students. State officials contend that the law is unfair because it labels schools "in need of improvement" if even one subgroup of students, such as those in special education, fail to make "adequate yearly progress" in reading or math two years in a row.

The state has more than 20,000 first- through third-graders who don't read at grade level, including a disproportionate number of special-education students and children whose primary language is not English. A major sticking point for the administration is Utah's insistence that students in special education and those whose primary language is not English be measured separately from the entire school population in order to gauge whether a school has met adequate yearly progress. The administration opposes the move because a primary goal of No Child Left Behind is to close a large learning achievement gap between white and minority students. Utah has a 20-point achievement gap between white and Hispanic students in both reading and math, according to the latest tests by the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Eight other state legislatures -- in Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Vermont and Virginia -- are considering challenges to No Child Left Behind. Utah's action "sets the stage for what other states will do down the line," said Scott Young, an education policy analyst for the National Conference of State Legislatures in Denver. "Other states are watching to see if the defiance convinces the federal government to be more flexible with its requirements."



Various Jewish students at Columbia have protested at the one-sided Islamic rants against Israel in various courses at Columbia. Supporters of the Islamist "teachers" at Columbia are defending themselves by saying that the students concerned are trying to enforce orthodoxy -- the exact opposite of what they are in fact doing -- which is to protest against an Islamic orthodoxy! Good old Leftist doublespeak. Orwell lives! Excerpt:

"Columbia students and faculty gathered in Jerome Greene Hall last night to hear a discussion of the historical relevance of the current controversy surrounding the MEALAC department at Columbia during a panel discussion entitled “McCarthyism and the University: A Historical Discussion on Free Speech and the Academy from the Cold War to the Present.”....

Schrecker also criticized Campus Watch and the student group Columbians for Academic Freedom for their involvement in the current controversy, and said that they are “trying to impose orthodoxy at this University, often in the name of academic diversity.” She said she believes such “interference” is detrimental to higher education.

Mamdani addressed the presence of McCarthyism at Columbia today and in the media coverage of the MEALAC coverage. “This particular threat to the University is probably the most serious in recent history,” he said of the allegations of academic bias presented by students..... The panel was sponsored by the Columbia ACLU."

More here. A further update here


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.

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here