Monday, September 25, 2006


Bright pupils are being marked down in their A-level exams for giving "too sophisticated" answers, jeopardising their chances of winning places at their chosen universities. Schools complain that candidates who display originality are being let down by inflexible marking schemes and poorly qualified examiners. In one case a state grammar school was so angry when one of its pupils was given a D grade that it asked Cambridge, where he had an offer of a place, to re-mark the paper. The university judged that it should have been at least two grades higher and awarded him a place.

In another case a teacher at an independent school and a former examiner complained when a pupil was marked down to a D after presenting a carefully argued case that the Vietnam war could be partly explained by decolonisation. The exam board claimed the pupil, who was holding an offer from Oxford that he lost as a result, gave "too much context". When he answered a similar question in a similar way in a re-take, he got an A grade.

The cases underline a growing dissatisfaction among schools that "tick-box" marking schemes are failing to give credit to exceptional work. The number of A-level papers where schools have sought re-marks has risen by 20% in two years. In 2003, schools requested re-marks on 36,000 A-level papers because they judged the grades "unfairly low". By 2005 it had risen to 43,500, with 5,273 resulting in higher grades. At GCSE, re-marks have increased by more than half to 55,400, of which 10,848 were upgraded. Eton College returned 500 A-level papers last year. Exam boards gave higher marks to 299, 113 of them enough to raise grades.

John Bald, an education consultant, said: "Boards are trying to get a grip on the expansion in numbers of pupils getting top grades by using rigid mark systems that do not take account of exceptional intellectual ability."

Adam Bracey, then a pupil at Maidstone grammar in Kent, was awarded a D in one paper, dropping him from an overall A to B in history. He needed three As to take up his offer from Cambridge. "I was devastated," said Bracey, "some of my friends had got into university without the grades they had been asked for, but Cambridge was insistent." The Edexcel board refused to accept the D grade had been mismarked. Neil Turrell, his headmaster, sent the script to Cambridge after two staff concluded the grade was too low. Bracey, 20, got the place after a history don at Homerton College, where he is studying, agreed it was worth a higher grade. Garth Collard, a former history teacher who had been part of the team inspecting Maidstone grammar for Ofsted, also read Bracey's returned script. "I was shocked at the quality of the marking," he said. "The mark scheme was very mechanistic . . . there was no recognition this was a high calibre answer."

Other schools are concerned boards are not employing enough high-quality markers. This year Portsmouth grammar had a number of AS-level papers in English upgraded, including one from D to A. It comes as more than 100 independent schools are planning to ditch A-levels in favour a tougher qualification that places less emphasis on "mechanistic" course work and unlimited resits of exams.

Sophie Garrett, 18, who took A-levels this summer at Tormead, an independent girls' school in Guildford, Surrey, had her music coursework regraded from unclassified to B. Her mother Valerie said: "The original mark meant she failed to get an A. It didn't matter for her place at Surrey University, but she had put hours and hours into it."

Exam boards said their marking schemes did not hold back brighter students. Edexcel said: "Candidates will always receive a fair mark for their work. All examiners must meet certain criteria. Markers are trained and tested to ensure they understand and follow the mark scheme."



By Joseph Farah

It's unusual for me to devote an entire column to an otherwise obscure assistant professor with a less-than distinguished writing career - let alone a second column. But Mel Seesholtz of Penn State University, the subject of my musings Wednesday, has responded in a letter to the editor suggesting I ignored the substance of his argument in favor of "bias free" education and dwelled only on his thinly veiled call for my death, along with James Dobson's. Somehow, it had never occurred to me that I should concern myself with the substance of an argument being made by a nutcase calling for my head. Seesholtz's argument is and was, for me, sort of beside the point.

He employs all of the newspeak of the "GLBT community" to defend an indefensible piece of legislation in California audaciously called "the Bias Free Curriculum Act." Vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the law would have mandated sexual indoctrination of kids from kindergarten on up - in private schools as well as public, or, as Seesholtz himself describes the bill, it "would have prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in textbooks, classroom materials and school-sponsored activities."

Give me a break. This is not as education. This is homosexual reproduction. Since homosexuals don't reproduce naturally, they need to recruit - not to be their children, mind you, but to be their prey. That's why they care so much about what happens in schools - where they obviously have few of their own children. But I digress.

What I really wanted to deal with is the notion that there can be such a thing as "bias free curriculum." The very idea is preposterous, and even someone as steeped in the moral confusion of academia as Seesholtz should understand that. Surely, Seesholtz, who has turned the vilification of Christians and the promotion of same-sex marriage into something of a cottage industry, does not favor the California law because he thinks it is about being free of bias. If he had an ounce of honesty in his spirit, he would admit he favors the law because it promotes his pro-homosexual, anti-Christian agenda.

Think about this: Is there any such thing as "bias-free education"? Can there be any such thing? Would it be possible? If possible, would it be a worthy goal? I would say no. And, I've got to believe any thinking person would agree. Values are an inherent part of education. You have to teach someone's values. They can be good values or bad values. But they are values nevertheless. They could be my values or they could be values of California Sen. Sheila Kuehl - Zelda, as she was once known on the "Dobie Gillis" show. There is no such thing as an education absent values. It's just a question of whose values will be taught.

It's scary that California came as close as it did to imposing by force the values of the Mel Seesholtzes of the world on innocent little schoolchildren who have no need to hear about what homosexuals do in the privacy of their bedrooms, in the bathhouses, in the public restrooms and up on Brokeback Mountain. Let's be honest; there's only one reason to teach kindergarteners about sexual perversion - and that is to raise a new generation of pliable sexual victims of that perversion.

You can couch this immorality in creative public-relations language. You can put any shade of lipstick on that pig you choose. But, at the end of the day, you know what is in the heart, minds and souls of those pushing their sick agenda down the throats of the innocent little schoolchildren.

At Penn State University, they teach the values of Mel Seesholtz, the Ward Churchill of the pro-perversion, anti-Christian crowd. The fact that one so intolerant presses so hard for California's so-called "Bias Free Curriculum Act" strongly suggests Schwarzenegger made the right call when he terminated the bill with extreme prejudice.


Leftist State governments failing Australia's schools

State Labor governments have ceded control of curriculum to individual schools and have failed to monitor the quality of teaching because they are captives of the teachers' unions. In a vigorous attack on the state of the nation's education system, Australia's representative on the executive of the UN education body UNESCO, Kenneth Wiltshire, said the states had relinquished any effective system of measuring the standard of what is taught in schools and the performance of teachers.

Professor Wiltshire, the architect of the Queensland school curriculum under the Goss government, said school inspectors were abolished long ago but an alternative way of monitoring schools had not been introduced. "Current Labor state governments are usually under the influence of the teachers' unions so it is no wonder that teachers remain one of the very few professions who do not have external reviews," he said. He said Western Australia "with its failed experiment on outcomes-based education, and Queensland, with absolutely no external assessment in the entire P-12 spectrum, have no real way of knowing what standards their schools are achieving".

Professor Wiltshire also supported The Weekend Australian's stance against teaching school students critical literacy in English, saying deconstruction belonged at honours level in university. "If you go on deconstructing for long enough you will become a marshmallow or a jelly," he said. "School is for basics and knowledge." He said Shakespeare was studied by "just about every other Western country and many eastern ones as well, despite the claims of the critical literacy movement that he goes in and out of fashion and is 'censored' by curriculum authorities". "If Shakespeare is too difficult for most students in an English subject, would we perhaps create an alternative subject so students could study the comedies in the 'easier' subject and the tragedies in another," he writes in an article in The Weekend Australian today. "Should the Diaries of Anne Frank be replaced with the Emails of Tom Cruise or the Text Messages of Shane Warne?"

Professor Wiltshire said school curriculums failed to detail the key knowledge students should learn, instead listing competencies called outcomes. This was largely responsible for the exodus of students out of government schools into the independent system. "Our school curriculums have strayed far from being knowledge-based," he said. "Indeed, 'knowledge' has been replaced by 'information'. It is little wonder that the Howard Government's attempted reforms of schooling have gained traction with the Australian public."

While state governments could not agree on a common school leaving certificate - largely because of a squabble "over which minister's signature would appear on the certificate" - the federal Government was talking about greater uniformity, improved accountability and comparing standards.

Professor Wiltshire is the JD Story professor of public administration at the University of Queensland. He recently completed a term as special adviser to the Australian National Training Authority and is a former chairman of the Tertiary Entrance Procedures Authority.

The Weekend Australian's support for neutral, apolitical teaching of English is criticised in the current journal of the Australian Association for the Teaching of English, by high school English teacher David Freesmith. He accuses the newspaper of mounting a "political and ideological" attack on critical literacy and of failing to properly understand it. Mr Freesmith holds a masters in teaching, and has been a teacher for five years, all at Adelaide's Prince Alfred College, where he teaches English in years 8-10, English as a Second Language, French and the International Baccalaureat subject Theory of Knowledge. In his article, Mr Freesmith argues that teaching reading and writing is "inevitably ideological at some level and (has) significant political implications". He refers to writers who argue that "a skills approach to literacy can 'generate failure' among minority and working-class students", can "entrench prejudices" and so is inherently political. He also says formulating a canon of valued literature that includes Shakespeare and Dickens "or any other reading list, is ... an ideological act". "The history of English curricula suggests that the notion of a permanent English canon having been taught across generations is dubious," he says. "For example, Shakespeare, the very centrepiece of the canon, has spent considerable periods of time out of favour, and has even, at times, been heavily censored by curriculum writers. "The notion of the canon is in fact a modern invention, tied to the modern cultural function of defining the nation. Advocacy of the canon in the curriculum may therefore be seen to be tied ... to a nationalistic ideology."

But Professor Wiltshire said the critical literacy movement was "at best negative and at worst nihilistic". "This sort of thinking is a recipe for laziness, indifference and unwillingness to identify standards and common values," he said. "It inevitably leads to a dumbing down of curriculum and therefore the students themselves ... School is for basics and knowledge, certainly accompanied by critical thinking but not in a milieu where all is relative and there are no absolutes."

Federal Education Minister Julie Bishop said yesterday the states and territories should listen to the experts and develop "more soundly based" curriculums. She said literacy and numeracy tests revealed an alarming number of students completed their schooling without strong skills in these areas. "There's a need for a greater focus on the fundamentals of subjects like English before students can be expected to deal with more advanced concepts," she said.

Professor Wiltshire said it was not only governments but also the community, including parents and industry, that decided curriculum and the challenge ahead was to define the core knowledge all students should learn. "That's the core curriculum, that's what we should agree upon as core curriculum, certainly the basis of knowledge, what a person needs to function in society, to be a citizen," he said.



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.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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