Saturday, May 27, 2006

"Tough love" for those that nothing else has helped

Squeamish do-gooders invent a "human right" not to be helped

When New York regulators meet today to consider limiting a Massachusetts school's use of electric shocks as punishment, it will not be the first time that states have tried to rein in the unorthodox methods at the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center. Massachusetts officials tried to close the school in 1985 after a student with autism died while being forced to listen to loud static through a helmet. They tried again in the mid-1990s when the school began giving mild shocks to students for misbehavior. Each time, judges protected the Rotenberg Center, siding with parents who said the school had improved the lives of children with autism, mental retardation, and emotional problems after gentler methods had failed. And doctors concluded the death was caused by the student's neurological disorder.

Now, the center -- the only school in the country to rely so heavily on painful punishments -- faces a challenge from the state that supplies almost two-thirds of its 251 students. Today, the New York Board of Regents is scheduled to debate emergency regulations that would severely limit electric shock and other corporal punishment on students from New York after one New York teen complained that the shocks were a form of torture. ''Mommy, you don't love me anymore 'cause you let them hurt me so bad," sobbed the former Rotenberg Center student, Antwone Nicholson, 17, to his mother, Evelyn, according to her sworn statement. The family plans to sue the state of New York for $10 million for sending the teen to the school where he received 79 two-second shocks over a year and a half.

If New York adopts the rules, Rotenberg officials would need permission from a panel of three specialists for each child they want to shock, in addition to the court and parental approval they already obtain. The limits on the use of electric shock could require a fundamental change in the school's methods -- currently half the students, including 77 from New York, wear electrodes so that teachers can shock them.

But Matthew Israel, the psychologist who founded the school in 1971, is counting on parents to mount an eloquent defense against the limits. They have written 82 letters in support of the school that are posted on its website, ''When you first hear about a school that uses skin shock, it's shocking if you don't understand the severity of the mutilation that the students would otherwise engage in," Israel said.

The debate over the private residential school -- which costs local school districts and states more than $200,000 per student each year -- boils down to whether there are children who pose such a danger to themselves that an electroshock version of ''tough love" is justified. Mark Fridovich, deputy commissioner of mental retardation, said in a recent interview, ''There are a small number of people who have very severe and frequently multiple problems where other treatments have proven to be ineffective. . . . For this small number, what the Judge Rotenberg Center has done has proven to be effective." More than 60 Massachusetts children and adults attend the school.

But many others say electric shock violates human rights. This year, 20 advocacy groups are pushing a bill in Massachusetts to ban the punishments used at Rotenberg. ''We don't do this to prisoners in the criminal justice system, so we shouldn't be doing it to people with disabilities," said Leo Sarkissian, executive director of the ARC of Massachusetts, an advocacy group for people with mental retardation.

At first blush, the Rotenberg Center seems more like a theme park. Rooms are filled with statues and posters of cartoon characters, chandeliers that glisten like disco balls, and plush, brightly colored furniture. But a close look at the neatly dressed students shows that about 50 percent have electrodes strapped to their arms or legs and that the teachers carry activation switches on their belts inside clear plastic boxes, each labeled with a child's photo.

Student Catherine Spartichino received her first shock after an obscenity-laced rant at a teacher who would give her only half a bagel. With the push of a button, the teacher sent a startling burst of energy into Spartichino's forearm that the 19-year-old remembers vividly four years later. ''They zapped me!" recalled Spartichino, a suicidal teen who was made to wear three electro-shock devices. ''It feels like you stick your finger in an electric socket for two seconds, and the tingling didn't stop right away." Spartichino now believes the electrodes, called ''gradual decelerator devices," turned her away from ''suicidal gestures" like banging her head until she was black and blue. This month, she graduates from the school and expects to attend college in the fall.

However, one former Rotenberg Center employee said that other students endure far more pain than Spartichino, especially the 15 to 20 who are equipped with higher-powered devices that deliver 45 milliampere shocks -- 4 1/2 times stronger than the standard shocks. Greg Miller, a former teacher's assistant for more than three years, said one boy with autism was shocked by the higher-powered device so often that he had ''burn scabs all over his torso, legs, and arms," forcing nurses to remove the electrodes for weeks so that his skin could heal. State Police are investigating his allegations. Rotenberg officials deny that the unnamed student was burned, saying the electrodes were removed because of other medical conditions. They also say that the child's parents still support the shock therapy.

The case of Antwone Nicholson is in some ways more typical. He came to the center with a history of aggression after treatment at five psychiatric hospitals, and, with his mother's consent, the school began shocking him for behaviors ranging from defying teachers to banging objects. School officials said his behavior immediately improved. The school also said that the number of shocks Nicholson received -- about one per week -- is average, and he received them for a shorter period than the 26-month average before transferring recently to another school. Evelyn Nicholson initially approved the shocks, but said she changed her mind as her son became more desperate, complaining that the shocks knocked him to the floor. Previously, she said, ''I was advised that the shock . . . felt like a small pinch," and that the devices were rarely used. Investigating Nicholson's objections, New York officials found that many more New York students were subjected to shocks than they had believed: 77 out of the 151 at the school. Last week, Rebecca Cort, New York State's deputy education commissioner, called for tight limits on the use of shocks, saying she could find no independent proof that they work.

Though enrollment at the center has tripled in recent years, specialists who treat disabled children question whether so many students need such treatment. ''I have seen about a dozen cases out of hundreds and hundreds that would not respond to our positive-based approaches," said L. Vincent Strully, director of the New England Center for Children, a Southborough program for children with autism. ''Behavior that is not life threatening . . . does not require that you shock them."



LIBERTYVILLE, Ill. - High school students are going to be held accountable for what they post on blogs and on social-networking Web sites such as The board of Community High School District 128 voted unanimously on Monday to require that all students participating in extracurricular activities sign a pledge agreeing that evidence of "illegal or inappropriate" behavior posted on the Internet could be grounds for disciplinary action. The rule will take effect at the start of the next school year, officials said. District officials won't regularly search students' sites, but will monitor them if they get a worrisome tip from another student, a parent or a community member.

Mary Greenberg of Lake Bluff, who has a son at Libertyville High School, argued the district is overstepping its bounds. "I don't think they need to police what students are doing online," she said. "That's my job."

Associate Superintendent Prentiss Lea rebuffed that criticism. "The concept that searching a blog site is an invasion of privacy is almost an oxymoron," he said. "It is called the World Wide Web."

The social networking Web site allows its nearly 80 million users to post pictures and personal information while communicating with others. District 128, in Lake County north of Chicago, has some 3,200 students, about 80 percent of whom participate in extracurricular activities, according to school officials.



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"

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


Friday, May 26, 2006


The California Supreme Court on Wednesday reinstated the state high school exit exam as a graduation requirement for this year’s senior class, leaving 47,000 high school students who failed the test in danger of not graduating. The high court ordered a state appeals court to hold hearings in the case, but with schools ready to hold commencement ceremonies as soon as this weekend, a resolution appeared unlikely before then. The high court ordered a state appeals court to hold hearings in the case. This year's class was the first in which passing the test of 10th grade English and eighth grade math and algebra was required for graduation.

A group of students sued the state, claiming the test discriminates against low-income and minority students. On May 12, Alameda Superior Court Judge Robert Freedman invalidated the graduation requirement for the Class of 2006, saying California was ill equipped "to adequately prepare students to take the exam," especially in poor, underfunded areas of the state. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell planned an afternoon news conference. The plaintiffs' lawyers were not immediately available for comment.

After Freedman threw out the graduation requirement for this year's seniors, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell immediately appealed to the Supreme Court, demanding that the decision be promptly reversed ahead of looming commencement ceremonies. But the justices rarely decide a case before an appeals court hears it. The high court ordered the 1st District Court of Appeal to hear the case, but did not say when - leaving students who failed the test in a state of legal limbo. Still, the justices said they were not convinced that Freedman ruled correctly. "At this juncture this court is not persuaded that the relief granted by the trial court's preliminary injunction ... would be an appropriate remedy," five of the seven justices wrote.

Lawyers for the state wrote in their appeal that Freedman's decision was "bad public policy" and an illegal intrusion into the lawmaking branch of state government. O'Connell wanted the decision overturned to "further society's interest in ensuring that students demonstrate minimal academic proficiency in order to receive a high school diploma." O'Connell, who wrote the 1999 exit exam legislation while he was a state senator, said students who fail the test can still get further remedial instruction and take the test again.

The plaintiffs' lead attorney, Arturo Gonzalez, told the justices in a filing that the students should not be punished for the education system's shortcomings. "As of the start of the current academic year, fewer than half of California high schools had taught all of the course material that is tested on the exam," Gonzalez wrote.



Two articles below:

Nutty music-education honcho

A "postmodern" ignoramus is trying to destroy music education

A drama teacher who does not play a musical instrument and believes turntables and computers are musical instruments is the co-ordinator of Western Australia's new music course. State Curriculum Council arts framework officer Christine Adams said yesterday that music-producing machines such as turntables and computers were equal to the piano or violin. "Sales of turntables are way outstripping sales of guitars," Ms Adams said. "In this course, the status of all instruments is equal and the turntable is one of them."

But the course for Years 11 and 12 students, revealed in The Australian yesterday, was condemned by one of Australia's leading music educators and conductors, Richard Gill, who described it as "educational double-speak and claptrap". "It could just as easily be the curriculum for cooking as music," said Mr Gill, a former dean of the West Australian Conservatorium of Music. To describe turntables and computers as musical instruments was "totally meaningless", he said. "A computer is a computer and a turntable is a turntable. One of the points of education is to make the distinction."

Ms Adams, who learned the flute in high school in the 1970s, has spent the past three years working on the new music course and described it as more inclusive than the old course, which was "very Western-focused". "For example, if there is a student from India who wants to play the tabla, they can - and they couldn't do that in the old course," she said. Ms Adams said the new course placed an appropriate emphasis on theory. Students are required to write about politics, racism and other aspects of society that influence music in one of four subject areas called Music in Society, worth 25 per cent of the total mark. "It's really important to know the political and cultural background to music," she said. "It makes it a really, really rich experience."

But Mr Gill, who has received an OAM for his services to music and is recognised around the world for developing young musicians, said the course attempted to teach students how to respond to music, which was impossible. "Reaction to music is a personal and subjective thing - you can't teach it," he said. "The teaching of music should be about music itself. We learn to understand music by making music, by writing music, by performing music." Mr Gill said the first four sentences of the new music course, to be introduced next year, were rubbish. "By all means define music, but don't tell tell us the role it plays - that's up to us to determine. You can't teach the emotion of music. It's personal."

The course introduction starts: "Music plays an important part in the life of people the world over. It brings people together through a natural form of communication by providing a means of expressing ideas and emotions. "It combines words, sounds and movements which enhance the meaning of life in world cultures. Music has unique aspects which give expression to human experiences and understandings that cross cultural and societal boundaries."

Mr Gill challenged this. "Who says? Where's the evidence for that? How do you teach that? What are the ideas communicated in I Still Call Australia Home, which is in the course, or the ideas nominated in a Beethoven symphony?" Mr Gill said the course read like "a generic curriculum to which the word music is applied from time to time". The course also requires students to study ethical and health and safety issues of music, and asserts that "audiences construct meaning from music according to their own values, attitudes and ideological positions".

The course has been condemned by music teachers in Western Australia, who say students are no longer required to play an instrument and that the course downgrades the importance of reading music. State Education Minister Ljiljanna Ravlich said yesterday she was unaware students in the new course could pass without playing a musical instrument. "That's news to me," she said. But Ms Ravlich was not prepared to label this as unacceptable until she verified the position at a meeting with the Curriculum Council in the next day or two.


Dum-dum-dum down: WA's new music curriculum hits all the wrong notes

An editorial from "the Australian" newspaper puts the music madness into perspective. It is education generally that is being destroyed in Western Australia

Music education is the latest casualty of Western Australia's misguided foray into the world of outcomes-based education. The state's new music curriculum will no longer require students to learn to play an instrument, and rap songs backed by downloaded music will be considered perfectly acceptable come exam time. Long-time music teachers are aghast at a plan that threatens to make Western Australia "a laughing stock". But as The Australian reports today, those involved with the new course admit that all instruments will be treated equally - even turntables and computers - and complain about the Western focus of the old curriculum. As with so much of outcomes-based education - which has become so controversial in Western Australia that the federal Government has threatened to withhold billions of dollars in funding if introduction of the new curriculum is not delayed - music lessons will now be more concerned with theory and sociology than actual skills.

Sadly for the state's students, music is not the only area to suffer under outcomes-based theory, which seeks to turn every subject into a subset of sociology. Under the proposed new curriculum, physics students will be asked to debate the ethics of airbags, while chemistry students will discuss the cosmetics industry. English students will not be required to read a book, spell, or demonstrate their ability to write continuous prose. Needless to say, failure is not an option under the new curriculum: in a system where everyone is allowed to achieve at their own pace, it is impossible not to pass. This will translate into terrible wake-up calls for many students whom outcomes-based education will allow to coast by, on the rationale that they are being prepared for the "real world". The fact is, the state's new curriculum does anything but. Musicians who can't play instruments, engineers who can't get complex maths problems right and just about anyone who can't string a sentence of correct, standard English together will find the job market a cruel place indeed. At the rate Western Australia is going, its music students will be lucky if they graduate knowing how to play anything more than an iPod.



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"

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


Thursday, May 25, 2006

Some Schools Are Leaving Recess Behind

One sure way to get parents exercised is to take away recess, the playful part of the school day when their kids can run wild. In some places, it no longer exists. The proportion of schools that don't have recess ranges from 7 percent for first and second grades to 13 percent by sixth grade, new government figures show. Put in perspective, the overwhelming majority of elementary schools still offer recess each day, usually for about 25 minutes. Most children get one recess a day, if not two or three. What troubles parents, though, is a sense that recess is under siege, so much that the Cartoon Network and the National PTA have launched a "Rescuing Recess" campaign. Kids are leading the huge letter-writing effort to school officials with one theme: Let us play.

"The reason I get riled up - and that most parents do - is we see recess as an opportunity for children to play," said Diane Larson, a mother of four in Tacoma, Wash. "It's a time for children to be imaginative, to show innovation on the playground. And it's one of the times when kids actually get to interact with their friends." Larson and other parents in her district want elementary schools to offer separate recess periods each day, but students often get only their lunch periods to let loose. The recess drop-off is most noticeable in third grade, she said, when preparation for testing kicks in.

Where recess is in decline, school leaders usually blame academic pressures. Under federal law, schools must test and show progress in reading and math starting in third grade. But how schools manage their time is a local decision. Recess competes with many other activities for schedule time, from music and arts to gym classes and computer classes. At Rivers Edge Elementary outside Richmond, Va., children get only one gym class a week, which makes their daily recess period even more important, said PTA President Wendy Logan. "The kids study all day, and they need some time for social activities," Logan said. "And those kids who struggle sitting the whole day - they're the ones who need it the most."

Nationwide, 99 percent of elementary schools schedule time for physical education apart from recess. More than half, though, offer those gym classes only once or twice a week. Elementary schools in poor communities offer less recess, and less overall time for exercise during the school week, than other schools, the government study found. The 2005 school figures, released Tuesday, come from the Education Department's first study on food and exercise in public elementary schools. It includes no data from previous years to determine, for example, whether recess has been declining over time.

Local disputes over the elimination of recess have popped up in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Miami and other communities. Such local stories, not the national picture, worry parents. To them, recess is an institution - how could an elementary school not have it? When are kids supposed to yell with their friends, play tag or kickball, just have some fun? "It's how I believe they start building their social structure," said Sandi Hocker, a mother of two in San Antonio, Texas. "Their P.E. classes are organized, and they are activity related. I think (children) need recess just for the socialization."

In an informal survey by the National PTA of its state leaders, more than half said daily recess is at risk. Only 9 percent were confident recess would not be reduced in their school. The Cartoon Network has pledged more than $1.3 million to save recess. That includes more than $300,000 in grants to PTA chapters for participating in the ongoing letter campaign. Mark Schneider, commissioner of the National Center of Education Statistics, presented the government findings on recess and exercise. He declined to draw conclusions from them. But given the obesity rates among children, he said: "I think we should all be concerned about any schools that aren't providing sufficient physical activities."


Australia: School holy war ends with victory for churches

Plans to widen religious education in state schools have been dumped after the Beattie Government bowed to pressure from conservative Christian groups. The backflip followed growing concerns among Labor backbenchers that the Government would face electoral opposition from some Christian churches and right-wing community groups if a wider range of beliefs were permitted to be taught in schools. But humanists and representatives of some minority religions said the current rules were discriminatory and vowed to continue their fight for equal access.

Premier Peter Beattie and Education Minister Rod Welford yesterday announced the Government had shelved the plan but did not rule out similar changes in the future. Mr Welford stood by his earlier claims that some groups had misunderstood the intention of the laws and said the Government would not have allowed cults or witchcraft to be taught. "It was never intended on our part that there would be any adverse effect on the availability of Christian religious instructions in schools," he said. "Clearly there was concerns about the potential access of other groups. "The appropriate course of action is not to proceed with the amendments at this time."

Under the current system, state school students attend religious classes unless their parents ask for them to be exempt. Those classes are taught by a range of Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist groups. The proposed changes would have allowed a wider range of beliefs to be taught in schools with the consent of parents and Education Queensland.

There were also concerns the changes would have required students to "opt-in" to study religion. Humanists had been celebrating the proposed reforms and planned to immediately apply for access to schools once they were passed. Humanist Society of Queensland president Zelda Bailey yesterday said she was "bitterly disappointed" over the decision but hopeful the Government would reconsider. "If we live in a democracy, non-religious people should have the same rights as religious people," she said. "It's discriminatory not to include non-religious people." ....

Federal Education Minister Julie Bishop said the backdown showed the Commonwealth would not tolerate the marginalisation of religious education in state schools. She had threatened to withdraw federal funding if the plan went ahead. "I am delighted to hear that commonsense has finally prevailed," she said. "This is responding to the concerns that I have raised, and concerns raised by parents and church groups." Ms Bishop said parents across Australia were asking for values to be taught in school. "(These) crazy notions were obviously dreamt up by some ideologue in an Education Department," she said.

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.

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"

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


Wednesday, May 24, 2006


Against parent protests but with the blessing of the second highest court in the land, California is now indoctrinating kids into Islam -- having kids learn Muslims prayers and repeat them in school, during school hours, as a mandated part of the curriculum. I wonder what happens when the first Jewish child refuses to say a Muslim prayer?

In our brave new schools, Johnny can't say the pledge, but he can recite the Quran. Yup, the same court that found the phrase "under God" unconstitutional now endorses Islamic catechism in public school. In a recent federal decision that got surprisingly little press, even from conservative talk radio, California's 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled it's OK to put public-school kids through Muslim role-playing exercises, including:

* Reciting aloud Muslim prayers that begin with "In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful . . . ."
* Memorizing the Muslim profession of faith: "Allah is the only true God and Muhammad is his messenger."
* Chanting "Praise be to Allah" in response to teacher prompts.
* Professing as "true" the Muslim belief that "The Holy Quran is God's word."
* Giving up candy and TV to demonstrate Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting.
* Designing prayer rugs, taking an Arabic name and essentially "becoming a Muslim" for two full weeks.

Parents of seventh-graders, who after 9-11 were taught the pro-Islamic lessons as part of California's world history curriculum, sued under the First Amendment ban on religious establishment. They argued, reasonably, that the government was promoting Islam. But a federal judge appointed by President Clinton told them in so many words to get over it, that the state was merely teaching kids about another "culture." So the parents appealed. Unfortunately, the most left-wing court in the land got their case. The 9th Circuit, which previously ruled in favor of an atheist who filed suit against the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, upheld the lower court ruling.

The decision is a major victory for the multiculturalists and Islamic apologists in California and across the country who've never met a culture or religion they didn't like - with the exception of Western civilization and Christianity. They are legally in the clear to indoctrinate kids into the "peaceful" and "tolerant" religion of Islam, while continuing to denigrate Judeo-Christian values.

In the California course on world religions, Christianity is not presented equally. It's covered in just two days and doesn't involve kids in any role-playing activities. But kids do get a good dose of skepticism about the Christian faith, including a biting history of its persecution of other peoples. In contrast, Islam gets a pass from critical review. Even jihad is presented as an "internal personal struggle to do one's best to resist temptation," and not holy war.

The ed consultant's name is Susan L. Douglass. No, she's not a Christian scholar. She's a devout Muslim activist on the Saudi government payroll, according to an investigation by Paul Sperry, author of "Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives Have Penetrated Washington." He found that for years Douglass taught social studies at the Islamic Saudi Academy just outside Washington, D.C. Her husband still teaches there.

So what? By infiltrating our public school system, the Saudis hope to make Islam more widely accepted while converting impressionable American youth to their radical cause. Recall that John Walker Lindh, the "American Taliban," was a product of the California school system. What's next, field trips to Mecca? This case is critical not just to our culture but our national security. It should be brought before the Supreme Court, which has outlawed prayer in school. Let's see what it says about practicing Islam in class. It will be a good test for the bench's two new conservative justices.



Dozens of St. Louis teachers are suspected of giving passing grades to students who missed more than 65 days of classes last semester. The allegations involve at least 60 teachers at Vashon High School. After missing 20 days in a year in St. Louis, students who are at least 17 years old can be expelled, but it's not a mandate.

In some cases, Vashon students who reportedly missed numerous classes received A's and B's. Superintendent Creg Williams says he's outraged. Vashon is one of several high schools that will be reconstituted or reorganized this summer. Williams says, "Those schools are corrupt and I'm going to clean them out and fix them through the reconstitution process. That's going to be the clear message."

Mary Armstrong is the president of the St. Louis Teachers' Union, Local 420. Armstrong agrees that changes are needed. "The district needs to develop a policy that with guidelines that says if a students has so many absences, what the grade should be."

The allegations were contained in an e-mail sent to teachers and obtained by some journalists. Superintendent Williams said he was disappointed that the information was not sent to his office.


Time to sink or graduate: "Seven days before the test, Stephanie Yeh stood in her sorority house and cried. An electrical engineering and computer science major, she was set to graduate near the top of her MIT class next month and start a six-figure job as a Wall Street analyst. Just one test, terrifying to her, remained. ... She had to swim 100 yards, four lengths of a pool, without stopping. ... At Cornell, Dartmouth, and Columbia, where swim proficiency also is required, it is time to sink or swim. For students like Yeh, who has aced virtually every exam in her 22 years, it is time to face demons under the surface. College swim requirements, which sprang up after World War II, have been in decline since the 1970s. One criticism: The test was biased against those who grew up away from the water.... On test day, she jumped in the deep end, scrunched up her face and began kicking and moving her arms like a windmill. It was not pretty, but she was moving. The first length went well. By length two, a tiring Yeh switched to breast stroke, then to crawl, her arms barely moving over her head. For the fourth, she rolled onto her back and finished."


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"

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


Tuesday, May 23, 2006


A return of that wicked "elitism"?

Pupils who achieve higher than predicted A-level grades will be encouraged to apply for places at better universities under reforms to be announced by the Government today, The Times has learnt. The changes will lead the way to a complete shift to the selection of university places after publication of examination results, in the most radical transformation to the centralised admissions system since it started more than 40 years ago.

The 300,000 students who begin sitting A-level papers this week will have to ditch their confirmed university places to bid for a course at better universities if they achieve higher grades than have been predicted by teachers. But from 2008 a new upgrade week will allow those who do better than expected to seek places at universities that they may not have considered previously for fear of getting insufficient grades. They will be able to hold on to confirmed offers at the universities they had chosen while they seek a better alternative.

The reforms follow concerns that talented state school pupils are missing out on places at the best universities because their teachers tend to predict lower grades than those from the independent sector. Ministers believe that the reform will encourage more students, particularly from poorer backgrounds, to set their sights higher once they realise that they have the grades to compete for the best universities. A-level results would be released a week earlier to give students the time to make fresh applications. Universities would be expected to hold back a proportion of places so that they can consider these candidates.

At least 9,000 students are expected to benefit from the upgrade week. Changes to application forms will also be introduced within two years. Students will apply to five universities initially, instead of six as at present, and will have their AS exam results included alongside predicted A-level grades. Predicted grades, which are inaccurate in 45 per cent of cases, will be removed from application forms if AS grades are shown to be a better measure of students' final results.

Admissions tutors will begin to consider candidates only after the deadline for all applications has passed, eliminating concerns that some students gain an advantage by sending in their forms early.

A partial post-qualification applications (PQA) system will be controversial, however, with the leading universities claiming that holding back places could disadvantage initial applicants and others that it implies they are second-rate. Bill Rammell, the Higher Education Minister, said that the reforms would be much fairer. "I believe these two-stage reform proposals will help us to achieve that."

Members of the Russell Group of 19 leading universities, which are heavily over-subscribed, have been reluctant to endorse the reforms but have been persuaded of the benefits of considering more candidates. They will not be required to hold back a fixed quota of places and all institutions have agreed to participate in the scheme. Both new candidates and students who were rejected at the initial application stage will be able to seek places if their results are good enough.

The CMU group of 31 universities, representing many of the former polytechnics, fears that the new system will rob them of many of their most able applicants, who could drop confirmed places at the last minute because of a better offer.

All sides were convinced to back the reforms by the promise of a review in 2010 to examine their effects, and the prospect of adopting an applications system based entirely on final exam results [How innovative!] two years later. Ministers hope that the changes will break the log jam that has prevented reform of admissions so far.

Schools and universities favour a full PQA system but neither side has been willing to change its academic timetable. By establishing a better match between students and universities, based on results, ministers believe that the reforms will create the momentum to allow all 350,000 applicants to seek places after the publication of exam results


Australian Holy war

Feds heavy a Leftist State government over the teaching of religion in schools

Queensland could lose millions of dollars in federal funding to schools if it changes a century-old law governing religious education. Federal Education Minister Julie Bishop will threaten the state with funding cuts at an education ministers conference scheduled for Brisbane in July if the law is tampered with. "We provide billions of dollars of funding each year," she said. "It is fair enough that we have our say on the issue." Ms Bishop fears witchcraft and other fringe religions could enter the classroom if the Bill is not stopped. And she has accused the Queensland Government of hastening a tide of students moving away from the public system to the private. "Political correctness has gone too far when religious education at school now permits almost any belief system to be taught, including witchcraft and paganism," she said.

But the State Government already appears to be watering down the controversial legislation, which also came under attack from the State Opposition last week. "She's boxing at shadows," Education Minister Rod Welford said yesterday. "We are not planning any substantial changes."

Ms Bishop said the Bill before the Queensland Parliament was a blatant attack on religious education and moral values in schools. She said proposed changes to the state's Education Act got rid of the "opt out" on religious education system where student's parents could inform the school they did not want religious education for their children. The proposed "opt in" system forced parents to provide a school principal with a written notice if they wanted their child to receive religious education.

"The proposed changes also widen the definition of what can be taught to religious or other belief," Ms Bishop said. "This would now allow cults and fringe groups to register and begin teaching their beliefs to Queensland schoolchildren." Ms Bishop said Queensland schoolchildren should not be taught in a moral vacuum "imposed by political correctness gone mad". "The Beattie Government's proposed change to Queensland's Education Act will do two things," she said. "First they will place hurdles in front of parents who want to ensure that their children get some religious instruction at school, and secondly they will open the door to cultish groups to start preaching unacceptable views in schools."

Mr Welford said he would be happy to meet Ms Bishop and listen to what she had to say in July.


American schools are a law unto themselves: "A 13-year-old Highland Student was suspended Thursday for bringing a soft-air BB gun to school. They are called soft-air BB guns but there's nothing soft about them. Chief Mike Klein of Harrison Township Police said the BB's can easily take out an eye, making it a dangerous weapon. The soft-air guns are legal, so the teen can't be charged with a crime [How pesky!]. The student remains suspended pending a school board hearing next week." [You can take an eye out with a stick, too, if you use it carelessly]


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"

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


Monday, May 22, 2006

Hot Air: How States Inflate Their Educational Progress Under NCLB

Critics on both the Left and the Right have charged that the No Child Left Behind Act tramples states' rights by imposing a federally mandated, one-size-fits-all accountability system on the nation's diverse states and schools. In truth, No Child Left Behind (NCLB) gives states wide discretion to define what students must learn, how that knowledge should be tested, and what test scores constitute "proficiency"-the key elements of any educational accountability system. States also set standards for high school graduation rates, teacher qualifications, school safety and many other aspects of school performance. As a result, states are largely free to define the terms of their own educational success.

Unfortunately, many states have taken advantage of this autonomy to make their educational performance look much better than it really is. In March 2006, they submitted the latest in a series of annual reports to the U.S. Department of Education detailing their progress under NCLB. The reports covered topics ranging from student proficiency and school violence to school district performance and teacher credentials. For every measure, the pattern was the same: a significant number of states used their standard-setting flexibility to inflate the progress that their schools are making and thus minimize the number of schools facing scrutiny under the law.

Some states claimed that 80 percent to 90 percent of their students were proficient in reading and math, even though external measures such as the federally funded National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) put the number at 30 percent or below. One state alleged that over 95 percent of their students graduated from high school even as independent studies put the figure closer to 65 percent. Another state determined that 99 percent of its school districts were making adequate progress, while others found that 99 percent of their teachers were highly qualified. Forty-four states reported that zero percent of their schools were persistently dangerous.

With the approval of the U.S. Department of Education, many states are reporting educational results under NCLB that defy reality and common sense. In so doing, they are undermining the effectiveness of the law.

Not all states have set lax standards. Some, like Maryland and Massachusetts, have worked hard to set a high bar for achievement and report honest information to the public. But the large variance in data reported by states that have set high standards compared to states with low standards further undermines the credibility of NCLB by creating significant and seemingly arbitrary differences in how the law impacts students and educators from state to state.

Principals and teachers in states that establish high standards under NCLB are under intense pressure to improve, while similar educators in states with low standards are told that everything is fine and they're doing a great job. Students in states that set the bar high for school performance have access to free tutoring and public school choice when their schools fall short; students in identical circumstances in other states must do without.

The result is a system of perverse incentives that rewards state education officials who misrepresent reality. Their performance looks better in the eyes of the public and they're able to avoid conflict with organized political interests. By contrast, officials who keep expectations high and report honest data have more hard choices to make and are penalized because their states look worse than others by comparison.

It is understandable, even predictable, that some state education officials would make these choices. But their actions threaten NCLB. While the most high-profile opposition to the law has come in the form of lawsuits filed and public relations campaigns waged by national teachers unions, lax state standard-setting may actually be far more harmful to the law in the long run-not by attacking it directly, but by falsely asserting that most of its goals have already been met.

Policymakers and the public won't stand behind an education system that isn't truthful. Thus, federal lawmakers have no choice but to confront the historically contentious issue of how to balance federal and state responsibility for setting education standards. Unless steps are taken to bring state standards in line with reality, NCLB's credibility-and viability-are at serious risk.

Much more here

Tennessee: Home-schooler's seat on board thrills, rankles

Having a home-schooling parent on the Metro School Board thrills some taxpayers who've long felt disenfranchised from the system, but it worries traditional education advocates who say Kay Brooks doesn't have the experience or background to do a good job. "I am concerned with someone's experience not being in public schools and what she brings to the table," school board member Marsha Warden said. "She doesn't have the experience, she doesn't have the knowledge base."

But Bonnie Hoskins, an Old Hickory mother teaching two sons at home, said Brooks, a well-known and vocal home-schooler, will bring a lot of passion and knowledge to the table. "Maybe Kay can act as a bridge to see it from both sides. It's clear that the public schools need people in there that have a passion for education," Hoskins said. "Kay can be a great source of ideas, and hopefully they'll listen to her."

The Metro Council elected Brooks, 49, by an 18-17 vote Tuesday over Gracie Porter, a retired Metro principal. Brooks will fill the school board's District 5 seat, which the Rev. Lisa Hunt left to take a job in Texas, until August. She'll have to win election by the east Nashville district's voters to serve beyond then. Porter, 60, and former Councilman Lawrence Hart plan to run for the remainder of Hunt's unexpired term, which ends in 2008.

Brooks, who lives in Inglewood, said she wants to see all children learn, will learn quickly herself and will bring new ideas to a 72,000-student school district with plenty of room for improvement. Metro has 614 home-school students registered, but Brooks said she would not push a home-school agenda. "I care about my friends' children," Brooks said. "I don't want them to get a bad education, and I don't want to pay (as a taxpayer) for a bad education."

Brooks and her husband, Jon, have four children 9 through 18. She told a council committee Tuesday that they decided to home-school their oldest child 13 years ago because their public school was "not doing well." She said she came to love the "lifestyle" and decided to stick with it.

Michelle Fraley, an active home-school parent in Clarksville whose husband is president of the Middle Tennessee Home Education Association, applauded Brooks' appointment. Fraley said she hoped Brooks' role on the school board would improve the image of home-school families. "There are home-schoolers that are very anti-public schools, but that's a minority. Most home-schoolers care that all students are provided a good education."

But David Kern, former chairman of the Metro Parents' Advisory Council, said Brooks' lack of experience with the schools would put her at a disadvantage. "She is someone who is out of touch with the school system," Kern said. Several council members who voted against Brooks said they also were troubled by how she was elected. Councilman Mike Jameson of Lockeland Springs in east Nashville, who nominated Porter, said Brooks' chief supporter, Councilman Michael Craddock of Madison, rounded up votes in private, possibly in violation of the state's open meetings law. The law says anytime two or more members of a public governing body deliberate policy or administration, the public must be notified.

Jameson said he began hearing that Craddock had 15 to 18 votes lined up May 10, a day before Craddock formally nominated Brooks. "We've been striving to get past these proverbial backroom deals, and here we go again," Jameson said Wednesday. "If someone asks you for your vote, you don't vote until you know the entire range of candidates or options."

Kathy Nevill, vice chairwoman of the school board, said council members cast their votes without deliberating publicly. Nevill said she felt Porter, who worked in Metro schools for 34 years, had better credentials. "It just makes me really worry for the city if this is how we're going to do business for the long term," Nevill said.

Craddock said he talked to fellow council members in a place and way he considered open: in the council chamber during previous meetings. He said he even introduced Brooks to some of them at the May 4 meeting. "Sure, I lined up votes, but I didn't violate the law doing it," Craddock said, adding that he had not traded votes with anyone.

The council members who supported Brooks tended to be white men from suburban areas. But Ludye Wallace and Edward Whitmore, African-Americans from downtown and north Nashville, respectively, also voted for her. All others on the Black Caucus voted for Porter, who is black.....

Craddock, who lives near Brooks and has known her for 10 years, said he had as much of a right to look out for east Nashville's interests as anyone. A graduate of East High School, he said he felt Brooks would be "aggressive" about making Metro schools better and that "the fact she home-schools her children is an aside."

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.

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"

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


Sunday, May 21, 2006


I have come across a question from next year's Standard Assessment Tests for 11-year-olds: if Miss Mopps spends eight minutes changing A's nappy and thirteen minutes cleaning out B's tracheotomy tube, how many minutes of the literacy hour does she have left to teach the rest of class how to read and write? Answer: rather less than is ideal.

I have every sympathy with the primary school teacher quoted by Cambridge educationists in a report published today that, thanks to the Government's policy of closing special schools and including special needs children in mainstream schools, her job has become "more like nursing than teaching". My nine-year-old daughter, Eliza, is mentally handicapped, and has attended both a mainstream and a special school. I have seen enough to conclude that the Government's policy of inclusion is rather stronger on ideology than it is on common sense.

I have the right to insist that Eliza is taught in a mainstream school right up until the age of 16. But to what purpose? Maybe it would add to the self-esteem of disability rights campaigners, but it wouldn't help Eliza. And it certainly wouldn't help children of normal ability who just wanted to get on with their studies as Eliza giggled in the corner. Far from benefiting from inclusion, Eliza would simply earn a reputation as "the girl who ruined my GCSEs".

There is a lot to be said for some forms of inclusion. Nobody wants to go back to the days when blind children were taught how to be piano tuners because no one imagined they could benefit from any other kind of education. Physically disabled children of normal intelligence should of course be taught in mainstream schools. It is right, too, that mentally handicapped children should be included with ordinary children in nursery and the early years of primary school. There is a big difference between the kindness that Eliza's classmates have shown towards her and the rather cruel language in which school children used to speak of the mentally handicapped.

But beyond the age of about 7, when serious academic education begins, it is nonsense to pretend that you can teach a child with an IQ of 50 alongside one with an IQ of 120. Good special schools, like good grammar schools, have been sacrificed to fulfil a misplaced egalitarian philosophy - to the detriment of all children


Public Schools Fail ACT

"Teaching to the test" is a common complaint of public school teachers whose students have an increasingly difficult time passing such examinations with the passage of every school year. "Teach to the test, please," Richard Ferguson of the ACT advises, "because the skills we are measuring are the skills that are needed." Ferguson spoke at a conference at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel here in which the ACT released its new report, which is entitled "Ready to Succeed: All Students Prepared for College and Work."

The ACT that Ferguson heads administers one of the two most widely-used college entrance exams in the United States. At least those teachers who dread exams such as the ACT might be consistent. The odds are that they didn't handle such tests very well as students either. Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, who also spoke at the conference, pointed out that the aggregate number of college graduates who take up teaching represent the bottom third of scores on the ACT and the SAT.

Ferguson has worked with the ACT for more than 30 years. "Where the United States used to be number one, we are now ninth in the world in high school rankings and 10th in college rankings," he points out. "NAM [the National Association of Manufacturers] did an important survey in which 90 percent of their members reported a shortage of skilled workers," Ferguson said. "Specifically, they lack reading, writing and communications skills."

"Toyota is building a plant in Canada because they can find a higher skill level there," Ferguson notes. Arthur Rothkopf of the United States Chamber of Commerce agrees. "Businesses spend hundreds of millions of dollars in remediation in workforce training," Rothkopf told the crowd. The USCOC represents three million businesses nationwide-small, medium and large, according to Rothkopf. "The K-12 system is not doing what it has to do," Rothkopf says. "Studies showing that most parents are satisfied with their children's schools points up part of the problem. The public is unaware of the problem."

"Out of every ten students who enter ninth grade, seven will graduate high school in four years, four will go on to post-secondary education and two will earn a Bachelor's or Associate's degree," Ferguson reports.

"Far too many students are not being educated for either college or the work force," Cynthia Schmeiser, also of the ACT, concluded. "Two-thirds of new jobs require post secondary education." "They need math and reading skills to enter the work force or to enter college without remediation." Schmeiser is the senior vice president for research and development.

"Seventy-five percent of our students require remediation in the first year of college," Keith Bird, chancellor of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, says, explaining the mushrooming of remedial courses in institutions of higher learning. Bird recommends changing pedagogy and teacher training. "The line between high school and college is becoming blurred," he observes.



Hatred for the world around them is what makes the Left tick, so this is not really surprising. A little kid does what a teacher asks and the kid is penalized for it!

Seth Hall loves going to school, playing baseball, and building things with his grandfather. He's not the kind of kid you'd expect the superintendent to kick out of school for weapons possession. "He said that I am in deep trouble!" Seth said. Seth, who attends kindergarten in the Honeoye Central School District, was slapped with a three-day suspension.

The weapons in question were two hammers. Seth brought them to class last Friday at the request of his teacher. "It's a judgment call. There's no doubt about it," said Bob Schofield, Honeoye District superintendent. Schofield said the teacher demonstrated poor judgment, and he knows Seth did not mean any harm. The teacher has been reprimanded.

After learning the boy's teacher played a role, Schofield dropped the suspension after Seth missed a day. "It wasn't like we were out to get this young man! That was the last thing we were trying to do. We were just trying to look for the safety of all of the students in implementing a policy that the Board of Education had OK'ed," Schofield said.

Seth's mother wants an apology. She also wants the superintendent to be disciplined. "But they can't take away what they did to him, the way they yelled at him and upset him," said Melissa Wetherwax. "I just feel that they handed it totally wrong. He's not an adult. He's not a 15-year-old. He's a 6-year-old. They just needed to talk to him like a 6-year-old." Seth said he would not have hit anyone with the hammers because, "I'd be going to the principal's!"



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"

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