Saturday, October 28, 2006

Germany drags homeschool kids to class

Authorities haul crying children away to avoid 'danger' from parental teachings

A Nazi-era law requiring all children to attend public school, to avoid "the emergence of parallel societies based on separate philosophical convictions" that could be taught by parents at home, apparently is triggering a Nazi-like response from police.

The word comes from Netzwerk Bildungsfreiheit, or Network for Freedom in Education, which confirmed that children in a family in Bissingen, in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, have been forcibly hauled to a public school. "On Friday 20 October 2006 at around 7:30 a.m. the children of a home educating family ... were brought under duress to school by police," the organization, which describes itself as politically and religiously neutral, confirmed.

A separate weblog in the United States noted the same tragedy. noted that the "three children were picked up by the police and escorted to school in Baden-Wurttemberg, with the 'promise' that it would happen again this week." The Network for Freedom in Education, through spokesman Joerg Grosseluemern, said the Remeike family has been "home educating their children since the start of the school year, something which is legal in practically the whole of the (European Union)." "However, on this morning, they were confronted by police officials, who, in an incredibly inconsiderate manner, forced their crying children into a police car and drove them to the school. The police stated that they had been instructed to continue this measure in the coming week," the network statement said.

The network noted that the previous Minister of Education, Annette Schavan, had said such actions were not needed, because "... the children are generally not lacking in any other respects." Officials at that time, in 2002, confirmed that "forcible methods" generally are "not in the long-term interests of either the children or the police."

However, the network noted the priorities of current officials obviously are different. "The family involved emphasizes that their children are neither truant nor school deniers, which are the cases for which such measures were intended," said the network's statement, a translation from the original German. "The Remeike family is fulfilling their children's right to an education by educating them at home, with the support of teachers from a distance learning academy, which also supplies the necessary material." School arguments that homeschooling endangers the welfare of the children "lacks any factual foundation," the network statement said. "Tearing the children from the bosom of their family by forcing certainly does not contribute to their welfare. The result is more likely to be traumatisation and the development of an aversion to instruments of state authority," the statement said.

No comment could be obtained immediately from school or police officials. "The Netzwerk Bildungsfreiheit strongly empathises with the Romeike family, whom many of us know personally to be an intact and conscience-driven family. We condemn the degrading act carried out by the police as a blatant breach of the personal rights of individual family members and call for the Mayor of Bissingen, as well as the Office for Education of the District Authorities of Esslingen, to end these sanctions."

The American blog noted that several other homeschooling parents recently have been fined or imprisoned for brief jail terms for teaching their children at home. The blog reported that one mother spending a few days in jail for providing homeschooling for her child "ended up leading a Bible study for women who have begged her to come back." It reported another family was fined $2,250 and members were being attacked emotionally so that the father handed a nervous breakdown that landed him in a hospital. The family put their two children in a public school "but it was so awful, they pulled them out again . and put them in a public Catholic school."

It also contained reports that Waldemar Block, the father of nine, was arrested at his work earlier this month and jailed for 13 days, while Olga Block, his sister-in-law, was jailed for 10 days for not paying fines after she sent her children to a Christian school in Heidelberg. The Home School Legal Defense Association, the largest homeschooling group in the U.S. with more than 80,000 families, also has been working to raise attention in the international community to the plight of German homeschoolers, including several families in the Baden-Wurttemberg region. The group suggested contacting the German embassy, which had an answering machine attached to the telephone line when WND left a request for comment yesterday. The HSLDA said that contact is:

Wolfgang Ischinger Ambassador German Embassy 4645 Reservoir Road NW Washington, DC, 20007-1998 (202) 298-4000 or it can be e-mailed from its its website.

The U.S. organization also noted that homeschooling has been illegal in Germany probably since 1938 when Hitler banned it. It recently announced a campaign to address the persecution Christians in Germany are facing from education authorities. Ian Slatter, a spokesman for the HSLDA, said it was launched after a mother was arrested and jailed on criminal homeschooling counts. In that case, according to a report in the Brussels Journal, Katharina Plett was arrested and ordered to jail while her husband fled to Austria with the family's 12 children.

The latest police-state actions follow by only weeks a recent ruling from the European Human Rights Court that affirmed the German nation's ban on homeschooling. The Strasburg-based court addressed the issue on appeal from a Christian family whose members alleged their human rights to educate their own children according to their own religious beliefs are being violated by the ban. The specific case addressed in the opinion involved Fritz and Marianna Konrad, who filed the complaint in 2003 and argued that Germany's compulsory school attendance endangered their children's religious upbringing and promotes teaching inconsistent with the family's Christian faith. The court said the Konrads belong to a "Christian community which is strongly attached to the Bible" and rejected public schooling because of the explicit sexual indoctrination programs that the courses there include.

The German court already had ruled that the parental "wish" to have their children grow up in a home without such influences "could not take priority over compulsory school attendance." The decision also said the parents do not have an "exclusive" right to lead their children's education. The family had appealed under the European Convention on Human Rights statement that: "No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching is in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions." But the court's ruling said, instead, that schools represent society, and "it was in the children's interest to become part of that society. "The parents' right to education did not go as far as to deprive their children of that experience," the ruling said.



Nearly a fifth of five-year-olds cannot write their own name and fewer than half have reached their expected level of learning, official figures show. An assessment of 535,000 five-year-olds in England found that, after a year of schooling, 91,000 could not write simple words such as "mum" or "cat" or hold a pencil correctly. The number of children who had mastered basic literacy and numeracy was much lower than last year, as was the number of children who reached expected levels of physical development. Boys proved worst at completing writing tasks, with 21 per cent unable to write key words compared with 11 per cent of girls.

About 21,420 children could not count to ten and 39 per cent could not hear or pronounce the short vowel sounds in words such as "pen", "hat" and "dog", while 17 per cent could not recognise or name all the letters of the alphabet. Overall, 44.6 per cent of five-year-olds reached the expected level of improvement after their first year of primary school, a drop of 3.2 percentage points on 2005.

The Department for Education and Skills has defined a "good level of development" as children achieving six or more points across 13 scales in areas such as personal, social and emotional development, reading, writing and maths. However, the figures suggest that the Government will fall short of its target of 53 per cent of five-year-olds in England reaching this level by 2008. Ministers blamed the fall in attainment on tougher marking while teachers said that comparisons between years were spurious.

Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "Last year's assessments were riddled with difficulties as teachers came to terms with the new scheme. "The assessments are qualitative judgments on such issues as a child's personal development and cannot be presented as simple numerical results or in league table form."

Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, said in April that the new targets would mean that 30,000 more children would reach expected levels. She said that the Government would like to see "faster gains in our most deprived communities" in England, but figures for local authorities were unavailable yesterday. The Education Department said that the public reaction to its curriculum for toddlers, the Early Years Foundation Stage, had been enthusiastic. The framework has a play-based approach that is designed to integrate quality learning and care. Beverley Hughes, the Children's Minister, said that the framework would improve the learning abilities of five-year-olds and enable "them to reach their full potential, just as any good parent would seek to do at home".



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, October 27, 2006


So proposals for vast new spending on State education are greeted with skepticism even on the Left. They rightly fear that it would discredit all government spending

Gordon Brown's pledge to raise state school funding to the same level as that enjoyed by private schools has been criticised by a committee of MPs. The Education Select Committee's investigation of public expenditure in education also condemned a lack of transparency and cautioned that taxpayers might not wish to pay for state schools in future unless ministers can demonstrate that the resources are being used wisely. This lack of information, the Labour-dominated committee said, would not only be bad for taxpayers but could also "undermine the electorate's willingness to fund public services".

But the MPs reserved their harshest criticism for the Chancellor's commitment in this year's Budget to raise the level of funding per pupil in state schools from 5,000 to 8,000 pounds, the average spending per head in independent schools. Although Mr Brown was widely praised for his pledge in March, The Times quickly established from Treasury sources that this was only an aspiration. After questioning Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, and David Bell, his top official, the MPs said that it remained to be seen how the aspiration would be backed up with funding.

The select committee said that it was hard to judge when this pledge could ever be met. "Without a timescale it is hard to be certain when the target would be met," the report stated. "The debate on what is the appropriate level of per-pupil funding is important. Future policy announcements should have a more substantial basis."

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has since estimated that it would cost 17 billion to close the gap between the public and private sectors and that this would not be achieved until at least 2014.

The MPs also warned that there was no way to demonstrate whether the Government's increased funding for schools had been effective and had succeeded in providing better education or more highly qualified students. Since Labour came into office, public spending on education has risen from 21.43 billion in 1997-08 to 34.35 billion in 2005-06. But recent figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that only 41 per cent of pupils achieved five grades A* to C in English, maths and science and only 26 per cent of pupils got good grades in English, maths, science and a language - a fall of 4 percentage points from 2002.

Last night a spokesman said that the Government had invested record amounts in education, and "as a result we are seeing more schools with more teachers and better results". "Investment in education is a key priority for the Government. As the Chancellor said in his Budget speech, the Government's long-term aim is that we raise average investment per pupil to today's private school level. That position remains unchanged."


Deconstructive criticism

The evidence upholds the belief that the teaching of English has fallen victim to political correctness, writes Australia's Kevin Donnelly

Geoff Masters, head of the Australian Council for Educational Research and the person in charge of the commonwealth-funded inquiry into state and territory Year 12 subjects, argues concerns about school curriculums being politically correct are without foundation. In relation to senior school English -- in particular, the NSW Higher School Certificate course -- Masters concludes there is no left-wing bias and that federal Education Minister Julie Bishop's concerns about the cultural Left taking the long march through the education system are misplaced.

Masters is wrong. As those who have followed the articles in these pages about the effect of critical literacy on English teaching and the way the theory approach of teaching has destroyed the moral and aesthetic quality of the literary canon know, there is ample evidence of how English has been politicised.

In NSW, students are made to deconstruct texts such as Shakespeare's Othello and Tim Winton's Cloudstreet from a Marxist, feminist, postmodern and post-colonial perspective. The Board of Studies English stage 6 annotated professional readings support document, designed to tell teachers how English should be taught, is awash with the kind of gobbledygook associated with theory.

In opposition to the more traditional approach to literature, NSW teachers are urged to adopt what is termed "critical-postmodernist pedagogy'', described as: "This involves drawing on and seeking to integrate into a dynamic, strategic synthesis the currently evolving and ever mutating discourses of critical pedagogy, cultural studies and postmodernism, within which notions of popular culture, textuality, rhetoric and the politics and pleasures of representation become the primary focus of attention in both 'creative' and 'critical' terms.''

As argued by writer Sophie Masson, the result is that good students jump through the hoops as they know what has to be done, while less able students drown in the arcane and turgid jargon associated with the new English.

The Victorian and Queensland English studies are also prime examples of the impact of the cultural Left on the classroom. The Victorian study asks students to analyse texts from a range of perspectives. These include: "Marxist, feminist, psychoanalytical, reader-response, deconstructionist (and) postmodern''. In a similar vein, the Queensland literature syllabus favours an approach that argues that all texts are inherently political as "texts play their part in upholding or challenging prevailing world views and compete with one another to persuade readers to accept versions on offer''.

Western Australia, not to be outdone, in addition to making students respond to texts "using different theoretical frameworks [for example, Marxist, post-colonial, feminist, psychoanalytic]'' and checking "for consistency, contradiction and the privileging of some ideas over others'', argues that there is nothing universal or profound about classic literature.

The basis for this is that "the concept of the literary is socially and historically constructed rather than objective or self-evident'' and "texts and reading practices enact particular ideologies, playing an important role in the production and maintenance of social identities and reinforcing or contesting dominant ideological understandings''.

Within the new English, as a result of theory, William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is criticised for its emphasis on stereotypical heterosexual love and Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness for being inherently racist. Even worse, students' appreciation of literature is destroyed as they spend time analysing mobile-phone messages, graffiti and Australian Idol.

Evidence that senior school English courses have fallen victim to politically correct theory is easy to find. The reasons the cultural Left has targeted English are also clear. Professional associations such as the Australian Association for the Teaching of English are staunch advocates of critical literacy and theory. Both the AATE and sympathetic teacher academics such as Allan Luke, Wayne Sawyer and Bill Green argue English teaching must be used to transform society.

Says Luke: "We would argue that text analysis and critical reading activities should lead on to action with and against the text. That is, there is a need to translate text analysis into cultural action, into institutional intervention and community projects.''



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, October 26, 2006


The Bush administration is giving public schools wider latitude to teach boys and girls separately in what is considered the biggest change to coed classrooms in more than three decades.

After a two-year wait, the Education Department issued final rules Tuesday detailing how it will enforce the Title IX landmark anti-discrimination law: Under the change taking effect Nov. 24, local school leaders will have discretion to create same-sex classes for subjects such as math, a grade level or even an entire school.

Education officials initially proposed the rules in early 2004, pointing in part to some U.S. research suggesting better student achievement and fewer discipline problems in single-sex classes including math and foreign languages. After receiving 5,600 public comments, education officials said they were moving forward with the plan with some wording tweaks and assurances from Attorney General Alberto Gonzales that it was legally sound. Since current rules began in 1975, single-sex classes have been allowed only in limited cases, such as sex education courses or gym classes involving contact sports:

Under the new rules, schools could separate genders for a variety of subjects if they believed it offered educational benefits, such as promoting greater student comfort or higher attendance. In all cases, enrollment in a single-sex class would be voluntary.

If a school creates a single-sex class, it would not be required to offer the other gender its own similar class, but it would have to offer a coed version of it.

The rules also make it easier to create single-sex schools, as long as the district can demonstrate that it also provides coed schools with "substantially equal" benefits to the excluded sex.


British pupils 'cannot locate UK'

One in five British children cannot find the UK on a map of the world, a magazine's research suggests. National Geographic Kids said it also found fewer than two thirds of children were able to correctly locate the US. The magazine, which questioned more than 1,000 six to 14-year-olds, said it found several London children did not know they lived in England's capital.

Teachers' union the NASUWT said the findings were "nonsense" and did not reflect staff and pupils' hard work.

National Geographic Kids also discovered 86% of the children interviewed failed to identify Iraq and one in 10 could not name a single continent. Boys seemed to show a slightly better geographical knowledge than girls, with 65% able to locate a number of countries around the world compared with 63% of girls.

Scottish children appeared to be the most geographically aware with 67% able to point out the most countries, out of England, the US, France, China and Iraq, on a world map.

Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, said the findings were "rather frightening". "These results underline the need for education to concentrate on the essentials. "How are children going to be able to get as much out of their life if they fail to have an understanding of the shape of the world?"

The Department for Education and Skills said geography was a compulsory subject on the National Curriculum for five to 14-year-olds. A spokesman said all 14-year-olds should be taught to use atlases and globes, as well as learning about places and environments in the world.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: "The constant desire for groups to produce statistics to do down the English education system is quite appalling and does nothing to recognise the excellent work of children and staff."

The magazine carried out the study to mark its UK launch and highlight "gaps in children's geographical knowledge". Environmentalist David Bellamy said the world was still an undiscovered place for many children. "Making geography fun and exciting is so important because it makes children aware of the importance of caring for the environment and, by learning about the world, it helps bring other people's worlds and cultures closer to their own."


Bishop attacks British faith schools plan

Plans for new faith schools in England to admit up to 25% of pupils from other religions "must be resisted", the Archbishop of Birmingham has said. The most Rev Vincent Nichols described the plans as "insulting" and "divisive" and has urged the head teachers of Catholic schools to voice their fears.

The plans were introduced in an amendment to the Education and Inspections Bill last week. The government has said schools are in a position to prevent social division.

Education Secretary Alan Johnson met with representatives from the UK's major religious groups on Monday for a so-called "inclusion summit" to discuss the role faith schools can play in improving relations between the faiths. The Department for Education and Skills said the meeting had been productive and Mr Johnson had made it clear that the amendment would only apply to new faith schools. He also explained that where there is local opposition, a local authority will need the consent of the education secretary to approve a new faith school with fewer than 25% of non-faith admissions.

The Church of England has said its new schools will admit up to 25% of pupils from outside the faith - but said other religions should not be expected to offer the same commitment. But the amendment has met with opposition from Muslim, Jewish and Catholic groups.

Writing in the Telegraph newspaper, the archbishop said coercive measures by the government would not win co-operation and branded them "ill-thought out, unworkable and contradictory of empirical evidence". He said Catholic schools on average welcome 30% of pupils from other faiths or none, and they were likely to have better academic records and less likely to encounter bullying or racism. He added that the government appears to hold the view that, left to themselves, Catholic schools would be divisive. "Since the evidence suggests the opposite, I can only assume that this view rises from muddled thinking or prejudice," he wrote. He warned: "The introduction of 'admissions requirements' is a Trojan horse, bringing into Catholic schools those who may not only reject its central vision but soon seek to oppose it." The way forward, he said, was a "mutually respectful co-operation" between faith groups and authorities. But this amendment, he warned "seems to signal an alternative and deeply divisive step. It has to be resisted."

Last week, he wrote to the head teachers of 2,075 secondary and primary Roman Catholic schools urging them to write to their MPs to voice their concerns. He has also called for talks between the government and the Catholic church.

Rabbi James Kennard, head teacher at King Solomon High School in Ilford, Essex, shared his view, saying Jewish schools had not been able to explain their position. In an interview with the Guardian newspaper, he said: "The Jewish school is the traditional institution where a youngster's Jewish identity is shaped, through an all-embracing ethos that runs alongside, and integrates with, the educational requirements of the country where Jews are living. "The Jewish community is small, needs to maintain its distinct identity and ethos and has no interest in spreading its message to others." He added that when people have a good grounding in their religion, they tend to be able to participate in wider society.

The Department for Education said it welcomed the steps faith groups have already taken to improve community cohesion and said they were talking to them about how to build on this



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, October 25, 2006

Teachers who raise scores may get bonuses

This may do some good but not much. It won't make dumb teachers smart or undisciplined kids better behaved

The Bush administration is handing out money for teachers who raise student test scores, the first federal effort to reward classroom performance with bonuses. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings planned to announce the first of 16 grants, worth $42 million, including $5.5 million for Ohio, on Monday. The government has not announced the other grant winners. Using the old-fashioned incentive of cash, President Bush's program encourages schools to set up pay scales that reward some teachers and principals more than others. Those rewards are to be based mainly on test scores, but also on classroom evaluations during the year. The grants are also aimed at luring teachers into math, science and other core fields.

Teachers normally are paid based on their years in class and their education. Yet more school districts are experimenting with merit pay, and now the federal government is, too. It is not always popular. Teachers' unions generally oppose pay-for-performance plans, saying they do not fairly measure quality and do nothing to raise base teacher pay. Spellings, though, says the money will be a good recruiting tool. The most qualified teachers tend to opt for affluent schools, she told The Associated Press. "These grants will work to fix this by encouraging and rewarding teachers for taking the tough jobs in the schools and classrooms where our children need them the most," she said.

One of the first grants is $5.5 million to the Ohio Department of Education, to be shared among schools in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo. The rest of the grants will go out over the next two weeks to three weeks - falling right before the Nov. 7 elections in which a reeling Republican Party is eager for good news. The Education Department says the election had no bearing on the timing. The grant application process began in May, and the review was done in the early fall, officials said. The grants will range from about $1 million to $30 million. That is small time for the federal government, but can be enough to offer a meaningful pay bump at the local level.

Yet done in isolation, performance pay "have very little chance of having impact," said Rob Weil, deputy director of educational issues for the American Federation of Teachers. "You have to prepare teachers properly," Weil said. "You have to have mentoring and professional development and professional standards. If you don't have those things, it doesn't matter what you do with compensation." The average teacher salary was paid $47,800 in 2005.

Bush has been promoting the "Teacher Incentive Fund" in his recent speeches. "It's an interesting concept, isn't it?" he said during a school visit in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 5. "If your measurement system shows that you're providing excellence for your children, it seems to make sense that there ought to be a little extra incentive." In the Ohio districts, for example, school leaders plan to pay between $1,800 to $2,000 to hundreds of teachers. Bush, seeking $500 million from Congress, got $99 million for the program this year. More than half of that money will be carried over until next year, though, because most of the applications did not qualify. The department expects to accept applications again soon.

The agency looked for pay plans that outline how schools will get support from teachers and the broader community. That is considered essential to keeping any merit plan afloat. Schools with higher numbers of poor children get priority consideration. Joel Packer, a lobbyist for the National Education Association, said no teacher-pay plan should be best based just on the test scores of students. A one-time exam does not measure teacher effectiveness, he said, and teachers in subjects such as math may not even have testing. As for the timing, Packer said: "It's always a little suspicious when you have these things come out just before the election, allowing members of Congress in tight races to get some money for their district."


Australia: History teaching replaced by lying propaganda

A federal Government senator is demanding the withdrawal of a school library book which paints his political hero and Australia's longest-serving prime minister as a tyrant. Sir Robert Menzies is listed alongside the likes of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler, Cambodian ruler Pol Pot and the deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in the children's reference book 100 Greatest Tyrants, which is used by students at a Mount Isa high school. Senator George Brandis has slammed the book, by British author Andrew Langley, describing it as offensive and inappropriate for history studies in any Australian school.

"Of course it's absurd," Senator Brandis said. "It introduces students to the notion that there is a kind of moral equivalence between some of the most evil men in the history of the world and an Australian political leader who has been a beacon of liberal democracy."

The book, published a decade ago, lists Menzies among 100 so-called tyrants, right after the notorious Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong. Also listed are ruthless conqueror Genghis Khan, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and Chilean ruler Augusto Pinochet. The 110-page volume is part of the library collection at Mount Isa's Good Shepherd Catholic College, where even the school's principal Bernard Durie has admitted the book is flawed. "Obviously it's twaddle to suggest Menzies was a tyrant in the same class as Attila the Hun and that crowd," Mr Durie said. But he has refused to remove the book from the library, describing it as a useful resource for generating debate and critical thinking skills among students.

The Queensland Teachers' Union has backed the school's decision, accusing Senator Brandis of stepping over the line by calling for the book to be withdrawn. "I think that what he's on about is a dangerous censorship practice," said Lesley McFarlane, the union's assistant secretary for research. "I thought the days of burning books were gone."



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, October 24, 2006


Universities should drop entry requirements by up to two A level grades for students from "disadvantaged" backgrounds in order to widen participation, according to a government-commissioned study. Admissions tutors should lower the bar for pupils in care, those attending poorly-performing schools, those who suffer from long-term disability or sickness and those who have to look after sick relatives, it said. The tutors should also collaborate with each other to ensure that more deprived children enter the top universities.

Academics at Leeds University found that while most universities had a programme to encourage more applications from working-class backgrounds, systems varied and only a few hundred were recruited annually by this route.

The study, published tomorrow, follows the release of Ucas figures last week that showed that 5,400 fewer students from "lower-income backgrounds" had started university this year, amid fears of increasing debt over higher fees. The authors of the study praised those universities that chose pupils on the basis of their potential, even if their grades were lower than the entry requirements. "We know of heavily oversubscribed courses where admissions tutors have made offers of an A and two Bs to impressive applicants in disadvantaged circumstances who have demonstrated appropriate personal qualities, while rejecting other applicants with three predicted As," they wrote. "Admissions tutors prepared to do this have our strong support."

The researchers acknowledged fears that students being turned away with higher grades could mount legal challenges, but pointed out that most disadvantaged students admitted on this basis showed "no significant differences in their referral and withdrawal rates as compared with the university average".

Paul Sharp, co-author of Opportunity and Equity: Developing a Framework for Good Practice in Compact Schemes, said that universities put a lot of effort into widening participation, but needed to publicise it more and share good practice. He refused to endorse a compulsory scheme of lowering grades.

In 2003, the Government's White Paper on Higher Education pointed out that young people from the professional classes were "over five times more likely to enter higher education than those from unskilled backgrounds".

The next year, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, the proportion of state students decreased in 14 of the 19 leading Russell Group universities, with only 53.4 per cent of Oxford admissions coming from state schools. Geoff Parks, director of admissions at Cambridge, said that the report set out good principles but threw up several "potential minefields". Although he supported sharing good practice, there also came a point when colleges competed for the best students, he said. Under the Cambridge Special Access scheme, the university already accepted students with lower grades, he said. "But at the moment there needs to be a very large disadvantage to make it a B rather than an A," he said. "Unless we move to a system where the offers could be more finely graduated, it would be very difficult to make those adjustments."

An aide to Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, said that he favoured the idea of universities assessing an applicant's potential and awaited the report with interest.


British schools as Orwell's "Big Brother"

No matter where you are, your school will see you and punish you for deviance

Three pupils were expelled last week from St George's School Harpenden, a prestigious state boarding school in Hertfordshire, for smoking cannabis during the summer holidays. But should schools be disciplining children for what goes on beyond the school gate?

Harpenden is an affluent commuter town. Its leafy roads and traditional high street do not point to an endemic drugs problem bought on by social exclusion, especially not involving St George's pupils where `there is a sense of real purpose and harmony based on Christian principles and our traditions,' according to the headmaster, Norman Hoare.

Rumours of drug abuse surfaced this autumn and an investigation was launched by the school. The subsequent expulsions were based on interviews held by St George's. Whilst cannabis use is illegal, the police told me that they would not be taking any action after concluding that there was too little evidence to pursue the matter.

Norman Hoare told BBC News: `The school has a duty to uphold the law and protect all students but none of our investigations showed that the drugs had been on our premises. The activities took place after school or at weekends and some of it started in July. That's one of the reasons we acted very quickly.'

Hoare's ideas on the boundaries of school authority are not shared by everyone. One angry parent contacted spiked, even though his children were not involved: `At what point does the school's jurisdiction end? I am completely opposed to the control of my children outside of school hours.' When I asked Norman Hoare why he had expelled students on the basis of drug use outside of school term, he replied that `the pupils who join the school are aware of our drugs policy'. However, his actions seem to go beyond the policy stated on the school's website: `A period of fixed term exclusion [ie, suspension] from school would normally be the penalty for involvement in purchase, possession, or consumption of illegal drugs or substance of abuse while under school jurisdiction.'

Events at St George's contrast with a case heard by the High Court in September. A school in Birmingham had its decision to expel two pupils for cannabis use overturned because their expulsion contravened government guidelines on exclusion for minor drug offences. These pupils were caught smoking on school grounds and some kind of punishment by the school was to be expected. But the St George's pupils were not caught by the police or anyone from the school; they were allegedly using cannabis outside of school term and were not dealing drugs.

St George's sees the alleged minor drug use of a few of its pupils outside school hours as its responsibility - parents are not to be trusted. In doing so, the headmaster was only following the lead of the New Labour government; it does not trust private individuals. The Anti-Social Behaviour Act of 2003 gives head teachers the authority to fine parents and issue parenting orders forcing them to attend counselling. Where once schools stood for moral guidance, they are now expected to play a much more interventionist and authoritarian role. As David Perks has noted elsewhere on spiked: `the government sees schools as a blunt weapon in a war against what it sees as feckless parents and feral children. Education policy has become part of a wider attempt to control people's behaviour.'

So how should we deal with children who experiment with drugs and why do they do it? I asked Patrick Turner, writer, lecturer and former drugs worker: `The same as we have traditionally done with alcohol. A degree of indulgence towards the desire to experiment and enjoy adult pleasures seasoned with a sensitivity to the circumstances and motives of the individuals concerned. Put simply, the risk associated with a stable, self-aware young person who has lots of support messing around with dope is not the same as that posed to the young person, say, in local authority care with a history of poor mental health.'

In fact, government guidelines on expulsion seem to fit well with Turner's statement: `Exclusion should only be considered for serious breaches of the school's behaviour policy, and should not be imposed without a thorough investigation unless there is an immediate threat to the safety of others in the school or the pupil concerned. It should not be used if alternative solutions have the potential to achieve a change in the pupil's behaviour and are not detrimental to the whole school community.' So, why has this school gone further? Norman Hoare had not heard about the Birmingham case in which the High Court ruled these guidelines took precedence over school decisions. I suspect when the St George's board of governers examines the expulsion they may well overturn it in light of the Birmingham case.

This episode is indicative of the mixed messages from government about drugs, and the contradictory positions they adopt. The government's downgrading of cannabis to a class `C' drug has added to the mess since the law itself is a combination of `hard' and `soft' signals. So while the maximum sentence for possession will fall from five years to two, penalties for adults supplying cannabis will remain at a maximum of 14 years compared to the five years for other class `C' drugs.

There is no right for children to experiment with cannabis, but it would be better to have childhood experimentation dealt with in a constructive manner. That means schools should not overstep the boundaries of their authority, and government should not politicise and proceduralise matters that are best dealt with informally.



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, October 23, 2006

Charter school growth after success in California?

Charter schools outperformed their traditional public school counterparts on standardized tests in 2006, and educators in charter and traditional schools are hoping they can use the results to improve education everywhere. Not only did charter schools outperform traditional schools, according to a report released earlier this month by the California Charter Schools Association, test scores among charter schools that have been in existence for five years or longer tend toward the top.

All such the "mature" charters in the county scored 800 or better out of a possible 1,000. "It's important to recognize which charter schools are mature, because we always say that it takes four or five years for a charter school to maximize its potential," said Caprice Young, California Charter Schools Association president. "And if you look at the data, you'll see that the mature charter schools are doing their job."

For San Joaquin County's 13 charter schools, the median score was 729, with nearly half of them scoring 800 or better. The goal for all California schools is 800, according to the California Department of Education. University Public School in Stockton, run by Aspire Charter Schools, scored 868 to lead the pack. San Joaquin's traditional public schools in 16 districts scored a median of 721, or eight points lower then the median of the charters, according to the Department of Education. Lodi Unified's Elkhorn Elementary School in north Stockton stood head and shoulders above charters and noncharters, with an API score of 989. Elkhorn is a Gifted and Talented Education program campus, however, where students must apply for acceptance.

Young attributes charter schools' higher test scores to their ability to be more innovative in teaching methods, she said, while traditional schools are mandated by state education officials to spend money only on state-approved curriculum and materials. Unlike private schools, charter schools must accept any interested student. If enrollment becomes competitive because of a limited number of seats, a public lottery must be conducted to fill them. "A charter does have flexibility, and it's held accountable for the results," Young said. "It's accountable, because there's always the threat that the charter can be shut down if you don't perform. The threat of closure leads to an increase of focus and accountability." Teachers at charter schools often are compensated based on their performance or their schools' performance. That trend is a stark contrast from traditional public schools, where tenure, experience and training are normal requirements for pay raises and job security.

Young suggests the success of charters has caught the eye of state education officials, and in San Joaquin County, many school superintendents agree. "Competition isn't always a bad thing," Lodi Unified School District Superintendent Bill Huyett said. "We could learn from each other. Some good, friendly competition can be good for the system." For Huyett and Lodi Unified, the relationship with several Aspire Charter Schools in north Stockton has created that feeling of friendly competition. Huyett has complimented Aspire consistently and has been a proponent of introducing some of the educational methods used by the charters in the traditional schools. "I think it would be good for the state to learn from charter schools," Huyett said of charter schools' freedom from many state regulations that strap traditional schools over curriculum and materials. "There could be some deregulation. The state can see that it's working for the charters, so why not make it available for everybody?"

Lodi Unified, for example, has started a process it calls the "cycle of inquiry." The cycle helps administrators and teachers identify students who are struggling in the classroom and in which areas of learning they are struggling. "We learned that from Aspire," Huyett said. "And we're also looking at going with smaller high school models, the way some charters do. We think they're onto something there."


Researchers Say Texas Inflates Graduation Rate

Texas grossly inflates its high school graduation numbers, masking critical dropout figures, according to studies to be presented Friday at a Rice University conference. Academicians from institutions including Rice, Harvard, Stanford and Johns Hopkins, as well as other experts in the field, say their goal is to bring clarity to the problem, explain the implications for the state and nation, and lay the groundwork for progress. Linda McNeil with Rice's Center for Education told KTRH News that problems can be seen in the numbers. "We starting noticing that the ninth grade population would be, very often, half of the student population — maybe 1,000 kids. And yet, these schools are graduating just 200 to 300 kids," McNeil said.

Many factors are responsible for the crisis, McNeil said, including an over-emphasis in the importance of test scores and rigid attendance policies, "which were meant to sort of create a more stable structure for their education ... really works against our poorest kids … who have, sort of, the most complicated responsibilities in their families." McNeil said the university is bringing education experts, superintendents, lawmakers and minority activists together at Rice to address the wide gap between the dropout numbers they've found and what the Texas Education Agency reports. The state's official graduation rate hovers around 85 percent, but the researchers note less than three in five black and Hispanic students achieve diplomas in Texas.

Chris Swanson, director of the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, was part of the four-year research project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The research found Texas' graduation rate to be 66.8 percent — much lower than the 84.2 percent the state reports — and Swanson said, “The graduation crisis is much more urgent than we might understand just based on what the TEA presents.” He noted that the Lone Star state isn't the only one that exaggerates its numbers. Swanson's numbers are almost identical to what other independent researchers have found using various methodologies, the speakers said. Swanson used enrollment-based estimates; others have looked at individual student records and unduplicated data from the state. Further, Swanson pointed out that the inflation increases in larger districts. Dallas has a 46 percent graduation rate, his study found, not the state's figure of 81 percent. The inflation was also more prominent when looking at minority and poor students.

Part of the disparity lies in the differing definitions for a "dropout." The state figures mentioned, from the 2002-2003 school year, do not count as dropouts students who have enrolled in a GED program, who have passed coursework but not the required state test, who transferred to another Texas public school but never showed up for class, or who are missing.

The state will begin including the first three of those categories in its calculations, starting this school year — but not because it found fault with its previous method, a spokesperson said, but rather to align it with the definitions used by the federal No Child Left Behind law and National Center for Education Statistics.

Texas is one of the few states to have a system that tracks individual students, a resource many other states want to emulate. “The lesson for Texas is that it doesn't matter how good the data collection is. If you're not reporting in an accurate, transparent way, you wind up with very misleading information,'' said Dan Losen, a senior education law and policy associate with Harvard's Civil Rights Project.



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, October 22, 2006


She's black, you see, so just touching her would be a huge crime

A girl aged 5 has been permanently excluded from her school for attacking a teacher and a classmate. Tamara Howard's mother has been told that her daughter cannot return to the 300-pupil Old Moat School, in Withington, Manchester, because her presence is too disruptive.

The decision to expel the child was taken after she was excluded for 15 days for an alleged attack on a teacher and classmate on September 20. The school said that she hit the teacher on the arm, leaving cuts and bruises, after she was asked to clear away some toy bricks. On an earlier occasion she was said to have assaulted six members of staff.

The education authority said that it had offered intensive help to the pupil, who joined the infants from the school's nursery in January. Angela Howard, 41, a single mother who has two grown-up children, is hoping that the decision will be reversed. She said that the school had not given her enough time to address her child's behaviour and that she was excluded before there was a chance to get any help.


The long march back to honesty in Australia's schools

No ideological agenda? Just who are the education unions kidding

[Federal] Education Minister Julie Bishop's call for a national curriculum and her criticism of ideologues in the education bureaucracies met a predictable wave of outrage. "How dare she", cried the teachers unions and their friends. Concerns about curriculum being politically correct, the argument goes, are simply a ploy used by conservative governments to maintain power. Pat Byrne, the head of the Australian Education Union, reflected this view when she argued last year: "The challenge for us is to frame our position in a way that can successfully counter the culture war that is currently being fought ... This is not a good time to be progressive in Australia; or for that matter anywhere else in the world!"

Never mind students being made to deconstruct the classics in terms of "theory". Never mind Australian history being taught from a black-armband view. And never mind geography being redefined in terms of deep environmentalism and multiculturalism. The late 1960s and early '70s was not only about Woodstock and moratoriums. That period was also about the Left's decision, drawing on the works of Marxists Antonio Gramsci and Pierre Bourdieu, to take control of society by taking "the long march through the institutions".

Bourdieu argues that education is a powerful tool used by those more privileged in society to consolidate their position. Based on the concept of cultural capital, the argument is that there is nothing inherently worthwhile about academic studies or the Western tradition. The Left's belief that the education system is simply a tool used by the capitalist class to reproduce itself explains much of what has happened since the early '70s. The much-criticised Victorian Certificate of Education developed during the '80s was based on premier Joan Kirner's belief that schools must be transformed as "part of the socialist struggle for equality, participation and social change, rather than an instrument of the capitalist system".

Meanwhile, teacher education became controlled by activists such as Doug White, Bill Hannan, Bob Connell, Dean Ashenden, Simon Marginson and Allan Luke. In a textbook widely set for education courses entitled Making the Difference, the argument is put: "In the most basic sense, the process of education and the process of liberation are the same. At the beginning of the 1980s it is plain that the forces opposed to that growth (have) become increasingly militant. In such circumstances, education becomes a risky enterprise. Teachers, too, have to decide whose side they are on."

Many of those students radicalised during the '60s and '70s went on to become teachers and bureaucrats and they identify education as a key instrument in overturning the status quo. For many, such as the AEU, the Australian Association for the Teaching of English and the Australian Curriculum Studies Association, education was, and continues to be, a key instrument to change society. In 1998, ACSA published Going Public: Education Policy and Public Education in Australia, described by Alan Reid as a manifesto outlining the "political strategies that might be employed to protect and enhance the social democratic values that lie at the heart of progressive aspirations about public education".

The impact of the cultural Left on education has been profound. Competition and failure are banned. Feminists attack traditional texts such as Romeo and Juliet as enforcing gender stereotypes. In history teaching, instead of focusing on significant historical events and figures and celebrating past milestones, the focus is on victim groups, such as women, migrants and Aborigines. Over the past 30 or so years schools have been pressured to adopt a leftist stance on issues as diverse as multiculturalism, the environment, the class war, peace studies, feminism and gender studies. Worse, the idea that education can be disinterested and that teachers should be impartial has given way to the argument that everything is ideological. Meanwhile, the teachers unions deny any agenda.


Suddenly, vocational training back in vogue : Christian Science Monitor "Six years ago, as his 11th-grade classmates struggled with the college-application ritual, Toby Hughes tried to envision his future. A Georgia honors student with a 1350 SAT score, he knew he wanted to go into computer science, so he went to local computer companies and asked what they wanted in an employee. 'They told me I would be more marketable if I had practical technical training as opposed to theoretical academic training,' says Mr. Hughes. He began taking specialized computer-networking classes while still in high school, landed a $52,000 job after graduating, and now, at 24, makes well past that. Similar scenarios are repeating so often that the world of career technical training -- once known somewhat disparagingly as 'vocational training' -- is experiencing a renaissance in America. Enrollment in technical education soared by 57 percent -- from 9.6 million students in 1999 to 15.1 million in 2004, the US Department of Education reported to Congress."

Strange new love for "The Blob" : "In the eighties, Republicans talked of abolishing the federal Department of Education. In the nineties, they blocked President Clinton's quest for national education standards. Former Reagan education secretary William Bennett even dubbed America's bloated school monopolies 'the Blob.' But with the election of George W. Bush and the passage of his No Child Left Behind law in 2002, the 'party of limited government' apparently decided to stop worrying and love the Blob. And its appetite for federal control over the classroom continues to grow. A chorus of Republicans -- including Bennett himself, in a recent Washington Post op/ed -- is now calling for a national system of education standards and testing."


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