Friday, March 30, 2007

California rediscovers equality

It's only tokenism, though

When it comes to setting academic expectations, California will no longer cut any slack for students who traditionally score low on standardized tests -- those who are poor, non-native English speakers, African American or Latino.

Since the state initiated the Academic Performance Index in 1999, there have been differences in test scores between students from various backgrounds: poor and affluent, black and white, Latino and Asian. And each spring, when the state determines how much students' scores should improve, it has set the bar lower for ethnic groups than for a school as a whole.

Not anymore. Tuesday, when the state spelled out how much kids should improve their scores, it said the same will be expected of everyone. "It's going to be more challenging for schools to meet their growth targets," said state superintendent Jack O'Connell. "But it's designed with the intention of maximizing every opportunity to close the achievement gap." During a phone call with reporters, he lauded the new method for setting test score goals as "aggressive and ambitious."

But others said it won't make a shred of difference because the new system, like the old one, lacks teeth. Under the state's system, consequences are minimal for schools and students that don't meet improvement goals.

The state Department of Education has long set different API targets for each ethnic group. For years, ethnic groups were expected to make 80 percent of the progress that was expected of the school as a whole: If a school's target was to raise its API 10 points, for example, the African American students had to raise theirs 8 points. That system drew criticism and was seen as racist. It set lower expectations for some groups than for others, critics said. State education leaders responded by changing the way they set growth targets. Now lower-scoring groups have to grow at the same rate as the whole school -- so those students have to gain more points to catch up to the state's goal of 800. "What it means is having equal expectations for all kids," said Greg Purcell, principal of Sutter Middle School in Sacramento.

The new system will not prompt big changes on his campus because teachers judge students by their performance, not by their ethnicity, Purcell said. "It's not hard to figure out which kids need the support, looking at them individually, regardless of subgroup." Purcell's school is so high-performing that it doesn't have a growth target: the student body scored 856, above the state's goal. But performance varied hugely among racial groups. To encourage African American and Latino students to catch up, the state set their target at 5 points, but said white and Asian students don't have to increase their scores at all.

How does the state calculate the new targets? All schools and student groups who have not made the 800 goal must increase their scores by the same rate -- 5 percent of the difference between their score and 800.....

But Jim Lanich, a longtime critic of the state's API system, said the new method for setting targets won't make a difference because there aren't enough consequences for schools that don't meet their goals. "We applaud a focus on minority kids and their achievement levels," said Lanich, president of California Business for Education Excellence. "But zero accountability at a lower target is the same as zero accountability at a higher target."

Schools see consequences for not meeting their targets only if they opt in to a state improvement program. Fewer than 17 percent of schools participate in such programs, according to state education officials. O'Connell countered that the state holds schools responsible by publicly reporting their test scores and goals. "A lot of the accountability and the consequences are from peer pressure in the community and the fact that you want your schools to do well," he said. "It's peer pressure, it's community pride we're talking about here. That's a key component."


A quiet homeschooling revolt

The Australian State of Queensland seems to have laws about homeschooling that are similar to Germany's. The relaxed approach to enforcement is however very different. At least since Hegel, Germany has been much more Leftist than the Anglo-Saxon countries and Australia has never had a Gestapo or any inclination towards one

An attempt by the State Government to overhaul home-schooling registration requirements appears to have failed. A new system was introduced in January to make it easier for parents teaching their children at home to legally report to the state without fear of being forced to send them to school. But Eleanor Sparks of Education Choices Magazine for home-schoolers said thousands of parents were reluctant to register with the Government "There is still a lot of distrust there. A lot of parents don't want to sign up and then have the department try to change the way they choose to educate their children," she said.

An Education Queensland report estimates up to 10,500 children are being home-schooled, but just 260 of them are officially registered with the State Government. Education Minister Rod Welford does not accept the figure though it comes from his own department's Home Schooling Review. He said he believed parents who have registered under the department's distance education scheme (4800 students) and the 260 students under the new system represented the "overwhelming majority". "There may be one or two hundred who we still haven't captured because we don't know precisely the number of children who are not in school," he said.

He said he believed the "home-school industry" had an interest in exaggerating its numbers. "I want to spread the message that it is against the law not to be registered, and secondly that it is in their interests to do that," he said. "It is not a question of bludgeoning parents into some sort of Big Brother control system. "By registering those students we can give them support such as advice on teaching text and give them some assistance through nearby schools if they want to access that."

Parents who reject the school system say they do so for many reasons. There are financial benefits to home schooling as parents do not have to worry about fees. uniforms, text books or trips. But parents say the decision to home-school also means financial sacrifices, as at least one parent must spend all their time with their children.

Amanda from Ipswich told The Sunday Mail she opted out of schools because she feared exposing her children to peer groups there. "I know that a lot of people out there think that people like us are weirdos who want to live outside society but we're not. We just don't believe that schools are the best place to put your children." Amanda, who asked that her full name not be revealed, has not registered any of her children with Education Queensland and has never followed a structured learning system.

Her eldest child, Gabby, 15, did not start reading until she was nine but is studying for a bachelor of arts at the Open University (an online higher education service that does not require any entry grades). "I enjoyed it. It was a fun way to learn and now that I am at university I don't find the work too hard. I am able to handle it," Gabby said.

Parents must send their children to school unless they receive special dispensation from Education Queensland. But Ms Sparks says governments have turned a blind eye to thousands of parents who choose to school their children ast home.

The article above by Edmund Burke appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on March 25, 2007

Road to university widens in one Australian State

A good idea. General knowledge is so indicative that it has been used as a proxy for an IQ test

THOUSANDS of VCE students could get an extra shot at university under a plan to use general knowledge tests in course selection. Under the radical proposal, the General Achievement Test would be used for the first time alongside ENTER and VCE scores for selection in some uni courses. The GAT would be used to help choose "middle band" students -- whose results fell just below ENTER cut-off scores for courses. The proposal by Monash University and the Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre could be implemented by the middle of this year if schools support it.

A joint discussion paper outlining the plan says that, although the ENTER provides a "good outcome" for most students, there is a need to improve the selection process for some university applicants. "For some students, the ENTER score may not fully reflect their ability to succeed at tertiary study," the paper states.

About half of all university courses -- up to 1500 of them -- use "middle band" selection along with the ENTER score. This means that some universities look at individual subject scores when deciding whether to take middle-band applicants. But under the proposed plan the GAT -- which tests English, maths and science skills -- would be taken into account for the first time.

Every VCE student currently sits the GAT in the middle of the academic year but it has been used only to check student work and exams. The GAT could also be used as a supplementary tool to select students who have suffered disadvantage during year 12. "It is proposed that applicants' GAT scores . . . be available for use as an additional tool to increase the reliability of middle-band selection," the report states.

VTAC director Elaine Wenn said the proposal would be implemented by June if supported by schools and universities. She said Monash University had advanced the proposal but other universities could take it up if it were approved. Ms Wenn denied the plan amounted to a move away from the ENTER score as the main selection tool for university. "The ENTER score is still the best predictor of academic performance," she said. Monash University pro-vice chancellor Prof Merran Edwards said the university was trying to improve middle-band selection.

The president of the Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals, Brian Burgess, said the ENTER score was not a particularly effective way of selecting students. "That one third of students fail their first year says something about how universities are selecting their students," he said. Australian Education Union Victorian branch president Mary Bluett welcomed the plan. "We think the idea of broadening out the entry criteria is a good thing," she said. "Too much depends on the ENTER score."


Australia: Students' results just get worse

SHOCKING student test results revealed thousands of children were getting lower scores in literacy and numeracy the longer they stayed at school. The disturbing trend has emerged in a national analysis of results provided to Federal Education Minister Julie Bishop. Figures showed the 6 per cent of Year 3 students who failed to reach the numeracy benchmark grew to 9 per cent by Year 5 and 18 per cent in the first year of high school. Despite millions of dollars poured into classroom programs, 25 per cent of Year 7 students in NSW did not meet benchmark standards for numeracy and 12 per cent for reading.

The number of students meeting an acceptable standard in numeracy plummeted between primary school - where it reached the mid-90s - and high school. Ms Bishop said yesterday she was worried about the results showing the decline in student performance after Year 3. "It concerns me that too many students are still failing to meet these minimum standards," she said. "Reading, writing and mathematics are fundamental life skills that every person needs for further education, employment and participation in society."

The data, based on 2005 exam results in all the states and territories, had taken the Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs almost two years to process. In NSW, females outscored males by up to 6 per cent - particularly in reading and writing. Students in Years 3 and 5 performed better than the national average but slipped below it once they reached high school. Students living in cities did slightly better than those in regional and remote areas.



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"

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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