Friday, May 04, 2007


With the governor visiting, Montgomery County school officials might have been tempted to throw up some slides showing rising test scores or burgeoning Advanced Placement participation. Instead, school leaders spoke candidly yesterday about the seemingly insoluble problem of getting students from some minority groups to succeed in advanced math courses.

Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) and County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) listened as school officials gave a PowerPoint presentation showing three schools, one each from affluent, middle-class and low-income neighborhoods, all with moribund math achievement among blacks and Hispanics. "Trying to keep the pace and move the kids along has been very difficult," one school's principal said. He sat at a table of administrators at the school system's headquarters, in Rockville. School officials asked that none of the schools be identified as a condition of opening the session to visitors.

Montgomery school officials were showing off M-Stat, their version of a celebrated initiative that uses statistics and computers to identify and analyze problems. The school system is among the first in the nation to adopt a variant of CompStat, the New York City police program that analyzes crime trends. The "Stat" concept has drawn notice not only for its success but also for encouraging lively -- and occasionally sharp -- exchanges among top brass.

Baltimore's school system was the first to adapt the program to public education, in 2001, shortly after O'Malley, the city's mayor at the time, launched CitiStat in the city government. CitiStat tracked such things as how long it took city workers to fill potholes, how much overtime pay was going to sanitation workers and agencies' use of minority contractors. SchoolStat analyzes student and teacher attendance, discipline and other school-system concerns....

Ideally, the meetings stir revelations. Yesterday's session, for example, left participants with the disquieting fact that black and Hispanic students aren't reaping the benefits of attending high-performing schools in affluent communities. One principal, representing a middle-class neighborhood, predicted that her minority math data would "flat-line" this year because the school is focusing on other reforms. In the often sugarcoated world of public education, that was a bold admission.


"Diversity" Chickens Come Home To Roost

Post below lifted from Discriminations -- which see for links

I've written a number of times about how "diversity," as I put it here, has become increasingly "un-American," about "the awkward fact that a significantly high number of the beneficiaries of racial preference are foreigners." (See, in addition, here, here, here, and here.)

Shirley Wilcher, an early 1970s graduate of Mount Holyoke, looked around at a reunion and became concerned, the Boston Herald reports.

"My suspicions were confirmed," said Wilcher, now the executive director of the American Association for Affirmative Action. She found a rise in the number of black students from Africa and the Caribbean, and a downturn in admissions of native blacks like her.

A study released this year put numbers on the trend. Among students at 28 top U.S. universities, the representation of black students of first- and second-generation immigrant origin (27 percent) was about twice their representation in the national population of blacks their age (13 percent). Within the Ivy League, immigrant-origin students made up 41 percent of black freshmen.

"Whoa, wait a minute!" the diversiphiles now seem to be saying. "When we demanded that everyone `consider race' or `take race into account,' etc., we didn't really mean, you know, race; we meant us." Thus:

Last month, a Harvard Black Students Association message board asked, "When we use the term 'black community,' who is included in this description?" A lively debate ensued, with some posters complaining that African students were getting an admissions boost without having faced the historical suffering of U.S. blacks.

Someone seems to have neglected to tell the Harvard students that, at the insistence of the diversiphiles, for the past decade or so the justification for racial preference has emphatically not been compensation for or correction of "the historical suffering of U.S. blacks."

Indeed, even affirmative action apparatchiks like Shirley Wilcher don't seem to know what arguments they've been making. Looking out at the sea of foreign faces who have benefited from "her" cause,

Wilcher would like to know why. She asks if her cause has lost its way on U.S. campuses, with the goal of correcting American racial injustices replaced by a softer ideal of diversity - as if any black student will do.

The answer, of course, is yes. "Her cause" lost its way, but not when she thinks. It lost its way even before its clever lawyers decided to exploit the "diversity" loophole Justice Powell carved for them in Bakke, back when it abandoned its historical dedication to equal treatment and took off after the pied piper of racial preference.

If you argue that the most important thing about yourself is your race, that you should be given special treatment because of your race, you hardly have grounds to complain (and you certainly should not be surprised) when people are given preferential treatment because of their race, especially if they can be seen to add a dollop of the "diversity" that you have been using lately to justify your special treatment. When racial identity trumps individual identity, then it is sad but true that "any black student will do."


As I've mentioned a number of times (such as here), in practice racial preference inexorably results in a form of race-norming (selecting the best candidates from separate racial pools), even though that practice was prohibited in the Civil Rights Act of 1991. Although the Boston Herald article discussed above does not say, could it not be possible that in attempting to fill their non-quota of black students admissions officers simply select those with the best grades and test scores, many of whom happen to be foreign?

Voting with their feet: Australian parents show what they think of government schools

Many suffer considerable hardships to escape such schools

With private school fees soaring towards $20,000 a year, how much more sacrifice can struggling parents bear? A new breed of parent is emerging in the school communities of Melbourne's most established independent schools. These aspirational parents can't, strictly speaking, afford to send their kids to a secondary school where the average annual fee for a senior student is charging towards $20,000, or $400 a week. But if both parents work, or if grandparents help, or if the mortgage can bear it, they believe they can pull it off. Even, it seems, if it means being stressed and exhausted for years.

Adolescent psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg has noticed the number of families stretching themselves to pay for such schools, and puts it down to guilt. He says parents want to be seen to be doing the best they can for their children, and for some this means getting on a "spend and earn hamster wheel" for years.

Across Australia, more parents are enrolling their children in independent schools - rising from almost 10 per cent in 1996 to 13 per cent in 2005, according to Association of Independent Schools of Victoria figures. They are doing so at a time when the Consumer Price Index for secondary school education is rising ahead of inflation, with a hike of about 6 per cent a year for the past six years, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The result is that some of Melbourne's most established private schools - unless they decide to absorb costs - will break through the $20,000 a year barrier for fees next year. Many schools already charge about $18,000 a year for year 12, with some, such as Scotch College, Haileybury and St Catherine's School, charging more than $19,000 a year. Such a sum may soon not seem so high. With the secondary-education CPI forecast to continue to rise at about 6 per cent a year, the parents of today's prep students could be paying more than $35,000 a year in school fees for established private secondary schools by the time their children reach year 12.

Sounds improbable? If you ask parents of today's year 12 students, most will recall senior high school fees at independent schools being about $10,000 when their child was in primary school. And many are still getting their heads - and wallets - used to the idea that the fees have almost doubled. Most independent schools contacted by The Age acknowledged that $20,000 was a "psychological barrier", but did not think parents would baulk at paying more, because education was a priority. Even in households struggling to pay.

Some would say this obsession with obtaining an elite private school education - no matter what the financial or personal cost to some families - defies logic. A number of principals said some parents were under great strain, but refused to consider sending their children to state and Catholic schools or the cheaper independent schools springing up in the outer suburbs.

St Michael's Grammar School principal Simon Gipson says people are more "acquisitive" these days, with education seen as a key investment. Other principals agreed that some parents view an expensive education for their children as a valued possession, even a status symbol, that they are prepared to work hard for - and go into debt to obtain.

Certainly, private education is now on the wish list of many households, so much so that parents start debating how to pay the fees when the children are in kindergarten, says Jo Silver, the executive officer of Parents Victoria. She says many parents decide whether to increase the mortgage, apply for scholarships, set up trusts or join tax-effective education plans.

Many women work part-time when the children are at primary school, but go full-time once they go to secondary school. "They also realise they need to find a higher-paying job." But she says parents can forget to factor in annual fee increases. Recent publicity about an annual average of $5000 per student in government funding for independent schools has led some parents to expect fees to plateau. "At some point the fee rises have to stop," Ms Silver says. "It's quite concerning that it is going up to such an extent . . . and yet people are quite willing to put a lot of money into this."

Melbourne Grammar headmaster Paul Sheahan says the annual fee rises are driven by parents' expectations that schools will not stint on resources. "We are all trying to keep ahead of the game and offer bigger and better," he says. "Competition certainly comes into it." The expectations come from parents who, ironically, are having to work harder to pay for those multimillion-dollar technology suites. Korowa Anglican Girls School principal Christine Jenkins has altered the timing of parent functions to take account of working parents. She attributes annual fee rises partly to teacher salaries but also to technology costs. Both parents work in 80 per cent of St Michael's students' families. Mr Gipson describes his parent body as diverse, ranging from "taxi drivers to captains of industry and everything in between".

This is not the stereotype of the inner city private school parent. The Australian Education Union's Victorian president, Mary Bluett, echoes popular sentiment by saying: "Only 8 per cent of the school population go to these elite private schools - and a very large proportion can afford those fees in a blink." Yet increasingly parents do seem to be blinking when the bills arrive. Melbourne Girls Grammar principal Christine Briggs says only a handful of parents would not find the fees an issue. "Most parents are working very hard to pay them. But once parents decide that education is a priority, they do not falter," she says. "They will have more modest housing, cars and holidays." She worries that some families put education ahead of family wellbeing. "If it does seem a very big stretch, then my advice is to look at the government school system," she says. "The most devastating thing is for debt to crush the spirit of a family."

The notion that private school parents are by definition wealthy is incorrect, says Melbourne Grammar's Paul Sheahan. "We have a very wide spread of economic financial background, and there are families who extend themselves significantly to pay the fees," he says. "People subject themselves to huge hardship to keep children in our school." He says if fees continue to rise there will be a point of resistance. "We haven't reached that yet. As long as the product we provide is seen as significantly superior, people will dig deep."

This may sound provocative, but the Education Union's Mary Bluett partly agrees. She says state schools cannot compete with the "old school tie, fantastic facilities and small class sizes" of the elite private schools. But she says many state schools offer a good-quality education, and parents should visit local schools before making a decision. "There is a lot on offer in the state system, but until we get a state government that makes funding a priority there is no competition." Ms Bluett accepts that not all private school parents are wealthy, but says such schools highlight struggling parents to get more government funding.

This claim riles Michelle Green, chief executive of the Association of Independent Schools of Victoria, who argues that there are more parents earning more than $1500 a week with children in government schools than independent schools. However, Daniel Edwards, a research fellow at Monash University's Centre for Population and Urban Research, says his analysis of 2001 ABS data found that 23.5 per cent of independent secondary school students came from families with parents earning more than $2000 a week, compared with only 6.5 per cent of students in the government sector.

Just as the wealth of private school parents is contentious, so is the appropriate amount of government funding. Michelle Green's view is that private schools are entitled to funding because parents pay taxes, and also save the state money by paying hefty fees. Are such high fees worth it? Clearly this is hard to measure. Paying $18,000 a year provides no guarantee of a child's happiness or academic success. But Jo Silver of Parents Victoria says most parents believe they get value. Her concern is with how hard many parents, particularly mums, are working to pay fees. "We (mums) are running a very tight race and have limited time to spend with our families," she says. "The expectations of helping with homework, taking them to after-school activities and weekend sport are very high. You have to be well-organised and respond (well) to stress."

Psychologist Dr Carr-Gregg says parents need to re-prioritise. "The catchcry of parents in 2007 is: 'Do you have any idea how much it costs us to have you here?"' he says. "Parents do the maths and will say things like, 'It's costing 56 cents a minute'. What are they thinking? Nobody has put a gun to their head." Parents in Melbourne and Sydney, in particular, send their children to private schools when they can't afford to, he says, out of guilt, an obsession with VCE scores and in the hope of joining networks of "doctors, lawyers and socialites".

He says when parents make such a big financial investment in a child's education, the kids can believe life is not worth living if they don't perform. "Mum and dad being away from home for long times goes against everything we know about the healthy development of children," Dr Carr-Gregg says. "Parents work their butts off to pay $18,000 a year, and the kids come home to an empty house where they disappear behind the emotional firewall of MSN."

Latchkey kid syndrome is one side effect. Marriage breakdown is another. Karen Weiss, the regional manager of Relationships Australia (Victoria), says many parents feel inadequate if they can't afford a private education. "It puts huge pressure on families," she says. Yet she has noticed that one of the few things divorcing parents agree on is keeping the children at the expensive private school.

To achieve this can be tricky. Mark Lowe, a financial adviser with Tandem Financial Advice, says the amount of money required these days is staggering. "You do hear of marriages breaking up because of it," he says. "When you have to pay such big money out of after-tax income, it is very hard for people." Some people feel pressured to take on debt. "If the local schools are perceived as substandard, there is a feeling of guilt about it," Mr Lowe says. "Sometimes you have to speak harshly to people and say, 'you can't afford it'."

More members than previous years of the Australian Scholarships Group, a company offering education savings plans, are defaulting on payments this year, says ASG general manager, communities, Warwick James. He says families at the most expensive schools are increasing their mortgages and postponing holidays to deal with rising fees. And the pressure won't let up. ASG estimates that from now on, annual private school fees will rise by about 8 per cent, which Mr James says is conservative.

Dr Carr-Gregg reminds parents that they have options, such as moving to an area where they are happy with the local school, rather than killing themselves to pay fees. "I wonder if the joy of being a parent is being lost."



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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