Saturday, January 27, 2007

Helping poor Indians crack toughest test

Big bucks not needed for good education

Santosh Kumar, son of a landless farmer from the dirt-poor Indian state of Bihar, has got through the entrance exam of the country's most prestigious engineering school, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). When you consider the fact that some 230,000 students from all over India compete for barely 5,000 seats in the country's seven IITs every year, you realise the significance of Santosh's achievement - he ranked 3,537. IIT graduates have gone on to head companies like Vodafone, Infosys, Sun Microsystems, United Airlines and McKinsey. There is hardly a US-based Fortune 500 company which does not have an IIT alumnus in its senior management.

Santosh and other underprivileged students in a state where nearly half the population cannot read or write have been helped by a small, derelict training school in the state capital, Patna. The private coaching school, named after famous Indian mathematician Srinavasa Ramanujan, has attained a cult status among academics and students for consistently churning out students who crack arguably one of the world's most competitive exams.

Most of the students are like Santosh, whose elder brother, Niranjan, never went to school. His younger brother, Saurabh, emboldened by his brother's feat, is pursuing his education. "We don't know what my brother Santosh has passed, but people say he will get a respectful job and earn good money when he starts working," says Niranjan.

Patna's four-year-old Ramanujan School of Mathematics is the brainchild of a local maths teacher, Anand Kumar. Consider the results of this 30-seat school run out of a ramshackle yard - during its first year, 2003, 18 of the 30 students cracked the IIT entrance tests. Next year, the number rose to 22. In 2005, 26 students sailed into IITs. Last year, 28 students passed the exam. "This year, my school may well hit a jackpot with all my 30 students passing the entrance test," said Mr Kumar, 34, who has never been to an IIT, but won critical praise for his work in mathematics.

Word has spread about his training school far and wide - some 5,000 students turn up from all over Bihar for a place in the school, run out of a thatched hut with fraying wooden benches and creaking tables. "We select 200 of them initially to train with us, and then finally, 30 are chosen depending on their talent, family background and education," says Mr Kumar.

The school charges a paltry 4,000 rupees ($89) annually from its students for the seven-month training, compared to other private coaching institutes who train students for IIT exams for nothing less than 40,000 rupees ($890) a year. But the handpicked 30 students who finally sit for the exam are given free coaching and food.

Anand Kumar says he set up the school after he himself was unable to cough up the money needed to finance his higher education when he received admission to Cambridge University. "I tried very hard to raise the money, but since I came from a poor family I failed. So I wanted to realise the dream to help poor students to crack the toughest engineering exam in the country," he says.

His school is run on a shoe-string budget - students often stand up because of a shortage of benches while Mr Kumar and his group of teachers give lectures. Among the teachers is also one of the senior most policemen in Bihar, additional director-general Abhyanand, who uses only one name. Mr Abhyanand, who himself went to an IIT, teaches physics without taking a salary from the school. "My remuneration is seeing the growing numbers of students coming from poor, rural families who succeed. I hope they pull their families and relatives out of penury," he says.

He is not wide of the mark - 11 of the 28 successful students who cracked the IIT test last year were from the lower castes, the bottom-most rung of Indian society. The parents of students like Anupam Kumar (rank: 2,299) and Priyanshu Kumar (rank: 2,379) and Suresh Ram work as auto-rickshaw drivers, watch mechanic and construction workers respectively.

Writer Sandipan Deb who has written a book on IITs says these students are "exposed to a whole new world" when they arrive on the IIT campuses. "The first thing they realise is that just because they spent their lives in a village does not make them any less bright than the kids from the metropolises. This is a huge confidence booster," he says. The training school's feat is amazing in a state where more than two million children are out of school, and the literacy rate is a shameful 47%.


British pupils to learn the best of British

The nation was plunged into an uncharacteristic celebration of Britishness yesterday as new lessons in British history and the national identity were introduced to schools and Labour politicians with an eye on promotion vied to demonstrate their patriotic credentials. It was all very un-British.

Amid growing concerns that young people lack a sense of belonging and are in need of social and educational glue in today’s multicultural, multiracial society, Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, announced that compulsory lessons in British history would be added to the citizenship curriculum under the heading Identity and Diversity: Living Together in the UK. The new lessons for pupils aged 11 to 16 will cover ethnicity, religion and race, and will explore Britain’s national identity through a study of immigration, the Commonwealth, the Empire and devolution, along with the extending of the popular vote and women’s rights.

Sir Keith Ajegbo, a Home Office adviser and author of the reforms, said that the new classes aimed to tackle feelings of marginalisation among young people from white and ethnic-minority backgrounds by encouraging them to discuss potentially sensitive issues in the “safe” environment of the classroom.

“It is the duty of all schools to address issues of ‘how we live together’ and ‘dealing with difference’, however difficult and controversial they may seem,” said Sir Keith, former headmaster of Deptford Green School, South London.

A “Who do we think we are?” week will encourage pupils to explore their differences and common values. Predominantly white schools will be encouraged to “twin” with schools that have a more diverse intake.

Sir Keith’s review amounts to a damning criticism of the way that citizenship has been taught in schools since its introduction in 2002 in response to a perceived lack of political and engagement among young people. Too much provision was patchy and too few schools had separate citizenship lessons, preferring to lump the subject in with personal social and health education. This, he said, was unacceptable, adding that more teacher training and specialised teaching material was needed to put things right.

Mr Johnson, a candidate for the Labour deputy leadership, agreed that pupils should be “taught explicitly about why British values of tolerance and respect prevail in society and how our national, regional, religious and ethnic identities have evolved over time”.His comments make him the latest in the line of Cabinet ministers to seize upon Gordon Brown’s theme of Britishness, after surveys suggesting that many people now struggle to identify typical British values. The idea is a key part of Mr Brown’s plan to succeed Tony Blair as Prime Minister.

At a separate event at the University of Oxford, Jack Straw, who is still considering whether to stand for the deputy leadership, called for a stronger “British story” to reflect the heroic nature of the country’s history and foster a greater sense of citizenship. Britain, he said, had much to learn from the way countries such as the US, Canada and Australia told their national story.

The British story would encapsulate the rights and responsibilities that went with the “non-negotiable bargain or contract” of being a British citizen. In a clear reference to religious fundamentalists, he said that it would challenge those with “a single, all-consuming identity” that was at odds with Britain’s democratic values.

“We have to be clearer about what it means to be British, what it means to be part of this British nation of nations and, crucially, to be resolute in making the point that what comes with that is a set of values. Yes, there is room for multiple and different identities, but those have to be accepted alongside an agreement that none of these identities can take precedence over the core democratic values of freedom, fairness, tolerance and plurality that define what it means to be British.”

The Conservatives welcomed the “grounding [of] citizenship on the teaching of British history”, but teaching unions gave warning that teachers could not be left to carry the burden of integration alone.


Australian parents still fleeing government schools, despite high costs

Parents sending their children to southeast Queensland's leading private schools are facing fee hikes of up to 14 per cent. For some, the cost of private education will top $13,000 for senior students this year. Even at more affordable Catholic schools, rising fees are putting pressure on struggling families, according to Parents and Friends Associations of Queensland executive director Paul Dickie. "The cost is a big problem for parents," Mr Dickie said. "Some will find it extremely difficult. "Any increase is going to restrict the number of families that can afford to send their kids to Catholic schools."

This year most of the leading private schools in southeast Queensland have lifted their fees by around 7 per cent. That has pushed the cost of a senior education well above $10,000 a year for at least eight of the most prestigious institutions.

The Southport School is one of Queensland's most expensive, charging $13,115 for students in Year 11 and 12. Headmaster Greg Wain admitted some families would have trouble paying that. "Not all our parents can pay the fees easily," he said. "Some do struggle and we're very cognisant of that." Mr Wain said the higher fees reflected increased salaries for teachers, rising interest rates and new technology costs. "Certainly for our parents, there's an expectation that there be national to international level facilities, including such things as swimming pools, rowing programs, leadership programs and extensive music programs," he said. "All of them are quite expensive to resource."

While The Southport School offers an all inclusive fee, other private schools also impose regular levies, which add thousands of dollars to the annual bill for parents. At Brisbane's Anglican Church Grammar school at East Brisbane, parents will pay $12,982 to educate a child in Years 8 to 12. Churchie also charges a non-refundable enrolment confirmation fee of $1150, along with levies for book rental and outdoor education and a $300 compulsory annual contribution to the building fund.

One of Brisbane's leading girls schools, Somerville House at South Brisbane is charging $10,620 for students in Years 7 to 12 this year, with added technology and excursion fees and a voluntary building levy.

If students are boarders, the financial slug at most schools will be at least as much as the tuition fees. But Independent Schools Queensland operations director David Robertson said the increasing cost of private education was not deterring parents. "It would seem the enrolment growth in our sector is continuing, which would indicate that parents still believe they are getting good value for money," he said.



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

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

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


Friday, January 26, 2007


A daily dose of mental arithmetic has been placed on the curriculum for primary and even nursery schools in France, under a government scheme to sharpen young minds dulled by television. Gilles de Robien, the Education Minister, has ordered children to carry out between 15 and 20 minutes of calcul mental every day from the age of 5, when they are in the final year of nursery school, as part of a back-to-basics programme. He also wants five-year-olds to resume the study of multiplication and division, as well as addition and subtraction, for the first time since the 1970s.

Mr de Robien moved after a report from the French Science Academy said that children who practised sums in their heads had better memories and quicker brains. "This subject has been neglected in primary schools much too much," he said. "It's time to bring it back." The minister said that the discipline would develop pupils' intellect and serve them in adult life. "It's important not to forget to link exercises to daily life. How do you calculate a reduction during the sales, for example?" Mr de Robien's initiative followed claims that mental arithmetic had been on the wane since the 1960s because of modern methods - a claim denied by teaching unions.

Pierre Luna, education delegate at the academy, pinned responsibility for the decline on pupils rather than teachers. "With children watching more than three hours of television a day there is a real problem of attention span and the mobilisation of memories," he said. "Their memories are more cluttered up than they were 50 years ago." He said that mental arithmetic necessitated a return to learning by rote - including, for instance, of multiplication tables. This liberated brain space for other subjects. "If a child takes two seconds to tell you that 7 x 8 is 56, it's obvious that the effort is less than if it takes two minutes of reflection."

The report went on to recommend the reintroduction of multiplication and division from the age of 5. Under the present curriculum five-year-olds are taught only to add and subtract. Unions say that mental arithmetic has never been neglected by teachers, and accuse Mr de Robien of trying to dictate a minute-by-minute timetable in schools.

His back-to-basics includes three hours of grammar in primary schools every week and a return to the "syllabic" method for teaching pupils how to read, rather than the more modern "global method".



Rhode Island's education commissioner ordered a high school on Friday to publish a yearbook photo showing a teenage medieval enthusiast with a sword. Portsmouth High School authorities can regulate editorial content in the yearbook, but they acted unreasonably by rejecting Patrick Agin's photo, hearing officer Paul Pontarelli wrote in a ruling approved by Education Commissioner Peter McWalters.

Agin, a 17-year-old fan of the Middle Ages, wore chain mail and slung a prop sword over his shoulder for his senior portrait at Portsmouth High School. School officials said the picture violated a zero-tolerance policy on weapons and rejected the picture for the yearbook.

The Rhode Island branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents Algin's family, has argued that the school has allowed students to pose for more than a decade with props that show their interests, including musical instruments and horses.

Portsmouth Schools Superintendent Susan Lusi did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment Friday night. In the ruling, state education officials wrote that school officials offered to publish Agin's photo if it was part of a paid yearbook advertisement. "Tolerance for weapons can be purchased," Pontarelli wrote. "This is illogical."


Democrats pass a sham student loan bill

Democrats last Wednesday were extolling their student loan bill for opening college to modest-income Americans when Rep. Tom Price, a second-term Republican from Georgia, took the House floor. "If only this bill did what they say," Price declared. His admonition constituted more than the usual hyperbole of congressional debate. The bill, passed by an overwhelming bipartisan House vote, was headlined as reducing the interest on federally subsidized student loans from the present 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent. Actually, it gradually reaches the 3.4 percent level on July 1, 2011. A student taking out a loan July 1 this year would pay 6.12 percent after graduation. Only 29 percent of all students getting loans would be eligible for this gradual cut. Other student loan programs will be cut to help pay for the $7 billion cost over five years. And, contrary to Democratic implications, the bill does nothing to slow skyrocketing college tuition.

Such details are obscured, however, by the brilliant success of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's "first 100 hours." The student loan bill is one of the politically popular measures rushed through opening days of the first Democratic-controlled House session in 12 years -- without hearings, without committee authorization and without meaningful debate. While Democratic support has been unanimous, Republicans are divided and listless.

In contrast to ideologically diverse Democrats who controlled Congress in the past, today's House majority members look like automatons not only in the way they look but how they talk. The hand of Rep. Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, was apparent as Democrats newly elected under his chairmanship took the floor to deliver nearly identical speeches of how this bill will help poor students.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter, who won a previously Republican-held district in Colorado, in his floor speech used the now-common anonymous anecdote. He told of seeing "a woman whose kids have gone to school with mine" at a swim meet in Arvada, Colo. "She told me that one of her kids is in college now, and she has another that will be going in a couple of years. She is a single mom, and her kids have done well in school, but the cost of college has become prohibitive for their entire family. She said her kids have been excellent students, but she was fearful they could not get into college and be able to pay for it." Perlmutter added that this "single mom" thanked him for this bill changing "the cost of higher education." In fact, it has nothing to do with the prohibitive cost of college. It will have no effect whatever on her child now in college. If her second child is literally enrolling in a couple of years (January 2009), the interest rate would be 4.76 percent, to be paid after the student leaves college. The mom may have thanked Perlmutter too soon.

Because Democrats are now committed to "pay-go" (offsetting all spending increases), this bill means cutting $6 billion from other federally subsidized student loan programs on top of a net $12 billion cut by the last Republican-controlled Congress. On the eve of last Wednesday's House debate, the Consumer Bankers Association and the Financial Services Roundtable sent a joint letter to members of Congress. The offset cuts in loan funding, the organizations warned, "cannot be absorbed by the nation's loan providers without compromising the kinds of benefits and services now provided to college students and their families."

This warning was not expected to impact heady Democrats, but should have promoted caution among Republicans. It did not. While Democrats were 232 to 0 for the bill, only 71 Republicans followed their leadership to vote against it. The 124 Republicans voting aye included such erstwhile conservative stalwarts as Todd Akin (Mo.), Virgil Goode (Va.), Chip Pickering (Miss.), Joe Pitts (Pa.), Dana Rohrabacher (Calif.), Ed Royce (Calif.) and Todd Tiahrt (Kan.). The once militant, united House Republicans are demoralized and on the run. They were battered in the last campaign for cutting school loans in the previous Congress and are willing to go along with a sham bill, hoping for Senate gridlock and a Presidential veto.



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 Pages are here or here or here.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Official anti-white racism in British schools promoting resentment

White children living in mixed-race communities feel as marginalised and uncertain of their British identity as ethnic minorities, a controversial government report has found. A review of citizenship lessons in schools by Sir Keith Ajegbo, a Home Office adviser, concludes that white children are suffering “labelling and discrimination” that is severely compromising their idea of being British. His review will suggest that while most people assume issues about diversity or “cultural and community cohesion” centred on the black or Asian communities, just as much thought and resources need to be put into providing diversity education to white pupils.

White pupils in areas where the ethnic composition is mixed can often suffer labelling and discrimination, Sir Keith will say. “They can feel beleaguered and marginalised, finding their own identities under threat as much as minority ethnic children might not have theirs recognised. “It makes no sense in our report to focus on minority ethnic pupils without trying to address and understand the issues for white pupils. It is these white pupils whose attitudes are overwhelmingly important in creating community cohesion. Nor is there any advantage in creating confidence in minority ethnic pupils if it leaves white pupils feeling disenfranchised and resentful.”

The report will quote the example of one white pupil in her early teens who, after hearing in a lesson that other members of her class originally came from the Congo, Portugal, Trinidad and Poland, said that she “came from nowhere”. These issues were important in white schools as much as schools with a mixed race intake, the report will say. “Even though the white population who live in predominantly white areas might be removed from the immediate personal experience of ethnic diversity, it is still likely to be an issue for them because they encounter diversity through media representations.”

Sir Keith’s report is based on interviews with pupils, community organisations and faith groups across the country about what they thought of citizenship lessons. It was commissioned last year after the bombings of July 7, 2005, amid fears that extremism was rife in universities. It is expected to recommend that citizenship lessons focus on teaching what it means to be British, along with an understanding of values such as tolerance and justice.

Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, who will publish the Ajegbo review tomorrow, agrees that many white working-class children have negative perceptions of their British identity. He is likely to accept that more support is needed for predominantly white schools to support a wider understanding of diversity.

While the spectre of white marginalisation is regarded as an increasingly pressing issue, governments have been cautious of tackling it head-on for fear of being accused of racism. Trevor Phillips, the chairman of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights, said last night that he had long regarded this as a crucial issue. He highlighted a recent speech in which he gave warning that the “perception of inequality” existed among white as well as non-white populations. “Many of the white working class people who vote for the BNP sincerely believe that it is their colour that means that they are poor, or that their sons are failing at school, or that the council gives everything going to the Asians. “Not all of this is imagined. All the recent evidence shows that inequality based on race and faith is polarising our communities,” he said in the address last November.

Ian Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader, welcomed Sir Keith’s findings, adding that it was about time the Government woke up to the issue. “For some white working-class boys, it appears to them that everybody else but them has somebody who worries about them. They feel they are at the bottom,” he said. “The issues that affect white working-class boys are the same as those that affect Afro-Caribbean boys.”


West Australia scraps most of proposed "postmodernist" education system

Far-Leftist education "experts" rebuffed after public protests

The Western Australian Government has essentially abandoned most of its controversial Outcomes-Based Education (OBE) system in a major overhaul. OBE faced strong opposition from teachers and parents last year but the Government refused to back down, insisting many elements of the system would be introduced this year. But today, new Education Minister Mark McGowan said teachers would be allowed to assess year 11 and 12 students using traditional marks and grades, rather than levels and bands.

Other changes include the introduction of compulsory exams for all year 12 students, except those doing trade certificates. Teacher juries will be established to review 50 new courses for senior school and a new syllabus will be created for kindergarten to year 10 by the end of the year. The new mathematics course will be deferred until 2009.

Mr McGowan is expecting overwhelming support from teachers. "I don't see that there has been a great deal of wastefulness," he said. "What we've done is listened to where there needs to be some change and we've made those changes... "The key aims of what I've taken to the Curriculum Council are to give teachers a greater say over courses because they know what works best in the classroom, and I have great faith in the capacity and ability of teachers."

Association of Independent Schools spokeswoman Audrey Jackson says the changes to the education system are sensible. "Although it sounds as though it's a wholesale change, it's not, in terms of the way that teachers will teach and what they will teach," she said. "That hasn't changed, so I don't see the timetable as being a problem."

Catholic Education Office spokesman Ron Dullard says the overhaul is a marked improvement and will reduces the strain on teachers, parents and students. "If the parents and the teachers aren't working together and happy with it, the students can't do the job that they need to do," he said. "So I certainly think that it's in everybody's interest that we do 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 Pages are here or here or here.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007


But failure earns MORE money in State education. Comment from Minnesota below says it's not just devotion to government education as a sacred cow:

Gov. Pawlenty, sounding at least as obedient as any other governor of either party to the powers of government education, called for even more money to be spent on schools during his State of the State address. Year after year, more and more money is spent on a system that clearly is failing.

I have never heard a governor stand up before a large crowd and say, "Well, thank goodness our education system is working'' or "Let's have a big hand for the schools and the great job they are doing cranking out so many cracker jack kids.'' No, every year it is the same begging and pandering. In this state, if not every state, it is merely orthodoxy to believe that as much money as possible should get shoveled into the government schools. And, unbelievably enough, this is because the schools are failing.

I used to worry about this, the amount of money we spend on education. But I have stopped worrying about it. I can't do anything about it. And, to be perfectly clear, I am not a teacher basher. Most teachers love what they do, do it well and don't complain. They know, deep down, what they are up against. I can still be an administration basher, but that's a different story.

I have arrived at an entirely new theory that takes teachers off the hook. Actually, my theory takes everybody off the hook: teachers, politicians, taxpayers. Maybe human beings are just dumber than they used to be. Yes, I'll say it. Maybe we spend as much money as we do on education because we are trying to coax acceptable results out of stupid people. We even expect them to go to college! There. I said it. Stupidity could very well be the problem.

This never gets looked at. I don't know, maybe it is the modern diet, or the radio waves in the air from so many cell phones or the fertilizers they use on golf courses. I don't know where to begin to search for the root cause of so much stupidity, but I bet if you would be honest with yourself you would agree that stupidity is a problem. To this day I can still make myself amazed that a couple of years ago two kids, about 15, asked me for my hockey tickets. They were in Rice Park. I was walking to the game. For some reason I decided to quiz them. "If you tell me where Edmonton is, you can have the tickets,'' I said.

They could not. I know, it's not that big of a deal. But come on, we're spending billions of dollars on education. It's not just kids in school who might be a touch off their game. We have been sending more and more stupid people out into society. This point was driven home last week with absolute clarity. A 28-year-old mother of three children died, horribly, from water intoxication during a Sacramento, Calif., morning radio show stunt. The wacky morning radio crew on some station out there had a contest to see who could drink the most water without going to the bathroom. The winner would receive a Wii video game console.

The woman drank so much water she died. She even talked to the radio hosts on the air, complaining that she didn't feel well and the people on the air were so stupid they didn't realize the harm that was being done to the woman. And, of course, the woman must be held accountable as well.

I realize you don't have to go all the way to California to find examples of stupidity, but that one was so glaring it stood out. You don't have to go far at all to find examples of stupidity, and I'm not going to get into a contest with myself pointing out the local examples. Sometimes, when I find myself in deep thought about the newspaper business, I know with certainty that we will never go out of fashion. We might change our appearance. We might experience tough financial times. But we will never go out of fashion because much of what we do is chronicle stupidity.

That's why I was not alarmed when Pawlenty called for more money for the schools. Probably, we all know that stupidity is a problem that cannot be solved by throwing more money at it. And, as though to prove myself correct, that's what we do because we are so stupid. We spend more money.



RINO Bloomberg just talks and even a tough GOP guy like Mayor Giuliani could do little about it. No "compassion" for the many thousands of poorly educated kids that come out of the system, though. But liberal compassion never was more than a pose. "Must not fire unionists" -- no matter how useless they are -- is a much bigger priority

A flawed tenure system that grants teachers almost automatic lifetime protection - whether deserved or not - has allowed hundreds of terrible teachers to keep working throughout the city. Principals are supposed to decide on whether to grant tenure after a teacher's three-year probationary period, but this is mostly a rubber-stamp process. Right now, 99 percent of teachers receive tenure after their third year. And once a teacher gets tenure, it's tough to get rid of him.

In 2005-06, 981 teachers received unsatisfactory, or U, ratings during their annual reviews from their principals, 662 of them tenured. For 124 of the tenured teachers, it was their second consecutive U, and for 170, it was their second in five years. Yet, of the 187 tenured and nontenured teachers with two U ratings in five years, 145 are still working. "It's incredibly difficult to get rid of bad teachers," said the principal of a Bronx elementary school. "I had a teacher who fell asleep in a kindergarten class. She was lazy, she was incompetent, but she's still teaching somewhere."

The number of teachers deemed unsatisfactory is artificially low in the first place, with only 1.2 percent getting the U tag. That's because principals often use the detrimental score as a bargaining chip to force bad teachers to transfer out of their schools. "If you give a teacher a U, it's hard to get them out of your school," said one Manhattan middle-school principal. "So you offer them a satisfactory rating if they'll leave. It happens all the time."

It's not just low-performing teachers with U ratings - which can be appealed - who escape termination. It's also teachers facing serious accusations. Special Commissioner for Investigation Richard Condon investigates cases of misconduct by Department of Education employees. In 2006, his office recommended that 121 employees - mostly teachers - be fired. So far, only 41 have gotten the boot. In 2005, only 78 of the 124 employees recommended for firing were axed. In 2004, 48 of 78 were fired, and in 2003, only 39 of 113.



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 Pages are here or here or here.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007


SHAKESPEARE called it the "chief nourisher in life's feast", and sleep ranks up there with food, water and sex for survival of the species. As an adolescent psychologist, one of the most frequent complaints I hear from parents is the seeming inability of teenagers to get out of bed. Parents point out that they've been out late, watched DVDs all night, or spent the night online or texting mates.

But sleep researchers would beg to differ. While laziness and staying up all night do play a part, the main culprit turns out to be their brains. Circadian rhythms, or body clocks, were first scientifically analysed by the French astronomer Jean Jacques d'Ortous de Mairan in 1729. He was puzzled about why the leaves of mimosa plants went rigid in the day and drooped at night. He had stumbled upon one of biology's central facts: plants, insects and mammals move to a daily rhythm that is determined by their internal body clocks, not the environment.

In adults the body clock is on for about 16 hours a day, generally corresponding to daylight. As daylight disappears, the body clock switches off. We feel sleepy and it is hard to stay awake. Before the advent of the electric light, this was a non-issue. People hit the sack after a couple of hours by candlelight and stirred at daybreak. The invention of electricity has progressively detached all of us from the 24-hour cycle of light and dark.

But with teenagers, it is different. An error has crept into the hard-wiring of their internal body clocks. It is known as delayed sleep-phase syndrome. When puberty arrives, the body clock seems to work differently. Research shows that teenagers need about 9 1/4 hours' sleep. If your adolescent finally drops off at midnight, he is a long way from being ready to wake up when you throw the curtains open at 7am.

This is why, when school comes along, many parents tear their hair in frustration. I know of some who have resorted to playing their old John Denver records at high volume to encourage sleepy teenagers out of bed. I'm told Rocky Mountain High is particularly effective.

When the body clock turns off, the brain secretes the sleep chemical, melatonin. Sleep researchers have found that melatonin is produced in adolescents much later in the evening than in younger kids. By being forced to get up after only seven hours' sleep rather than nine, teenagers are building up a sleep debt, losing up to 10 hours or more every school week. These students will be up to 25 per cent less alert at school because they are missing out on deep REM sleep, vital for memory and learning. A lack of REM sleep is associated with anxiety, depression, poor immunity, accidents, and poor judgment and memory. Some make up for lost sleep by sleeping in on weekends, but many still show symptoms of severe sleep deprivation.

Given that the natural body cycles of teens mean they function better later in the day, there is a growing consensus that we should let them sleep in. Schools should vary start times for three main reasons. Clinical psychologist Andrew Fuller has tested later start times at two Victorian schools and found a 10am-4pm school day was associated with less bad behaviour and better academic results. Teachers also suffer from sleep deprivation, and their wellbeing would improve with a later start time. Roads and trains and trams would be less clogged if commuters did not have to compete with kids going to school.

Because melatonin levels change as children get older, the ideal situation would be to have staggered start times: earlier for primary school students, and later at high schools.



Parents working long hours are turning to state boarding schools to meet their education and childcare needs. Keen to take advantage of the wraparound teaching, pastoral and social provision provided by the boarding sector, but unable to afford the 20,000 pounds needed for leading independent schools, growing numbers of parents are now eyeing up the 34 boarding schools in the state sector. These charge about 7,000 a year because parents only pay for boarding, not tuition.

Demand for the 5,000 state boarding places in England has increased by 50 per cent in the past four years, according to the Boarding Schools' Association (BSA) with schools now three or four times oversubscribed. Demand for sixth-form places is particularly acute. Hilary Moriarty, national director of the BSA, has detected a sea change in attitudes towards boarding school, particularly for weekly boarding. "The notion of parents and children working hard all week and enjoying quality time together at weekends is quite seductive. This is particularly so when parents work late in the evening or commute big distances, while children reach an age when they have social and extra-curricular demands of their own in the evenings. "Parents are becoming acclimatised to the idea of sending a child to boarding school and less fearful of being branded a bad parent," she said.

The state boarding sector is undergoing a profound transformation, thanks largely to a 25 million expansion programme. Wymondham College in Norfolk has secured 9.8 million of funding for a building programme that includes 115 ensuite study bedrooms. A further 5 million has been allocated to Brymore School in Somerset to build a boarding house and refurbish an old one, Burford in Oxfordshire to increase its provision and to Lancaster Royal Grammar to replace existing provision. Old Swinford Hospital, in Worcestershire, has doubled its boarding places since 2000 to 44 for Year 7 pupils and a further 15 in Year 9.

Melvyn Roffe, the headmaster, said that state boarding was an old-fashioned solution to a modern problem. "For the amount of money parents would have to spend on childcare and running them around activities after school, it is extremely good value. "State boarding schools produce good results, which may have something to do with the lifestyle they offer. It helps children to develop their independence and parents regard it as preparation for university life," he said at the State Boarding Schools Association conference yesterday.

Norman Hoare, head of St George's, a mixed state boarding school in Hertfordshire, said that the 20 boarding places for Year 7 pupils were now four times oversubscribed. "Why should parents pay so much for boarding places in the independent sector, when they can get such good quality in the state sector?" he said.

The reversal in the fortunes in most state boarding schools follows moves to extend the school day by encouraging day schools to offer both breakfast and after school provision. It also coincides with plans to offer more state boarding places for children in care in new academies. One boarding academy, Kingshurst, is already under way in Solihull.

At Gratton Park, a state boarding school in Reigate, Surrey, Paul Spencer Ellis, the head, has developed a hybrid day-boarding system. "We offer 30 places in Year 7 for `day boarders'. They can attend school from 7.30am until their age group boarders go to bed and have all meals included in the fee, which is only 1,100 pounds per term. For September 2006 he had more than 100 applicants. "This shows how parents appreciate the longer day and the care of a boarding school," he said.



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

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

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


Monday, January 22, 2007

Why is it morally good to use government schools even when they're bad?

Comment from Britain by Peter Hitchens

Once again the Labour government are impaled on their own stupid education policy, and once again the Useless Tories are coming to their rescue. Poor old Ruth Kelly has quite rightly put her child first and ignored the silly 'principles' that, as a Labour Education Secretary, she supported and must still publicly support.

Quite rightly, the Tories have praised her for looking after her child. But they haven't made any hay out of the fact that this makes nonsense of Labour's mad comprehensive obsession. David Cameron has cleared Miss Kelly of hypocrisy. Can this be right? The point is that the hypocrisy lies not in sending her child to a private school, but in doing so while clinging to the wretched policies which prevent the state education system from being able to educate her child properly. But the Tories cannot say this because they, too, are now equally committed to non-selective, rigour-free state schools, from which the only escape is through wealth, influence, luck or power.

The Labour elite's vast, despicable hypocrisy about schooling is their weakest point, the place at which their dishonesty and selfishness is most perfectly exposed. Famously, Anthony Blair said in May 1997 "what I want for my own children I want for yours". But what he turned out to want was places at the London Oratory, a near-unique school which - as I pointed out at the time - was comprehensive in the same way that 10 Downing Street is an inner-city terraced house. It was also not available to most of the rest of us.

His was only one of several methods used by Labour politicians to pretend to support comprehensive education while avoiding it in person. Here are some other methods used by these people: Buy a house in the catchment area of a good school; get your child into a grammar school; hire private tutors while continuing to send your child to a state school you know isn't good enough.

Because Mrs Blair is a Roman Catholic, the Premier's children qualified for the Oratory, a very special and exceptional school. Mr Blair was able to avoid the bog-standard comprehensives of North London, where he then dwelt, without having to commit the terrible sin of paying fees, which in those days would have destroyed his political career.

Why exactly is this is a sin, except in that he preaches to others what he doesn't practise himself? Why should it be morally better to send your children to a bad expensive school, kept going by tax money however bad it is, than to a good expensive school, kept going by private fees? Is it a matter of privilege? Well, not exactly. The parent who pays fees does not stop paying taxes. He still funds the costly state schools, whether good or bad, that he doesn't use. And by paying fees, out of taxed income, he helps create the school place he does use, with money that he might just as easily have spent on wine, or air fares. He doesn't deprive anybody of anything. If all the private schools were shut down, their excellence would simply disappear. It wouldn't, by being mixed into the state comprehensive system, miraculously raise its general standards. Private schools are good because they are not comprehensives.

True, if he didn't have the money, he couldn't pay at all. And this is deeply unfair, but only for a reason I'll come to in a moment. But nobody (at least nobody outside the ranks of the Communist movement) claims that it's wrong on principle that some people can spend more money on cars, or holidays or clothes than anyone else, especially if they have earned their money. It certainly doesn't disqualify anyone from being a Labour politician to do such things. Quite a lot of Labour MPs and peers are comfortably off, and many Labour supporters are very rich indeed. Yet, if you happen to have the money to spare, it is far more laudable, surely, to spend money on schooling the next generation in knowledge, manners and culture, than on a couple of weeks on a beach or on a cupboard full of fashionable high-heeled shoes. Better still if some of your fees go (as they often do) on bursaries to provide private education for children whose parents cannot afford it.

By comparison, what's so good about a rich and influential person using his knowledge and skills to wangle a place in a school miles from his home, which might otherwise go to a bright child from a poor home? Surely, that's a real abuse of the privileges of the middle class, since we all know there is a strictly limited number of good state school places, and the poor have hardly any chance of going private.

That is why it is so unfair that only the well-off can pay fees. In the 1960s the mid-range private schools were dying, losing pupils to the grammar schools. Now, even a bad private school can look good in the league tables because far too few state schools are any good, and many of those that are good are harder to get into than the most exclusive club you care to name. It wasn't always like this. Just 40 years ago, in this country, there were thousands of high-quality schools which didn't charge fees. Most of them were Grammar Schools (in Scotland, Academies). There were also Direct Grant schools, private schools which took a large block of pupils from the local state primary system. The parents of the children involved didn't pay fees at all.

As a result, many children from less well-off homes got a first-rate education. Alan Bennett's an example. His father was a Co-op Butcher, but he got to Oxford, with no special measures to help him. Many, many Labour MPs benefited in the same way. In fact, in the mid-1960s the grammar schools were taking over Oxford and Cambridge, even though they weren't specially-equipped (as the good private schools were) to deal with the classical subjects needed in the entrance exams that Oxbridge then held.

Nobody is saying that the system of 40 years ago was perfect. The 11-plus exam was too arbitrary. Germany has a selective system without any such exam. There were too few grammar schools. Many more could have been built at a fraction of the cost of going comprehensive. There were too few grammar places for girls. More should have been created. The Secondary Moderns, to which 11-plus failures went, were often not as bad as is now claimed - and in many cases better than the comprehensives of today - but badly needed improving. There were supposed to be technical schools, but they often hadn't been built. They should have been. But whatever was wrong, it was absurd to destroy the one part of the system that actually worked, like amputating a healthy leg and leaving the diseased one in place.

If we could reverse this foolishness, then Ruth Kelly, and many, many more without her advantages and income, could be sure that their children would be properly educated without needing to pay 15,000 pounds a year for what ought not to be a privilege. But Miss Kelly, as Education Secretary and as a politician, has set her face against this fair remedy. She is quite entitled to do all in her power for her young. I praise her for it. But how can she then continue to support the system which has failed her own child, and the children of thousands of others?


The New Campus Dissidents: Conservatives try to add classics to the curriculum

"Higher education has failed democracy and impoverished the souls of today's students," declared Allan Bloom in "The Closing of the American Mind," a book that chastised a generation of academics and students with its biting, furious analysis about the decline of American liberal education. Twenty years ago, at the time of the book's publication, things looked bleak for those who shared Bloom's qualms about the effects of relativism on the academy.

Recently, Bloom's heirs have been hammering on the closed door, trying to reopen the American mind a bit. Their latest door-opening move has been an effort to create scholarly centers on campuses around the country: These centers would be devoted to the great books of Western civilization and the study of the American Founding, and they would be conducted in a rigorous, pre-1960s classroom style. Is there a chance of success?

The prototype of the idea--the Founding center, as it were--is the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, begun in the summer of 2000 by Prof. Robert P. George. The program has featured a traditional curriculum devoted, as advertised, to "American ideals and institutions," and it has attracted an array of visiting scholars, many of whom have gone elsewhere to try to seed similar institutions.

Importantly, the James Madison Program raises its own money, serving Princeton students and operating under the approval of the Princeton administration but, in certain ways, structuring its courses and hiring its faculty independent of the usual campus bureaucracy. Even Mr. George has copped to "a certain frisson one experiences with being a heretic" on a predominantly liberal campus, but he and his followers don't sound like right-wing culture warriors. Mr. George is famous for his civil tone and Socratic style, his commitment to taking ideas seriously and his relentless engagement with an older, nearly lost educational philosophy.

But one center cannot, by itself, open up America's narrow university culture. "If the light of veritas was going out when Bloom was writing," asks David DesRosiers of the Manhattan Institute, alluding to Yale's famous motto, "where are we now?" The answer seems to be that things are better, but only marginally so. To follow up on the Princeton model--to share the veritas--the Manhattan Institute has recently inaugurated the Veritas Fund, offering support to academics of a Bloomian bent. "To the degree that we find people that are interested in these subjects, in the name of intellectual pluralism we need to support them," says Mr. DesRosiers, the fund's executive director.

Patrick Deneen, who heads the newly formed Tocqueville Forum at Georgetown University, attracted the attention of the Veritas Fund right away. He wants to return to "an emphasis on classic texts, and particularly the way in which the American tradition draws on classical Western tradition and biblical tradition." The Tocqueville Forum has adopted Georgetown's emblem as its own--an eagle clutching a globe, the calipers of rationalism in one claw, a Christian cross in the other. In October, Mr. Deneen hosted a conference on American civic education. Justice Antonin Scalia was the keynote speaker, and much of the conservative professorial elite was in attendance.

Mr. Deneen, who taught at Princeton from 1997 to 2005, notes that, "for many people, there was a sense that universities had largely been lost to the forces of political correctness, softheaded multiculturalism." The Madison Program, he says, "energized many people throughout the academy." It provided "a legitimate intellectual and academic space where the kind of questions that lie at the heart of a classic education could be discussed." The Tocqueville Forum is trying to open up a similar space on Georgetown's campus.

A few other established programs, like those at Duke and Claremont McKenna provide additional models for start-ups like the Tocqueville Forum and the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism. On each campus, a center raising funds for itself has set up a roster of lectures, conferences and visiting fellows. So far--none is more than two years old--they have attracted a fair amount of student interest. And Clemson even boasts a couple of dedicated faculty members.

As worthy as such projects sound, setting up an quasi-independent institute devoted to the study of Western civilization can easily run afoul of university rules and regulations, not to mention university ideology. In late 1999, about the same time that Mr. George was setting up the Madison Program, political philosophy professor Hadley Arkes was working on a similar project at Amherst College and finding it much more difficult. Eventually, he established Amherst's Committee on the American Founding, but so far its staff consists primarily of Mr. Arkes himself. He says the university has stymied fund raising by demanding control of most of the money he has drummed up for the program.

"A week doesn't go by without someone in the administration trying to put restraints on the program or undercut the program," he says of both Mr. George's project and his own. Other scholars, at the moment wishing to remain incognito, are trying to start Madison-like programs on their own campuses, but they are meeting resistance from the faculty and administration, some of whom worry about the supposed conservative political agenda of such programs.

In November, Hamilton College decided to refuse a $3.6 million grant from alumnus Carl Menges to establish the Alexander Hamilton Center for the Study of Western Civilization. A swirl of outrage from the faculty culminated in a 77 to 17 vote "expressing concern" about the project. Perhaps this was less than surprising from a school that made headlines for its invitations to Ward Churchill, who compared the people killed on 9/11 at the World Trade Center as "little Eichmanns," and Susan Rosenberg, formerly of the Weather Underground.

Robert Paquette, a professor of history and one of the organizers of the Hamilton Center, pointed out that the center "did not seek to alter the curriculum of the college in any way, to create new courses arbitrarily, for example, or new faculty positions." It sought only to add another voice to the campus discussion. He contrasted his treatment with the treatment of the scientist who brings in an outside grant "from, say, the National Science Foundation. I know of no campus where such a scientist would accede to the faculty's demand to impose its choice of assistants on a proposed experiment." Mr. Menges has threatened to take the program's endowment elsewhere.

In defense of the study of Western civilization, and perhaps to give hope to those fighting for his vision in the present, Bloom wrote that "the failure to read good books both enfeebles the vision and strengthens our most fatal tendency--the belief that the here and now is all there is." The organizers and funders of these centers are avoiding this tendency. They know that the past was different and the future still could be.



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 Pages are here or here or here.


Sunday, January 21, 2007


"to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan..."

There has never been a more succinct statement about the obligation and privilege the nation has to care for its military veterans than that brief clause in Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address. But the New Jersey legislature thinks setting aside a day on which to remember those who have bought our freedom with their blood is not as important as it used to be.

New Jersey legislators have unanimously passed a measure that includes a provision to remove the state mandate to teach about Veterans Day in the public schools. And not only Veterans Day: The bill would also remove requirements to teach about Columbus on Columbus Day, the Pilgrims around Thanksgiving Day, and even Commodore John Barry Day, which commemorates the Revolutionary War hero for whom a bridge is named, which spans the Delaware River to connect Bridgeport, N.J., to Chester, Pa.

It is the possible repeal of the law to teach about veterans on Veterans Day that has upset a lot of people, including, understandably, veterans. There are few enough who serve in today's all-volunteer military and a decreasing number of citizens who have relatives in the military, or know anyone in service. That makes it much more important for students to learn of the contributions made by veterans to secure the freedoms too many of us take for granted. Those freedoms mark the difference between American schools and those in dictatorial societies that are forced to teach state propaganda.

The ban on teaching about such holidays is included in a larger bill that passed the legislature last month. It is designed to help control New Jersey's spiraling property taxes. Governor Corzine has not indicated whether he'll sign it. He'd better not if he knows what's good for his Democratic Party. Have Democrats forgotten the 1988 campaign during which Republicans hammered presidential candidate Michael Dukakis for vetoing a bill while he was governor of Massachusetts that would have required all public school students in the state to recite the Pledge of Allegiance? Sure, it was wrong to question Dukakis' patriotism, but it worked politically for Republicans, who pounded him with the issue, along with the line about his being a "card-carrying member of the ACLU."

Since 1967, New Jersey schools have been told to observe Veterans Day and related holidays to promote "the development of a higher spirit of patriotism." Under the "law" of political correctness, apparently anything that promotes love of country, or God, or the military is now to be avoided. Thank Jupiter (it used to be "thank God," but He's been out for some time), public schools can still distribute condoms. Maybe a way around the law would be for veterans to teach sex education.

A New Jersey Veterans of Foreign Wars adjutant and veteran of the Army and Coast Guard, Hank Adams, said of the proposed law, "It's not right." Students "are not going to know the sacrifices that were made so they can enjoy the protections that they have." Other veterans groups are petitioning Governor Corzine not to sign the bill. But after campaigning on a pledge not to raise taxes and then reversing himself shortly after taking office, Mr. Corzine has already proved how out of touch he can be with average voters.

While New Jersey residents are steamed about their high taxes, they may get even angrier about the message this proposed law sends to veterans and how little governing officials appreciate their sacrifices.

A co-sponsor of the anti-Veterans Day measure, state Senator John Adler, said, "I don't think the state should be in the business of telling districts to do every single thing." Oh really? As most parents of public school students everywhere know, the state has been imposing its will on schools, students, and parents for quite a few years. That New Jersey is close to not doing so when it comes to patriotism and veterans communicates one message to those who have put their lives and limbs on the line for the rest of us: "drop dead."


Give Top Teachers a Bonus: Little Rock rewards teachers; unions resist

Is there a bigger scandal in America than the low state of inner-city schools? Oprah Winfrey, utterly frustrated with the problem, last month discussed the $40 million she has spent building the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls--in South Africa. Ms. Winfrey said South African students want to learn, but in U.S. schools, "the sense that you need to learn just isn't there." Where'd it go?

There are multiple-choice answers to that question, and most of them are right. Mayor Mike Bloomberg of New York offered one answer in his State of the City speech Wednesday: The desire to learn disappeared down the bottomless well of centralized public-school bureaucracies. Mayor Bloomberg proposed greatly increased autonomy for school principals--one irrefutably proven answer to making a school better. He also wants teachers to prove they deserve tenure, an idea so obvious that it probably has no chance.

One measure of the tenure decision for New York City teachers would be their students' test scores. News accounts said the city teachers' union is "certain to fight" linking test scores to tenure. This, too, is among the multitude of correct answers for why students have no incentive to learn in big-city schools.

Mike Bloomberg, a name difficult to keep out of conversations about national politics, has been known to make visits elsewhere in the country on what we political gamesters would call "exploratory" trips. Let me suggest that the mayor explore a Southern strategy in Little Rock, Ark., where five grade schools are continuing an experiment in linking teacher merit pay to student test scores, first described in this space in October 2005.

That column, "How One School Found a Way to Spell Success," described how teachers at the Meadowcliff School, formerly full of student underachievers, were promised bonuses linked to improvements in the standardized test performance of each student. (The column is available on OpinionJournal here.) The size of the bonus increased relative to the student's year-over-year test gains. A 4% improvement earned a $100 bonus, rising to $400 if the student gained 15% (some did). Everyone in the school was in the bonus plan, including the cafeteria ladies, who started eating with the kids rather than in their own lounge. It worked. Scores improved. Twelve teachers got bonuses from $1,800 to $8,600. The checks were handed out in a public ceremony. Oprah would love Meadowcliff.

Last year, they added Wakefield School to the bonus program (after the school's unionized teachers voted overwhelmingly for it), and this year three more grade schools--Geyer Springs, Mabelvale and Romine. All are urban schools of the sort everyone in America professes to be concerned about, notwithstanding that public concern gets a D+ for achievement every year.

The first formal attempt to analyze the Little Rock merit-pay experiment was released earlier this week by the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas. The study, led by the university's Gary Ritter, focused on the results in a single school, Wakefield, which had consistent student test scores across three years.

The Ritter study also summarized the expansion and refinement of the incentive program since its inception. At Wakefield (and the three newest schools), the bonuses are awarded for the average growth in test scores of each teacher's class, rather than per-student achievement as at Meadowcliff. At the fall start of Wakefield's first year in the program, its students tested in the 16th percentile; at year's end they were in the 29th percentile. Its teachers got $228,300 in bonuses. Meadowcliff's second-year bonuses totaled $200,926.

For consistency, the study looked at results on a standardized math test given at Wakefield School the past three years to each student, ending in the fourth and fifth grades. The school's teachers were covered by the bonus program last year. The students' math grades improved by a standard measure (called NCE) of 3.5 points, while those in three Little Rock comparison schools declined. That 3.5 point gain equals about one-sixth of the normally cited national average gap in math scores between black students and white students. If compounded for six years, the gap would close.

Too hopeful? It seems to be for the Little Rock teachers' union. A man versed in the downward slope of many such good intentions warned me last year to watch for the counteroffensive from either Little Rock's bureaucrats or its teachers' union. The union has made its move. In last fall's school-board election, the union ran a slate of candidates and gained control of four of the board's seven seats. It hopes to capture one more school-board seat this September. By June, however, Little Rock will have five grade schools inside the merit-bonus program. If standardized test scores rise in these three new schools as well, it would take a special brand of community self-destruction to throw out the bonus program at the union's behest.

There'd be one more bitter irony in that, too. Just a few days ago, the school board in Rogers, Ark., in the affluent northwest corner of the state, voted 6-1 to apply for federal funding of a merit-pay program under the U.S. Department of Education's Teacher Incentive Program. Where do you think at least some the highest performing, bonus-earning teachers in Little Rock's urban schools will migrate to if the union's school board flattens their merit-pay program? The University of Arkansas education researchers, incidentally, plan to work with Rogers from Day One to measure outcomes if the plan goes forward.

The original money for the bonus program at Meadowcliff school, and its design, came from the Hussman Foundation of Little Rock. Since then, Walter Hussman Jr. has been able to solicit support for the plan's expansion to the other grade schools from the Walton Family Foundation and the Brown Foundation of Houston. If the program isn't killed, he expects to find funding for more schools from other out-of-state foundations.

Building a school for girls in South Africa is fine by me. But imagine how electrifying it would be if a U.S. citizen could ever believe in the efficacy of starting a Leadership Academy for Girls in Arkansas. Who said something about having a dream?



Pressure from an influx of children from East European immigrants has forced a council to draw up plans to build four new primary schools. Bradford council in West Yorkshire, where nearly 5,000 workers arrived last year, is one of many local authorities experiencing a shortfall of places in inner-city areas. Yesterday education chiefs there said two of its existing primary schools would need to be expanded and four new ones built to cope with the increased demand for new places. Bradford has the second highest birth rate of any part of Britain outside London, and coming on top of that, immigration has left its school system struggling, it said.

A council report said the high number of births 'has caused a shortfall in places in some parts of the district when combined with large numbers of Eastern European workers who are also moving into the district, sometimes bringing their families with them'. It added that it had been 'impossible to predict the increase in numbers of newcomers' and finding places for them is 'becoming much more difficult'.

Bradford is just one of many local councils reporting that it is under strain as a result of record levels of immigration from Poland and other parts of Eastern Europe. One in five primary school children are now from an ethnic minority, and some councils have been faced with massive bills to fund extra support such as interpreters as they are legally obliged to admit children from European Union member states. At least 27,000 school-aged youngsters have arrived with their parents in the UK since ten countries - including Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic - joined the EU on May 1, 2004.

Elsewhere in the country, Wrexham in North Wales has reported that its schools are facing a similar pressure - around 50 Polish children started school there in September. Agnieszka Tenteroba, a Polish teacher working with the newcomers, said: 'First it was the husbands coming to work. People who want to stay then bring their families so we will have more and more Polish children in Wrexham.'

Meanwhile in Slough, Berkshire, the council has reported that an influx of an estimated 10,000 Poles has left it facing going 15 million pounds in the red, with nearly 900 school pupils from non English-speaking backgrounds. And in Peterborough, where there were just 22 children of economic migrants enrolled in secondary schools in January 2004, that has risen to more than 100 with one secondary school warning it was being 'overwhelmed'.

The Government does not collect figures for the number of children brought with them by immigrant workers, so officials in Bradford are having to base their estimates on the number of new National Insurance permits being issued - 4,650 last year.

The council's executive will now be asked to recommend research into how to expand school provision to cater for the increased number of children. Colin Gill, executive member for children's services, said: 'In those areas of the district where there are substantial changes in population size and distribution, we will need to make alterations to ensure that we provide the right number of primary school places in the right locations.'

Bradford's birth rate, according to the latest figures, is the fourth highest in Britain, after Birmingham and the London boroughs of Newham and Hackney, with much of the growth thought to be within the city's more established immigrant communities



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 Pages are here or here or here.