Saturday, June 02, 2007

Bigoted British academics push through boycott of Israel

Post below lifted from American Thinker. See the original for links

An alliance of Islamist and Leftist groups has finally managed to drive through a boycott resolution against Israel's universities in the British faculty union, the University and Colleges Union. Offir Frankel, who directs the anti-boycott efforts at Bar-Ilan University, expressed amazement that

"the extremists who led their union to such an initiative decided not to discuss the option to pass this initiative to a vote of all 120,000 members, a decision that could have allowed the majority to rescue their union from this discriminatory action by re-harnessing the values of academic freedom, discourse and debate..."

But that's of course how the hard Left operates, by infiltrating the top of labor unions. That is an old, old tactic. It is how NOW (National Organization of Women) peddled the fraud that it represented all women in America, and how Jesse Jackson claims to represent all blacks in the country.

British Jews have hidden their heads in the sand. They have not mobilized effectively against the constant barrage of anti-Israel propaganda emerging from the Left (including the Guardian and BBC) and Islamic fascists, who are directly funded by Saudi Wahhabis. They may finally be waking up. Jeremy Newmark, of Jewish Leadership Council, is quoted as pointing out that "The UCU boycott motion is an assault on academic freedom." Indeed.

The United States is hardly immune to the new Left-fascist alliance. The World Union of Jewish Students points out that "In campuses abroad the climate of hostility towards the State of Israel and Jewish students is getting stronger." It is an ominous day for human liberty.

Discipline still problematical in British schools

Tony, a little boy in an oversized uniform, was trembling at the back of the playground. As I approached I could see why. He had fresh bruises on his face and little knife cuts on the back of his hand. At the far corner of the playground, I saw John, a large boy of 13 hovering, watching Tony and me closely. I asked Tony whether he was being picked on. His arm looked like someone had cut him with a knife. With a look of anxiety on his face, Tony denied this.

Wondering why John was hovering so circumspectly, I asked to look in his bag. He refused point-blank. I retreated, knowing that I didn’t have the power to do anything. I decided to fill in a report to Tony’s Year Head instead, voicing my suspicions. It was all I could do in the circumstances. A couple of hours later, John’s father phoned to complain that I had been wanting to look through his “private possessions”.

Thankfully, new powers that came into force just yesterday will give teachers like me the legal right to search pupils if they suspect they may have a weapon. Characters like John will no longer be able to bully kids with knives and get away with it, parents like his father will no longer be able to complain. Teachers will be able to breathe a sigh of relief that for once the Government has given them a little more power to impose order in our chaotic secondary schools. The statistics show that many schools are frenzied places. A recent report by the schools’ inspectorate reporting declining standards of behaviour in secondary schools – a third of lessons are ruined by poor behaviour.

Last year the police had to be called a number of times to avert riots at my local secondary school; one parent told me that her 15-year-old son carried a knife to school for self-defence. She, and many other parents like her throughout the country, are now grateful that the school has the power to search pupils thoroughly – with metal detectors – before they enter the premises. Finally, the school will become a safer place.

But how did we get into this sorry state where schools have to waste precious resources and time on simply checking that pupils are not carrying weapons? Ironically, the law has undoubtedly played a big role in the breakdown of order. With its focus upon children’s rights, it appears to have thrown the pupil out with the bath water. Perhaps most significantly, corporal punishment was made illegal in 1986, with teachers being stripped of many other sanctions that they used to apply. For example, we can’t detain a pupil for more than 20 minutes after school without giving 24 hours’ written notice to a pupil’s parent.

When I first started teaching in a tough comprehensive in the East End in the early 1990s, quite a few teachers would clip miscreants around the ear and expect them to behave. Generally, it worked because the pupils then weren’t fully aware that they could get their teacher sacked for doing this. Being a naive young teacher, I used this technique on a few occasions but I came unstuck when a pupil complained. Luckily, the matter was sorted out amicably – but I have never so much as touched a pupil from that day onwards.

I know that this has been to the detriment of my pupils. In particular, I have never physically attempted to break up fights between pupils or get between them – what if the pupil accuses you of assaulting them rather than stopping the fight? In April this year the law changed and now allows teachers to “use reasonable force” when restraining pupils from fighting or misbehaving.

But the law remains murky: in particular, the Human Rights Act means that children can still sue or sack teachers if they feel their “privacy, dignity and physical integrity” has been compromised. One colleague of mine was suspended for a year before being reinstated after an allegation that he had hit a child while stopping a fight was proved to be false. Often headteachers and governing bodies take the side of the pupils if there are a number of pupils saying that you are in the wrong. It’s not worth the hassle. You’re far better off letting the pupils beat the hell out of each other than intervening.

Much of the time the teacher is not, however, the target of disruption: it’s bullying and squabbling among a peer group that causes the worst problems, because disagreements can rumble on for weeks, months, years, erupting without warning in classrooms and playgrounds. The internet and mobile phones have aggravated the situation: now a nasty rumour, an embarrassing photo, a cutting remark can be spread around about a pupil within seconds and everyone knows about it. Within this climate, pupils seek revenge. Seven teenagers were murdered in London this year essentially over very trivial remarks: it appeared that they “dissed” or disrespected the wrong people.

The truth is that in huge schools teachers are overwhelmed by numbers. Pupil behaviour is much better in primary schools. This isn’t simply because the children are younger, it’s also because the schools are smaller and teachers are better able to form proper relationships with their pupils. A survey in April showed that temporary exclusions are running at nearly 10 per cent of pupils in secondary schools with more than 1,000 pupils, compared with 3 per cent in those with 1,000 or fewer children. We need to look at ways of making schools more “human-sized”.

Simply giving teachers the legal right to search pupils for weapons isn’t enough. We need to break up our larger schools into smaller, more manageable units. Above all, we must tighten the law even further so that teachers know they won’t be sued or sacked if they physically stop fights or challenge misbehaviour that blights Britain’s secondary schools.


Widespread parent dissatisfaction with Australian schools

AUSTRALIAN parents are largely unhappy with the quality of school education, says a new Federal Government report. The survey of 2000 parents, conducted earlier this year, found many believed their children were receiving a substandard education. Only 58 per cent of parents said primary schooling was up to scratch, and less than 40 per cent said secondary schooling was acceptable. Dissatisfaction has jumped since the last Parents' Attitudes to Schooling survey in 2003, where 61 per cent of parents said primary school education was good or very good, and 51 per cent said secondary education was good or very good.

Those with a child in a non-government school were happier with both education and teacher quality than those with a child in a state school.

Just over a third of parents surveyed this year said they believed their child would leave school with adequate literacy and numeracy skills. Only one in five thought their child had learned enough about Australian history, and less then half said they had received adequate science lessons. However, more than 72 per cent were satisfied with the quality of teaching at their child's school.

Premier Steve Bracks yesterday defended the state's schools, saying Victoria has the best-performing education system in the country. "Our completion rates for year 12 education and its equivalent is going up, our literacy and numeracy levels are going up, we have the lowest teacher to student ratios ever in Victoria's history," Mr Bracks said. "Also, we have committed to rebuilding or modernising every school in the state. "The survey was done before the Budget where we committed $1 billion to . . . education."

Australian Education Union Victorian president Mary Bluett said the survey did not accurately reflect parents' attitudes. "In terms of their child's school and teachers, parents say they have high satisfaction; however, when asked . . . how they think education is going, their attitudes change and that reflects a general talking down of schools. "There has been a relentless attack on standards and the quality of teaching from the Federal Government, and parents have picked up on that."



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 INTERNATIONAL 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.


Friday, June 01, 2007

Students at UCI Fight Back Against Campus Intifada

The University of California at Irvine has earned a reputation as a campus where anti-Semitism and the vilification of Israel is welcome. In the past, for instance, UCI students have attended graduation ceremonies wearing Hamas paraphernalia. Now some pro-Israel and conservative students are fighting back by utilizing the California Whistleblowers Act.

The students' complaint centers around administrators who forced the College Republicans on campus to remove their display in a previously reserved space, in order to make room for yet another anti-Israel display on campus. According to the complaint: "On Thursday May 17, 2007, the College Republicans set up their booth in a location 46 as scheduled at 11 AM, but ten minutes later a university administrator from the UCI scheduling and Conferencing Services Department approached the CR's booth accompanied by a member of the Muslim Students Association on campus demanding the Republicans move their booth and display so the MSU could put in the same previously reserved location two large displays promoting MSU events."

Anteaters for Israel, a group of UC Irvine students who try to counteract the anti-Israel displays and activities on campus, have joined the College Republicans to complain that the MSU displays were set up specifically because they blocked the view of their pro-Israel displays, silencing the College Republicans by moving them to a less visible area on the campus. The MSU display, once assembled, required students and other passersby to walk around it to traverse that area of the campus.

Although complaints were made to the university's communications director, Leslie Millerd, who is also part of the Chancellor's Student Affairs department, she insisted that the College Republicans move -- even after being shown written proof of the advance space reservation made weeks earlier.

The students complaint charges that this is a violation of the US Constitution's First Amendment that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." In addition, they say that it violates the school's own policy, listed as Appendix C, which clearly states: "The University of California, in accordance with applicable Federal and State law and University policy, does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity, pregnancy*, disability, age, medical condition (cancer-related), ancestry, marital status, citizenship, sexual orientation, or status as a Vietnam-era veteran or special disabled veteran. The University also prohibits sexual harassment. This nondiscrimination policy covers admission, access, and treatment in University programs and activities."

As the students see it, university administrators overstepped their bounds by restricting the free speech rights of two other conservative and pro-Israel organizations on campus to the benefit of the MSU.

Another legal basis for the complaint is the Unruh Civil Rights Act, California Civil Code, sections 51 to 51.3, which also provides equal protection under the law and "full and equal accommodations, advantage to facilities, privileges or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever." Another UCI Campus Policy #42.20, Section D, Paragraph 1 and other campus rules were also violated prohibiting excessively large displays and using more than one banner of an approved size at the event.

For anyone who has seen anti-Israel displays at UCI, they are enormous and designed to inundate the entire area, forcing students to be surrounded by them. Student leaders from both the College Republicans and Anteaters for Israel are demanding that the campus officials involved be investigated, prosecuted and fired.

At the last Palestine Solidarity Movement conference at Georgetown University, in February 2006, seminars were held where attendees were instructed on how to enlist campus administrators in their anti-Israel campaigns. At the University of California at Irvine, they have evidently succeeded.

Still, the question remains: Did UCI officials intentionally hinder conservative and pro-Israel organizations on campus from speaking out? If so, one can only hope that authorities step in to protect the rights that, it seems, some politically motivated faculty will not.


Independent schools are the model to which state schools should aspire

By Joanna Mendelssohn, commenting from Australia

RECENTLY I had a reunion with my very first friend, Anne. Our parents had been neighbours so we were babies together. Anne is blessed with an analytical talent for numbers, yet is a born communicator. She became a maths teacher. For more than 35 years she has taught maths to generations of students in state schools, in the city and the country.

She was able to take this path because, when we left school at the end of 1967, the NSW Education Department gave her a teaching scholarship that paid all fees and a generous allowance in return for her agreement to teach. This used to be the norm across the country; bonded teaching scholarships gave ordinary Australians the opportunity for a financially comfortable university education while ensuring a steady supply of young, qualified teachers for the state system.

In the 1970s, with the baby boom at an end, the system changed. Suddenly there was an oversupply of qualified teachers, so newly qualified teachers were freed of both their bonds and guaranteed jobs. Those who really wanted to teach could find soul-destroying work as casual relief staff until a vacancy occurred, but many left teaching altogether.

Before other avenues were open to us, teaching was often seen as the ideal profession for women, but by the 1980s this was not the case; there were also problems with teacher education. Andrew Leigh and Chris Ryan's research at the Australian National University has tracked the entry grades of teaching students during a 20-year period. From 1983 to 2003, the percentile rank of teaching students fell from 74 to 61, while the rank of new teachers fell from 70 to 62. The drift was to a mediocre middle.

In those years the teaching force in state schools, bulging with teachers who had qualified in the late '60s, became stagnant as few new staff were employed. When, after years of casual teaching, young teachers finally found a job, they were often already burned out by a system that had failed them.

Anne told me of the school she remembers with greatest affection. It was deep in rural NSW. Because this school was so distant from any big town, the staff had no choice. They had to live near the families of the children they taught and they had to relate to the community. Teachers also socialised with each other outside of school hours. The direct result of this physical isolation was a culture of connectedness between the staff, students and community, and they worked together for the common good. Whenever I hear politicians speak of values and education in the same sentence, I think of this country school.

Education has been dragged to the centre stage of the political debate, where it is squabbled over as some kind of trophy in an increasingly infantile battle between politicians, teachers unions and dogma-led lobby groups. Meanwhile, parents are left puzzling their way through the verbiage as they try to decide which school can possibly deliver the most appropriate education for their children.

The problem with Australian schools is not whether they are independent, state or faith-based, but the size of their governing bureaucracy and the nature of the culture within that bureaucracy. State schools, independent schools and faith-based schools all teach to the same curriculum (albeit a different one in each state). The first great advantage of independent schools is not their manicured sports grounds or sandstone buildings (some of the best schools have neither). It is that they are small, discrete entities. The bureaucracy has a human scale and an easily identified chain of command. Parents and children know where to go if they have a problem. Each school employs its own staff and is free to foster their professional development, and promote them when they excel.

It used to be the case that teachers working in independent or faith-based schools tended to be poorly qualified in comparison with those in state schools. They were also paid considerably less. As the salaries and status of state teachers sank, in a kind of seesaw effect, the salaries, status and qualifications of teachers in independent schools rose.

The way this happened is at the heart of the state of school education today. When the state systems would not employ their newly trained teachers, private and faith-based schools leapt at the chance to upgrade their staff, and many state school-trained teachers, once rejected, now hold leadership positions in elite independent schools.

In the '70s and '80s, innovative principals, including Rod West of Sydney's Trinity Grammar, went out of their way to encourage first-class scholars to think of teaching as a career. Thanks to a significant real increase in school fees and increased government support for non-state schools, teachers in these schools are paid the same or more than those in the state system. They do, however, earn their money, as these teachers are faced with far higher expectations. As well as teaching in the classroom, teachers in independent and faith-based schools are expected to become a part of the school community. They need to be available (often by email) out of school hours and, above all, to adopt the ethos of the school where they work. It is amazing what a school can achieve if the entire school community is travelling in the same direction.

The key to developing quality teachers in whatever system comes back to how they are appointed, mentored and promoted. Good schools look after their staff. Smaller, flexible administrative units make it easier for independent schools to identify the talent, mentor new staff to ease them into a career path and then promote staff or redeploy them to where they can be most useful to the school.

By contrast, state systems are still struggling to free themselves from their historic bureaucratic past. Australia's state school systems were established well before Federation, when every state proclaimed itself to be a nation. In other English-speaking countries, where the population was less sparse, schools tended to be run by local authorities. Australia is unique in the immense size and scope of our centralised education administration. There is in any bureaucratic institution a tendency to "team think". In schools, this tendency was exacerbated by a tightly controlled employment structure where, for more than a century, almost all employees had started as school-leavers and risen up a well-defined hierarchy.

Because the dominant group entering this workforce was from an aspirational working-class background, there was from the start a strong union presence. The union presence was embedded within the departmental hierarchy so the junior teacher would often discover that the person supervising her was also the union representative.

Times change, but workplace cultures change slowly. Although there have been some reforms in the way staff are appointed, it is still the case that individual state schools in Australia have less flexibility in appointing and dismissing staff than government-funded schools in equivalent countries.

The Prime Minister has recently declared that he will require a situation where principals alone have the choice to hire and fire staff. At the same time, he has declared a fatwa on bullying in schools. I'm not sure that replacing an unfeeling bureaucracy with an authoritarian hierarchy is going to change school cultures to something inclusive.

A school is a large and complex organisation. Surely the best way to build a team with the school community is to have each school appoint staff, but using a committee that includes parents and colleagues as well as the hierarchy. Bringing the community into the life of the school is a big task. Independent and Catholic schools do this well by co-opting that most effective cultural glue, Saturday sport. All students in these schools are expected to play a team sport and every Saturday, across the country, parents are car pooling and driving to ovals in distant parts of the city. At the ovals parent groups run barbecues, and cheer on their children. The teachers also participate as coaches and wise school principals call by. The schools' sense of community comes from such small weekly acts.

If sporting clubs could liaise with local state schools and be funded so that all state school children could play competitive Saturday sport, and if state teachers could also be involved with supporting their students, then more parents would be involved in the daily life of their schools. It is the kind of cultural glue our schools need to make them strong and help give them a sense of community.



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 INTERNATIONAL 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.


Thursday, May 31, 2007

Attempt to destroy the unique Oxford University system underway

Fabulous success must be levelled down

Funding reforms will put at risk the one-to-one tutorials in Oxford colleges, according to dons and students. They say that the proposals risk turning the university into a two-tier system. The row over the change in funding rules comes after John Hood, the vice-chancellor, was defeated last year when dons threw out his plans to hand the strategic control of the university to business and political outsiders.

In a letter to undergraduates, union representatives from 23 colleges are urging the student body to reject the funding plans, which could come into effect in October next year. Under the joint resource allocation mechanism, the university will distribute government money “as earned” between departments and colleges, so that research-intensive colleges receive more. Colleges will also be compensated for taking more graduates and overseas students.

The students’ college representatives say that poorer colleges, such as St Catherine’s, Keble, Hertford and Pembroke, will lose funding to richer colleges and face having to cut their distinctive one-to-one tutorial system. This will be divisive, they say, splitting the university between the rich and poor colleges.

“Richer ‘mixed’ colleges such as St John’s and Christ Church, while subject to the same incentives to turn to research, will be rich enough to subsidise their tutorial systems,” they wrote. “The evident result of some colleges maintaining the tutorial system, while others are forced to move to classroom-based teaching, is that Oxford will fragment.” Since 1998 colleges and departments have shared out the government block grant, based partly on research and partly on student numbers, so that no college should suffer. Oxford wants to change the system to reward research. Donald Hay, the chairman of the funding committee for the new system, said that it was being phased in over a decade and that the university would subsidise tutorials.


Weak testing methods mask educational failings

Good marks from one source can't disguise Australia's falling standards of education, writes Kevin Donnelly. The PISA assessments are very undemanding

HOW well are Australian students performing? Based on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's Program for International Student Assessment test, they appear to be doing very well. The results of the 2000 literacy test ranked Australia second out of 32 countries and in 2003 only four countries outperformed our 15-year-old students in mathematics. Groups with a vested interest in arguing that all is well, such as the Australian Education Union and the Australian Council for Educational Research, quote the results in their submissions to the Senate inquiry into education standards as evidence that there is no crisis.

Wrong. While the PISA test reflects favourably on Australian students, it is open to a number of criticisms. As argued by the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute in its Senate inquiry submission, the PISA test "is not a valid assessment of mathematics knowledge, as only a fragment of the curriculum is tested".

The outstanding performance of Australian students in the PISA literacy test is also open to doubt, as students did not lose marks for faulty spelling, grammar and punctuation. If our students had been corrected, many would have failed as, in the words of one researcher, "It was an exception rather than a rule in Australia to find a student response that was written in well-constructed sentences, with no spelling or grammatical error."

A second measure of the performance of Australian students is the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study carried out in 1995, 1999 and 2003 and involving up to 46 countries. These tests assess essential mathematics and science knowledge. Australian students in Years 4 and 8, while doing well, are in the second XI as measured by TIMSS and are consistently outperformed by countries such as Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, The Netherlands and the Czech Republic.

In more successful overseas education systems, more students achieve at the highest level. In the 2003 TIMSS science test, only 9per cent of Year8 Australian students performed at the advanced level, compared with 25 per cent from Taiwan and 15 per cent from Japan and England. In mathematics, only 7 per cent of Australian Year8 students performed at the advanced level, compared with 44 per cent of students in Singapore. There is also a significant gap in Australia between better performing and less able students. Successful countries overseas are able to get more children to perform at the higher end of the scale, while Australia has a long tail of underperformers.

Further proof is found in a US report by the American Institutes for Research, published on April 24. While acknowledging the difficulties in terms of methodology and making comparative judgments, the report interprets the TIMSS Year8 test results in the light of the expected levels of performance (basic, proficient and advanced) as measured by the US-based assessment of educational progress. On analysing the 1999 TIMMS results for Year8, the US report lists the following countries as having greater numbers of students achieving at the advanced level: Singapore, 34 per cent; South Korea, 26 per cent; Hong Kong, 23 per cent; Japan, 24 per cent; and Belgium, 15 per cent. The percentage of Australian students who achieve at the advanced level is 8 per cent.

The situation is not as bad with the Year8 science results: only Taiwan and Singapore appear to have significantly more students performing at the advanced level. But in the 2003 Year8 TIMMS test, Australians students again underperformed. While 35 per cent of Singaporean students performed at the advanced level, 24 per cent from Hong Kong, 29 per cent from South Korea, 30 per cent from Taiwan and 20 per cent from Japan, only 5 per cent of Australian students achieved at the top level.

Much has been made of the dumbing-down influence of Australia's adoption of outcomes-based education, where everyone is a winner and the curriculum promotes a one-size-fits-all approach, in explaining student underperformance. But also of concern is the way Australia carries out its national benchmark testing in literacy and numeracy.

The results over the past four years at Years3 and 5 suggest all is well in numeracy. About 90 to 94 per cent of students reach the benchmark standard and in reading the figure hovers close to 92 per cent. Such results appear worth celebrating. Not so. Not only is the benchmark described as the agreed minimum acceptable standard - defined as "standards of performance below which students will have difficulty progressing satisfactorily at school" - but there is the suspicion that the bar is set so low that the overwhelming majority of children are guaranteed success.



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 INTERNATIONAL 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.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Measure Of Preference, At UCLA And Elsewhere

Post lifted from Discriminations. See the original for links

As we have just seen in this recent post discussing a Pew Research Center For The People & The Press survey, by substantial margins Americans support "affirmative action" when it is defined as simply helping minorities but by equally large margins oppose preferential treatment based on race. (We also saw there that Pew's report of its own findings glorified the support but failed to mention the opposition.) Thus it is not surprising that supporters of preferential treatment attempt to disguise what they really support by describing it as "affirmative action."

There is no better place to confirm that "affirmative action" in practice is really racial preference than the data concerning admissions to the University of California, where preferential treatment was ostensibly banned in 1996 by Proposition 209. Let's look at some of it, now that new data has become available.

First, from a recent UCLA news release: "For fall 1995, when UCLA was still allowed to use affirmative action, 1,450 African American students applied," and 693 were admitted.

"The number of applications from African American prospective freshmen for fall 2007 was 2,453, up from 2,173 in 2006. The number of African American admits increased to 392 in 2007; in 2006 there were 249 admits .

Note, first, that the number of black applicants to UCLA did not shrivel up and blow away as a result of the Prop. 209's requirement (it was passed by the voters in 1996) that they be treated like all other applicants, as 209 critics predicted and many of them still claim.

Next, note that in 1995, the last year when racial preferences were both legal and in full force, 48% of black applicants to UCLA were offered admission. In 2006, with such "affirmative action" no longer legal, 11.5% of black applicants were accepted. This year, 2007, after UCLA moved with great fanfare to "holistic review," 16% of blacks applicants were admitted. This represented a 39% increase over the pre-"holistic" 2006 numbers, but it is still a far cry 1995's 48% admission rate.

Another recent UCLA news release reports that "UCLA admitted 11,837 prospective freshmen for fall 2007 out of an applicant pool of 50,729." That's an overall admission rate of 23%.

That "affirmative action" in practice led to drastically higher admission rates for blacks was not, of course, limited to UCLA or to undergraduate admissions. Martin Trow, the highly regarded Berkeley sociologist/political scientist, reported the following regarding admission to Boalt Hall, the law school of the University of California at Berkeley, in 1988. Boalt divided all applicants into A, B, C, and D groups based on a combination of their grades and LSAT scores.

Almost all applicants from all ethnic groups in the A range were admitted, but among those who fell in the B range, 69 percent of Asians, 62 percent of whites, and 94 percent of blacks and Hispanics were admitted. Looking at range C, only 19 percent of Asians and 17 percent of whites were admitted, while 77 percent of the blacks and Hispanics got in. In the lowest range, the disparities were even greater.

Nor were numbers like these limited to California. As Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom point out in their magisterial demolition of Bowen and Bok's hymn to affirmative action, The Shape of the River:

Consider the five private schools Bowen and Bok studied intensively. Among applicants for admission in 1989 with SAT scores from 1200 to 1249, 19% of whites and 60% of blacks were admitted; in the next bracket up (1250-1299), 24% of whites and 75% of blacks were accepted. Among applicants with near-perfect scores (1500 or better), over a third of whites were turned down, but every single black got in. Indeed, black students with scores of 1200-1249 were nearly as likely to be accepted at Bowen and Bok's five institutions as whites with scores of 1500 or better! Under race-neutral admissions, clearly the picture would be quite different.

Data such as the above is well-known among students of affirmative action, and is not controversial. What is controversial, of course, is whether such preferential treatment is (or should be) legal and, even if it is legal, whether it is fair. Reasonable people can disagree over the answers to those questions, but I don't believe it is reasonable to deny - as many defenders of "affirmative action" still insist on denying - that in practice most "affirmative action" programs and policies are permeated with racial preference.

ADDENDUM: Do Preferences Continue?

The above is written as though the passage of Prop. 209 ended racial preference in admissions to California institutions, but did it? There is disturbing evidence that it did not, even aside from the "holistic review" end run. At Boalt Hall, for example, Heather Mac Donald writes, reporting one of UCLA law professor Richard Sander's studies, applicants are now given a numerical score based on a combination of grades and LSAT scores.

In 2002, it admitted 92 percent of white applicants with an index of 250 or higher but only 5 percent with an index between 235 and 239. By contrast, it admitted 75 percent of black applicants in the 235-239 range in 2002 and 65 percent in 2003. No black applicants had an index of 250 or higher. Even a 2004 university study acknowledged that there were admissions disparities by race that nonacademic, nonracial factors could not account for.

Meanwhile, back at UCLA, the Daily Bruin reports that

[d]ata from 1995 to the present recently released by UCLA shows that students who identify as black and Latino or Chicano are admitted with lower average high school GPAs and SAT scores than white and Asian students.

More specifically, the Daily Bruin reports:

In fall 2006, before UCLA switched to holistic admissions, black and Latino applicants' average SAT scores were 255 and 246 points lower than the average for their white and Asian counterparts.

That gap seemed largely unaffected by holistic review - in fall 2007, black applicants' SAT scores were on average 293 points lower than those of white and Asian students, and Latino applicants' scores came up 249 points short.

UCLA officials, like university officials everywhere, attempt to explain these disparities by noting, properly enough, that admission decisions are based on more than grades and test scores, that other, presumably non-racial factors are also taken into account. I'm sure that's true, but it remains difficult to refute Ward Connerly's observation, quoted in the article just linked:

UCLA said it would revise (its admissions standards) to take non-academic factors into account, ... but the data that I looked at suggested that they were looking at non-academic factors primarily for black students.

As if to confirm Connerly's point, that same Daily Bruin article pointed out that in 2007 the percentage of black applicants admitted from poorly performing schools [schools with an Academic Performance Index score of 1 or 2] more than doubled over the 2006 rate, from 12% to 27%, while the percentage of both Asian and white admits from those schools actually declined. Moreover, as the Chronicle of Higher Education's Peter Schmidt pointed out (here, in an article I discussed here):

Although the new admissions policy ["holistic review"] is supposed to take into account disadvantages each student has faced, there was actually a decline in the number and share of admitted students who are the first in their families to attend college and coming from households that make less than $30,000 annually. Last year, the university admitted 1,426 such students, or 24 percent of those who applied. This year, it admitted 1,027, or about 17 percent of those who applied.

Some of the dodges that were developed to avoid Prop. 209's strictures were dazzlingly brazen. Thus, Mac Donald reports,

UCLA's law school established a specialization in critical race studies, a marginal branch of legal theory contending that racism pervades nearly every category of the law and that writing about one's personal experiences grappling with that racism is real legal scholarship. College seniors who say that they want to specialize in critical race studies on their UCLA law school applications get a boost in the admissions process: as the school discreetly puts it, a student's interest in the program "may be a factor relevant to the overall admissions calculus." In 2002, UCLA rejected all white applicants to the program, even though their average LSAT score was higher than the average score of the blacks who were admitted.

Racial preferences may be legally dead in California, but their actual death, as Mark Twain once said about a report of his own demise, is greatly exaggerated.

Australia: The decay of school discipline shows

DESPERATE teachers abused and attacked by students, other school staff and also community members in New South Wales have been forced to take out apprehended violence orders on more than 40 occasions. The protection orders have been sought as principals and teachers are assaulted, stalked, harassed and have their property damaged in schools. The revelations come after a string of incidents in schools across the state last week, including a 12-year-old boy who allegedly threatened a teacher with a replica pistol.

While the Iemma Government claims the number of AVOs taken out by teachers is falling, The Daily Telegraph can reveal some staff still feel so helpless in the face of their attackers that they seek outside help. Data on AVOs over three years to mid-2006 show a range of psychological and physical attacks on teaching staff in both primary and secondary schools. The figures have been obtained by The Daily Telegraph under Freedom of Information as five schools battle a wave of serious threats against students and teachers.

Students, ex-students, parents and community members are shown in AVO documents to have launched assaults or threats against school staff. In one terrifying incident, three high school teachers were forced to take out a restraining order against a former student who used a baseball bat to smash his way into an office. Last year police took out an interim AVO against a student, 16, suspended and charged with attempting to throttle his female teacher, 24. The woman was treated in hospital for severe swelling and bruising to her neck, chest and right hand.

A letter from deputy director-general (schools) Trevor Fletcher went out on Friday to all schools warning criminal behaviour could attract severe penalties including jail. He urged students to report any criminal behaviour they see or know is being planned. "Just because you are a school student does not mean you cannot be held responsible for a crime," Mr Fletcher told pupils. "Nor does the fact that you are playing a prank or a trick. You can still be punished as a criminal. "You should not see reporting a crime as dobbing in a mate - such action may in fact save someone's life or prevent serious injury or damage from occurring."

Opposition education spokesman Andrew Stoner called for more professional counsellors in schools because children with mental disorders were "slipping through the cracks". "We have seen the tragic effects of violent incidents involving school students in the US," he said. "NSW public schools are ill-equipped to deal with this."

The Education Department claims stiffer penalties for crimes in schools, tighter security and quick removal of serious troublemakers have contributed to the decline in AVOs sought by teachers. Education Minister John Della Bosca said good communication between students and staff in the incident at Crookwell High School - where shooting threats were made - enabled police to take swift action and ensure safety. "Schools work closely with police and parents when these type of incidents occur," 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"

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 INTERNATIONAL 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.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Britain: Leeds academics fight back against censorship by threat of violence

Following the controversial last-minute cancellation by the University of Leeds of a lecture from Dr Matthias Kntzel, 'The Nazi Legacy: the export of anti-Semitism to the Middle East', the University authorities went to considerable lengths to persuade Leeds UCU that no issues of principle were involved - that the lecture was cancelled on public safety grounds only. The initial response of local union leaders was to accept their explanation - we were told that the union needs to maintain a 'constructive' relationship with the University (which no-one would dispute).

A few of us felt that the issue was too important to be brushed under the carpet, and decided to fight. With no backing from the local leadership, we canvassed support for an Extraordinary General Meeting to discuss the lecture cancellation and the wider issue of academic freedom. We were successful - 34 members supported the call (local rules require 25), and the meeting took place on Tuesday 8th May.

In the meantime, the matter was discussed at a meeting of the Joint Committee of the University and the UCU, which concluded that the University's statement was 'a truthful and complete account' of the incident. This statement claims that the lecture was cancelled 'on safety grounds alone', that no issue of academic freedom was involved, and that 'the University was not given sufficient notice' by the organisers of the meeting. Our union representatives reported to us that there was no reason to doubt the claims, or the Vice Chancellor's assurances that 'nobody was leant on by the University authorities to cancel the speech'.

This completely misses the point. We now know that only three emails of protest were received, at least one of which did not even ask for the meeting to be cancelled. None of us ever believed that there was a real threat to public safety, or that anyone had tried to put pressure on the University authorities. The sad fact is that the threats and the pressure were figments of the University's imagination. Apparently it's not possible, if you are a Muslim, to send a protest to the University without its being interpreted as a threat of violence - a rather disturbing state of affairs.

In response to our successful call and our submitted motion, some of the local officers put forward a very much watered-down version, which criticised the University only to the extent that its 'handling of the situation was unfortunate'. So, our task at the meeting was to convince people that the officers' compromise motion did not adequately address the seriousness of what had happened and its implications for academic freedom, and they should therefore support ours.

After a lively but civil debate, our motion was passed by just one vote! A message will now be sent to the University that UCU members disapprove of their action, do not accept their explanation, and will not tolerate any attempt to interfere with academic freedom and freedom of speech on our campus.

Carol Wilson (Medicine)
Eva Frojmovic (Centre for Jewish Studies)
David Miller (Medicine)
Annette Seidel-Arpaci (Modern Languages and Cultures)
Morten Hunke (Modern Languages and Cultures)

The motion:

Leeds UCU is deeply concerned about the University's decision to cancel a lecture by Dr Matthias Kntzel, "The Nazi Legacy: the export of anti-Semitism to the Middle East", organised by the German department. Both the initial decision and subsequent public statements have damaged the University's reputation by demonstrating an apparent lack of concern for its duty to uphold the principle of academic freedom.

The initial statement from Roger Gair, University Secretary, treated the justifiable concerns of staff, students, the invited speaker and the public in a wholly inappropriate manner. It incorrectly blamed the organisers of the meeting for a failure to abide by the Freedom of Expression policy, and labelled their protests as 'making mischief'. The replacement, whilst moderating its tone, repeated the same untrue claim.

The incident has raised serious concerns, both inside and outside the University, about the wider implications for academic freedom.

We note that:

* The University has failed to give a coherent and plausible explanation of the cancellation, either to Dr Kntzel and the academics concerned, or in its public statements.

* Although the University publicly asserted that it took the decision because of security fears it has produced no evidence of any threat of violence or disruption, and there were no reasonable grounds for regarding the talk as posing a safety problem.

* The University's handling of the incident was inept throughout, and has left a public impression of extreme discourtesy towards Dr Kntzel.

* The new Freedom of Expression policy allows the University too much discretion to ban an event (especially Clause 6, which includes a potential 'verbal attack' on 'religion and belief' as a reason for a ban). The wording effectively gives a right of veto over freedom of speech to anyone who objects to a controversial meeting, should the University choose to interpret it in this way.

We seek assurances from the Vice-Chancellor that:

* The University recognises that the decision to cancel the meeting was a serious blunder, which will not be repeated.

* Those involved in the decision will be given guidance in (1) the correct operation of the Freedom of Expression policy; and (2) the extent of the University's responsibilities in upholding academic freedom.

* The University will rectify its misleading public account of the events leading to the cancellation, invite Dr Kntzel back to give his lecture at the University's expense, and apologise to him and to the academics concerned.

* The Freedom of Expression policy will be revised, in collaboration with Leeds UCU, to ensure that it can under no circumstances be used to obstruct free speech within the law.


Britain: Selective schools improve nearby non-selective schools

They set up a standard for comparison. Both types of school are publicly funded

David Cameron is facing a fresh challenge to his authority with a member of his frontbench team producing new evidence showing that grammar schools dramatically improve the exam results of a whole neighbourhood. Graham Brady, the Shadow Europe Minister and a former grammar school pupil, has passed data to The Timesshowing that GCSE results are significantly better in areas that have an element of selective education - with ethnic minority children benefiting most.

The figures show that in comprehensive areas with no selection, 42.6 per cent of GCSE pupils get 5 or more A* to C grades in subjects including English and maths. This rises to 46 per cent in partially selective areas and 49.8 per cent in wholly selective areas where all pupils take the 11 plus.

This new frontbench division will dismay both Mr Cameron and David Willetts, the Shadow Education Secretary, who unveiled further controversial policy reforms yesterday. He wants city academies to choose pupils by a range of nonacademic criteria, including race, which he hopes will halt growing segregation in some inner city areas. Mr Cameron yesterday called critics of his refusal to bring back grammar schools "inverse class warriors".

Mr Brady's figures challenge a key element of Tory thinking - that pupils who fail to get into grammar schools suffer more than those who go to schools where there is no local selection. His figures show: Areas with academic selection appear to benefit ethnic minorities, and Chinese and Bangladeshi children most. Chinese students get a 82.4 per cent rating for good GCSEs in selective areas but average 61.2 per cent in comprehensive areas. Bangladeshi students get 57 per cent in selective areas but 37.9 per cent in nonselective areas. Eight out of the top ten highest-scoring local authorities in maths and seven out of ten in English are either fully selective or partially selective. Children in areas with nonselective schools are more likely to go backwards between the ages of 11 and 14, according to data released this week.

In a further challenge, Mr Brady questioned whether free school meals - the measure of poverty used by Mr Willetts - was appropriate. He passed a letter to The Times from the headmaster of Altrincham Grammar School for Boys, who says that the educational maintenance allowance, which has a higher cutoff, provides a "truer reflection" of the profile of the school.

Mr Brady said: "These facts appear to confirm my own experiences: that selection raises the standards for everyone in both grammar and high schools in selective areas. "I accept the party's policy on grammar schools. But it is vitally important that policy should be developed with a full understanding of all of these facts - which might lead to the introduction of selection in other ways, including partial selection in academies and other schools."

Professor Alan Smithers, of the University of Buckingham, said that the figures were significant. "It's acknowledged that grammar schools work very well for children in them, but the argument against has always been that children who don't go to the grammar achieve below what they would get in a comprehensive system. But it does look as though it is difficult to sustain the argument." He noted that grammar school pupils often came from more privileged backgrounds.



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.


Monday, May 28, 2007

More anti-Christian discrimination

Farmington, Michigan, High School discriminates against Christians. Authorities won't allow the Bible Club. The Gay Straight Alliance is allowed. The Equestrian Club is allowed. S.A.D.D. is allowed. But the school won't permit the Bible Club. Why?

Aaron Grider has been trying to get the Bible club recognized by Farmington High School. Now the Thomas More Law Center has filed suit against the school because of this discrimination against Christians. The sophomore has done all he can do. Now it's time to bring in the law pros to enforce what should have been permitted months ago.

CitizenLink of Focus on the Family states that "the high school has several noncurriculum-related student groups, including the Gay Straight Alliance, the Equestrian Club and S.A.D.D. Those groups are allowed to advertise their meetings and appear in the yearbook; the Bible club is not. "'The policy and attitude of Farmington High School represents the extreme secularism that has captured many public school systems in America,' said Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the law center. `In this case the school policy not only violates the U.S. Constitution, but also federal and state Equal Access Laws.'"

It's one more war turf where the fight for right must be continued. Christians must remain vigilant to defend the nation's Judeo-Christian heritage. Secularists want the US to be like Europe-secularized to the extent of ditching God. Christians cannot permit this to happen.


British private schools popular in China

It should help them give more "scholarships" to poor but bright British students -- something the government is urging them to do -- but they will have to be super-careful to avoid attack as "racist"

PRIVATE schools are imposing unofficial limits on the numbers of Chinese pupils they admit because of fears that British parents will be deterred from sending their children there. Schools including Wellington College in Berkshire, the Leys school in Cambridge and Brighton college, East Sussex, have decided to restrict their numbers of foreign pupils under pressure from growing Chinese demand. Some schools are adopting the policy to preserve their character, while others are reacting to concerns among parents. According to the most recent figures from the Independent Schools Council, the numbers from mainland China have risen from a few hundred in 2000 to 2,345 this year. When added to pupils from Hong Kong, the total rises to 8,652, 40% of all foreign pupils. There are just 1,888 German pupils, the next biggest foreign contingent.

Ralph Lucas, editor of the Good Schools Guide, said many schools did not want to take more than 10% of their pupils from China although, given the demand, they could easily surpass this number. "To keep the traditional feel of an English public school, they are setting limits," he said. "Chinese pupils sometimes tend to keep themselves to themselves."

The growing numbers have sparked a backlash among some British parents. Margie Burnet Ward, headmistress of Wycliffe college in Stonehouse, Gloucestershire, has cut the number of pupils from China in recent years. "The fact that dare not speak its name is that parents are saying, `We don't want to come to you because you have too many Chinese pupils'," she said. "Five years ago we had 90 pupils from China and now we have 45 . . . Chinese children want to study maths and physics and parents are concerned that their child could be the only UK student in those classes."

Mark Slater, headmaster of the Leys, which has about 8% of its pupils from the Far East, said he believed in limiting the intake, although he added: "Up to a certain percentage it is a very healthy aspect of the school." Anthony Seldon, headmaster of Wellington, said: "They're desperate in China to come to England." He plans to set an informal limit of 15%-20% of foreign students. At Brighton, the ceiling is 8%.

For some independent schools Chinese pupils are, however, a lifeline. Some single-sex schools, particularly girls' boarding institutions, are struggling as more British parents opt for coeducational day schools. Chinese parents, by contrast, almost always pay full boarding fees and are willing to send their children to single-sex schools.

Nick Leiper, director of admissions for Ampleforth college, North Yorkshire, said some schools were now moving so aggressively into China that they were employing brokers to supply pupils in return for 10% of the first term's fees. Before British rule ended in 1997, many Hong Kong Chinese opted for a British private education because of its social cachet. Now, with mainland China's economy booming, the motives have changed. Parents from China see an English-language education as the gateway to an international career.

While most applicants are the children of the country's new rich, others come from less well-off backgrounds, with members of extended families clubbing together to pay fees. Many leading schools argue they are so popular that they could fill their places with children from Hong Kong and mainland China. Some, including Harrow and Dulwich college in London, have even opened branch schools in China.

Others have no plans to curb the numbers of Chinese. At Roedean, the girls' school near Brighton, one-third of the sixth form are from China and one-third from other foreign countries. "Some schools may have quotas, but we do not," said a spokeswoman.

Heathfield St Mary's school in Ascot, Berkshire, has resisted the financial benefits of recruitment from China. Frances King, the headmistress, said: "We are a very small boarding school and the interest in our school has increased. The Chinese are looking for entry into UK or American universities. If there are a lot pupils coming from one place I have to look at it every year. "We are an English boarding school and the Chinese pupils want to feel that they are coming to an English school. We like to have cultural diversity."



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.


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Increasing recognition: More spending does not buy better education

These figures would have looked even worse if they had given comparison figures for Catholic schools

The United States spent an average of $8,701 per pupil to educate its children in 2005, the Census Bureau said on Thursday, with some states paying more than twice as much per student as others. New York was the biggest spender on education, at $14,119 per student, with New Jersey second at $13,800 and Washington, D.C., third at $12,979, the Census Bureau said. Seven of the top 10 education spenders were Northeastern states.

The states with the lowest spending were Utah, at $5,257 per pupil, Arizona $6,261, Idaho $6,283, Mississippi $6,575 and Oklahoma $6,613. The 10 states with the lowest education spending were in the West or South. Overall the United States spent an average of $8,701 per student on elementary and secondary education in 2005, up 5 percent from $8,287 the previous year, the bureau said.

Funding is largely a state and local responsibility under the U.S. system, with 47 percent coming from state governments, 43.9 percent from local sources and only 9.1 percent from the federal government. Students in northeastern and northern states tend to perform better on standardized tests than students in southern and southwestern states. But experts say the correlation between spending and testing performance is not strong.

The "No Child Left Behind" education reforms passed during President George W. Bush's first term have placed increased emphasis on performance on national standardized tests. Schools can be penalized if they repeatedly fail to meet targets for improving student scores. "It's not necessarily so that states with higher spending have higher test scores," said Tom Loveless, an education policy expert at the Brookings Institution think tank. He said Washington, D.C., has among the highest spending in the country but its students have among the lowest scores on standardized tests, while some states like Montana with relatively low spending have fairly high performance on tests.

Loveless said two areas where education spending might make a difference were in teacher salaries and small class sizes for first graders. But overall, the relationship between spending on education and test performance was not strong, he said.


Dumbed-down British vocational qualification

Tens of thousands of teenagers are taking a new qualification worth up to four good GCSEs but which government experts say an average 11-year-old could pass. Half of all secondaries are estimated to be opting for the OCR national level 2 in ICT, where tasks include sending an email and searching the internet. It is being adopted as a replacement for the GNVQ in ICT, which controversially helped many low performing schools leap up the league tables. As with its predecessor, schools can use the OCR exam to gain the equivalent of four A*-C GCSEs, even though it only requires the teaching time of one.

But a document leaked to The TES shows consultants from the Government's National Strategies have found a pass in the qualification's compulsory unit "generally" equals level 4 of the key stage 3 national curriculum - the standards expected of an 11-year-old. Some points matched level 5, those of a 14-year-old. The revelation is a new blow to the Government's attempt to ensure vocational qualifications gain parity of esteem with academic ones.

A local authority ICT adviser has rated some of the qualification's most popular optional units and told The TES he found exactly the same standards uncovered by the National Strategies consultants. "The demands of this specification are very low indeed," he said. "Schools are using it to get soft certificates. Many are now putting all their students in for this in the expectation that they will all pass."

Some schools argue the consultants' verdict is too harsh. Mike Reid, an ICT teacher at Broughton Hall high in Liverpool, said: "The level of the tasks they have to perform are industry standard." To gain a distinction in the OCR national, equivalent to A* GCSEs, pupils must master extra tasks that include using quotes and words such as `and' and `or' when searching the internet. The local authority adviser described it as a "tick-box" course, enabling E grade pupils to gain the equivalent of Cs.

A spokesman for the OCR exam board said the National Strategies consultants could not have carried out a genuine comparison because the first results of the new qualification or details about the candidates taking it were still unknown. He said: "The ICT national level 2 is doing incredibly well because it was created in partnership with teachers and is interesting enough to be very learnable for students."

Clare Johnson, a National Strategies ICT programme adviser, said the conclusions by consultants from the West Midlands were part of a draft document that would not be distributed to schools. She did not know of anything that contradicted their conclusions, but said comparing vocational qualifications with an academic programme of study was inappropriate. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority said it will monitor the new qualification.



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.