Saturday, September 01, 2007

Dumber and dumber: SAT scores hit bottom in city and nation

Students starting college this week posted some of the lowest reading and math scores on the SAT college admissions exam in recent years - a dismal trend reflected in New York City and across the country. Testmaker College Board attributed the drop, in part, to increases in the number of poor students and students whose first language is not English taking the test. The College Board, which released the scores yesterday, called the Class of 2007 high school grads the largest and most diverse group ever to take the competitive exam.

Of the 1.5 million students who took the test this year, 24% did not identify English exclusively as their first language compared with 17% a decade ago. The College Board said 35% of test-takers will be the first in their families to go to college. In New York City, 38,937 kids from the Class of 2007 took the exam last year - an increase of 8.7% over 2006. The number of black students taking the test was up 15.4%, the number of Mexicans was up 22%, Puerto Ricans were up 11.9% and kids who identified themselves as "other Hispanic" were up 22.7%, city officials said.

City public school kids averaged their lowest scores in math and reading since at least 2003, with the average student scoring 462 in math and 441 in reading out of a possible 800 points in each. The city math average is down five points since last year and 10 points since 2005. The reading score is down three points compared with 2006. That's compared with national average where reading scores were at their lowest level - an average of 502 - since 1994. Math scores across the country averaged 515, the lowest since 2001.

In New York State, math declined five points to 505 since last year and average reading scores dropped two points to 491. Scores also dropped on the exam's new writing section, which was introduced last year.

City public schools are hoping for an increase in SAT scores this year after beginning, for the first time last year, an initiative to administer the PSAT - a practice exam - to every 10th- and 11th-grader during the school day and for free. "We're encouraging students to think seriously about college and think about it earlier in their high school career," schools spokesman Andrew Jacob said.


Setbacks for academic antisemitism

Venues are cancelling appearances by the authors of a book criticizing the impact of the "Israel Lobby" on American foreign policy. Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, university professors who penned the forthcoming book "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," have had a number of promotional appearances canceled, The New York Times reported.

The City University of New York, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, a Jewish cultural center in Washington and three organizations in Chicago have turned down or canceled events with the authors over concerns with their controversial thesis or the event format.

At the Chicago council, where both authors have spoken, President Marshall Bouton was reported to have told Mearsheimer that he had a "political problem" and needed "to protect the institution."

The book, an elaboration on a controversial paper the professors published last year, argues that Israel is a strategic liability for the United States and that continued support for the Jewish state is due only to the successful efforts of a broad coalition of groups referred to collectively as the Israel Lobby.

Critics charge that the book echoes traditional anti-Semitic charges. Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote a book refuting the Walt-Mearsheimer thesis. Both books will be released Sept. 4.


Australia: Does Monash University have different standards for Muslims?

We are entitled to expect that those who lecture at our universities are appropriately qualified. Otherwise, we would be misleading the students that the university is supposed to serve. So for instance, if I have a degree in psychology, I would not be qualified to teach law. If I have a degree in law, I would presumably not be considered for a post in politics.

It used to be, and I hope is still, the case that if one wanted to even tutor at Monash University, the minimum requirement was achievement of a Class 2A Honours.

If one was to be considered for employment as a lecturer; the minimum requirement would probably be at least a PhD, or significant completion thereof, or perhaps a substantial portfolio of works published in refereed journals in the field that the candidate is to lecture in.

What then does one make of the recent appointment of Mr Waleed Aly, of the Islamic Council of Victoria, formerly a lawyer, as a lecturer in Politics at Monash's School of Political and Social Inquiry, Faculty of Arts? Mr Aly graduated in 2002 from Melbourne University with degrees in Engineering and Law.

He obtained a Class 2B Honours in completing the LLB, finishing 8th from the bottom of the list of H2B recipients. He is best known for his newspaper articles, and a recent book, People Like Us, How Arrogance is dividing Islam and the West (Picador Australia). Otherwise he is best known for being the public face of the Islamic Council of Victoria in ICV v Catch The Fire Ministries, a matter heard under Victoria's religious vilification laws.

How the above qualify him to be an academic in the field of politics is a question which is not likely to be answered by Monash VC Richard Larkins. Larkins has yet to provide any answers as to how/why the Monash Asia Institute hired one Zulfikar Shariff, a known supporter of Osama bin Laden, as a research fellow despite the Shariff not having any academic qualifications at all.

Located at are advertisements for the various positions, including that of lecturer within the Arts Faculty, Monash University, which includes the School of Politics. Readers can see for themselves that the minimum requirement is a PhD or equivalent.


Friday, August 31, 2007

More on Whether Affirmative Action in Law Schools Backfires on Prospective Black Lawyers

Gail Heriot has an excellent op-ed on the subject in the Wall Street Journal. As I've emphasized in previous writings and speeches, it's a real problem when the consistent focus of affirmative action in law schools is on how many black students are admitted, with little if any attention paid to how many of the admittees actually succeed in becoming lawyers.

Interestingly, the ABA, which just last year was on the offensive in passing new guidelines requiring all law schools to engage in significant racial preferences, has now proposed new accreditation rules that threaten the viability of many lower-tier law schools, including several historically black law schools. The ABA is acting under pressure from the Department of Education, which has grown weary of the ABA mandating all sorts of requirements for law school, but ignoring what would seem to be the most significant mandate: that the schools actually succeed in preparing their students for careers in law, not least by ensuring that they actually pass the bar.

Isn't it time the ABA just gave up, and acknowledged that as a body completely captured by the perceived interests of the profession it's supposed to be regulating, is in no position to serve as a neutral gatekeeper for law school accreditation?

Meanwhile, my antenna have picked up some subtle new signals from the ABA bureaucracy, that it is less interested in enforcing universal norms on schools that find its preference policies counter-productive, and more interested in finding ways to get all sides together to cooperate in increasing transparency and improving the prospects of minority law students. Unfortunately, I doubt this shift would last if the Department of Education lays off, as it will almost certainly do if a Democrat wins in '08.

UPDATE: The ABA's new proposed rules have apparently been "withdrawn for further study" until February 2008. Thanks to Lee Otis for the pointer.

Also, The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that:

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights plans to issue a report today calling for federal and state officials to require law schools to disclose detailed information about their use of affirmative action in admissions and the short- and long-term success of the minority students they enroll.

The report also urges the section of the American Bar Association that accredits law schools to drop a requirement that law schools seeking accreditation demonstrate a commitment to diversity, with a majority of the commission's members arguing that such a requirement infringes on the schools' academic freedom. Among its other recommendations, the report calls for the National Academy of Sciences or some other entity to finance research on the effect of law schools' affirmative-action policies, and it urges state bar associations to cooperate with such studies.


Illinois School Pushes Smut on Children as Young as 12 with Porn-Laden Book

Illinois School District 126, covering Alsip, Hazelgreen and Oak Lawn, has defended its choice to assign summer reading to 12- and 13-year-olds that is replete with harsh profanity and references to teen sex (even teen sex with adults).

Prairie Junior High School's required reading list for rising 8th graders gave children six books to choose from over the summer. Parents have complained that three of the six books contain adult content which is highly age-inappropriate. Those complaints, however, have fallen on deaf ears. At a recent school board meeting, school board members said they intend to continue assigning the books.

To add insult to injury, the school didn't even have the courtesy to warn these kids - or their parents - about the adult content within the assigned reading. And parents are understandably furious. If one of my daughters came to me at twelve having been assigned this smut, I'd be ticked-off too.

Whatever happened to classics like Ivanhoe or Up From Slavery? Sure, some of them may even contain limited profanity and adult content, but there's a big difference. The profane content in Fat Kid isn't sporadic. It's pervasive and gratuitous. The book has 110 pages containing the F-word and other profanities, and there are multiple crude sexual references.

With all the objectionable material children are subjected to on the internet, on television and in theatres, it's outrageous that educators, who are charged with helping to mold the minds of these 12- and 13-year-olds, would willingly - if not eagerly - contribute to their moral degradation by pushing this kind of vulgarity on them. It amounts to educational malpractice, and School District 126 should have its mouth washed out with soap.

I telephoned Robert Berger, superintendent of schools for District 126, fully expecting him to assure me that this foolishness would be remedied. But instead, his response was defiant, defensive and arrogant.

Berger refused to answer me when I asked him several times if District 126 believed that such mature content was appropriate for children. (I wonder; if it's so appropriate, then why wouldn't he defend it?)

I asked Berger if one could infer that the district found the material appropriate since it was assigned to children. He quipped, "Infer whatever you want to."

No one's calling for a book burning here, but c'mon, these are just kids. Does District 126 have any standards of decency at all?

Unfortunately the actions of District 126 are symptomatic of a metastasizing moral malady within our larger system of public education. Kids in public schools across the country are constantly inundated with material which promotes profanity, homosexuality, promiscuity and abortion.

The Agenda is pushed and the curriculum set by leftist groups like the National Education Association (NEA), the ACLU and the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). Even the American Library Association (ALA) gave Fat Kids its "Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature." The book also received a rave review from America's largest homosexual activist literary organization, Lambda Literary Foundation.

By constantly lowering the bar on decency, educators are intentionally playing a game of ideological limbo with our children's moral well-being as they seek to create little moral relativists in their own iconoclastic self-image. And they're robbing kids of great reading like Oliver Twist, Treasure Island and many others in the process.

How low will they go?

By the looks of things in Alsip, Illinois, they're not going to bottom out anytime soon.


Middle school woes in Britain

Boys will be boys despite all the politically correct propaganda

Examiners have raised concerns over the standard of writing in English GCSEs, with some teenagers producing "sickeningly violent" stories this year.

One of the most frequently used titles for creative writing coursework was The Assassin, the latest examiners report on GCSE English from the Edexcel board said.

There were also concerns over teachers giving pupils "incomprehensibly high marks" for poor quality work, while plagiarism was still seen as a problem.

In some cases the "personal and imaginative writing" coursework, worth 10 per cent of the final GCSE English marks, produced thinly plotted but extremely violent content, examiners said.

Jim Knight, the schools minister, said: "We are concerned about any violent influences in school."


Thursday, August 30, 2007

British pre-school scheme fails

Start out with wrong assumptions (e.g. that "privilege" is responsible for educational success) and you will not get the results you expect. The Grammar (selective) schools showed how to help bright children from poor families but that offends against the "equality" religion. It is however sad that such a large and expensive series of programs did absolutely NO good at all. It shows how important it is to get your basic assumptions right

A 3 billion pound series of policies designed to boost the achievements of pre-school children has had no effect on the development levels of those entering primary school, a study suggests. Although there have been big changes in early years education, children's vocabulary and their ability to count and to recognise letters, shapes and rhymes are no different now than they were six years ago.

The results of the study from the University of Durham will come as a huge blow to the Government after a string of initiatives that have cost more than 3 billion since 2001 and that include the early childhood curriculum, the Sure Start programme, free nursery education for all three-year-olds and the Every Child Matters initiative. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown made much of the drive to improve pre-school education, which was promoted heavily in Labour's last general election manifesto.

The findings follow the results of an assessment of the Sure Start programme in 2005, which also found no overall improvement in the areas targeted by the scheme. Sure Start, which was influenced by the Head Start programme in the US, is targeted at children aged up to 5 and their families in deprived areas. It is intended to offer a range of early years services, including health advice, childcare, parenting classes and training to help mothers into work.

Christine Merrell, of the University of Durham's Curriculum, Evaluation and Management Centre and co-author of the study, said that she had no idea why the investment of so much public money had produced so few results. "One would have expected that the major government programmes would have resulted in some measurable changes in our sample of almost 35,000 children. It is possible, however, that it is just still too early to measure the effects of these programmes, particularly those of the Children Act and Every Child Matters, which were only introduced in the past few years," she said.

Dr Merrell and her team studied 6,000 children a year aged 4 and 5 at 124 primary schools. The children were asked to complete a 15-minute series of fun activities on a computer and were not aware that they were being tested. The tests were designed to measure the children's vocabulary acquisition and whether they could recognise rhyming words and repeat certain sounds. The children were also tested on their ability to count and to recognise shapes, letters and words.

No clear progress was detected on these measures among the 35,000 children from a range of backgrounds who were studied over the course of the six-year study, to be presented today at the biennial European Association for Learning and Instruction conference in Budapest. Dr Merrell admitted that the study was limited because it failed to identify which children, if any, had been subject to contact with Sure Start or any other of the Government's recent pre-school initiatives. However, given that 35,000 children in 124 schools were assessed, she said it was likely that many had taken part in the initiatives. She said that the research highlighted the importance of subjecting education policies to continuous scientific monitoring to see if they were working before introducing them nationally. "Even then, high-quality data needs to be used to track the impact of the evolving intervention. Only then can the Government really measure what does and doesn't work in education," she said.

The research used the Centre's performance indicators in primary schools (Pips) assessment to measure the cognitive development of the children. The Pips baseline assessment is one of a range of assessments that enable schools to monitor children's progress. Pips is used by more than 3,000 primary schools in Britain, 800 schools in Australia and others worldwide including New Zealand, the Netherlands and South Africa.


Pressure on Australian PhDs to meet grade

STUDENTS may have to defend their PhD theses orally and examiner panels could be audited for quality under reforms being considered by elite universities. The ideas floated by Group of Eight executive director Mike Gallagher come amid claims that the once respected qualification lacks relevance, suffers from dubious quality and gives candidates false hope of employment. These claims have dominated a lively debate on the HES website after Curtin University of Technology academic Richard Nile declared the PhD "a dinosaur from a previous age of elite education" in an HES online article.

Mr Gallagher told the HES that the PhD had undergone so much change it was high time for a fundamental review. "There are a lot of PhDs going into universities that don't have much of a performance record in research, and that's a worry," he said. "I don't know what level of confidence there is in the community any more." The Go8, not expecting much help on standards from politicians or the Australian Universities Quality Agency, was carrying out its own fact-finding survey.

Yesterday, federal Education, Science and Training Minister Julie Bishop said it was the responsibility of universities to work with industry to give graduates the skills they needed and to "focus on the quality of their programs, including their PhD programs, to ensure the sector is able to compete internationally for students and academics". "It is up to individuals to decide whether a particular qualification has relevance for their career prospects, whether in the private sector or academia," she said.

AUQA executive director David Woodhouse said: "Just like the Go8, we are concerned about standards." Although AUQA looked at processes for enrolling, supervising and examining research students, the agency had not yet carried out "a sample check" on the standing of overseas examiners. This might be done during a 2008 second-cycle audit. But as yet no institution had suggested the relevant audit theme of research training, despite the advent of the research quality framework.

Mr Gallagher said it was possible the Go8 would audit examiners to make sure they represented centres of strength in the fields examined. This would underpin quality and include an element of public accountability. "If your PhD examiner panels are made up of people from second-rank institutions in that field (under examination), then that will be known," he said. "There's (also) a lot of discussion of panels reverting to the viva voce, (which would mean) you have to demonstrate that you can actually defend your propositions."

As part of a broad review of the PhD, the Australian National University was looking at a logistically manageable viva, according to pro vice-chancellor Mandy Thomas. Professor Thomas said it would not be feasible to fly in all the international examiners. (ANU had about 500 PhD completions a year.) A few months before they submit, candidates might defend their work before a panel of supervisors and experts in the field. But if this practice were adopted it would be as an "internal quality measure" and not part of the examination.

Nigel Palmer, president of the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations, said: "Students are always going to be cautious about anything that looks like a viva. "Particularly towards the end of their candidature, PhDs are close to exhaustion. It's a very daunting proposition to come out and give a stunning presentation. Also, (a viva) disadvantages international students." Mr Palmer said a key issue was the unrealistically tight time frame for PhDs imposed by the federal research training scheme and scholarships. "The pressure of shorter completion times has had an impact on quality," he said. "The message from supervisors is: forget this being your life work, forget this being an original contribution to the field, it's just got to be good enough to get you across the line and ... in time."

Mr Gallagher also criticised the research training scheme: "The Government's timing of 3 1/2 years is at least one year tooshort." Professor Thomas said it was possible completion times might get longer as the university put more emphasis on skills. "We're boosting professional training within the PhDs; that is useful for people who will become academics as well as for those who will leave the university and join industry or government," she said. This training might involve dissemination of research results, commercialisation, journal editing or conference organisation.

Within the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Australia had very short completion times; the longer PhDs of the US were thought to be one reason for a decline in domestic candidates. It was possible that the duration of PhDs in Australia and the US would converge. Mr Gallagher said Australia's leading universities were struggling to find domestic PhDs in essential fields such as mathematics. He was not a critic of trends such as the professional, work-focused PhD; it was a matter of striking a balance between depth and breadth and re-establishing the relevance of the qualification. "You hear reports where people say: 'I didn't disclose in my job application that I have a PhD.' In the labour market it's seen as a nerdy thing to have," he said.

Even if the thesis were given less weight by examiners to make room for more coursework, the essential nature of the PhD had to be preserved. "I think the capacity to undertake original research and to demonstrate that you are in command of your field, that you can critically evaluate the literature, that you can construct a hypothesis and defend it, the discipline of it, in the old academic sense, is fundamental," Mr Gallagher said.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Academic antisemites can't take the heat

In a follow-up to my last post about Walt and Mearsheimer's unhappiness about having to defend their work, I post the following reflections by Winfield Myers, director of Campus Watch, on the broader unhappiness of the professoriate getting monitored by people who are not worried about getting a good grade.

Sissy Willis at Sisu remarked a while ago that the "left" has been talking to itself for so long that they don't do well in responding to real objections. This certainly seems to be a sign of such weakness.

Winfield Myers: Shedding light on the professoriate

Lisa Anderson, the former dean of Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs best remembered for her failed attempt to bring Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to campus, had a complaint yesterday for the Web publication Inside Higher Ed. "Young scholars of Middle Eastern literature or history are finding themselves `grilled' about their political views in job interviews, and in some cases losing job offers as a result of their answers," Anderson said. She carefully stressed that she wasn't talking about those who study policy or the current political climate. This situation has arisen, Anderson said, because "outside groups that are critical of those in Middle Eastern studies . are shifting the way scholarship is evaluated."

Anderson's lamentations are part of a rising chorus from professors who consider themselves besieged by external organizations whose mission is to critique the performance of scholars. These include the one I head, Campus Watch, to which Anderson clearly alluded in her remarks.

Academic radicals have for years controlled campus debate by blackballing internal opponents, intimidating students and crying censorship whenever their views or actions were challenged. They got away with such behavior for two principal reasons: A sympathetic media assured the nation that universities were in the front lines of the fight for liberty and justice, and there were few external organizations or individuals offering sustained critiques of politicized scholarship and teaching. These helped ensure that the public's reservoir of good will toward universities remained full.

But times are changing. Scholars no longer operate in an information vacuum. Their words carry great weight not only with their students, who pay for and deserve far better than they receive, but with the media, which funnel their often politicized, tendentious views to a broader public. Given such influence, it should shock no one that the professoriate is scrutinized and, when found wanting, challenged.

Anderson and company's frequently alleged claims that outsiders threaten their freedom of speech is, on the one hand, risible. Campus Watch and other organizations or individuals who critique academe don't possess the authority of the state; we have no subpoena power, no ability to force their acquiescence, nor do we seek it.

What we've challenged isn't the academics' right to speak as they wish. Rather, we've challenged their ability to practice their trade in hermetically sealed conditions free from the need to answer to anyone but themselves. We've held them accountable much as countless organizations and journalists have critiqued the behavior of other professions, from doctors and lawyers to clergy and businessmen. Given this new reality on campus, it's almost understandable that outside critics could make the doyens of Middle East studies long for the days when they could operate behind closed doors. They had much to hide:

In May at Stanford, Arzoo Osanloo of the University of Washington decried "Western, paternalistic attitudes towards Muslim women," and asserted that Iranian women had made great strides since the 1979 revolution that brought the mullahs to power and implemented Sharia law. She failed to mention the regime's ongoing crackdown on women who wear Western clothing or makeup, the brutal punishments (including death by stoning) of women accused of adultery, or the continuing illegal detention of American scholar Haleh Esfandiari of the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington.

In a failed attempt to silence critics and elicit media sympathy, some Middle East studies scholars claimed to have received death threats. Most recently, Nadia Abu El-Haj, an archaeologist at Barnard College whose spurious denial of an ancient Hebrew connection to Jerusalem is designed to delegitimize the Jewish state, made such an unsubstantiated claim. Preceding her in making questionable charges were Khaled Abou el Fadl of UCLA and Joel Beinin of the American University of Cairo, whose charges against a journalist were dismissed.

Last November, Michigan professor Kathryn Babayan aided efforts to disrupt the public lecture of her former colleague Raymond Tanter, who was invited to campus to speak about Iran.

Moreover, the Committee on Academic Freedom of the Middle East Studies Association, the umbrella group for scholars of the field, has yet to utter a word in protest of Saudi billionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz's successful settlement against Cambridge University Press, which saw the American-authored book "Alms for Jihad" pulped and pulled from bookstores.

During a follow-up interview for a teaching position in a large state university, Middle East studies professor Timothy Furnish was told that he "appeared to be more conservative than others in [his] field" and that he "sounded like Daniel Pipes." No, he didn't get the job.


Accountability left behind

"Many Americans do not believe that the success of our students or of our schools can be measured by one test administered on one day, and I agree with them. This is not fair," Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., told the National Press Club last month. As the House Education and Labor Committee he chairs is expected to roll out a draft for legislation to reauthorize the 2001 No Child Left Behind bill, Miller and fellow Democrats want to change NCLB testing.

Currently, the law requires that students be tested in math and reading every year between third-grade and eighth-grade, then once in high school. Miller explained he would add "multiple measures of success. These measures can no longer reflect just basic skills and memorization, but rather critical thinking and the ability to apply knowledge to new and challenging contexts."

On the one hand, Miller is right to push to improve NCLB. He wants to allow states to apply graduation rates toward their yearly NCLB progress scores and also would have states include history and science test scores. On the other hand, when the education establishment touts testing for "critical thinking," that can be code for: Maybe the kid can't read, but look at the bright side, he's smart.

And when educrat groups -- such as the Forum on Educational Accountability -- recommend that NCLB add "comprehensive assessments systems," which would include portfolios (essays, drawing, reports) in order to offer "rich and challenging educational goals," beware. What sounds like more sophisticated testing could end up being more confusing and inconclusive. A kid who can draw does not mean a kid who can multiply. "The great danger here is that it clouds the accountability system," noted Amy Wilkins, vice president of Education Trust, a nonprofit group that advocates for higher standards in K-12 education.

No Child Left Behind's mission -- to help all children read and compute at grade level -- puts basics first so that children have the fundamentals in place to tackle more challenging subjects. Testing for problem-solving and critical thinking skills would only allow children who don't know the basics to score higher than they should....

"It's goofy, they (the anti-test crowd) talk out of both sides of their mouth," Wilkins noted. Some educators complain that NCLB tests are confined to low-level skills and that they have to spend all their time teaching to the test. But: "If they're such low-level skills, why do you spend so much time teaching them?"

What the education establishment is desperately trying to avoid is accountability for what they produce. That is their basic objection to the No Child Left Behind Act. To the extent that the educrats can read and comprehend on their own, they should be required to read Victor Davis Hanson's article on what has happened to education in his small California community. The education establishment in this country has lost too much credibility to be believed on this issue.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

University heads and interior decorators

What is it about being appointed to run a major university campus that causes the appointee to hire an expensive interior decorator? A trial just begun in Houston exposes yet another case of a senior administrator in state-funded higher education feathering her nest with lavish appointments courtesy of taxpayers. The New York Times reports:
With Texas Southern University struggling to survive as one of the nation's largest historically black colleges, the former president once hailed as its savior faced a state jury here Friday, charged with misspending hundreds of thousands of dollars on personal luxuries.

A $1,000 silk canopy for a four-poster bed, $138,000 for landscaping and $61,600 for a security system are among the items that prosecutors say the former president, Priscilla Slade, fraudulently billed the public for and kept secret from trustees from 1999 to 2005. The charges being considered in Harris County District Court carry penalties from probation up to life in prison.

This is awfully reminiscent of the notorious wish list handed to the University of California by the late Denice Denton when she became Chancellor of the University of California, Santa Cruz. Denton most notoriously got a $30,000 dog run in the backyard, but also other luxury goodies for the mansion she inhabited, plus a $192,000 job for her lesbian partner, plus a $60,000 housing allowance for said partner, plus other perks totaling about $600k.

Denton faced no legal liability because she went through channels to get her perks, whereas Priscilla Slade, the former head of TSU is alleged to have spent the money on herself without proper authorization. Denton, however, later killed herself by leaping from the roof of a skyscraper apartment building.

The mess at the University of California system, where a culture of top management helping itself to lavish salary and perks while obscuring responsibility and accountability for spending the university's $20 billion annual budget, has gotten so bad that Richard Blum, gazillionaire husband of Sen. Diane Feinstein and chair of the Board of Regents, has issued a scathing denunciation of mismanagement at the top, calling for seerious reform.

Face it: higher education is one of the biggest industries in the country, and it is one heavily subsidized by taxpayers, directly through state schools, and indirectly through federal loans, grants, contracts, and other payments. Over the four decades I have spent studying at, working in, and observing higher education, the field has grown fat, all the while mercilessly squeezing out tuition increases at double the rate of inflation, pushing higher education into a luxury category, requiring deep sacrifices from all but the wealthiest.

Reform is long overdue. But with the professorate heavily contributing to Democrats, they have a defender class of politicians. It is too bad that indictments are necessary to send a signal of the need for reform. University administrators deserve adequate compensation, but they cannot treat the public coffers as a personal windfall to be tapped for all the luxuries of their dreams. It is time for the gravy train to be halted.


Can socioeconomic mixing fix schools?

The article below by a California educrat is more realistic than most

Once viewed largely as a strategy to avoid legal challenges to the use of race for integrating schools, socioeconomic factors are getting a fresh look in California and elsewhere as the next focus for providing equitable opportunities for learning. While the impetus for this approach existed before the recent Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling in the Seattle and Louisville cases, it was limited to about 40 school districts, with some 2.5 million students. Now, however, the lessons learned from these pioneers are taking on greater relevance for schools in California and those across the country.

In 2000, the Wake County School Board in North Carolina voted to implement a plan to assure that no school in the district would have more than 40 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, and no school would have more than 25 percent of its students performing below grade level. Based on the evidence to date, the plan is working to raise achievement of all students and narrow the gap between groups. Low-income and minority students in Wake County have achieved better academic results than those in other North Carolina districts that have failed to break up pockets of poverty. In 2005, for example, more than 80 percent of black elementary students were reading at or above grade level, up from 57 percent in 1998.

But before concluding that the Wake County model, which takes in Raleigh and its extended suburbs, is applicable to districts in California, it's important to bear in mind that a set of unusual conditions have made the task of socioeconomic integration possible there. The school district is countywide, making it relatively easy to combine students from the city and the suburbs. Wake County also has a 32-year history of busing, so that parents are accustomed to long rides to schools. Finally, the local economy is prosperous, with no signs of cooling in sight.

In the absence of any of Wake County's factors, it's unclear how the strategy would fare in California. Research has shown that schools must be at least 50 percent middle class in order to produce the expected benefits. This is known as the tipping point because educational quality begins to decline when a school becomes more than half low income. What would happen, therefore, if a particular district had a large low-income Hispanic or white population? Where would those students, whose enrollment is necessary to carry out socioeconomic integration, come from?

According to the Children's Defense Fund, nearly 18 percent of the nation's children live in poverty, and the number is rapidly growing. Contrary to popular belief, the phenomenon is not limited to urban areas. Thirty rural counties in 11 states have poverty rates higher than those in the poorest inner cities. Exacerbating the problem are undocumented immigrants, half of whose children live in low-income neighborhoods, compared with 35 percent of children of native-born families.

But even if the demographics were ideal, there is always the possibility that attempts to promote socioeconomic integration would exacerbate the flight of middle-class families to private and religious schools. According to Robert Reich, former labor secretary, the top 20 percent of families by income and education nationwide are already in the process of seceding from public schools. If socioeconomic integration of schools were adopted as policy, more of these same families might be tempted to follow suit. In that case, the number of middle-class students would be insufficient to create the desired socioeconomic balance.

If studies going back more than 40 years are any consolation, a school's socioeconomic composition -- second only to a family's socioeconomic status -- is the most reliable predictor of academic achievement.


Attempting To Prevent Diversity in Debate Over "Diversity"

Post lifted from Discriminations. It's always rather hilarious when the Left and the Greens try to withhold data. That clearly conveys as nothing else could that they know the facts don't support them. If the facts did support their claims, they would be delighted to give them maximum exposure

Most readers are familiar with the pioneering work UCLA law professor Richard Sander has produced on the effects (they are not good) of "diversity" of law school admissions, especially his "mismatch" theory that preferences have actually reduced the number of minority lawyers. (Not familiar? Become so quickly by looking here, here, here, here, and here.)

Even though Sander has no ideological or partisan ax to grind, his studies have gotten under the skins of diversiphiles, some of whose reactions to his work have resembled tantrums more than scholarship. Now comes Gail Heriot, a law professor at the University of San Diego and a new member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, with a powerful, and powerfully depressing, OpEd today in the Wall Street Journal with disturbing evidence of various attempts to block Sander's continuing investigation of how preferences actually operate.
Some of the same people who argue Mr. Sander's data are inconclusive are now actively trying to prevent him from conducting follow-up research that might yield definitive answers. If racial preferences really are causing more harm than good, they apparently don't want you -- or anyone else -- to know.

Take William Kidder, a University of California staff advisor and co-author of a frequently cited attack of Sander's study. When Mr. Sander and his co-investigators sought bar passage data from the State Bar of California that would allow analysis by race, Mr. Kidder passionately argued that access should be denied, because disclosure "risks stigmatizing African American attorneys." At the same time, the Society of American Law Teachers, which leans so heavily to the left it risks falling over sideways, gleefully warned that the state bar would be sued if it cooperated with Mr. Sander.

Sadly, the State Bar's Committee of Bar Examiners caved under the pressure. The committee members didn't formally explain their decision to deny Mr. Sander's request for this data (in which no names would be disclosed), but the root cause is clear: Over the last 40 years, many distinguished citizens - university presidents, judges, philanthropists and other leaders - have built their reputations on their support for race-based admissions. Ordinary citizens have found secure jobs as part of the resulting diversity bureaucracy.

If the policy is not working, they, too, don't want anyone to know.
If the policy of racial preference worked even remotely as well as its supporters argue you'd think they would be begging serious scholars like Prof. Sander to examine all the available data. Instead, they act like those prissy librarians who live in constant fear that some child will actually touch a book in their care.

UPDATE: Kidder Must Be Kidding

As Prof. Heriot indicated, one of Sander's most vociferous critics is William Kidder, who is also a leader in the effort to block Sander's access to bar association data that he needs to pursue his research. As she noted, "Mr. Kidder passionately argued that access should be denied, because disclosure `risks stigmatizing African American attorneys.'"

But what Prof. Heriot doesn't say, perhaps because she is too polite, is that Kidder's position not only violates any reasonable notion of honest and open scholarly debate; it is also blatantly hypocritical.

Kidder is identified, accurately, as "a University of California staff advisor." For a number of years, however, he was closely associated with the Equal Justice Society, a pro-preferences organization. Most of the articles he wrote criticizing Prof. Sander, and others, identified him as a researcher with the Equal Justice Society. (See, for examples, here, here, here, here, and here.)

So what? you ask. Why, you ask, do I bring up Kidder's long association with the Equal Justice Society? For a very good reason: to support my charge of rank hypocrisy. Since Kidder is so concerned now that release of data such as bar passage rates by race "risks stigmatizing African American attorneys," even though no names would be released, perhaps he can point to examples that show when and where he disagreed with his former colleagues and employers who led the fight to defeat Ward Connerly's Racial Privacy Initiative (Proposition 54) in 2003 and jumped with joy when it was defeated.

Equal Justice Society Cheers Overwhelming Defeat of Proposition 54

Organization Played Key Role in Coalition that Downed Divisive Measure

SAN FRANCISCO (October 8, 2003) - The Equal Justice Society played a pivotal role in the broad coalition that decisively defeated Ward Connerly's Proposition 54 on October 7, 2003. The dangerous, divisive measure would have banned the collection of racial and ethnic data by any state agency, thus making it virtually impossible to track and document race discrimination or to bring civil rights suits to court...

EJS Executive Director Eva Paterson was a leading spokesperson for the No on 54 Campaign. More than two years prior to the election, Paterson was part of the core group that launched the Coalition for an Informed California, the official opposition campaign organization. The coalition was an extraordinarily broad and diverse network of supporters including health professionals, classroom teachers, law enforcement, trade unionists, civil rights activists, lawyers, academics and students.

"Connerly's Proposition 54 was about burying information about race that could be used to track racial profiling, challenge discrimination in housing, target effective programs to keep kids in school, and - most importantly, perhaps - provide vital health research and treatment," said Paterson, who debated Connerly numerous times during the campaign, including on National Public Radio.

Even aside from the hypocrisy of supporting the collection of racial data so that it can be used to "challenge discrimination," etc., but opposing access to it by scholars they deem unfriendly, Kidder and friends' objection to Prof. Sander's access to state bar data makes little sense since, as a commenter to this post has pointed out, the California State Bar has already released a good deal of racial data on bar passage rates.

But wait. It gets even better. In trying, without success, to find other examples of Kidder's opposition to the use of personally anonymous racial data in research, I found that he himself has used the very sort of data that he now wishes to deny to Prof. Sander.

The following is from the trial transcript of Grutter v. Bollinger in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. Miranda Massie, an attorney for and one of the leaders of By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), the group that has instigated high school students to riot in favor of preferences, among other offenses (see here, here, here, and here), was examining a testing expert, David White, the founder of a group in Berkeley called Testing For the Public ("Strategies For Standardized Tests In A Diverse World") that believes standardized tests are racist in their effect and that offers LSAT test preparation courses. After White discussed the earlier studies by Joseph Gannon finding racial gaps in LSAT scores, the following exchange occurs (Trial Transcript, pp. 146-147):
Q Have you - has Testing for the Public recently undertaken to update this research?

A ... So it so happened that one of my students, William Kidder, who I was happy he took my LSAT course, then I was happy that he decided he was going to teach the LSAT course for me, I was happy for him that he got into Boalt Hall. I was flattered that he read all my old law review articles, and I was amazed that he took on the burden of actually trying to reproduce Dr. Gannon's study.

He asked Boalt Hall to give him anonymous data from their applicant pool and he reproduced the study that Dr. Joseph Gannon had done twenty years ago. He did the very same matching process, and this time we had the identities of the school available to us, and you can see, Your Honor, they are very famous schools, it's the top five feeder schools to Boalt Hall, UCLA, Berkeley, Stanford, Harvard and Yale.

This data was personally anonymous, but it was less anonymous than the data Prof. Sander has requested from the State Bar of California because it identifies the undergraduate colleges of the otherwise anonymous applicants to Boalt Hall.

Obviously Kidder and friends want racial data collected, but apparently they want it released only to those they can trust to cook it so that it supports their own devotion to racial preferences.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Britain's traditional "Public" (independent) schools still rule the roost

The Leftist British government has had all sorts of schemes to close the social class gap but because the schemes have been based on false theories ("all men are equal" etc.), they have tended to achieve the opposite of what was supposed to happen

Eton College is the top-performing school in the country at A level for the first time in more than 13 years, according to the The Times table of leading schools this year. The school's success also illustrates another trend - the narrowing gap in overall achievement between boys and girls. Although girls continue to outperform boys nationally, the gap is closing and seven of the top ten schools in this year's table of leading schools admit boys. The highest-placed girls-only school is North London Collegiate School, in fourth position.

Eton, like other boys' private schools, tends to score the bulk of points on the scale operated by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) by entering its pupils for more exams than the girls' schools, which earn more of their league table Ucas points from getting grade As.

But the table, which includes independent and state schools, is headed by two private schools that have abandoned A levels altogether in favour of the International Baccalaureate (IB). The return to top form of Eton, the nation's most elite school and alma mater of princes William and Harry, comes under the headship of Tony Little.

Mr Little attributed his school's A-level success to its studiously non-academic approach. "My belief is that if you set up a good pastoral structure and you provide rich extracurricular activities, such as music, sport and theatre, then the academic results will follow. It pleases me that this year of boys who have done so well at A level have also done well outside the classroom." He added that the school's rowing eight won the national schools championship this year, while the theatre group staged a festival of plays written by the boys themselves. "I would be very concerned if people thought we were the kind of institution concerned with academic performance only," Mr Little said.

This approach is in keeping with the ethos of the school, which has never felt the need to be judged on its academic credentials, resting comfortably instead on the knowledge that its very name will bestow on its pupils a unique place in society unmatched by any other educational establishment.

The school's top-performing student this year, however, is unashamedly academic in his approach. Marius Ostrowski, who set a school A-level record with ten A grades, said that he was primarily motivated by "love of the subjects" and "the fact I am good at them".

Although his performance is exceptional, Mr Ostrowski, 18, neatly illustrates the phenomenon noted by exam board chiefs last week of a widening gulf in A-grade achievement between the independent and state sector. Figures released by the Independent Schools Council (ISC) yesterday confirmed this trend, showing that this year for the first time half of all A-level entries in ISC member schools scored an A grade. This compares with 25 per cent nationally.

Sevenoaks School in Kent, which only eight years ago was placed 40th among private schools at A level, broke through the 600 mark on the Ucas points scale with 619.7. It is followed by three other IB schools, headed by Hockerill Anglo-European College in Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire, the top-performing state school in the table. Next are King's College School in Wimbledon, with 529 points, and North London Collegiate for Girls, whose pupils take A levels and the IB, with 500 points.

The success of the IB schools will add pressure on other schools to introduce the qualification instead of or alongside A levels. Students taking the IB study six subjects as well as completing an extended essay and a course in the theory of knowledge.

The only other state school in the top ten is Queen Elizabeth's School, Barnet, a grammar school that has remained with the A level. Despite immense government investment in state schools, for A-level entries in science, technology, maths and languages, the ISC data show the continued dominance of independent schools in these subjects.


Australia: Government indifference to dangerous school bullying

A BOY bullied to the brink of suicide has seen his tormentor follow him to a new school. The boy, now 14, tried to kill himself in the schoolyard when bullying by another Year 5 student became too much. After counselling and psychologist sessions, he enrolled at a secondary school in Mt Eliza. But this week he discovered the bully had changed schools and joined his class. The teenager has penned a plea for help in the hope his plight will be reconsidered by school officials, police and education authorities.

His mother has pulled him out of class and is seeking an intervention order to keep the boys apart if her son returns to the school. She said the situation had brought years of fears flooding back for her son's safety. "When he was at primary school, every time the phone rang I thought it was someone saying he was dead," she said. "That left when the boys went to different schools, but now that feeling is back again."

The boy's mother said the family was seeking legal advice, but felt "hamstrung" by the lack of help it had received. "The police can't help us, the courts won't help us and the school won't do anything - we're helpless," she said. "It seems my son has to be beaten to death before they will actually help him."

In his letter, the boy says: "I want him (the bully) out of my life forever because I don't want what happened in Year 5 and 6 to happen again. "I want him in the past, nowhere near me, not even talking to me." The school this week ruled out any chance of the bully being removed.


Sunday, August 26, 2007


It now seems generally agreed that there was no Hawthorne effect at the Hawthorne plant but we know something close to it as the placebo effect -- possibly the best documented therapeutic effect in medicine. The basic lesson of the Hawthorne study was that any changes made with enthusiasm had some benefit. I doubt that the study abstracted below has shown any more than that. As the improvements noted were small, one hopes so. One hopes that there are other strategies that can do more to help poor blacks than was demonstrated below. High discipline schooling would be an example of an alternative strategy that has worked well in the past

Effects of a School-Based, Early Childhood Intervention on Adult Health and Well-being: A 19-Year Follow-up of Low-Income Families

By Arthur J. Reynolds et al.


Objective: To determine the effects of an established preventive intervention on the health and well-being of an urban cohort in young adulthood.

Design: Follow-up of a nonrandomized alternative-intervention matched-group cohort at age 24 years.

Setting: Chicago, Illinois.

Participants: A total of 1539 low-income participants who enrolled in the Child-Parent Center program in 20 sites or in an alternative kindergarten intervention.

Interventions: The Child-Parent Center program provides school-based educational enrichment and comprehensive family services from preschool to third grade.

Main Outcome Measures: Educational attainment, adult arrest and incarceration, health status and behavior, and economic well-being.

Results: Relative to the comparison group and adjusted for many covariates, Child-Parent Center preschool participants had higher rates of school completion (63.7% vs 71.4%, respectively; P = .01) and attendance in 4-year colleges as well as more years of education. They were more likely to have health insurance coverage (61.5% vs 70.2%, respectively; P = .005). Preschool graduates relative to the comparison group also had lower rates of felony arrests (16.5% vs 21.1%, respectively; P = .02), convictions, incarceration (20.6% vs 25.6%, respectively; P = .03), depressive symptoms (12.8% vs 17.4%, respectively; P=.06), and out-of-home placement. Participation in both preschool and school-age intervention relative to the comparison group was associated with higher rates of full-time employment (42.7% vs 36.4%, respectively; P = .04), higher levels of educational attainment, lower rates of arrests for violent offenses, and lower rates of disability.

Conclusions: Participation in a school-based intervention beginning in preschool was associated with a wide range of positive outcomes. Findings provide evidence that established early education programs can have enduring effects on general well-being into adulthood.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2007;161:730-739

New Florida Hebrew school greeted with suspicion

The new public school at 2620 Hollywood Boulevard stands out despite its plain gray facade. Called the Ben Gamla Charter School, it is run by an Orthodox rabbi, serves kosher lunches and concentrates on teaching Hebrew. About 400 students started classes at Ben Gamla this week amid caustic debate over whether a public school can teach Hebrew without touching Judaism and the unconstitutional side of the church-state divide. The conflict intensified Wednesday, when the Broward County School Board ordered Ben Gamla to suspend Hebrew lessons because its curriculum - the third proposed by the school - referred to a Web site that mentioned religion.

Opponents say that it is impossible to teach Hebrew - and aspects of Jewish culture - outside a religious context, and that Ben Gamla, billed as the nation's first Hebrew-English charter school, violates one of its paramount legal and political boundaries. But supporters say the school is no different from hundreds of others around the country with dual-language programs, whose popularity has soared in ethnically diverse states like Florida. "It's not a religious school," said Peter Deutsch, a former Democratic member of Congress from Florida who started Ben Gamla and hopes to replicate it in Los Angeles, Miami and New York. "South Florida is one of the largest Hebrew-speaking communities in the world outside Israel, so there are lots of really good reasons to try to create a program like this here."

The battle over Ben Gamla parallels one in New York over Khalil Gibran International Academy, a new public school that will focus on Arabic language and culture. But some who have followed the evolution of both schools say Ben Gamla could prove more problematic. As a charter school that receives public money but is exempt from certain rules, they say, it is subject to less oversight. "Charter schools have greater autonomy than a school being run by the Board of Education," said Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. "Let's give it a shot, but let's watch it very, very carefully."

Mr. Deutsch said Ben Gamla, named for a Jewish high priest who established free universal schooling in ancient Israel, received 800 applications in one week this summer. About half of the applications were from adjacent Miami-Dade County, but the school admitted only Broward County residents, ensuring that almost everyone from the county who wanted to attend could do so.

The students are in kindergarten through eighth grade. About 80 percent transferred from other public schools, Mr. Deutsch said, and many, if not most, of the rest came from private Jewish day schools. "I just didn't appreciate the demand at all," said Mr. Deutsch, who splits his time between South Florida and Israel. "If I had 5,000, maybe 10,000 desks available in South Florida today, I think I could fill them."

Under the school's charter agreement, students are to spend one period a day learning Hebrew. They will have a second daily class - math or science, for example - conducted in a mix of Hebrew and English. There are no separate classes on Jewish culture, but Rabbi Adam Siegel, the school's director, said it would come up during Hebrew instruction. Teachers might also do special units on aspects of Jewish culture, he said, like Israeli folk dancing.

School officials have not asked students whether they are Jewish, Rabbi Siegel said, but 37 percent of parents identified Hebrew as their first language. Seventeen percent said Spanish was their primary language, he said, while 5 percent said Russian and 5 percent said French. The school has a handful of black students, including members of a Baptist church that provides their transportation to and from the school.

Mr. Deutsch and Rabbi Siegel, a former Jewish day school director, said their critics were mostly defenders of Jewish day schools that stand to lose students and tuition money. No one has sued to stop the school, but Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, said a lawsuit was possible. "Whether this is going to cross the line or not will depend on what goes on in the classroom," Mr. Simon said. "Will they neutrally and academically address religious topics, or will there be more preaching than teaching going on in the classroom? It is too early to tell."

Rabbi Siegel said the school was proceeding with such extreme caution that even a neutral mention of religion was unlikely. The sign outside Ben Gamla was going to include a Hebrew phrase for "welcome," Rabbi Siegel said, but because the literal translation is "blessed are those who come," he decided against it. "Even basic things, like if there was a page that had a picture of a shofar, I pulled it out," Rabbi Siegel said, referring to the ram's horn used in High Holy Day services. "We went so far overboard, it's crazy."

More here