Sunday, October 26, 2008

Big Labor Does Gay Marriage

Because a teachers' union has other priorities besides education

Here's a pop quiz: Who's donated the most money to an effort in California to defeat Proposition 8, an initiative on the November 4 ballot that would define marriage as between a man and a woman in the state?

A) Gay-advocacy organizations

B) Civil-rights groups

C) The California Teachers Association

If you guessed "C," you understand the nature of modern liberal politics. And if you didn't, perhaps you're wondering what exactly gay marriage has to do with K-12 public education. The high school dropout rate is 1-in-4 in California and 1-in-3 in the Los Angeles public school system, odds that worsen considerably among black and Hispanic children. So you might think the CTA, the state's largest teachers' union, would have other priorities.

Yet last week the union donated $1 million to the "No on Proposition 8" campaign. Of the roughly $3 million raised by opponents of the measure so far, $1.25 million has come from the teachers' union. "What does this cause have to do with education?" said Randy Peart, a public school teacher in San Juan who was contacted by a local television station. "Why not put that money into classrooms, into making a better place for these kids?"

In fact, the CTA and its parent organization, the National Education Association, have used tens of millions of dollars in mandatory teachers' dues to advance all manner of left-wing political causes. And members like Ms. Peart are right to ask questions. In some years barely a third of the NEA's budget has gone toward improving the lot of teachers themselves.

In addition to vigorously fighting school choice and other reforms that benefit underprivileged children but threaten the public education monopoly, the NEA has directly (or via state affiliates) bankrolled Acorn, the Democratic Leadership Council, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and, naturally, the Human Rights Campaign, which lobbies for "lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equal rights." Public school teachers of America, take note. This is your dues money at work.


British exam board told to dumb down High School science exam to make it easier to pass

20% is a "pass" in some British exams. In other words, you pass while having learned virtually nothing about the subject

England's largest exam board has been forced to make its science GCSE easier because it was too difficult for pupils to get a good pass. The Assessment and Qualifications Alliance said it had lowered the mark needed to achieve a grade C in the exam 'under protest'. It had reluctantly agreed to a request from England's new qualifications regulator, Ofqual, to bring it into line with the level set by rival exam boards. This is the first time that an exam board has publicly questioned the standard of one of its own papers. The step also casts serious doubt on Government claims that exam standards are being maintained.

The controversy relates to a new GCSE science exam taken by more than half a million pupils this summer. It had already been attacked for reducing the factual knowledge required. But it has now emerged that in early August, England's three exam boards asked Ofqual to adjudicate after they failed to reach agreement on setting comparable grade boundaries. The Times Educational Supplement claims that rival board Edexcel awarded C grades in a paper for one of its new science courses to pupils scoring only 20 per cent.

On August 7, just two weeks before results were due to be published, Ofqual wrote to AQA asking it to reduce the boundary for the grade C below what the board had calculated was necessary to maintain standards. Ofqual said the 'least problematic solution' was for AQA to bring its grade C into line with the others.

On August 12, Mike Cresswell, AQA director general, replied, saying: 'AQA is extremely reluctant to adopt a standard which is less comparable with the past than it needs to be.' Ofqual wrote back claiming that all the exam boards believed their grade boundaries maintained standards. Dr Cresswell told the TES: 'We would have preferred a solution that promoted standards that were a little more consistent with those of 2007.'

Professor Alan Smithers, of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, said Ofqual was failing in its duty to maintain standards 'by accepting the lowest common denominator on offer'.


No comments: