Saturday, April 26, 2008

Far Left terrorist now teaching teachers

A Chicago native son, Ayers first went into combat with his Weatherman comrades during the "Days of Rage" in 1969, smashing storefront windows along the city's Magnificent Mile and assaulting police officers and city officials. Chicago's mayor at the time was the Democratic boss of bosses, Richard J. Daley. The city's current mayor, Richard M. Daley, has employed Ayers as a teacher trainer for the public schools and consulted him on the city's education-reform plans. Obama's supporters can reasonably ask: If Daley fils can forgive Ayers for his past violence, why should Obama's less consequential contacts with Ayers be a political disqualification? It's hard to disagree. Chicago's liberals have chosen to define deviancy down in Ayers's case, and Obama can't be blamed for that.

What he can be blamed for is not acknowledging that his neighbor has a political agenda that, if successful, would make it impossible to lift academic achievement for disadvantaged children. As I have shown elsewhere in City Journal, Ayers's politics have hardly changed since his Weatherman days. He still boasts about working full-time to bring down American capitalism and imperialism. This time, however, he does it from his tenured perch as Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Illinois, Chicago. Instead of planting bombs in public buildings, Ayers now works to indoctrinate America's future teachers in the revolutionary cause, urging them to pass on the lessons to their public school students.

Indeed, the education department at the University of Illinois is a hotbed for the radical education professoriate. As Ayers puts it in one of his course descriptions, prospective K-12 teachers need to "be aware of the social and moral universe we inhabit and . . . be a teacher capable of hope and struggle, outrage and action, a teacher teaching for social justice and liberation." Ayers's texts on the imperative of social-justice teaching are among the most popular works in the syllabi of the nation's ed schools and teacher-training institutes. One of Ayers's major themes is that the American public school system is nothing but a reflection of capitalist hegemony. Thus, the mission of all progressive teachers is to take back the classrooms and turn them into laboratories of revolutionary change.

Unfortunately, neither Obama nor his critics in the media seem to have a clue about Ayers's current work and his widespread influence in the education schools. In his last debate with Hillary Clinton, Obama referred to Ayers as a "professor of English," an error that the media then repeated. Would that Ayers were just another radical English professor. In that case, his poisonous anti-American teaching would be limited to a few hundred college students in the liberal arts. But through his indoctrination of future K-12 teachers, Ayers has been able to influence what happens in hundreds, perhaps thousands, of classrooms.

Ayers's influence on what is taught in the nation's public schools is likely to grow in the future. Last month, he was elected vice president for curriculum of the 25,000-member American Educational Research Association (AERA), the nation's largest organization of education-school professors and researchers. Ayers won the election handily, and there is no doubt that his fellow education professors knew whom they were voting for. In the short biographical statement distributed to prospective voters beforehand, Ayers listed among his scholarly books Fugitive Days, an unapologetic memoir about his ten years in the Weather Underground. The book includes dramatic accounts of how he bombed the Pentagon and other public buildings.

AERA already does a great deal to advance the social-justice teaching agenda in the nation's schools and has established a Social Justice Division with its own executive director. With Bill Ayers now part of the organization's national leadership, you can be sure that it will encourage even more funding and support for research on how teachers can promote left-wing ideology in the nation's classrooms-and correspondingly less support for research on such mundane subjects as the best methods for teaching underprivileged children to read.

The next time Obama-the candidate who purports to be our next "education president"-discusses education on the campaign trail, it would be nice to hear what he thinks of his Hyde Park neighbor's vision for turning the nation's schools into left-wing indoctrination centers. Indeed, it's an appropriate question for all the presidential candidates.


Hard-Leftist Profs Back Arabic School

Former Weather Underground, SDS, and Communist Party extremists defame critics of the Khalil Gibran International (Arabic-themed) Academy in New York City. According to one of those critics, the group Stop the Madrassa, these parties back ex-KGIA principal Debbie Almontaser (of "intifada"-means-oppression fame) and the failing multicultural school experiment. Many of them are academics, and they join supporters that include cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Among these academics, who have now made their views known to Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a letter, is William Ayers, a '60s militant who helped lead the Weather Underground, which bombed the NYPD headquarters and planned attacks on the Capitol and the Pentagon.

Stop the Madrassa says that "once again, radical Islamist groups and their enablers are attempting to silence American citizens through boycotts, name-calling, threats of lawsuits, defamatory accusations and other forms of intimidation."

Having villians like Ayers engage in calling KGIA critics "a small group of fear-mongering bigots" is likely to hasten the demise of KGIA and stiffen opposition to its existence. As for Stop the Madrassa, it vows it "will not be silenced" and will "stand in solidarity with others who have been defamed or targeted for exposing the dangers of Islamo-fascism and jihadism."


Minnesota: More schools that think they own the kids who go there

Kids penalized for perfectly legal behaviour done thousands of miles away from the school

Two students attending Eagan and Apple Valley high schools were expelled last week after buying souvenir swords during a spring break choir trip in the United Kingdom. A chaperone found the duct-taped boxes that held the swords after the students left the store. The swords were confiscated on the trip and never made it to Minnesota. The students flew home several days early, and the district disciplined the students when they returned.

"The severity of the punishment didn't fit the crime here," said Brad Briggs, 45, an Eagan resident and father of one of the expelled teens. "There was no intent of violence." Briggs spoke at a Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School Board meeting after his son, a 16-year-old sophomore at Eagan High School, was kicked out of classes for the remainder of the school year after buying a $60 set of three samurai swords in York, England. The district stuck to its student safety policy and doled out an expulsion that allows Briggs' son to return to school in the fall.

The other student, a senior, was expelled from the School of Environmental Studies in Apple Valley for the remainder of the school year. At first, she was not going to be allowed to participate in graduation ceremonies. However, after negotiations, school officials agreed to let her graduate with her class. She had bought an 18-inch sword that was a "Lord of the Rings" replica for Father's Day, said her father, Dennis Fischbach.

School districts have grown increasingly vigilant in enforcing student safety policies in the wake of high-profile cases of violence in schools, educators and school officials said. But others - from parents to lawmakers - wonder if the rules go too far at times, with the policies creating unintended consequences.

Briggs said school board members made it clear that student safety is a priority when they approved the expulsion. He just wishes his son - a choir member, Sunday school teacher and Boy Scout leader - could finish the school year with his classmates. "What got him in trouble was being lost in the moment and buying a cool souvenir for his room," said Briggs, at the April 14 board meeting as he tried to control his tears.

Briggs and Fischbach agreed to interviews with the Pioneer Press on the condition their children's names be withheld from this story. The district said it could not discuss the names of the students or details of the expulsions because of privacy laws. "We never expected to be expelled," Briggs' son said. "We're not the sort of students that people would expect to do something like this." "It wasn't like he was buying an M-16," the father said.

The Briggs family is thankful their son was not expelled for the maximum full school year and can return to the district. The students, who are completing their classes with the help of an assigned teacher, said although they disagreed with the decision, they understood why the school handed out the expulsions.

Superintendent John Currie said the district uses its best judgment on a case-by-case basis. "We make the best decision we can to protect the safety of everybody involved," he said. [Bullsh*it!]

Charlie Kyte, executive director of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators, went through a similar situation when he was superintendent in Northfield, Minn. "Schools are in a real Catch-22," he said. A popular student once brought a toy gun to the high school, and Kyte had to expel him. "Had I let him off the hook, the signal would've gone to students that we didn't care about the policy," Kyte said.

A fourth-grader from an Asian immigrant family once brought a big knife, without his parents knowing, for a show-and-tell activity at school because the knife was important in the family, Kyte said. The student was suspended, he said.

Safety policies vary from district to district, as well as state to state. Some choose a zero-tolerance rule, while others have a "no-tolerance" policy that gives school officials more discretion in discipline. For the Eagan district, the state's fourth-largest, having a consistent policy is likely more important because of the large student population, Kyte said.

But the problem with zero tolerance is too many students who simply make a mistake and do not intend to harm anyone get punished, said attorney Amy Goetz, who founded the St. Paul-based School Law Center. She said Minnesota law is vague and lacks a consistent standard, which can lead to students being punished excessively. "Most parents don't know how easy it is for their children to be ousted from schools," Goetz said.

Mike Roseen, chairman of the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School Board, said district officials take expulsions seriously. "The process is fair, and the process is equitable," Roseen said. "And if someone gets caught up in something where they made a mistake, I'm sorry about that. There's a policy we're going to go by."


Friday, April 25, 2008

Federal funding of abstinence-only sex education programs debated

I must say that preaching abstinence seems like pissing into the wind to me -- unless there is religious backing for it, of course

Continued federal funding of abstinence-only sex education in public schools was debated before a House committee Wednesday amid questions about whether the government should sponsor a program that many experts say doesn't work. Most of the 11 witnesses who appeared before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform advocated instead for comprehensive programs that include information about how teenagers can protect themselves from pregnancy or disease if they choose to engage in sexual activity. "The concern that many of us have with abstinence-only programs is the idea that one size fits all," said Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), a member of the panel.

Both sides agreed that abstinence should be the core of any sex education program for teens. Concerns were raised, though, over how much information students should receive about issues such as condom use and methods of protecting against sexually transmitted diseases.

There was also discussion on the role of communities and school districts in deciding what types of sex education young people are exposed to, instead of abstinence being mandated by the government through funding. "I see an ideological discussion versus a reality discussion," said Rep. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles). "We deal with the realities of our diversified communities."

Proponents of abstinence education argued that society should set high standards for teenage sexual behavior. They would prefer, they said, that programs focus on the emotional, physical and societal repercussions of sex outside of marriage. But several witnesses emphasized that despite 11 years of federally funded abstinence programs, at a cost of more than $1.3 billion, teens are still having sex and becoming infected with sexually transmitted diseases. Those who support comprehensive plans said teens should get the information they need to protect themselves. A study released in December by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed a rise in the teenage pregnancy rate in 2006, the first such increase in 15 years. Between 1991 and 2005, the rate dropped 34%.

When the government began funding abstinence-only sex education in 1996, 49 of 50 states signed up for such programs. California did not, and it has never sought such funding. Currently, only 33 states receive federal funds for the programs. "Seventeen states have now said they will not accept funding," said Dr. Georges Benjamin, director of the American Public Health Assn. "For a health department to give up funding is a very important fact." "Some states have looked at the federal requirements as the federal government telling them they had to only do it one way, and they didn't like it," said the committee chairman, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills). The federal government funds sex education programs that align to several requirements, including exclusively teaching that abstinence is the only way to avoid out-of-wedlock pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections and that sexual relations are acceptable only within a married, monogamous relationship.

During the hearing, witnesses provided differing statistics about condom use and the number of sexual partners teens have after completing abstinence-only education programs. There were even questions about whether comprehensive sex-education programs had ever received federal funding. In 2006, the government began funding family planning initiatives that provide contraceptives and information through free community clinics. These clinics are occasionally involved with teaching comprehensive sex education in public schools.

An October 2006 report by the Government Accountability Office found errors in the accuracy of information provided in some abstinence programs. The study was unable to reach any conclusions about the effectiveness of abstinence programs. Another study, released Tuesday by the Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based conservative policy research center, reviewed 15 programs focused on abstinence education and found that in 11 of them, teenage sexual activity was significantly delayed or reduced. Several witnesses at the hearing questioned whether that study had been properly reviewed before publication.


Teacher refuses to give test, gets 2 weeks without pay

He obviously did not want his failure to educate to become known

A Seattle middle school science teacher has been suspended for two weeks without pay for refusing to administer the Washington Assessment of Student Learning in his classroom. Union officials and education leaders say Carl Chew of Nathan Eckstein Middle School might be the first teacher in Washington state to be suspended for refusing to give his students the high-stakes test. "Every year, I said to myself this is the last time I'm going to do this," said Chew, 60, who has been teaching for about eight years and said he has seen kids struggle through the test with few positive results to show for the time and effort expended over two weeks each spring.

He made a decision to stand up for his beliefs as he was walking down the hall to pick up this year's test booklets. Chew said the process was all quite cordial: He wrote a short e-mail to his fellow teachers and school administrators, they set up meetings to hear his story and try to talk him into changing his mind, his principal wrote a letter outlining his insubordination and sent the case on to the school district and the district superintendent wrote back to say he was being suspended. "Our expectation is that teachers will administer any and all state-required tests," said Seattle Public Schools spokesman David Tucker, who could not comment on Chew's punishment because the district does not talk about personnel issues.

Washington state requires its public schools to administer the WASL to students each spring. Beginning with this year's high school graduation class, students must pass the reading and writing portions in order to graduate. Chew went to school on the first day of WASL testing, knowing in advance he would be asked to leave. Now Chew is at home, talking to reporters, responding to supportive e-mails from around the state, and hoping for better weather so he can do some gardening. "I had no idea what to expect at all," said Chew, who estimates he will lose about $1,000 in pay for missing nine days of work.

School officials asked him what he wanted to have happen. Chew said he wanted to be back in the classroom with his students. That, apparently, wasn't an option. "I see this very much as a win for all of us. I'm happy that the school district didn't send me packing," he said. He said he has welcomed e-mails of support from parents and educators from around the state, but has turned down their offers of money. He asked them to make a donation instead to an organization searching for a better alternative for assessing the state's education system. Chew said his wife makes enough money working as a medical doctor and researcher at the University of Washington to keep the bill collectors away.

Neither the Washington State School Directors Association nor the state teachers union could recall any previous cases of teachers refusing to administer the WASL. "I know a lot of teachers have objections," said Mary Lindquist, president of the Washington Education Association. "Every day I get e-mails from our members all over the state who express their deep concern over what this test is doing to their students in the classroom."

Chew said he thinks there's got to be a better way to help students reach their potential. "All we have to do is have faith in these kids and work as hard as we can with these kids and their families and they're going to do fine," he said. [How about he does that himself?]


Australia: Literature classes still to be used for Leftist propaganda

TRADITIONAL literature and Shakespeare have made a comeback in the new draft English syllabus for school seniors, but academics and teachers are not happy. Under the proposed shake-up, Year 12 students will have to study in-depth at least one literary novel and a Shakespeare play, as well as the more trendy multi-media works scorned by some literary academics. The new syllabus is slightly more prescriptive on which books and plays should be studied, but critics say it also champions so-called "critical literacy" which encourages students to read texts through an ideological prism rather than for the simple joy of reading.

The current senior English syllabus allowed texts such as Shakespeare and novels to be "studied at different depths for different purposes" over the course of years 11 and 12. But the proposed new version insisted Year 12 students must study 15 to 20 literary texts in-depth, at least one of which should be a "complete novel" and another a complete drama text, "usually a Shakespearean drama".

The planned new syllabus followed a review of the existing syllabus by University of Queensland executive Dean of Arts, Professor Richard Fotheringham, who is an expert on Shakespeare's works.

Griffith University literary historian Professor Pat Buckridge said the draft syllabus paid "lip service" to structural change in how senior English was taught. "It has made an attempt to accommodate what I assume was the review's recommendations, but it is largely cosmetic," he said. "Appreciating texts is still not assessed. Literary criticism is still not a basic requirement."

The new draft syllabus suggested a range of approaches to texts which teachers could use including the perspective of cultural heritage, values some works emphasised more than others and critical literacy, with its social justice and ideology emphasis.

English Teachers Association of Queensland president Garry Collins described the changes as a "step back in time". "It seems to be saying you can choose any approach you like and away you go," he said. "Texts do not exist in a vacuum." Mr Collins said there should be a moratorium on any changes until current reviews were finished and national plans outlined.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Atlanta Teacher Attacked by Student's Mom

(Atlanta, Georgia) A 44-year-old mother, Georgia Thornton, and her 17-year-old daughter, Sequita Thornton, have been arrested for brutally attacking the daughter's school teacher, Felecia Williams, 40. Both mother and daughter (pics) have been charged with battery.

The incident reportedly occurred on February 28 at Southside High School.
On the day of the attack, Williams said the pair walked into her classroom during first period and began arguing about a book. Williams asked them to leave, but the mother pushed past her and grabbed a book off her desk, the teacher said.

When Williams, 40, tried to get the book back, the mother pulled the teacher's hair and threw her to the ground, the police report said. Then the mother and daughter stomped on the teacher, according to the report.

"She was swinging me by my hair, and my shoes flew off my feet," Williams said. "Then I was on the ground, and they were both pounding on me. I was terrified. So were my students."

Georgia Thornton disputed the facts in the police report Tuesday and said Williams hit her daughter on the day of the incident. Thornton said she had been meeting with Williams because the teacher wouldn't give her daughter the correct grade.

"That teacher, she had it in for my daughter," Thornton said. "I raised my daughter not to disrespect adults, so I took care of this situation. Yes, I hit her. I do what I have to do to protect my child at all costs."
Wow. Georgia Thornton is a thug and she is teaching her daughter to be the same.

What happens next is unclear. The teacher is at home nursing her injuries. The school system has been silent since there is the possibility of lawsuits. The Thorntons await prosecution.
The Real Cost of Public Schools

We're often told that public schools are underfunded. In the District, the spending figure cited most commonly is $8,322 per child, but total spending is close to $25,000 per child -- on par with tuition at Sidwell Friends, the private school Chelsea Clinton attended in the 1990s.

What accounts for the nearly threefold difference in these numbers? The commonly cited figure counts only part of the local operating budget. To calculate total spending, we have to add up all sources of funding for education from kindergarten through 12th grade, excluding spending on charter schools and higher education. For the current school year, the local operating budget is $831 million, including relevant expenses such as the teacher retirement fund. The capital budget is $218 million. The District receives about $85.5 million in federal funding. And the D.C. Council contributes an extra $81 million. Divide all that by the 49,422 students enrolled (for the 2007-08 year) and you end up with about $24,600 per child.

For comparison, total per pupil spending at D.C. area private schools -- among the most upscale in the nation -- averages about $10,000 less. For most private schools, the difference is even greater.

So why force most D.C. children into often dilapidated and underperforming public schools when we could easily offer them a choice of private schools? Some would argue that private schools couldn't or wouldn't serve the District's special education students, at least not affordably. Not so.

Consider Florida's McKay Scholarship program, which allows parents to pull their special-needs children out of the public schools and place them in private schools of their choosing. Parental satisfaction with McKay is stratospheric, the program serves twice as many children with disabilities as the D.C. public schools do, and the average scholarship offered in 2006-'07 was just $7,206. The biggest scholarship awarded was $21,907 -- still less than the average per-pupil spending in D.C. public schools. If Florida can satisfy the parents of special-needs children at such a reasonable cost, why can't the District? The answer, of course, is that it could.

D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee is energetic and motivated, and State Superintendent of Education Deborah Gist offers helpful answers to work e-mails at 10 p.m. on Sundays. These are dedicated leaders, and as long as there are government-operated schools in Washington, we're lucky to have them at the helm. But we are squandering their talent by asking them to manage a bureaucracy so Byzantine it would give Rube Goldberg an aneurysm.

The purpose of public education is to ensure universal access to good schools, to prepare children for success in private life and participation in public life, and, we hope, to build tolerant, harmonious communities.

Empowering every parent with a choice of independent schools would advance all those goals. Does anyone worry that Chelsea Clinton will become a threat to society because she attended a private school? Was Barack Obama unprepared for public life because of his time in a Catholic school? The District should give every child the educational opportunities now enjoyed only by the elite.


Cold War on Campus

By Malcolm A. Kline

The latest survey on academic bias has sent academics into their usual state of denial despite evidence of same that frequently stares them right in the face. "Taken together, 40 percent of the Americans in the survey said professors often use their classrooms as political platforms," Robin Wilson of the Chronicle of Higher Education reported on April 4th of a Gallup poll. "When that many Americans think this happens often, higher ed has a problem," says S. Robert Lichter, director of its Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University. Higher ed doesn't feel that way:
"The more you have less real experience on a campus, the more likely you might be to buy this ambient background belief," Jeremy D. Mayer, director of the master's program in public policy at George Mason says.

"The farther away you are from academe, the more worried you are about what goes on," Harvard sociologist Neil R. Gross says.

Actually, proximity may prove correct a maxim of author M. Stanton Evans. He outlines what he calls "Evans' law of inadequate paranoia": "No matter how bad you think things are, they're worse." "In America, particularly on college campuses, memorials to Communists have appeared with alarming frequency every few years," my predecessor, Dan Flynn wrote in The American Spectator on April 4. "San Francisco is not alone in its veneration of people who deserve scorn and not applause." "The University of Washington, which also memorializes American veterans of the Spanish Civil War, boasts a Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies and accompanying Harry Bridges Chair of Labor Studies." As it happens, I bonded with a couple of Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade (VALB) in the early 1980s.

The urban legend on the VALB is that they gallantly fought a proxy war against one of Hitler's prot,g,s in Spain when it wasn't cool to do so. The actual government files on the VALB-American and Russian-show that they didn't make a move that wasn't directed by communist dictator Josef Stalin's Soviet government. I met one of the veterans-Steve Nelson-when the VALB was raising money to provide ambulances to the Marxist Sandinista government in Nicaragua which was then fending off a challenge from the anti-communist Contra rebels there. Incidentally, the FBI kept tabs on Nelson during World War II.

"The tradecraft of Soviet intelligence personnel, the well-honed Communist Party tradition of conspiracy, and a lack of concern in the [Frankllin D.] Roosevelt administration towards Soviet spying meant that little of this growing Soviet intelligence web was found except by accident in the opening years of the war," FBI historian John F. Fox, Jr. , said in a speech in 2005. "But by 1943 the FBI was beginning to sense the outlines of the Soviet effort."

"Surveillance of Communist functionary Steve Nelson revealed the infiltration of the Manhattan project and alerted the FBI to the role that Soviet diplomats played in gathering intelligence information sparking the COMRAP or Comintern Apparatus Case." At around the same time that I met Nelson, doing his errand for the Sandinistas (1984), I talked to Moe Fishman, then at the VALB headquarters in New York. Fishman gave me a Marxist tour of then-recent American history. "Ho Chi Minh was the George Washington of his country," he told me of the communist dictator U. S. forces opposed in Vietnam.

By the way, Herb Romerstein, a former investigator for the U. S. House Committee on UnAmerican Activities, learned on a visit to the archives of the Communist International in Moscow what really happened to the Americans in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade who did not come back. They were not killed in combat, as the veterans and their defenders allege, but shot as deserters, Romerstein showed in his monograph Heroic Victims, which was published by Accuracy in Media.

As for Bridges, as Flynn notes, "During the Nazi-Soviet Pact, he followed Stalin's line and belittled Franklin Roosevelt." "When Hitler turned on his erstwhile ally, Bridges' support for Roosevelt (now an ally of the Soviet Union's fight against Nazi Germany) became so complete that he urged unions to forbid strikes during the war. Bridges didn't serve labor. Labor served him, and his cause."


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

CA Senate panel OKs bill to protect journalism teachers

A state Senate committee has approved a San Francisco lawmaker's proposed legal protections for high school and college journalism teachers after hearing instructors' complaints of retaliation for hard-hitting articles in student newspapers. "Allowing a school administration to censor in any way is contrary to the democratic process and the ability of a student newspaper to serve as the watchdog," Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, said after the Judiciary Committee sent his bill to the Senate floor Tuesday.

The measure, SB1370, would prohibit school officials from punishing teachers for allowing students to publish articles that are covered by California's guarantee of freedom of the press on campus. Teacher and student organizations and labor unions support the bill, while the Association of California School Administrators opposes it.

Despite a 1988 U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing teachers and administrators to censor public school newspapers and remove articles they find objectionable, California laws protect students' right to publish articles as long as they are not libelous, obscene, or likely to lead to lawbreaking or disorder. But Yee says the protections have been undermined by retaliation against journalism teachers.

One case involved Teri Hu, who said she was removed as adviser for the Voice newspaper at Irvington High in Fremont at the end of the 2004 school year. Hu, who had received good evaluations in her three years as faculty adviser, said Wednesday that the school's stated reason for her removal - that her workload was too heavy - was transparently false, and that the real reason was administration anger at two articles her students had written. One of those articles questioned the school's compliance with district policy on teaching assistants, and the other reported on a teacher who allegedly told a student to "go back where you came from." "This is a gaping loophole in student press protection laws in California," said Hu, who now teaches at another school in the district and whose statement was presented to the Senate committee.

The school's principal, Pete Murchison, said he couldn't discuss the circumstances of Hu's departure but denied that school officials had retaliated against her or tried to censor newspaper articles. "I'll stand on my record any day with anybody on free speech," declared Murchison, who said he would support legislation like Yee's if censorship was documented in schools.

Yee presented statements from other teachers, including a Los Angeles instructor who said he had been dismissed as the newspaper adviser after an editorial that criticized school searches, and a Garden Grove (Orange County) teacher who said her principal admitted removing her from the newspaper because of student editorials.

Another teacher, Katharine Swan, who retired in 2006 after 35 years in San Francisco schools, said she had encountered several instances of attempted censorship. At one point, she said, Mission High School Principal Ted Alfaro claimed the authority to review all newspaper articles before publication. Alfaro said at the time that he supported the students and was just trying to encourage them to write positive stories. Swan said she was able to fend off Alfaro's effort to screen the articles, only to lose her post as journalism adviser when Mission's staff was overhauled in a 1997 reconstitution ordered by the district because of low performance. Alfaro made it clear that she shouldn't reapply, she said.

Yee's bill, had it been in effect, might not have saved her job, but Swan said it would help others. "Anything that supports journalism teachers gives you a feeling that you can give the kids the power to write honestly and truthfully," she said.


Struggle Si, Surrender No!

The leading article in the latest issue of The Patriot Returns was one of the funniest pieces I've read in a long time. The faculty union of the City University of New York (CUNY), the Professional Staff Congress (PSC) is at it once again, and TPR satirizes the revolutionary zeal of the leadership and their myriad political crusades, this time standing in solidarity with the Mexican teachers on strike in Oaxaca.

This current issue demonstrates that the TPR newsletter hasn't lost its satirical cutting edge. Since last September the Editor, Dr. Sharad Karkhanis has been fighting a $2 million defamation lawsuit filed against him for daring to express disapproval of PSC-CUNY union official Susan O'Malley's attempts to find teaching jobs for convicted terrorists within the CUNY system. It's a sign that TPR is still chock-full of its acclaimed spit and vinegar and Dr. Karkhanis is prepared to go the distance to fight a frivolous lawsuit that aims to silence him and shut down TPR, the only insider's watchdog of the dangerous antics of the PSC.

There has been no response from the O'Malley camp since early March, when Karkhanis's attorneys filed an answer to all accusations in the formal legal complaint, O'Malley v. Karkhanis denying every single charge and concluding that O'Malley has no case whatsoever. Dr. Karkhanis resolutely denies having published any material in TPR that was defamatory and refutes the claims that O'Malley has suffered damages and her reputation has been harmed. The answer to O'Malley's complaint states:
The Defendants' utterances here at issue are expressions of opinion that pursuant to the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States are not actionable. The defendant's utterances here at issue are legally protected satire.

The publication of political satire is a First Amendment right. Criticism of Susan O'Malley, a public official who has been trying to place terrorists on the CUNY payroll, is a free speech issue in a free market of ideas and opinions, not slander or defamation of character. American colleges have become so backward that Manhattan Institute senior fellow, Abigail Thernstrom lamented, they have become "islands of repression in a sea of freedom." Now they seek to utilize the courts to legalize their repressive status quo in order to permanently silence critics and watchdogs. In order to continue the fight until all the charges of defamation are dropped, friends of Dr. Karkhanis have set up a legal defense fund in the name of The Patriot Returns, Inc. to help defray the cost of current legal bills and to fight all the way up to the Supreme Court if necessary. They ask for your donations to help fight the battle for free speech not only for Dr. Karkhanis, but other faculty and students whose First Amendment rights are likewise being infringed by repressive campuses.

The Patriot Returns has been doggedly exposing the fanaticism of a PSC union leadership more absorbed with fomenting workers revolution against capitalism and American imperialism, than securing a good contract for the membership, and for his exemplary work, Dr. Karkhanis is being sued for $2 million. Their irregular behavior has recently manifested in numerous PSC political resolutions proposed at the 2008 NYSUT Representative Assembly opposing the "U.S. Policy of Permanent and `Preemptive' War," supporting the "Jena 6," extending "Solidarity to Peruvian Teachers," opposing "U.S. Expansion of the War into Iran," and scarcely any resolutions advancing the welfare and working conditions of the CUNY faculty membership.

The PSC has introduced resolutions in support of striking teachers in Oaxaca, Mexico at the bi-annual American Federation of Teachers convention in Boston and the 2006 PSC Delegate Assembly, which were passed without dissent. PSC also organized a couple of demonstrations at the Mexican Consulate in Manhattan to show solidarity with their comrades in Oaxaca. They widely promoted rallies on campus for their "brothers and sisters" in Oaxaca and more recently the militant striking teachers in Puerto Rico. They made CUNY campuses their base of operations, organized faculty and students and employed such tactics as "tabling, roving the cafeteria, faculty distributing flyers to their classes, getting signatures and donations in department meetings" in order to build a mass movement for international worker's struggles.

The hard work of the PSC on behalf of international striking teachers has garnered laudatory reviews on the pages of Challenge, the revolutionary communist blog of the Progressive Labor Party (PLP) which boasts that it will smash capitalism through armed revolution.

PLP is now teaming up with the PSC, bringing the lessons home to CUNY campuses of the ongoing struggle against capitalism taught by the striking teachers in Oaxaca and Puerto Rico. With their rallying cry, "­Lucha s¡! ­Entrega no!" (Struggle yes, surrender no!) and enthusiastic support from the PSC, they have organized recent CUNY PLP forums, and are planning future conferences, rallies and a Party newsletter at CUNY, in order to advance their violent communist objectives and win new believers. Heaping praise on the PSC, they show their affection to their dear comrades in arms:
comrades in the PSC know we must intensify our efforts amid these kinds of struggles to build the Party itself at CUNY. The Party is the essential weapon to win, not reform demands to be reversed by capitalists' state power, but win all workers' liberation - communism.

We must not allow this frivolous lawsuit to shut down political speech and silence TPR, or for that matter any other free press watchdog committed to exposing the dangerous machinations of the PCS on CUNY campuses.

More here

Australia: Illiteracy blamed for shortage of skills

The high level of illiteracy is contributing to Australia's dramatic skill shortage, the nation's key small business group says. The Council of Small Business of Australia chief executive Tony Steven said data which showed almost half of the adult population had difficulty with literacy and numeracy was a "major impediment" to employment. "This is a matter that deserves urgent attention to address a presently unsatisfactory situation," he said. "Inadequate literacy and numeracy skills mean that even in a time of severe skill shortage many job applicants have to be rejected."

According to the ABS Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey 2006, 45.2 per cent of South Australians aged 15 to 74 have skills below the basic level required to deal with everyday life. The survey found that 45.2 per cent have difficulty in literacy such as reading newspapers, 45.9 per cent have difficulty with document literacy such as bus timetables and 45.9 per cent have difficulty with simple mathematics. Mr Steven said the burden of this deficiency would be felt by the individual and by their family, their community and eventually by the state.

"Low levels of literacy mean that a person does not have the ability to gain adequate knowledge about any subject or matter and therefore they will always be deficient in performance in all aspects of their life," he said.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A mute comment on American history education

Presumably the guy behind this sign is more aware and involved than most but nobody told him about 1936.

American schools are mini police states

Somehow I missed this news item, and maybe you did, too. Then again, perhaps the mainstream media took pains to keep this one quiet, hoping the fire wouldn't hit the fan. It seems that in 2003 an honor student in Arizona at Safford Middle School named Savana Redding, an eighth-grader with no disciplinary record, was strip-searched - and I mean really strip-searched, down to the crotch of her panties - in pursuit of nonprescription ibuprofen tablets. Ibuprofen is the equivalent of the pain-relieving ingredient in Advil, Motrin, etc., and never known to provide a "high" or to be addictive. Two such pills (the typical dosage) supposedly equal "prescription strength" - providing school authorities just enough wiggle room to go to extremes.

Today, under the absurd "no tolerance" drug policies in schools, no type of medication, from aspirin to Alka-Seltzer and Pepto-Bismol, is allowed unless it is given to the school nurse by a parent, and then dispensed by the nurse to the student. In other words, it is easier for a child to secure an abortion referral from a K-12 educational facility than it is to relieve a headache. Like the aggravations suffered by law-abiding passengers at airports in the name of terrorism, schoolchildren are deemed automatically guilty until proven innocent, and "probable cause" does not apply.

The strip-search story might have ended there, but for the fact that Savana's case went to court (Redding v. Safford Unified School District) and two of the three-judge panel on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Los Angeles (the same "circus court" that ruled against California homeschoolers in March) decided that the degrading search did not violate the girl's Fourth Amendment rights - even though Savana's mother was not alerted, the pupil had a stellar record and the U.S. Supreme Court had already held that searching any student's person is constitutional only if "justified at its inception" and "reasonably related in scope to the circumstances which justified the interference.."

All the school had in this case was a flimsy allegation from another girl caught with such pills in her pocket (not her panties). Apparently, she was anxious to provide a source for the medication that did not include her buying them or bringing them from home. So, she offered another girl's name, Savana Redding. At stake now is a decision by the full court as to whether to overturn this ridiculous decision.

Given this court's decade-long history of bizarre rulings, I wonder how many of the zealous judges were busy getting "high with a little help from their friends" during the flower-child era on 1960's-era college campuses. Well, never mind. In an age when America's top officials are caught up in prostitution rings (New York Governor Eliot Spitzer); adulterous affairs (New York Governor David A. Paterson, former President Bill Clinton); and illegal intoxicants (D.C. Mayor and Councilman-for-life Marion Barry); etc., some are clearly "more equal than others."

Savana indicated she was not merely humiliated, but downright "scared" to object, because she feared worse if she didn't comply. She said she kept her head down so they wouldn't see her cry. But here's the clincher: The principal said he "didn't think the strip search was a big deal"-because "they didn't find anything."

As most of us are aware since Columbine, kids with histories of troublemaking, outlandish dress, terrible classroom behavior and all sorts of offenses grace our nation's classrooms, to the detriment of average students. Good parents hope that despite the education establishment's ongoing tolerance of culture rot, anti-religion bias, and acquiescence on everything from gay clubs to "green" hysteria, their children will actually learn something. What they are learning, however, is to accept and even endorse a police state. When individuals feel they must display their private parts for fear of incurring the wrath of government officials (including school administrators), a police state is already in the offing.

Schools disseminate intimate questionnaires with the expectation that pupils will divulge disparaging tidbits about their relatives. Some schools, as happened in Pennsylvania, give sixth-grade girls pro-forma genital exams in an effort to drum up "evidence" of pervasive sexual abuse by parents.

Whereas schools used to discourage "tattling," today they encourage students to report on each other, even while denigrating the individual in favor of the collective. Surreptitious identification methods ensure that youngsters' opinions are tracked and monitored over time for political correctness, then linked with other potentially damaging family information, should an occasion arise down the road when it becomes "necessary" to demean a troublesome individual once he or she reaches adulthood.

All this has been going on for some 25 years - so long that teachers, principals and superintendents under the age of 50 have little or no memory of a time when privacy actually was important and humiliation was unacceptable.


Australia: Government school ignores bullying

A FOURTEEN-year-old boy says he fears being attacked every day he goes to school after being kicked in the groin, punched in the head and suffering broken ribs. Callum Goold has been taken by ambulance to hospital three times this year - twice after alleged attacks by older students and once after an epileptic fit possibly triggered by stress. Now the Craigieburn Secondary College student's parents are threatening to sue his school. That comes two months after another student took out a court order out against classmates at the college, saying they were making his life a misery.

The Goold family says the school must crack down on bullies so Callum can continue studying there. The year 9 student said he was first attacked in December while at school, resulting in broken ribs. Just before Easter, he said, he was walking across the oval when he was struck in the head twice in an unprovoked attack. He said he lay unconscious for several minutes and received no help from teachers, instead having to drag himself to reception, where he collapsed and an ambulance was called. Then last Tuesday he said he was kicked twice in the testicles. His doctor advised his parents to call the police following the latest alleged attack.

Worried parents Richard and Belinda Goold said yesterday "enough is enough". "One of these days he's going to get seriously hurt," Mrs Goold said. Mr Goold said they had told the school of their worries about their son's safety, but nothing was done. They would sue the school if action was not taken to stop bullying.

Callum said increased stress caused him to have more epileptic seizures than he had previously and he feared long-term damage from the attacks. "I'm scared of what's going to happen to me if they keep hitting me in the head," he said. Craigieburn Secondary College assistant principal Rob Chisholm said: "What happened to Callum had nothing to do with our policies."


Childcare craziness in Australia

Outlining his requirements of the gathering of Australia's so-called best and brightest Rudd said he wanted one big policy idea from each of the sub-groups, along with three others, one of which would have to be at "no cost, or negligible cost".... But somewhere in the halls of the parliament over the weekend, someone surely must have picked up the irony and it was this; one of the most expensive options on the table at the summit was the proposal for universal one-stop-shop early childcare, immunisation and learning centres for every child up to five years of age by 2020. And who put this on the table? Rudd. And while he was demanding budget frugality from his chosen policy mountain climbers, he floated his shiny thought bubble without even bothering to cost it.

Rudd may not have. But others have. One of the interesting features about the immediate post-election period that heralds a new government is that you have senior bureaucrats churned out of the previous system but still with access to relevant economic and policy data. One of them contacted me last week and presented what could easily pass as Treasury's cabinet submission on Rudd's thought bubble on universal early childcare centres.

Here's the brutal bureaucratic estimation of Rudd's bright idea: "Effectively the Prime Minister's plan is to upgrade the present capacity to deliver the extra services and add the capacity for those children aged 0 to five years not presently in the system. "Assumptions: A 100-place childcare centre costs about $2 million in capital funding and capital costs increase by about 10 per cent a year. Present centres are not equipped to support the additional healthcare needs of these one-stop-shops. That would therefore require increased capital and recurrent costs.

"There are about 500,000 children in 'approved' formal care now aged 0 to four inclusive. This is about 36percent of the total pre-school aged population in formal approved childcare. Only 6per cent of 0-year-olds are in formal care, 28 per cent of one-year-olds, 45 per cent of two-year-olds, 54per cent of three-year-olds, 50 per cent of four-year-olds and 29 per cent of five-year-olds. At five years of age many children will not be in child care but at school. "In order to make child care in these age brackets universally accessible and guaranteed the Government will have to double present capacity rather than provide a guaranteed place for all 1.3 million 0 to five-year-olds. This option will pick up those not in care at all but who will be drawn into the system, and those in care but not in formal care (for example, grandparents-family).

"Low-cost universal child care will therefore have the effect of simply shifting the children of non-working parents from parental and informal care to formal care most likely on a part-time basis. "There will only be marginal increases in female workforce participation so the capacity to pay of the new families will be lower than the present family population. Based on this there is a need to factor in up-front capital costs to improve existing facilities to account for the proposed new co-located health services and to build new capacity for the extra inflow of children. This increases the demand for capacity twofold and effectively doubles the recurrent costs.

"Assuming no consolidation, because these are new centres, this will require additional capital again to simply move places from their present location to the new proposed one-stop-shop locations. "Assume the extra places at 15 hours per week (where current usage averages 22 hours per week). The conclusion: to realistically offer universal access at low cost would require extra capacity for up to 500,000 places at 15 hours per week. In conservative budget terms this means an extra 300,000 children would come into the system. "There are 4400 long day care centres (providers) presently but many of those are small and would require massive upgrades. Present home-based family day care will be made redundant because they will not be able to offer the 'one-stop-shop' requirement.

"On these assumptions the final estimate of costs is this; on capital alone the Prime Minister's proposal would require 4400 services requiring upgrades at an average of $400,000 -- approximately $2 billion. "An estimated 100 additional centres (based on 100 place centres offering 300 children 15 hours per week and operating at 75 per cent capacity, which is an industry optimal benchmark) at $2.5 million each equals $2.5billion. "This equates to an estimated $3billion $4 billion in capital costs.

"The costs of child care, however, are not capital, but recurrent. The Government presently spends $11 billion over four years in this area. The new capacity will be higher in proportion for pre-school (higher cost education content) and baby (higher care cost). "Providing subsidies for 300,000 new children at low parental contribution can reasonably be assumed to cost 60per cent of the present recurrent funding (that is, a proportionate per capita on cost). In round terms, assume 60 per cent of $11 billion over four years is $6.6 billion. That equals $5 billion to $7 billion. "That leads to an estimate of $8billion to $11 billion over four years in present dollars. In effect, almost doubling the present investment in child care from $11 billion to up to $22billion over four years for the start of the program."

In the context of a tough budget environment, Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner was in the audience for Rudd's opening speech, nodding at the notion of no-cost ideas. Reading this, though, he'll weep. And so he should.


Monday, April 21, 2008

McCain on education

Later this spring, say McCain aides, the senator will start trickling out his education positions - many of them holdovers from his last run - and proposals will include empowering parents by offering more school choice. He'll back No Child Left Behind as a bare-bones accountability system that needs tweaking, and he'll talk up independent education reforms such as Teach for America. It appears he will sidestep issues, such as dramatically ramping up federal assistance for state preschool programs, promoted big-time by the Obama and Clinton campaigns.

All of this buttresses the conventional wisdom that education will be a back burner issue for McCain, lagging far behind terrorism and the economy, a notion not disputed by his aides. George W. Bush, they say, was able to lean on education as a top issue in his 2000 campaign because the country was not at war and the economy was relatively stable.

That conventional wisdom, however, may get challenged in two ways. First, while McCain has consulted on education with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, his key, close-to-the-ground adviser is likely to be Lisa Graham Keegan, the former state schools superintendent in Arizona.

She is a close friend of McCain who shook up Arizona's education system while serving as superintendent and then gained a national - but controversial - reputation with the Education Leaders Council, a national organization of conservative school reformers. With her blond good looks and disarming candor, Keegan has what the TV world dubs a high "Q" factor, that indefinable something that makes people pay attention.

That said, there's another side to Keegan. Her relentless push in Arizona to launch charter schools and win tax credits for private school tuition make her a polarizing figure in Arizona education. If you're a presidential candidate planning to put education on the back burner, you don't pick Lisa Graham Keegan as your adviser. Even if education remains a minor issue for McCain during the campaign, a Department of Education run by Keegan could make the tenure of the current secretary, Margaret Spellings, look like a backwater.

More here

100,000 jobs vacant in Louisiana

And the unemployed are not educated enough to fill them

Despite having about 100,000 job openings in the state, many residents do not have the proper training or education to fill those positions, Labor Secretary Tim Barfield said Monday. Legislators are considering bills to overhaul the state Labor Department, to coordinate worker training programs across the state, and to better align training with available jobs.

Before starting the regular session last week, Gov. Bobby Jindal said about 40 percent of the state's population over age 16 is unemployed or underemployed. "Educational attainment, or lack of attainment, keeps a significant amount of potential employees unemployed or underemployed," Barfield told the Baton Rouge Press Club.

House Bill 1104 would restructure the Department of Labor, changing its name to the Louisiana Workforce Commission and expanding its scope to coordinate many of the job training and employment-related educational programs in the state. Barfield said the issue does not rest on the Department of Labor alone but on the integration of services between several other state agencies including the Department of Economic Development, Department of Corrections and Department of Social Services. "The goal here is to have that one-door principle that we've all heard so much about," Barfield said.

The 84-page bill, sponsored by House Speaker Jim Tucker, R-Terrytown, would continue the department's responsibilities of doling out unemployment benefits and managing other federal labor programs. But it also would give regional boards jurisdiction over federal worker training dollars. The measure would set up a work-force investment council to provide job market information, as well as create an automated system to match employers and job seekers. It would also create a committee to forecast the anticipated demand for jobs by occupation and industry to show what training is needed for workers. "It's doing a better job of connecting the dots," Barfield said.

The Senate Labor Committee plans to hold a hearing on the proposal Thursday, and Barfield said the House Labor Committee will hold a second hearing on the bill next week. Two more bills before the Legislature this session would create a $10 million fund to immediately provide training for high-demand jobs.

Jindal also wants to rework state spending on the Louisiana Community and Technical College System to allocate dollars per student based on the type of training they will receive. Barfield said programs offered through the system should be more aligned with industry needs, and funding should be based on the demand in the work force and cost of training. The idea needs approval from the Board of Regents, which oversees public colleges in Louisiana, not the Legislature. It is expected to be considered in May or June by the board.


'Moral panic' and 'policy hysteria' harming British primary schools

Schoolchildren are reduced to the status of 'targets'

Primary school education has been damaged by "prescriptive state nationalisation", which has taken all the fun out of children's learning, the biggest review of primary education in 40 years has concluded. A mixture of "moral panic", "policy hysteria" and "fad theory" has had a devastating effect on primary schools in England, according to the latest reports of the Cambridge University-led Primary Review. The three reports published today examining teacher professionalism, training and leadership followed 22 earlier reports that have delivered a damning indictment of the Government's record on primary education.

Children had been reduced to the status of "targets and outputs" in a school system ruled by political "whim", researchers from Manchester Metropolitan University said. Their report, part of the ongoing Primary Review, warned that teachers had been de-skilled and demoralised by the constant Government interference and that the relentless focus on targets had created an "impersonal" system. The study, by Liz Jones, Andy Pickard and Ian Stronach at Manchester Metropolitan University, concluded that many older teachers felt demoralised by lack of freedom to run their own lessons in the face of government "micro-management of their work".

Centralised control over primary education has increased in the past 15 years as ministers introduced new targets, more testing and league tables. Initiative overload, hysterical response to media scares and scapegoating of schools and teachers had become "a permanent feature of contemporary modernisation by New Labour", the study warned.

A second study, on teacher training, for the Primary Review warned that ministers' strict control of training courses had created a "culture of compliance" among teachers and pupils. The report, by Olwen McNamara and Rosemary Webb at Manchester University and Mark Brundrett from Liverpool John Moores University, warned that successive governments had "progressively increased prescription and control", which had left schools subject to "political whim".

The third report, by Hilary Burgess, from the Open University, examining staffing reforms, warned that children with special needs were missing out on time with their class teacher because they were being left in the care of classroom assistants.

The Liberal Democrats accused the Government of treating teachers like robots. David Laws, their education spokesman, said: "There is a danger of the Government squeezing the life out of education and preparing teachers in a robotic way to deliver a very prescriptive curriculum." Andrew Adonis, the Schools minister, defended the Government's record. He said: "We make no apology for policies which are delivering the highest standards ever."

The problem areas

* A narrowing of the curriculum - primary schools are increasingly focusing on literacy and numeracy to boost their league table positions but at the expense of children's wider education. "The remorseless pursuit of grades had unhealthy effects on other educational goals."

* Loss of self esteem of pupils and teachers - pupils are being demoralised by the "impersonal" education system with its excessive focus on targets and tests. Teachers, particularly older staff, feel deskilled by government "micromanagement" of their lessons. "The reconstruction of the child in terms of targets and outputs... has impersonalised education in ways that are now being recognised."

* A reduction in creative pedagogy - government interference in teacher training has led to increased focus on preparing teachers to deliver government strategies rather than developing them as thinking professionals. Teachers are under increasing pressure from politicians and the public to be more accountable and raise standards. "There is evidence teachers are being deskilled and their work intensified."


Sunday, April 20, 2008

NH home-School Parents Speak Out Against Oversight Bill

Parents Say Bill Would Be Meddling, Ineffective

Parents of home-schooled children asked lawmakers Tuesday to reject a proposal to increase state oversight of what they teach. A bill being considered by a House committee would require parents to submit a one-page plan for a home-school student's first year of education. Supporters said it's intended to keep children from falling through the cracks. "To have that initial year be a planning stage, it allows communication between the district and the parents," said Roberta Tenney of the Department of Education.

But home-school parents said the paperwork would deter parents from considering home schooling. "It ends up being intimidating to them so that many people who would start home schools just choose not to start," said Chris Hamilton of the Home Education Advisory Council.

Brenda Albano has a family of seven and has taught home school for the last 11 years. She and her family testified against the proposal. "The home-school system works because it is based on people who individually care for their children," Albano said. The Albano family said the state's paperwork would be a needless intrusion that borders on meddling. The bill's sponsors said it is only intended as a safeguard, but a number of House committee members took a skeptical view.

"We'll see what the committee thinks," said Rep. Pamela Price, R-Nashua. "I don't think it's necessary and hope my colleagues will recognize that." While some criticized bill as compromising the independence of home-schoolers, others said it wouldn't do anything at all. Parents said they could easily print a generic curriculum off the Internet and hand that in with no real consequences.


Many Mass. High school graduates unprepared for college

Thousands need remedial classes, are dropout risks

Thousands of Massachusetts public high school graduates arrive at college unprepared for even the most basic math and English classes, forcing them to take remedial courses that discourage many from staying in school, according to a statewide study released yesterday. The problem is particularly acute in urban districts and vocational schools, according to the first-of-its kind study. At three high schools in Boston and two in Worcester, at least 70 percent of students were forced to take at least one remedial class because they scored poorly on a college placement test.

The study raises concern that the state's public schools are not doing enough to prepare all of their students for college, despite years of overhauls and large infusions of money. The findings are also worrisome because students who take remedial courses, which do not count toward a degree, are far more likely to drop out of college, often without the skills needed to land a good job. That has broad implications for the state's workforce, economy, and social mobility. The report, conducted jointly by the state Departments of Elementary and Secondary Education and Higher Education, found that the problem crossed socioeconomic lines. One third of high school graduates in suburban Hanover took remedial classes, as did 27 percent of graduates in Lynnfield and Needham.

"This is a statewide problem," said Linda M. Noonan, managing director of the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, a nonprofit group that supports tougher educational standards to create a better workforce. "There's something systemic that we're not doing to get these kids ready to do college-level work."

High school administrators said they welcomed the new information, and pledged to use it to make the high school diploma a true sign of readiness for college. "If you're a good district, this is information you want," said Paul Schlichtman, who coordinates research, testing, and assessment for the Lowell schools, where about half of graduates who went on to a state college or university in Massachusetts took remedial classes. "Your high school diploma needs to be a credential for a two- and four-year school, and it's something that we take very seriously."

The study tracked more than 19,000 students who graduated from public high schools in 2005 and attended an institution within the state's higher education system. Overall, it found that 37 percent of the graduates enrolled in at least one remedial course in their first semester in college. In many urban districts, a majority of the graduates studied took at least one remedial class their first year. Among the roughly 8,500 students in the study who attended community colleges, nearly two-thirds took a remedial course. Many college administrators blame remedial courses for the high dropout rate at the state's two-year schools.

The results also cast doubt on the MCAS exams as a predictor of college readiness at a time when state education leaders are urging high schools to require a more rigorous course load to boost MCAS scores, as required under the federal No Child Left Behind law. High school students who received special education instruction in high school, low-income and limited-English speaking students, and Hispanic and African-American students, were more likely to enroll in remedial classes, the study found.

The report marks the first time education researchers have detailed how public high school graduates from individual school districts perform in Massachusetts public colleges. State education officials distributed the reports last week to nearly 300 high schools across the state, and hope the information will spur improvements. "We're hopeful high schools will regard this very seriously," said Paul Reville, chairman of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, who will take over as the state's education secretary in July. "This tells us that higher standards are necessary. We're not fully preparing students for non-remediated college work."

The report showed that students who barely pass the MCAS tests are far more likely to take college remedial classes. For example, half of students who scored a "needs improvement" on the 10th-grade MCAS math test were forced to take developmental math classes, as opposed to 20 percent who received the score "proficient."

In November, state education officials unanimously approved a recommended core high school curriculum in response to growing concerns about the number of students taking remedial classes. The recommended program includes four years of English, four years of math, three years of science, and three years of history. Beginning this fall, students who do not reach the proficiency level on the English and math MCAS exams will be required to take more core classes and periodic tests to gauge their progress. Reville also said administrators have discussed giving high school seniors college placement tests.

Patricia F. Plummer, commissioner of the Department of Higher Education, said research has shown that students who take math and English in all four years of high school are far more likely to succeed in college. "It's tremendously discouraging for them to be in college and not taking college-level work," she said. "And in terms of economic development, we can't afford to lose them." More than ever, students need college education and training to compete for entry-level positions and launch a good career, Plummer said.

Education officials said they were encouraged by one finding: 80 percent of first-time, full-time students enrolled for a second year of college in 2006.

At Bunker Hill Community College, educators said the MCAS had not improved performance on college placement tests, and that some high school graduates show up woefully unprepared for basic college work. "I haven't seen any significant change," said Deborah Barrett, the college's coordinator of student assessment. "It's very frustrating for students. They think that they've graduated from high school, they passed the MCAS, so they're ready for college." Almost 90 percent of Bunker Hill students end up taking remedial math, and 63 percent take remedial English. Some graduates are writing at such a poor level that they must take the most introductory remedial class, she said. Only 20 percent of students complete their remedial work within two years, she said.

Educators and researchers said the study suggested that students who merely pass are not necessarily ready for college. "The dirty little secret is that MCAS doesn't test 10th grade skills, much less college skills," said Robert Gaudet, an education researcher at the University of Massachusetts' Donahue Institute. "Passing is not that hard, it's getting to proficient that's tougher."


Teacher accuses British Islamic school of racism

A former teacher at an Islamic school, who alleged that it taught an offensive and racist view of non-Muslims, has been awarded 70,000 pounds by an employment tribunal after winning his case for unfair dismissal. Colin Cook told the tribunal in Watford that pupils were taught from Arabic books that likened Jews and Christians to "monkeys" and "pigs" at The King Fahad Academy, which is funded and run by the Saudi Arabian Government. The tribunal ruled that Mr Cook, a British Muslim, was unfairly dismissed from his 36,000 pounds-a-year post at the school in Acton, West London, in December 2006 after blowing the whistle on systematic cheating at a GCSE exam.

The panel found that the school created a "smokescreen" to try to justify his dismissal after 18 years' unblemished service. It awarded Mr Cook 58,800 pounds in compensation for loss of earnings and 10,500 for injury to feelings. But it rejected his claim that the school discriminated against him on racial grounds.

Mr Cook told the hearing that after leaving the school another member of staff gave him extracts from an Arabic textbook, which encouraged students to believe that all religions other than Islam were worthless. The books referred to "the repugnant characteristics of the Jews". Another passage said: "Those whom God has cursed and with whom he is angry, he has turned into monkeys and pigs. They worship Satan." Mr Cook alleged that the books were spreading race hatred. "They should not be brought into this country and they should not be used in this country," he said.

The school denied ever teaching any form of racial hatred and insisted that the offending passages in the books were "misinterpreted" and were never used in class. But it later got rid of the books.

The school was established in 1985, with the aim of providing a high-quality education acceptable to the Saudi and British authorities for the children of Saudi diplomats and other Muslim families in London. Some of the children of the jailed extremist clerics Abu Hamza al-Masri and Abu Qatada are pupils at the school, which charges fees of up to 1,500 pounds per year for day students.

Mr Cook alleged that in June 2006 staff wrongly allowed pupils to refer to heavily annotated course books during an English language GCSE exam. The tribunal was told that when he suggested that the school might be trying to cover up his allegations, a senior colleague told him: "This is not England. It is Saudi Arabia." Mr Cook then took his complaints direct to the Edexcel exam board.

Mr Cook of Feltham, West London, taught English as a second language at the school. Giving evidence to the tribunal, he said that some pupils "talked as if they did not live in London at all". When he queried how Abu Hamza and Abu Qatada could be paying school fees when they were said to be on benefits, he was told to mind his own business. He also claimed the school was seen as an extension of the Saudi Embassy rather than part of Britain, with Saudi teachers even enjoying diplomatic immunity.

Mr Cook's solicitor, Lawrence Davies, said: "Safeguards under English law were thrown out of the window when Mr Cook was sacked. "This school must learn that it is not the Saudi way or the highway. The tribunal has upheld justice and protected the whistle-blower." The tribunal panel was not required to rule on Mr Cook's allegations about the school's curriculum. But in its judgment, it said it had considered Mr Cook to be a "truthful witness". As he was a respected teacher, with an 18-year unblemished record, it ruled that the impact of his dismissal had been "nothing short of life-changing" for Mr Cook. He had received a "harsh punishment for doing what he thought was the right thing to do", it concluded.

Mr Cook said last night: "I have been accused by people at the school and outside the school of lies and distortion. The school inferred that I had endangered pupils with my allegations. "The evidence speaks otherwise. I told the truth all along. Islam teaches peace and honesty. Hopefully, my accusers will now realise that I acted justly and for the good of the school."