Saturday, November 15, 2008

Obama's compulsory service for students
"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime where of the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction". -The Thirteenth Amendment

Over the past several days, since the recent general election, I have received countless despairing e-messages from individuals who are certain that the ascendency of Barack H. Obama to the Presidency of the United States represents the end of America, the end of democracy, the end of history, the end of the world, or some combination of the above.

You may feel that way, yourself. I certainly have, from moment to moment, but despair is not my chosen mode of existence, and I have spent those moments trying to figure out how to get my family and myself through the bad times that are about to result from electing this Marxoid thug, with a minimum of injury and some hope for the future.

Upon due consideration, there are enough bright spots on the horizon to keep our world warm and bright while we all work through and repair the damage that this "historical event" has done-and will continue trying to do-to the advance of individual human liberty. To begin with, try not to be too angry or disappointed with your fellow Americans. Most of them don't care about politics as much as the majority of my readers, and the education they have received about it from the government's public school system is nothing more than a septic tank full of warmed-over self-serving statist lies and leftist propaganda.

Even so, they clearly understand that George W. Bush is the worst President this country has ever had-so far-and that plugging John McCain in to replace him would have been no improvement. What they didn't understand is that Obama isn't a real alternative, either. Even if they had understood, what could they have done about it that libertarians haven't been trying to do, without success, for over 40 years?

So here we all are, stuck with a Glorious Leader whose sainthood, conferred by masses of worshippers and by mass media sinking fast and clutching at any straw, threatens to make Jack Kennedy's beatification-or even that of Father Abraham Lincoln-look like a poor, pale thing.

It is up to libertarians to keep our heads up, our vision clear, and to speak the truth at every turn. Barack Obama is the pampered pet of Chicago gangsters. He is good buddies with a murderous African dictator. And his wacko leftist academic background evokes memories of the style of sideways thinking that inspired the death marches in Cambodia.

The man burns to have a private army all his own. During the election campaign, he threatened to create a "domestic security force" as large and well-funded as the entire U.S. military, just the thing to send door-to-door (as the police attempted in the Chicago projects) searching for privately-owned weapons. Sure enough, the very first item to appear on his website following the election was a proposal to require "mandatory community service"-50 hours a year from junior high school and high school students, 100 hours from those in college-or the individuals in question needn't expect to graduate.

Rather than receiving all this as bad news, however, libertarians should celebrate it as a gift. Think of it as an error of arrogance, the hubris that inevitably undoes the bumbling heroes of classical Greek tragedy. It would appear that, just as "only Nixon could go to China," only the first black president, Barack Obama, would attempt to reimpose slavery on a nation that once tore itself into bloody shreds-or so establishment historians assure us-to put an end to slavery.

The fact is-given his institution of a personal income tax and military conscription on a once-free citizenry-Abraham Lincoln, yet another corrupt politician inappropriately elevated to godhood by his drooling sycophants, didn't abolish slavery, he merely nationalized it. But I digress.

Where both houses of Congress and the presidency are controlled by the Democrats, this evil cannot be dealt with at the national level. The way to handle it-I believe it calls for collaboration between the Libertarian Party and the American Civil Liberties Union-is with thousands of lawsuits and injunctions at the local level, rooted in the Thirteenth Amendment, preventing public schools and colleges from enslaving children and young adults. Such an effort must be nationwide. Those who operate these institutions must be made to understand clearly that cooperation with the Obama regime means the inevitable destruction of all public schools and publicly-funded colleges.

Over the years, I've made a lot of predictions that have come true. Remember this one: two years from now, even those who supported Barack Obama most enthusiastically will be feeling a certain nostalgia about George W. Bush and secretly wishing they'd voted for John McCain.

Yeah, I know, disgusting. But that's the way the world works. Nobody alive today would willingly admit to voting for Adolf Hitler, although the third or fourth worst mass-murderer in history (behind Mao Tse Tung, Joseph Stalin, and, on a per capita basis, Pol Pot) won by a landslide. Once the outrages to come have ended and there are thousands-perhaps even millions-of Obama's crimes to account for, would you want to admit to having voted to make those crimes possible?

For libertarians, the possibilities are endless. When socialism fails-again-to bring about paradise on Earth and leaves the usual trail of utter wreckage behind it, we will be there to say "I told you so", exactly as we have been saying it for the past 40-odd years, exactly as we must continue saying it through the next horrible years. Maybe this time somebody will listen.


Outrage as British school fails to observe Veteran's day silence - because it would disrupt classes

A secondary school has sparked outrage by failing to observe the two minute silence on Armistice Day - because it would disrupt classes. The headteacher of Bedminster Down School in Bristol said it was impractical to interrupt lessons - particularly PE and cookery - at 11am on Tuesday. So instead the act of remembrance was moved to the lunch break at 12.30pm, which was ''a more appropriate time for reflection''.

But the move upset some pupils and local members of the Royal British Legion. Schoolgirl Hayley Thomas, 15, said many of Bedminster Down's 1,000 pupils were ''shocked'' by the change. She said: ''I have always been taught to respect those who sacrificed their lives to make life how it is today. ''In my opinion, the majority of this country, regardless of how important their job or education is, such as the police, politicians and general public, all take time out at the official time as a sign of respect to all those who lost their lives for the good of their country. ''We have had the silence at 11am in the past. A lot of people were shocked that the school put it aside this year.''

Roger Duddridge, chairman of the City of Bristol group of Royal British Legion branches, said it is ''sad'' if we can't spare two minutes to remember ''those who gave everything.'' He said: ''If we can't give two minutes of our lives just to stand quietly to remember those who gave everything they had it is a little bit sad. ''But if the school wants to observe the silence at 12.30pm, then at least they are remembering.''

Year-11 student Hayley was in a textiles lesson at 11am on Tuesday and said the teacher of that individual class did allow pupils to mark the silence. However, it was not until 12.30pm when deputy head Philip Bailey made an announcement over loudspeakers to start the official school act of remembrance.

For 90 years British people of all ages and occupations have dropped whatever they were doing to observe the two minute silence at 11am on November 11.

Yesterday Bedminster Down head teacher Marius Frank defended the move and said he felt the Armistice was marked ''reflectively and appropriately'' - even thought it was 90 minutes late. He said: ''The actual time is important, of course, but it is also about having the silence at an appropriate time for reflection to make sure the students really understand what it is about. ''We do not have the space to assemble all 1,000 students plus staff in one place so we chose to observe the silence at a time when we usually have our announcements, while everyone is still in their classrooms before lunchtime. ''We gave it an introduction so that it did not happen in a vacuum and it was marked reflectively and appropriately.''


Friday, November 14, 2008

Send Your Children to D.C. Public Schools, Mr. President-Elect

Barack and Michelle Obama are poised to commit a classic act of limousine-liberal hypocrisy -- in this case, turning their backs on tens of thousands of inner-city kids in Washington, D.C.

Public schools, it seems, are good enough for poor and middle-class families, but not for rich families like the Obamas. In July, when he addressed the NAACP's annual convention, Sen. Barack Obama expressed his devotion to American public schools, vowing he would not "walk away from them" by supporting school-choice programs like Sen. John McCain did. "What he's offering amounts to little more than the same tired rhetoric about vouchers," said Obama. "Well, I believe we need to move beyond the same debate we've been having for the past 30 years when we haven't gotten anything done. We need to fix and improve our public schools, not throw our hands up and walk away from them."

In October, in the last presidential debate, Obama specifically attacked McCain's support for the school-choice program in Washington, D.C., which gives 1,900 lower-income students a voucher worth up to $7,500 to attend the private school of their choice -- and which McCain wanted to expand to include more students.

"The centerpiece of Sen. McCain's education policy is to increase the voucher program in D.C. by 2,000 slots," Obama said derisively. "That leaves all of you who live in the other 50 states without an education reform policy from Sen. McCain. So if we are going to be serious about this issue, we've got to have a president who is going to tackle it head-on, and that's what I intend to do as president."

In case anyone doubted that he still opposed school-voucher programs, Obama made his position clear in Time magazine just before the election. The magazine asked: "Should parents be given vouchers to enable them to send their children to any school?" Obama answered: "No: I believe that public education in America should foster innovation and provide students with varied, high-quality learning opportunities."

The practical effect of Obama's policy in Washington, D.C., is that tens of thousands of students will remain trapped in what are simultaneously the most expensive and worst public schools in America.

According to "Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary Schools: School Year 2005-2006," a report published by the Department of Education in July, total expenditures per pupil in the District of Columbia's public schools was $15,798, more than the per pupil spending of any state.

Yet, in the National Assessment of Education Progress mathematics and reading tests administered to fourth- and eighth-graders in 2007, D.C. students did worse than students in any state.

Only 12 percent of D.C. eighth-graders were rated grade-level "proficient" or better in reading, only 8 percent in math. There were 59,616 students enrolled in the D.C. public schools in 2006, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. If McCain's plan to increase by 2,000 the number of vouchers available in the District were enacted, taxpayers would still be spending $15,798 per student per year to send more than 55,000 kids through a school system where about nine out of 10 students do not learn to read or do math at grade-level proficiency by the time they "graduate" from elementary school.

What is Obama's plan to deal with this? Spend $18 billion more in federal tax dollars on public education (as he promised in his campaign) -- and send his own kids to extremely expensive private schools. Currently, Obama's two daughters (ages 7 and 10) attend the University of Chicago Lab School, where tuition is $18,492 for grades 1-4 and $20,286 for grades 5-8. When Michelle Obama visited Washington this week, she toured only two prospective schools for her daughters: Sidwell Friends, where lower-school tuition is $28,442; and Georgetown Day, where tuition is $27,445 for grades 1-5.

If Barack Obama backed legislation giving all students in D.C. a voucher worth the $15,798 D.C. public schools spend per pupil, poor and middle-class families -- especially those with more than two children -- would still not be able to afford Sidwell Friends and Georgetown Day. But they would be able to afford most of the other private schools in the Washington area, including almost all of the Catholic schools.

But that would contradict Obama's vision of America, a place where poor children remain trapped in public schools, rich children go to very expensive schools, and middle-class parents who work hard and struggle to send their children to religious schools that share their values and commitment to excellence must expect to pay not only for their own children's education but also escalating local and federal taxes to ill-educate their neighbor's children. Put your children where your ideology is, Mr. President-elect. Send them to public school.


'Entitled' Students Expect Grades for Effort, Attendance

This study demonstrates an attitude of entitlement that has reached into the arena of education. It underscores the need for parents to be intentional in teaching their children to become responsible, and the earlier the process begins, the better

Most university students believe that if they're "trying hard," a professor should reconsider their grade. One-third say that if they attend most of the classes for a course, they deserve at least a B, while almost one-quarter "think poorly" of professors who don't reply to e-mails the same day they're sent. Those are among the revelations in a newly published study examining students' sense of academic entitlement, or the mentality that enrolling in post-secondary education is akin to shopping in a store where the customer is always right.

The paper describes academic entitlement as "expectations of high marks for modest effort and demanding attitudes toward teachers." The study reveals that students who are academically entitled are more likely to engage in academic cheating, exploit others, shirk hard work and display "narcissistic orientation." The study, which surveyed two groups of approximately 400 undergraduates aged 18 to 25, is published in the November issue of the Journal of Youth and Adolescence. Among the findings:

The study asked approximately 400 undergraduates aged 18 to 25 whether they agreed with these statements:
If I have explained to my professor that I am trying hard, I think he/she should give me some consideration with respect to my course grade - 66.2 percent agree

If I have completed most of the reading for a class, I deserve a B in that course - 40.7 per cent

If I have attended most of the classes for a course, I deserve at least a grade of B - 34.1 per cent

Teachers often give me lower grades than I deserve on paper assignments - 31.5 per cent

Professors who won't let me take my exams at another time because of my personal plans (e.g. a vacation) are too strict - 29.9 per cent


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Useless teacher education

Research suggests comprehensive teacher inductions have little effect in 1st year

The report, Impacts of Comprehensive Teacher Induction: Results from the First Year of a Randomized Controlled Study, presents implementation and impact findings for beginning elementary school teachers after one year of induction services. The study tests whether comprehensive teacher induction affects teacher retention rates, classroom practices, and student achievement, compared to the induction programs that districts normally provide.

Beginning teachers in schools randomly assigned to receive comprehensive induction services were offered weekly mentoring from a full-time mentor (who provided services such as observing the beginning teacher in his/her classroom and providing feedback), opportunities to observe other teachers in their classrooms, and professional development workshops on topics such as classroom management and lesson planning.

Two comprehensive induction providers were included in the study - the Educational Testing Service and the New Teacher Center at the University of California-Santa Cruz.


Alarming teen suicide rate in lesbians, gays, and bisexuals in Australian schools

Not a lifestyle to be encouraged

Lesbian, gay and bisexual young people are attempting suicide and harming themselves at an alarming rate because of bullying in Queensland schools, a new report shows. The Open Doors Action Research Report 2008 shows that over the past 12 months 37 per cent of affected young people had attempted suicide and 82 per cent had considered suicide. It also showed that of the 164 participants who completed the anonymous online survey, 59 per cent had harmed themselves.

"Given that LGB (lesbian, gay and bisexual) young people reported extensive maltreatment and lack of support, it is unsurprising that they also reported high rates of self-harm, suicide ideation and suicide attempts," the report by the support organisation Open Doors says.

The report highlights schools as a significant source of distress for lesbian, gay and bisexual young people. Four out of five respondents reported they had been bullied for their sexuality at school, but only 12 per cent said the school took action to stop the bullying. "Bullying not only came from students. Adults such as teachers, school administrators and parents also bullied LGB students," the report says. "Many young people felt so afraid at school that they had missed over two school weeks worth of classes to ensure their safety. "Clearly current school anti-bullying measures do not adequately protect LGB students - this is providing a discriminatory educational environment for LGB students which is illegal. "Schools need to take further actions to ensure LGB students are safe at school."

Sexual health education at schools was also found to be inadequate, as out of the two-thirds of LGB young people who reported that they had engaged in sex, only two per cent reported being adequately educated in practising safe sex. "It is essential that LGB young people are provided equal opportunity to their heterosexual peers to learn about safer sex," the report said.

The average participant in the survey was 17, attending school and sexually active. The report stated 98 per cent of participants were certain of their sexual orientation. Open Doors Youth Service has operated since 2001, tackling youth homelessness in the greater Brisbane area.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Constructivism and lack of practice

Here are two of the clues to America's current mathematics problem:

1."Student-centered" learning (or "constructivism")

2.Insufficient practice of basic skills

In an October email, Spokane's secondary mathematics coordinator reaffirmed this district's commitment to a "student-centered" approach to teaching (also sometimes called "discovery learning" or "constructivism"). In this approach, students often work as partners or in groups, and teachers act as "facilitators" rather than as "instructors." Students are encouraged to come up with their own multiple solutions to problems and to ask fellow students for help before asking the teacher.

Reform math curricula are typically built around a constructivist approach, probably because the 1989 Standards document from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics calls for it (Stiff, 2001c; "Curriculum," 2004). Proponents say the approach leads to "deeper understanding," helpful collaboration and better student enjoyment of the process. Others say a dependence on it can hinder the learning process and frustrate students.

A local parent told me this story about when his daughter took a math class that used reform math curriculum Connected Mathematics: Students were told that "Juan" was mowing a lawn in a right-angle triangle. He wanted to figure out the length of the diagonal. The term "Pythagorean Theorem" (a2 + b2 = c2) wasn't presented. The students were to work in groups and figure out a way to get the answer. Finally, one student who knew the theorem provided it to her group. (Her group was the only one to get the right answer.) Incredibly, the teacher "chastised" the student for using the formula.

"A lot of parents don't believe it at first," the parent said to me. "Like, their kids are younger, they don't know, and they feel that parents are exaggerating, but it is the honest-to-God truth, and these stories get worse."

In small doses, constructivism can provide flavor to classrooms, but some math professors have told me the approach seems to work better in subjects other than math. That sounds reasonable. The learning of mathematics depends on a logical progression of basic skills. Sixth-graders are not Pythagorus, nor are they math teachers.

Meanwhile, anti-reform advocacy group Mathematically Correct provides an amusing take on constructivism ("What Is," 1996): "This notion holds that students will learn math better if they are left to discover the rules and methods of mathematics for themselves, rather than being taught by teachers or textbooks. This is not unlike the Socratic method, minus Socrates."

Insufficient Practice of Basic Skills

Another problem in math classrooms is the lack of practice. Instead of insisting that students practice math skills until they're second nature, educators have labeled this practice "drill and kill" and thrown it under a bus. I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard that phrase. It's a strange, flippant way to dismiss a logical process for learning. Drilling is how anyone learns a skill. Removing drilling from the learning process is like saying, "We'll just remove this gravity. Now stay put." Everyone drills - athletes, pianists, soldiers, plumbers and doctors. Drilling is necessary. It isn't good or bad - it's simply what must be done.

Imagine if I told chess players they had to figure out the rules of chess on their own, in fits and starts, by trial and error and by asking their fellow players. Imagine if I expected them to win games when they hadn't had a chance to practice.

In American education, the "worm" is not yet turning, but it might be looking over its shoulder. In its March 2008 report, the National Mathematics Advisory Panel reintroduced the notion of practicing the basics: "Practice allows students to achieve automaticity of basic skills - the fast, accurate, and effortless processing of content information - which frees up working memory for more complex aspects of problem solving" ("Foundations," 2008, p. 30).

But children in the system now are stuck with a process that asks them to work in diverse groups to reinvent thousands of years of math procedures that they then don't get to practice.

Some people enjoy puzzles on logic and process, where things might not be what they seem and where they've got to figure out subtle differences and new ways of thinking. But this esoteric, conceptual approach to math, with a constant struggle to understand the process, doesn't seem like a logical approach for children. Children are concrete thinkers who tend to appreciate concrete ideas. Children want instructions, direction and things that make sense. Many don't appreciate the daily grind of writing about math, of having to figure out what they're doing, of having to count on classmates for guidance, of trying to remember things they've done just once or twice and several weeks ago.

It's ironic that proponents of reform math criticize traditionalists for supposedly not knowing "how to teach math to children." The reform method seems completely oppositional to how children learn best.

I asked a Spokane student if she prefers the Connected Mathematics she gets in school over the Singapore Math she gets at home. She said, "In a way, Connected Mathematics is easier because you don't have to know as much math, but in a way, it's harder because you have to know more. You have to know exactly what they want."

She gave me an example of the classroom approach: Students are to gather in groups to discuss a problem. The problem might be a complicated twist on simplistic math, or it might be a concept they've never seen before. As the groups muddle around, they don't always agree on what's required. Sometimes, they don't have the necessary underlying skills. Some students become frustrated or bored. Trying to help each other, some confuse the others. They might come up with the right answer, or they might not, but - without practicing the new concepts - the class moves on to something new. Singapore Math, on the other hand, "might be harder as far as the math goes," she said, "but at least you know what they want."

I told her I thought her answer was articulate and enlightening. "I've spoken to a lot of people now," I said, "and you explained things very well." "That's because they teach it," she replied, "but I'm the one who has to learn it."


British head teacher suspends a quarter of her pupils in a year... and exam results soar

A head teacher has transformed academic achievement at her school by adopting a zero tolerance approach to bad behaviour. Caroline Haynes, 49, has handed out 478 exclusions at Tendring Technology College over the past year - an astonishing one in 20 of all those issued across the county. The crackdown has seen the number of pupils getting A* to C grades at GCSE soar from 48 per cent in 2004, when she joined the school, to 74 per cent this year.

Mrs Haynes attacked political pressure on schools to reduce exclusions in order to improve their Ofsted behaviour ratings. 'Statistics paint a false picture,' she said. 'Because we refuse to buckle under the pressure we had to work very hard to convince Ofsted inspectors that pupil behaviour is good, despite the figures. 'I could reduce exclusion rates tomorrow by not suspending pupils, but it would have a detrimental effect on the quality of teaching and unruly behaviour.'

Academic results at the college in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, were rated as being below average in a 2003 Ofsted report. Mrs Haynes joined the following year and now issues more than two suspensions each day on average to the 1,880 pupils. The total of 478 over the year is the equivalent of one in four of the school's pupils. However, a recent report found the school to be 'good' or better in every category.

Under her regime, there is an escalating level of sanctions, including extra work, detentions and being placed 'on report'. One-day exclusions are dished out for offences such as failing to attend two after-school detentions. Longer exclusions are given for offences such as bullying, stealing, disruption, abuse of staff or fellow students, vandalism and racism. During exclusions pupils are set work and cannot return to classes until it is completed. They and their parents must also meet the head to discuss how to improve their behaviour.

Mrs Haynes said it was important pupils knew when they had 'crossed the line'. She added: 'Our pupils learn to deal with the consequences of their actions and our teachers are allowed to concentrate on their job rather than battle bad behaviour. Exam results have soared. I'm very proud.'

The school permanently excludes pupils for possessing an illegal substance or offensive weapon. Two were expelled last year. The Department for Children, Schools and Families said it trusted heads' judgment 'to decide what sanctions will work best'.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Superheroes are good for little kids

Report from Australia

SUPERHEROES outlawed by Victorian kindergartens have been thrown a lifeline by the Federal Government. The caped crusaders have been banned in many individual kinders and childcare centres for encouraging rough play by groups of boys. Parents are sent letters at the beginning of the year advising of a ban on superhero dressing up and toys.

But new research from the Government argues superheroes such as Superman, Spiderman, Buzz Lightyear, Ben 10, and Batman play the same role as fairytales for past generations. An article in Putting Children First, a journal published by the federally-funded National Childcare Accreditation Council, argues superhero play leads to complex, imaginative games.

Childcare consultant Heather Barnes said there were many reasons why early learning teachers adopted a zero-tolerance approach to superhero play, including the risk of accidents and themes of war, violence and masculine strength. But she argues superhero play can instead be seen as a way of releasing tension and giving children a feeling of courage. "Preschool-age children seem drawn to the power, strength and special attributes of superheroes, and when engaged in this type of play, it helps them to feel in charge of their world," she writes.

Kristy Bianchin, 24, of Pakenham, who is the mother of Lewis, 2, and Max, four months, encourages her older son's superhero play. "He loves Sportacus . . . and I don't mind because it's fun, active play that encourages interaction with others and encourages healthy eating," she said.


Australia: School bullying victim sues for $2m

I hope this guy wins. It might motivate the schools to take discipline seriously

A MAN who says his teachers stood by and did nothing while he was violently bullied by his classmates is suing the state for $2 million. David Gregory went to his teachers in tears during six years of "consistent and systematic bullying" at the hands of his classmates and the school did nothing, the New South Wales Supreme Court was told today.

Mr Gregory, now 30, from Mollymook on the state's south coast, suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder and agoraphobia and is unable to work, which he blames on the years of humiliation and isolation he endured at Farrer Memorial Agricultural High School in Tamworth in the state's north. He is seeking upwards of $2 million in lost earnings from the state, arguing that the school's failure to look after him caused his psychological problems.

Giving evidence before Justice Elizabeth Fullerton today, Mr Gregory described a system designed by students which had been in place while he was there in the 1990s. All younger boys had to obey older boys or risk being "nicked" - hit across the knuckles with a steel ruler, or "broomed" - when they had to bend over and be hit with a broom. "The teachers just accepted it at Farrer," he told the court.

When he criticised the system he was ostracised and the name-calling and physical abuse began. Called "sterile", "faggot", "midget", "loser" and "Nazi", Mr Gregory said he was forbidden to socialise with his peers and had rocks thrown at him regularly. When he complained to his year master and other teachers, his fears were ignored, he said. "I was upset and in tears when I (told them)," Mr Gregory told the court.

Eventually he developed obsessive compulsive disorder, washing thoroughly in hospital strength disinfectant because he felt "dirty", his lawyer Russell McIlwaine told the court. He also began self-mutilating, Mr McIlwaine said.

The school has acknowledged in court that it should not have allowed the system to operate and that it failed to implement "adequate control so as to protect and prevent abusive conduct by the students".


Monday, November 10, 2008

SC kids have suddenly got smarter

The exams haven't been dumbed down. Oh No!

High school sophomores made record improvements on the state's high school exit exam on their first attempt this spring, according to data released Friday by the S.C. Department of Education. Of the more than 51,000 first-time test takers, four out of five passed both the math and English/language arts portions - the highest success rate since the current version of the test was first administered in 2004. This year, the average pass rate on the High School Assessment Program test - which must be passed to earn a high school diploma - was 80.8 percent. That's up nearly 4 percentage points from 2007, and it is the third consecutive year of improvements.

State Superintendent Jim Rex said students who pass the exit exam on their first try should be more likely to graduate on time and have future success. Currently, 73.3 percent of S.C. students graduate from high school in four years. "If we continue to improve, that could have a positive long-term impact on high school graduation rates," Rex said.

The Department of Education also noted some of the biggest gains this year were from students whose native language is not English. High schools in every district in Richland, Lexington and Kershaw counties improved their pass rates from 2007. Students at Dutch Fork High and Chapin High in Lexington-Richland 5 and Lexington High in Lexington 1 had the highest overall passing rates - 94 percent or higher - in the area. At Richland 1's Dreher High and Lexington 3's Batesburg-Leesville High, students made the biggest gains of any area high school - posting a 13.4 percentage point increase over last year.

"That's pretty exciting news," said Batesburg-Leesville principal Raymond Padgett, who noted scores improved consistently over a few years. "Obviously we attribute a lot of this to ... the dedication and hard work of our teachers, and our students, as well." More focus is on English and math classes, teachers are more available for tutoring and faculty have more planning time, the principal said.

Last year, faculty also challenged students in a class meeting to do better than previous students. "We talked to them about the importance of this," Padgett said. "What it meant to them, what it meant to the school, and what it meant to the community.

Besides being a graduation requirement, S.C. exit exam scores also determine whether students meet federal accountability goals. A passing score on the state test is a 2, on a scale of 1 to 4. The federal standard is a 3. Friday's report showed that 56 percent of students scored a 3 or above in math, up from 52.3 percent last year. In English/language arts, scores dropped slightly, from 59.8 percent to 59.3 percent.

Rex said graduation plans, career clusters and innovative instruction, especially ninth-grade academies, are helping better prepare students for the test. "A lot of good things are going on in the state," he said Friday. "It's heartening to see that we're making progress."


Tough Times Strain Colleges Rich and Poor

Arizona State University, anticipating at least $25 million in budget cuts this fiscal year - on top of the $30 million already cut - is ending its contracts with as many as 200 adjunct instructors. Boston University, Cornell and Brown have announced selective hiring freezes. And Tufts University, which for the last two years has, proudly, been one of the few colleges in the nation that could afford to be need-blind - that is, to admit the best-qualified applicants and meet their full financial need - may not be able to maintain that generosity for next year's incoming class.

This fall, Tufts suspended new capital projects and budgeted more for financial aid. But with the market downturn, and the likelihood that more applicants will need bigger aid packages, need-blind admissions may go by the wayside. "The target of being need-blind is our highest priority," said Lawrence S. Bacow, president of Tufts. "But with what's happening in the larger economy, we expect that the incoming class is going to be needier. That's the real uncertainty."

Tough economic times have come to public and private universities alike, and rich or poor, they are figuring out how to respond. Many are announcing hiring freezes, postponing construction projects or putting off planned capital campaigns. With endowment values and charitable gifts likely to decline, the process of setting next year's tuition low enough to keep students coming, but high enough to support operations, is trickier than ever.

Dozens of college presidents, especially at wealthy institutions, have sent letters and e-mail to students and their families describing their financial situation and belt-tightening plans. At Williams College, for example, President Morton Owen Schapiro wrote that with last year's negative return on the endowment and the worsening situation since June, some renovation and facilities spending would be reduced and nonessential openings left unfilled.

Many students, increasingly conscious of costs, are flocking to their state universities; at Binghamton University, part of the New York State university system, applications were up 50 percent this fall. But with this year's state budget problems, tuition increases at public universities may be especially steep. Some public universities have already announced midyear tuition increases.

With endowment values shrinking, variable-rate debt costs rising and states cutting their financing, colleges face challenges on multiple fronts, said Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education. "There's no evidence of a complete meltdown," Ms. Broad said, "but the problems are serious enough that higher education is going to need help from the government." And as in other sectors, she said, some financially shaky institutions will most likely be seeking mergers.

Nationwide, retrenchment announcements are coming fast and furious, as state after state reduces education financing. The University of Florida, which eliminated 430 faculty and staff positions this year, was told recently to cut next year's budget by 10 percent, probably requiring more layoffs. Financing for the University of Massachusetts system was cut $24.6 million for the current fiscal year.

On Thursday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California proposed a midyear budget cut of $65.5 million for the University of California system - on top of the $48 million reduction already in the budget. "Budget cuts mean that campuses won't be able to fill faculty vacancies, that the student-faculty ratio rises, that students have lecturers instead of tenured professors," said Mark G. Yudof, president of the California system. "Higher education is very labor intensive. We may be getting to the point where there will have to be some basic change in the model."

Private colleges, too, are tightening their belts - turning down thermostats, scrapping plans for new gardens or quads, reducing faculty raises. But many are also increasing their pool of financial aid. Vassar College will give out $1 million more in financial aid this year than originally budgeted, even though the endowment, which provides a third of its operating budget, dropped to $765 million at the end of September, down $80 million from late June. President Catharine Bond Hill of Vassar said the college would reduce its operating costs, but remain need-blind.

Many institutions with small endowments, however, will probably become more need-sensitive than usual this year, quietly offering places to fewer students who need large aid packages.


Sunday, November 09, 2008

Reason 142 to Homeschool: Obama Teachers Won’t Bully Kids Who Support conservatives

This is a video of Diantha Harris, a lifelong democrat and avid Barack Obama supporter. She is also a lousy schoolteacher, as is evidenced by the mushmouthed kids in her class. And instead of concentrating on grammar and English, math and science, she abuses and ridicules any child who dares to speak up in support of John McCain. This video is part of a Finnish documentary on Obama fans, and it is shocking that you have to go to a foreign country to learn what goes on in our own classrooms.

See how she singles out the little white girl and mocks her for having an absent parent, who is off defending the country, and lies to her, saying her Dad would have to stay in Iraq for a hundred years? The little girl was ready to cry! Disgusting.
Diantha Harris: It’s a senseless war! [Stares at Kathy.] And by the way, Kathy, the person that you’re picking for president said [Harris shakes her head] that our troops could stay in Iraq for another hundred years if they need to! [Kathy bites her lip, looks ashamed. Other kids stare at Kathy, laugh, smirk.] So that means that your daddy could stay in the military for another hundred years!

[Kathy is on verge of tears.]

[In an interview later:]

Diantha Harris: Now I can support whomever I want to support, as long as I don’t browbeat another person for the candidate that they supported. Like I have some students that support John McCain, and when they told me that, I said ah … “that’s good’ and I just moved on. So, I think that everybody is entitled to their own personal opinion.

You know, the schools are banning kickball, dodgeball and tag on the playgrounds because they are afraid of bullies. Seems to me the bullies are the ones with the chalkboard erasers.

Source (See the original for links)

Education is the key to social mobility but Britain has achieved NO improvement in social mobility for a long time

Despite it allegedly being a major goal of the ruling Labour party government

The class divide is as deep as ever in Britain, a Government report has admitted, with "social mobility no greater or less since 1970". Family background "still makes a marked difference" to what chances a person will have in their life, the study says. Working-class children continue to fare badly at school compared with their richer classmates and struggle to get better jobs than their parents had, it is claimed.

The report, by the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit, discloses that the UK's record on making education and employment more fair "does not compare well internationally" and that much more could be done. It goes on to claim that increased investment on education and care for toddlers is starting to have an effect, however, and there have been "positive changes" in narrowing the class divide this decade.

But critics said the modest improvements are a "damning indictment" of Labour's key pledge to reduce the gap between rich and poor, which has seen education funding almost doubling to 77billion pounds a year in addition to reforms of the welfare system. Chris Grayling, the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said: "Ministers are claiming this morning that things are getting better - that between 2001 and 2005 in this country social mobility began to improve. Barely. "Firstly, what a damning indictment of 11 years of Labour Government, of vast amounts of money spent on regeneration programmes, on complex new systems of support for people on low incomes, on the New Deal - that the best they can claim is a fractional improvement. If indeed that fractional improvement even exists outside the Downing Street spin machine."

He went on: "Only rarely do you find young people making the social leap that once took the best and the brightest of previous generations brought up in Britain's humblest backgrounds to positions of prominence."

The report, called Getting On, Getting Ahead, says there was a sharp increase in social mobility after the Second World War as children of working-class parents acquired better paid clerical and professional jobs. Social mobility in this report is gauged by comparing the quality of occupation one person has with that of their parents. The trend then went into reverse, however, with the proportion of men getting better jobs than their fathers remaining the same since the 1970s, although it has improved among women. "Broadly, social mobility is no greater or less since 1970," the report states. "Since the war, the UK's record on making sure people have a fair chance to get better jobs does not compare well internationally."

The report says the influence of family background on educational attainment has "remained constant", with poor children less likely to leave school with five good GCSEs or go on to study at university. It states: "One of the UK's major international weaknesses has been the large number of people emerging from school with few qualifications."

However, the report also finds that family background has had less of an impact on GCSE results for those born in 1990 - who took their exams in 2006 - than in 1970, suggesting the younger generation may be more able to move up the social ladder. This group has not yet entered the employment market so comprehensive data on their social mobility is not available. In addition, it says earnings mobility - the chance of getting a better job during a person's career - has "risen slightly since 2000".

Liam Byrne, the Cabinet Office minister, said: "What seems clear is that despite the huge social, economic and political changes between 1970 and 2000, social mobility didn't go up - it stayed the same. Now, things look like they're starting to improve. "The key for the future appears to be capturing a big share of high-value jobs that will come as the world economy changes over the next 20 years plus investing in the things, like Sure Start, school standards, post-16 education and more training at work to give more people a fairer chance to get on."