Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Why the phonics phobia?

Leftist educators have long been waging a war on teaching kids phonics -- even though it works much better than any other method of teaching kids how to read and write. Is it just normal Leftist destructiveness? A reader has written in with the explanation below:

I have read a different theory on why leftists and state-sector teachers are hooked on whole language. Phonics (which is the way I learned to read) empowers the individual. With the skills he learns, he can read any text, either to himself, or aloud. If he reaches a word he cannot understand, he will be able to pronounce it anyway and can discover its meaning himself. Although Whole Language advocates like Mr. Cambourne talk about love of reading, whole language turns reading into a chore. I started school at the end of the 1980s, which meant that there were come children (such as I) who had learned by the traditional method before starting school, and others who would learn whole language in school. Thirteen years later the differences were all too clear, with people who had learned by whole language stumbling over all but the simplest words, and looking to the teacher to give them the pronunciations. I can’t speak for them, but I cannot help but think that an eighteen year old, told that he has reached the age in which he is considered an independent, matured human being, must feel great humiliation at asking a teacher to tell him how to say a word.

Learning to read has become a political issue for simple reasons that; parents vote; teachers’ unions make political contributions; and business has to pick up the mess and create a productive labour force. Learning to read is an ideological issue because the two methods, whole language and phonics, can stand for, and perhaps even define the way an individual sees himself vis a vis the state. Whole language teaches dependence on authority, dependence on the state. Phonics emphasises the ability of the individual, guided by his knowledge and his reason, to make his own way through the world. Can you think of a leftist who would tolerate that?

Political row as top British grammar school becomes the first to be placed into special measures despite brilliant exam results

British Leftists HATE selective (Grammar) schools because they offend against the "all men are equal" Leftist faith. Below we see that they are trying to destroy one because it is not politically correct enough

A grammar school with a 96 per cent GCSE success rate has been threatened with closure after inspectors criticised its 'outdated' race equality policy. Stretford Grammar was branded 'failing' by Ofsted inspectors who also singled out its sex education programme. They said the school's curriculum was 'inadequate', while admitting academic standards were 'exceptionally and consistently high'.

The Manchester school is the first grammar in Britain to be placed into special measures, putting it at risk of closure if it does not improve. But the decision has caused fury, with school supporters accusing the Government of hostility to grammars. Robert McCartney, of the National Grammar Schools Association, said: 'This report seems ludicrous. 'Here you have a school getting almost 100 per cent five A* to C GCSEs and they are getting caned because they're not allegedly up to the mark in some non-academic subjects. 'This smacks of a plot, another line of attack, to try and undermine grammar schools. Ministers have a skewed idea of what is really valuable to children in education. 'You wonder how many comprehensives are failing on the criteria this school is alleged to have failed.'

Last year, 96 per cent of Stretford pupils achieved five GCSEs at A* to C grade, or vocational equivalent. But Ofsted said achievement, the curriculum and leadership were inadequate. It said of the curriculum: 'Arrangements for sex and relationship education are underdeveloped.' Its report also warned that the school was 'not compliant with statutory requirements in relation to race equality and community cohesion'.

Achievement was judged inadequate despite its headline results because 'girls and higher ability students make very slow progress'. Ofsted found persistent 'significant underachievement' in relation to children's abilities on arrival.

Stretford is in the constituency of Children's Minister Beverley Hughes, who criticised the school and Tory-run local education authority. She added: 'This is the first grammar school in the country to go into special measures. The Conservative council is trying to brush this under the carpet and pretend this is not happening. This is a shocking indictment of the management.'

But parent Kevin Parker, 50, said: 'On one hand Ofsted are saying how excellently they have done in their exams, on the other there is an assertion of out-and-out failure. It's hard to make head or tail of it. 'We have been pleased. My son gets all kinds of great attention.'

Headmaster Peter Cookson was on extended sick leave before resigning soon after Ofsted visited. The head of nearby Sale Grammar has been drafted in to turn the school around.

Rakshanda Ali, 39, whose son is in Year 7, said: 'On the days the school hasn't had a head in place, conditions have been poor and parents were worried. But I'm confident things are going to change for the better.'

Graham Brady, the Conservative MP for nearby Altrincham and Sale West, said: 'Any school can suffer if its management and leadership are not right, and it appears from this Ofsted report there are significant problems in that regard at Stretford Grammar.'

Councillor David Higgins, chairman of Trafford council's children's committee, said: 'Schools depend very heavily on a good head teacher and unfortunately the head has been away through illness for some time.' But he added: 'There must be a lot of teachers doing a good job to have obtained the results Stretford Grammar School has obtained. They stand very well against results across the country. It's hard to argue how much further you can get above excellent.'


Number of students achieving three A-grade A-levels double in a decade

British exam results are becoming increasingly meaningless

The number of sixth-formers gaining three As in their A-levels has doubled in a decade, according to figures published yesterday. Just days after Cambridge University announced that a hat-trick of As was no longer enough to win a place, it emerged that one in eight students are now achieving the feat. Last year, 12.1 per cent of students achieved a trio of As - more than 31,000 - against just 6.1 per cent when Labour took office in 1997, according to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

As the pass rate soared to 97.2 per cent last summer, exam chiefs heralded the era of 'unfailable' A-levels.

Cambridge said it had opted to raise standard entry requirements to an A* and two As after being forced to turn away record numbers of students with three As - around 5,500. Senior tutors said that in time the standard offer could be raised to two A*s and an A.

Dr Geoff Parks, director of admissions at Cambridge, said: 'This is about a move towards a system where we are using the public examinations system to do the selection for us, rather than just saying three As, which is easier to get. 'It means students are proving themselves in the public examination system, rather than proving themselves in the interview process.'

Meanwhile Imperial College, Bristol University and University College London have revealed they will make some offers using the A* when the new grade is awarded for the first time in 2010.

While ministers staunchly deny claims of grade inflation, A-levels have been plagued by suspicions that relentlessly rising pass rates cannot be solely down to pupils' and teachers' greater mastery of their subjects. With sixth-formers now passing one in four of all A-levels with a grade A, sceptics fear standards have been eroded over the years. This is said to have been hastened in 2000 by the splitting of A-level courses into bite-sized chunks which are separately examined and can be retaken an unlimited number of times.

A Durham University study recently suggested that A-level standards have fallen at the rate of one grade a decade since the mid-1980s. Sixth-formers now achieve two grades more than students of the same ability in 1988, it was claimed, meaning that a pupil who gained a C two decades ago would now be in line for an A.

Isabel Nisbet, acting chief executive of Ofqual, said last month that A-levels may need to be 'recalibrated' upwards for the first time in 50 years to counter rising pass rates.

Nick Seaton, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said: 'Many universities have to run remedial courses to get the students up to the standards they had been in previous years.' He added: 'Grade inflation has to be halted or the exam system will descend into chaos.'


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