Friday, April 17, 2009

"Educators" hate testing

Because it shows the ineffectiveness of their methods

One of Britain's leading experts on school testing and assessment delivers a scathing attack on national curriculum tests for 11-year-olds today. Professor Peter Tymms warns that they are having "a serious negative impact on the education system" and should be scrapped. They mislead parents as to the performance of their children's schools, he said.

Professor Tymms's intervention comes as the National Union of Teachers prepares to vote on balloting its members to boycott tests in English, maths and science to pressure ministers to drop the tests entirely. The vote will take place at the union's annual conference in Cardiff tomorrow.

"The main problem with key stage two [11-year-olds] tests is their publication in league tables. This is having a serious negative impact on the education system," said Professor Tymms, who is the director of the Curriculum and Evaluation Management Centre at Durham University. "Parents can judge schools based on the league tables which do not portray an accurate picture of the quality of the teaching or pupils' progress over time. Neither do they give a rounded picture of a school's success."

Secondary school heads have also argued that so much coaching goes on for the tests that the results do not give an accurate reflection of children's ability. Most schools re-test the pupils when they start secondary school.

Professor Tymms, who has written several books on assessment, suggests that a random sample of pupils should be tested every year to give an accurate guide to the Department for Children, Schools and Families as to how national standards are progressing. The system used to be in operation two decades ago and the pilot always mirrored the make-up of the population in the country. Over time, with a different selection of pupils, it also gave individual schools an idea of how they were achieving.

Professor Tymms said: "We do need assessment at a high level to monitor standards across the land and the best way to achieve that is by using a sampling approach. "Schools should monitor pupils' success with objective measures which do not have to be statutory tests."

Tomorrow's NUT vote will be followed by a similar vote for a boycott at the National Association of Head Teachers' annual conference in May – which would be the first time the heads have had a ballot on industrial action. The other two big teachers' unions, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, have cautioned against a boycott – arguing there should be continued dialogue with ministers over changes to the present system.

Speaking at the ATL conference in Liverpool yesterday, Michael Gove, the shadow Education Secretary, said: "It is not good enough to just say that the current system sucks. Some form of accountable testing which allows useful comparisons between schools to be drawn is necessary."

An expert group set up by the Government to look at testing and assessment in the wake of last summer's marking fiasco, when thousands of results were delivered late, is expected to report next month.


British justice: Teenager who shot teacher in the face is suspended for just 15 days

A teenager who shot a teacher in the face with a pellet gun has been given a 15-day suspension as punishment. The female English teacher was hit after she approached the 15-year-old in the school corridor. The local authority said the pellet gun was not fired maliciously and the teacher, named as Miss Atkins, was not seriously hurt by the pellet. But she is said to be so distressed she is leaving the school this summer.

The short-term suspension has caused uproar among parents at Beal High School in Ilford, Essex. Many are furious the pupil, understood to be the son of a teaching assistant, will be allowed to return after the Easter holidays.

The incident happened as the teacher approached a small group of pupils who had gathered in a corridor between lessons. A 14-year-old pupil who was in a classroom next to the shooting said: 'Someone came running into our lesson and said this teacher was shot. He said a group of pupils were playing with a toy gun, and were aiming for someone else, but it hit the teacher in the face. 'The teacher was very upset, she cried and cried.'

The Year 10 pupil will return to school after Easter. His classmates who helped conceal the pellet gun were given brief suspensions and have already returned to school.

Meanwhile Miss Atkins, who returned to work days later, is 'extremely upset' by the incident on March 17. She only started teaching at the comprehensive in September, but has told the school she will leave this summer and already has another job lined up.

One parent, who did not want to be named, said: 'It was very lucky the teacher was not badly hurt. The lad should have been expelled - not just suspended.' Iqbal Pnag, 44, who has two children at Beal High School, said: 'It is surprising that he is being allowed to return to school. To suspend him for three weeks is nothing. He shouldn't be allowed to come back.'

Last night John Bangs, head of education at the National Union of Teachers, said any children who use physical violence against teachers should be expelled. He said: 'There have to be very clear lines over which children must not tread. Violence on teachers should lead in the vast majority of cases to exclusion. 'That message is very important, not only to the child involved, but for other children at the school.'

Last night Redbridge Council defended the actions taken by the school over the 'isolated incident'. A spokesman said: 'This was not a malicious act, however the behaviour was wrong and potentially dangerous. 'The school took the matter extremely seriously and carried out a thorough investigation immediately which involved talking to a number of pupils involved and some parents. 'The pupils involved have since expressed remorse for their actions and apologised to the teacher concerned. All of the pupils involved have received or will be receiving fixed term exclusions and one pupil was excluded from the school for 15 days.'

The Met Police said they were aware of the incident, but did not attend the school when it happened.


Professor Defends terrorist Bill Ayers

Dan Kennedy, an assistant professor at the Northeastern University School of Journalism in Boston who writes for the British Guardian, has been caught spreading falsehoods about communist terrorist Bill Ayers. Yet, he refuses to correct the record, promising that he will one day "surprise" people with the truth about Bill Ayers and his connections to two Weather Underground members involved in the murder of a Boston police officer.

To borrow a phrase from Mark Thompson, a student parent who recently confronted Ayers at one of his propaganda sessions on the University of Illinois campus, Kennedy has revealed himself to be an "Ayer Head."

Specifically, Kennedy is defending Ayers against charges that members of his organization, Katherine Ann Power and Susan Edith Saxe, were convicted of involvement in a bank robbery and the murder of Boston Police Officer Walter A. Schroeder in 1970.

But a 1975 Senate Internal Security Subcommittee report and former top FBI official Oliver "Buck" Revell say that Power and Saxe were regarded by law enforcement authorities as members of the Weather Underground. An FBI document on the official FBI website explicitly identifies Power as a Weather Underground member.

Echoing Ayers, Kennedy claims that Ayers has been unfairly "demonized" and insists that, other than blowing up a bomb that killed three of their own members, the Weather Underground "radicals" never "killed nor injured anyone." This is a monstrous lie worse than his deceptions about Power and Saxe.

Murder Spree

Weather Underground members Power and Saxe were not only involved in the murder of Schroeder and served prison time for it but Ayers himself told an FBI informant, Larry Grathwohl, that his wife, Bernardine Dohrn, had personally planted the bomb that killed San Francisco Police Sergeant Brian V. McDonnell in 1970. This case is still open and evidence is being gathered and analyzed.

What's more, the Weather Underground spin-off, the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), murdered black educator Marcus Foster and bank customer Myrna Opsahl during a robbery and also blew up police cars in an effort to kill police officers. SLA member Sara Jane Olson was recently released from prison.

Another Weather Underground off-shoot, the Revolutionary Armed Task Force, which included members of the Black Liberation Army, conducted the 1981 robbery of a Brinks truck that left two police officers and a security guard dead. Dohrn spent 8 months in jail for refusing to testify before a grand jury about what she knew about the case.

Ayers and Dohrn signed the notorious "Prairie Fire" manifesto praising the BLA and the SLA as "leading forces in the development of the armed struggle." This manifesto included a dedication to Sirhan Sirhan, the assassin of Robert F. Kennedy. A Weather Underground statement dated February 20, 1974, and signed by Dohrn had praised the SLA, which also kidnapped newspaper heiress Patty Hearst, for raising "everyone's consciousness" about "the war between the rich and the poor."

Weather Underground members operated under a variety of names, including Red Guerrilla Resistance, Armed Resistance Unit, New World Liberation Front, and United Freedom Front.

It defies common sense and Journalism 101 for Kennedy to try to separate the Weather Underground and its leaders from their various cells or spin-offs.

Kennedy's bizarre comments have been thrust into the spotlight because Ayers had been scheduled to speak at Boston College. When Boston-based radio talk-show host (96.9 FM, WTKK) and Boston Herald columnist Michael Graham found out about it, he raised an outcry and sparked protests. Graham highlighted the fact that Katherine Ann Power, convicted in the 1970 bank robbery and murder of Officer Schroeder, was identified by the FBI as a member of the Weather Underground. As a result of the protests, Ayers' speech on campus was cancelled.

Considering the nature of the Schroeder murder, it's not surprising that Ayers and Dohrn and their followers would try to distance themselves from it. Schroeder, who was survived by a wife and nine children, was shot in the back three times.

No Facts

Kennedy, who also writes for the Boston Phoenix and is a regular panelist on "Beat the Press" on public television station WGBH, has been adamant on his Media Nation blog that "Katherine Ann Power had no connection to the Weather Underground" and that "I have searched far and wide on several occasions, and I can find no evidence that anyone has ever linked Power or Saxe to the Weather Underground?including the FBI." He based his conclusions on some Google and searches and a look at a heavily redacted FBI document on the Weather Underground posted on the Web.

Graham countered: "For the nitwits out there (including some moron who claims to teach at Northeastern University) who keep trying to argue that the murder of Officer Schroeder was unrelated to Ayers' Weather Underground, check out what the actual FBI has to say on the subject." This is a link to the FBI item about the Weather Underground that included a photo showing "Weather Underground members Bernardine Rae Dohrn and Katherine Ann Power."

Incredibly, Kennedy's response was that the FBI had erred. "Based on what I've found so far," he said, "I think someone in the FBI communications department made a mistake."

This is a classic response from someone who doesn't want to acknowledge that he is wrong. It is terrible for a journalist, let alone a journalism professor, to have such an attitude.

It turns out that the FBI listed Katherine Ann Power and Susan Edith Saxe as members of the Weather Underground for the basic reason that they were considered members of the group.

One authority on this matter is Oliver "Buck" Revell, who retired as FBI Agent in Charge (SAC) in Dallas, Texas, but had risen to the position of Associate Deputy Director in Charge of Investigations, with jurisdiction over all FBI operations. He was involved in the search for Power and Saxe after their involvement in the murder of Schroeder.

He told AIM that the FBI considered Power and Saxe to be members of the Weather Underground but involved in a "spin-off" that he called the United Freedom Front (UFF). "They had been associated with the Weather Underground," he said. "All the UFF members were essentially a cell associated with the Weather Underground." "We talked to a lot of people that had Weather Underground connections in trying to trace them [Power and Saxe] down and track them down," he added. "They generally hung around college campuses where the Weather Underground was active. They were connected."

Saxe was captured in 1975 and served seven years in prison, while Power surrendered to authorities in 1993, went to prison, and was released in 1999.

Ignorant of the Facts

In an interview with AIM, Kennedy admitted he was unfamiliar with a 1975 report on the Weather Underground from the Senate Subcommittee on Internal Security which identified Power and Saxe as members of the Weather Underground who went on the FBI's "Most Wanted List." You can find the report (PDF) here and the reference on page 36. On Page 33 you can find a reference to Power and Saxe being members of the "Weatherman group." The Weatherman became the Weather Underground. Page 92 of the report noted that Power attended Brandeis University and was described by a confidential informant as a member of a "small Weatherman group" there. An October 5, 1970, report in Time magazine said Power was seen attending rallies of the SDS, the forerunner of the Weatherman and the Weather Underground. Saxe also attended Brandeis and roomed with Power.

Veteran Congressional investigator Herbert Romerstein, who just completed a major report on the Weather Underground, makes the basic point that the Weather Underground did not issue membership cards for obvious reasons. This was a secret communist organization, some of whose members were trained in Cuba, which operated in cells, spin-offs, sections, fronts, or "collectives."

The Weather Underground provided the leadership rather than establishing a membership organization, Romerstein points out. He explains, "They encouraged others to go out and commit acts of violence. People who committed these acts of violence on behalf of the Weather Underground were considered members of the Weather Underground." Such was the case with Power, Saxe and their gang....

The facts of the case are obvious to anybody who takes the time to do some basic research. But Kennedy is so determined to defend Ayers that he is willing to ignore essential facts about how the Weather Underground operated through cells and fronts. This is the mark of a left-wing ideologue determined to rehabilitate Ayers, not a journalist or journalism professor.

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