Thursday, May 14, 2009

Colorado HS student assignment: Plot terror attack on US

A ninth grade history project at a high school in Pueblo was supposed to teach students about terrorism, but instead it outraged parents. Gini Fischer says her daughter came home Thursday saying she had two minutes to come up with a plot for an act of terrorism. Over 110 freshmen at Pueblo County High School were given the project.

The teacher claims the assignment was to illustrate an act of terrorism by a foreign government on American soil.

Fischer says, "To ask them to use their creative energies to come up with a plot for an act of terrorism is very ludicrous."

District 70 Superintendent Dr. Dan Lere said students may have misinterpreted the assignment. He says if a student, "actually did illustrate an act of terrorism that they might commit, let's say against the school, we've expelled students for that."

The school district has decided to collect the assignment from students and destroy them.


UK: Science test to be abolished

The teaching of science has become absymal but rather than improve it, they shoot the messenger

Labour signalled a move away from traditional paper and pencil exams yesterday, after an expert group set up by Schools Secretary Ed Balls recommended the abolition of science exams for 11-year-olds.

The tests will end this year after advisers said they narrowed opportunities for group work and experimental-based learning. Last night there were growing calls from teaching unions for English and maths to follow suit.

The group – designed to review the way children aged seven to 14 are assessed – insisted that both would remain, but that tests should be put back a month to give children more time to work through the curriculum.

In the statement, the group said ministers "should continue to invest in, strengthen in and monitor the reliability of teacher assessment to judge whether a move away from externally marked national tests might be viable at a future date".

The move was welcomed by the National Union of Teachers and the NAHT, amid calls to go further. General secretary Christine Blower said: "If teacher assessment is judged to be good enough for science then why not other subjects?"


Schools failing to provide education for excluded pupils, British regulator says

Almost a third of schools are failing to provide suitable education for pupils they exclude, Ofsted said today. The watchdog found some schools were hampered by transport problems and uncooperative parents, while pupil referral units (PRU) were swamped in some areas and unable to cope with the number of disruptive children sent to them. Critics said the findings showed the gap between “reality and rhetoric” for the prospects of children excluded by their schools.

Schools are legally required to arrange full-time, suitable education for pupils excluded for six days or more. It must be off site, or shared with other schools. Yet, 10 of the 36 schools scrutinised by Ofsted had not provided this, it claimed in a report.

Inspectors visited 28 secondary, five primary and three special schools, and 16 referral units, across 18 local authorities. Sixteen of the 18 authorities said that their PRU provided education for excluded pupils. However, this did not happen in practice in eight of those areas because many units were full and could not cope. The report said: “In one PRU visited, a lack of capacity meant that pupils attended for half-day sessions only. In another, a rise in permanent exclusions surprised the local authority, overwhelmed the PRU and resulted in most of the permanently excluded pupils not having access to ‘day six’ provision. “There were delays before pupils could start: in some cases just a day, in others much longer.” In two areas, this was blamed on the school’s poor communication with the local authority.

Two of the schools used exclusion inappropriately as a trigger to review the placement of children with special educational needs, the report added. It added: “Weak guidance and support [from local authorities] were reflected in weak provision and, in one case, a failure to comply with the legal requirements. Two of the authorities were unable to report what their schools were doing for fixed-period excluded pupils from day six.”

Transport difficulties meant that some schools kept their children on site, and educated them in isolation, rather than comply with the rules. Although this breached the legislation as it did not qualify as a PRU or as provision shared with other schools, it was in some cases better for the child, Ofsted acknowledged. It said: “Using supervisory staff who were known the the pupils also helped to maintain relationships, expectations and continuity; the schools argued that this was easier to do than if the pupils were off site in another school’s provision.”

And some - mainly in rural areas - chose never to exclude a child for more than five days so they would not have to risk the pupil not attending if sent to a unit far away. “All were clear that the pupils’ misdemeanours warranted exclusions of more than five days, but they did not want the exclusion to impede pupils’ learning, so they arranged for the child to return to school on the sixth day of the exclusion,” the report said.

The report painted a picture of a breakdown of communication. Many parents were reluctant to send their children to pupil referral units because of the stigma. Some local authorities were impeded in arranging a placements by the difficulty in contacting parents. In addition, most PRUs told inspectors they were given insufficient information by schools about the pupils they were sent.

Use of funding was variable: officials in two local authorities were unsure how a government grant to establish provision for excluded pupils had been spent.

Sir Alan Steer, the government’s behaviour advisor, said last year in a review commissioned by ministers: “A school that permanently excludes a child should expect to receive a permanently excluded child on the principle of ‘one out, one in.” Yet David Laws, the Liberal Democrat Shadow Schools Secretary, said: “This shows the gap between reality and rhetoric when it comes to providing education for excluded pupils. “Ministers have promised that expelled pupils will be back in education after six days, but this is clearly not happening. There must be much broader provision for excluded pupils.”


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