Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Real Education Outrage

Protesting D.C. parents ignored by the media

President Obama's speech to students this week got plenty of attention, and many conservatives looked foolish by fretting about "indoctrination." They would have done far more good joining those who protested on Tuesday against the President's decision to shut down a school voucher program for 1,700 low-income kids in Washington, D.C.

"It's fundamentally wrong for this Administration not to listen to the voices of citizens in this city," said Kevin Chavous, the former D.C. Council member who organized the protest of parents and kids ignored by most media. Mr. Chavous, a Democrat, is upset that the White House and Democrats in Congress have conspired to shut down the program even though the government's own evaluation demonstrates improved test scores.

The nationwide black/white achievement gap has grown in recent years, and it's significantly wider than it was two decades ago. Yet the Obama Administration, in deference to teachers unions that oppose school choice, is shuttering a voucher program that is narrowing the racial learning gap.

"The D.C. voucher program has proven to be the most effective education policy evaluated by the federal government's official education research arm so far," writes the Education Department's chief evaluator Patrick Wolf in the current issue of Education Next. "On average, participating low-income students are performing better in reading because the federal government decided to launch an experimental school choice program in our nation's capital."

Democrats had pledged that if the D.C. Council supported the voucher program, they'd revisit it. "The government of Washington, D.C., should decide whether they want [the voucher program] in their school district," declared Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, who sponsored the provision to kill the program. Well, a majority of the D.C. Council has since sent lawmakers a letter expressing support. Yet Democrats are still preventing Congress from living up to its end of the deal and voting to restore funding. Meanwhile, Mr. Obama sends his own daughters to the best private school in the District.


OECD study puts Australian education policy in perspective

By Jennifer Buckingham

This week, the OECD released its annual Education At A Glance report which provides country comparisons of spending, participation, completion, performance and various other aspects of education. At 475 pages, it contains much useful information, but for those who can’t bring themselves to read the whole report, here are some highlights.

As usual, Australia is ranked fairly close to the OECD average in terms of overall spending on education with the exception of pre-primary education, where we are right at the bottom.

The federal government has chosen to blow steam about this figure out of the thousands of possible figures, but this report suffers from the same flaw as all other OECD publications on early childhood education and care. The expenditure figure is misleading because it only includes direct spending on pre-school education and government programs and administration. It does not include the enormous household subsidies for child care in this country, which form a large part of the early childhood education sector.

There are some interesting figures relating to school education. Although public spending on school education is below OECD average, private investment in school education in Australia as a percentage of GDP is exceeded by only two other countries – Korea and Chile. [i.e. LOTS of Australian families send their kids to private schools -- especially for High School]

Australia is among the countries with the highest number of instruction hours, with an average of 962 hours a year for 12 to 14 year olds. This compares with an OECD average of 892 hours per year. The countries that outperform us in the PISA literacy, numeracy and science assessments have much fewer instruction hours per year– Sweden (741), South Korea ( 867) and Finland (777) – but devote proportionally more compulsory instruction time to these core subjects. Australia only devotes 13% of compulsory instruction time to reading, writing and literature, which is the lowest in the OECD.

New analyses of the 2006 PISA results show that socioeconomic disadvantage has a relatively low impact on performance in Australia compared with most other OECD countries. In the science component of PISA 2006, 39.4% of ‘strong’ performers (with scores in the top two performance bands) were students with a socioeconomic status index below the national average.

Figures provided in OECD publications are often accepted as Gospel, but they should always be viewed with caution and considered in light of each country’s policy context. The above figures, while interesting and informative, are no exception.

The above is part of a press release dated Sept. 11 from the Centre for Independent Studies. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590. Telephone ph: +61 2 9438 4377 or fax: +61 2 9439 7310

Australia: A school run by castrati

But they have not been physically unmanned. They have been castrated by Left-inspired anti-discipline laws. Once upon a time a 10 year old waving a small stick would have GOT the stick and that would have been the end of it. Now they have to call police

ANOTHER Ipswich school has been placed into lockdown, after a 10-year-old boy carrying a stick threatened the safety of staff and students. Police were called to Churchill State School yesterday morning after a young student began abusing classmates and teachers before picking up a stick and threatening to attack staff. The boy's parents picked him up before police arrived and no one was hurt during the incident.

The parents of a student at the school said their child also saw the boy hitting classroom windows with his scooter. “My kids said he was rolling along on his scooter and then using it to try and break windows,” a parent said.

The Ipswich Child Protection Investigation Unit said the child lashed out because he did not like being told what to do. Police later spoke to the boy and warned him about his aggressive behaviour.

The lockdown, which lasted for 10 minutes, was the third time an Ipswich school had been closed due to the threat of violence in the past 12 days. Ipswich State High School was in lockdown for an hour late last month after a gang of females invaded the site, threatening students and staff. Brassall State School was placed in lockdown the next day when an Ipswich State High student was chased from that site into the primary school across the road. The fleeing teenage student had to hide in Brassall State School's administration office while police were called.

Education Queensland (EQ) said the incident at Churchill State School was handled swiftly. “The acting principal acted calmly and professionally. The lockdown was put in place as a precautionary measure and it proceeded smoothly and without incident,” an EQ spokesman said. “A student became aggressive towards staff and students on the school oval. The student picked up a small stick and made general threats.”

When a school is in lockdown, students must remain on the ground while all classroom doors are locked and a bell is sounded. After the incident, Churchill State School teachers handed students a letter to pass to their parents explaining what had happened.

A parent who spoke to The Queensland Times said the lockdown was excessive. “I think it was over the top,” the parent said. “You would imagine a 10-year-old kid with a stick could be handled by teachers.”

Education Queensland said lockdowns were necessary for a wide range of incidents. “Lockdowns can be used in any situation that may threaten the safety of staff and students. This can include gas leaks near the school, external police operations or on-site altercations,” an EQ spokesman said.

Most parents The Queensland Times spoke to said the school looked after their children well and the site had not been on lockdown before. “It's a good school, my kids don't cop much stick from other students,” a parent said.


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