Sunday, October 04, 2009

Schoolhouse Shariah in the US

California's educrats have put out new rules for teaching Islamic studies to seventh-graders in public schools, and they are as biased as ever. They'll also likely spread eastward. The lesson guidelines adopted by the bellwether state whitewash the violence and oppression of women codified in Islamic law, or Shariah. And they're loaded with revisionist history about the faith.

For example, the suggested framework glorifies Shariah as a liberal reform movement that "rejected" the mistreatment of women that existed in Arabia before Muhammad and his successors conquered the region, according to Accuracy in Academia. The guidelines claim that Islamic law established for the first time that men and women were entitled to equal "respect."

Not so, says Islamic scholar and author Nonie Darwish, who grew up Muslim in Egypt. "I am shocked that that is what they teach," she said. "Women had more rights in Arabia before Shariah."

In fact, "wife beating is allowed under Shariah" today, she added. "It allows a woman seen without a headdress to be flogged, punishes rape victims, and calls for beheading for adultery."

California's course on world religions also omits Islam's long history of jihadist violence, while portraying Christianity as an intolerant and bloodthirsty faith. Christianity isn't given equal time, either. It's covered in just two days — as opposed to up to two weeks for Islam — and doesn't involve kids in any role-playing activities like the Islam unit. Students do get a healthy dose of skepticism about the Christian faith, including a biting history of its persecution of other people.

Islam, in contrast, gets a pass from critical review. Even jihad is presented as an "internal personal struggle to do one's best to resist temptation," not waging holy war. "California schools are pushing an unbalanced religious agenda that favors Islam and minimizes Christianity and Judaism," Accuracy in Academia warns in its latest Campus Report. Who helped build the California Education Department's framework for Islamic studies? Islamist "scholars" with the Council on Islamic Education, or CIE, a Saudi-tied activist group.

The consultancy changed its name after former IBD Washington bureau chief Paul Sperry, author of Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives Have Penetrated Washington, exposed that its chief researcher and textbook consultant for years taught social studies at a Saudi madrassa just outside Washington. The Islamic Saudi Academy is a breeding ground for terrorists, including the valedictorian-turned-al-Qaida agent recently sentenced to life for plotting to assassinate President Bush.

Recently, Fox News reported that the head of CIE — now known as the Institute on Religion and Civic Values — misled California education authorities about his academic credentials. For one, Shabbir Mansuri never received a USC degree in chemical engineering as he has claimed, Fox says.The group's Web site no longer includes the claim. These are the folks who are teaching your children about Islam in public schools. Parents have protested, even sued, but to no avail.

For example, parents of seventh-graders in the San Francisco area, who after 9/11 were taught pro-Islamic lessons as part of California's world history curriculum, sued under the First Amendment ban on religious establishment.

They argued, reasonably, that the government was promoting Islam by mandating that their kids participate in Muslim role-playing exercises such as designing prayer rugs, taking an Arabic name and essentially "becoming a Muslim" for two full weeks. Children also were told to recite aloud Muslim prayers that begin with "In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful," and memorize the Muslim profession of faith: "Allah is the only true God, and Muhammad is his messenger."

But a federal judge appointed by President Clinton told parents in so many words to get over it, that the state was merely teaching kids about another "culture." California's 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision, ruling that it was OK to put public-school kids through Muslim role-playing exercises. The decision was a major victory for the multiculturalists and Islamic apologists in California and across the country who've never met a culture or religion they didn't like — with the exception of Western civilization and Christianity.

You can't teach the Ten Commandments in public schools. But teaching the five pillars of Islam is A-OK.


Alternate assessments are better for educrats than students

Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Dale referred to my Sept. 22 column on inflated tests scores as "inaccurate" and "unsubstantiated" in his Sept. 27 letter to the editor ("Column on test scores misleading, inaccurate and unsubstantiated").

But if that's the case, Dale himself is to blame. The data I cited, which was sent by FCPS to the state Department of Education, shows an exponential explosion in the use of the Virginia Grade Level Assessments in Fairfax County schools.

For example, the number of students taking VGLAs instead of Standards of Learning tests at Poe Middle School more than doubled this year from 75 to 165 -- after the alternative assessment program was fully implemented.

Same for Key Middle School, where 51 VGLA students last year increased to 107 this year. Is it a coincidence that both schools' pass rates also increased by double digits?

Because neither DOE nor FCPS report separate SOL and VGLA scores - both combine them to calculate a school's overall pass rate - it is disingenuous for Dale to deny that the VGLA affects test scores. Data submitted by FCPS show that 14 of the 20 elementary schools with the most VGLA portfolios posted 100 percent pass rates this year; four more were at 98 or 99 percent, and only one was below 90.

It's ridiculous to argue that the massive jump in scores since 2006 - the year before the VGLAs were approved for students with learning disabilities and those still learning English - has nothing to do with the 1,200 percent increase in VGLA participation.

If Dale can explain how Lynbrook Elementary got a 100 percent pass rate (up 30 percentage points in just three years) when three-fourths of its students are non-English speaking without factoring in the 103 students (40 percent of third- through sixth-graders) who took the VGLA, he should be running the U.S. Department of Education himself.

Data released by DOE also shows that the grading of VGLA portfolios is unreliable and subjective. In spring 2007, work from 61 Fairfax County students was audited and 24 were rejected for a 39.3 percent overturn rate.

Same thing in spring 2008: 178 portfolios out of 590 audited were tossed, for a 30.2 percent error rate. This spring, 265 of 885 portfolios - 29.9 percent - didn't make the grade.

The fact that almost a third of all audited VGLAs are rejected, with no substantiating evidence to the contrary from Dale, makes it pretty obvious that these tests are not equivalent to the SOLs. But while higher scores make Dale and his administrators look good, they are actually quite harmful to the students who really do need help.

There are 32 Title 1 schools in Fairfax County with high percentages of disadvantaged students, for which FCPS gets federal funds for additional instruction in language arts and mathematics specifically to help these students pass the SOLs. If a Title 1 school fails to meet its annual yearly progress goals for three years, parents are entitled to "pupil place" their children in another school under No Child Left Behind.

When a high percentage of at-risk students are steered into doing VGLA portfolios instead of taking the SOLs (all of the top 10 VGLA schools are also Title 1 schools), the final test numbers are skewed.

But that's not all. If enough students in a particular Title 1 school "pass," all the students in that school forfeit their right to additional tutoring and/or pupil placement under NCLB, especially worrisome during a time of deep budget cuts.

The charade continues until parents figure out that the chief beneficiaries of the "alternative assessment" are really Dale and his staff of educrats, not their kids.


Free to choose

"Go down Moses, tell the Pharaoh let my people go! ... Go down Mr. President, let our children go to the school of their choice!" former Washington Mayor Marion Barry proclaimed to applause at the D.C. School Choice Rally yesterday in front of Capitol Hill.

Moses' cry to "let my people go" rallied the civil-rights movement in the 1950s and '60s. The mostly black crowd agreed with Obama's Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who has said that education is the "civil rights issue of our generation." Yet on the issue of D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program allowing school choice, the president, his Education Department, and Congress would rather play the role of Pharaoh than Moses.

Some 1,500 people were there -- most with yellow T-shirts reading "Put kids first." Many of the attendees were students on lunch break, in addition to several hundred parents and relatives of students who turned out to voice support for the program. "Give parents a choice, kids a chance," said April Cole-Walter, whose daughter was enrolled under the scholarship program.

Kids in D.C. public schools don't have much of a chance. Of the states plus D.C., Washington ranked last, 51st out of 50 states, in the National Assessment of Educational Progress 2007 test in 8th grade math and reading proficiency rates. Students in voucher programs have demonstrated better results, yet these data have not persuaded enough politicians to buck Democratic constituencies that favor the status quo.

The trouble began in March when Senator Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) inserted language in a spending bill that cut the $14 million for the Opportunity Scholarship Program from the Department of Education's budget. The cut meant that the 1,700 scholarships under the program would be revoked. However, since TAS reported on the issue in May, the president has allowed ongoing scholarship recipients to continue through the 12th grade, but has reneged on incoming scholarship recipients for this academic year.

Last year, LaTasha Bennett was informed that her 4-year-old daughter, Nia, would receive a scholarship under the program that they would use to enroll her in Naylor Road School with her older brother. But last spring she received a second letter from the Department of Education that said her daughter's scholarship was being canceled because of the program's termination. Nia was one of 216 low-income children that had her scholarship revoked by the Obama administration.

"I'm not going to send my child to a public school," Ms. Bennett told TAS yesterday. She then explained that her nephew had died in a gunfight at a public school and that she would not allow that to happen to her daughter. Nia is now receiving support from private donations, allowing her to go to the private Naylor Road School, but it is uncertain how long she will be able to continue receiving sufficient donations.

Some children aren't as fortunate. Virginia Walden Ford, executive director of D.C. Parents for School Choice, told TAS she believed that the majority of the 216 children who had their scholarships revoked were forced to attend public schools this year.

Also present was Bruce Stewart, former head of Sidwell Friends School, the prestigious private Quaker school attended by the president's children. No new students will attend that school this year under voucher money -- just the students whose parents can afford it, wealthy students like Sasha and Malia Obama.

Several members of the audience were less than happy with the Congress. "Durbin, he's the worst!" a lady said about the Democratic majority whip. Public support for the D.C. voucher program has polled at around 75% approval. Yet, teachers unions overwhelmingly reject vouchers as a solution to failing public schools. In the 2008 election cycle, 95% of teacher union political contributions went to Democrats.

Ex-mayor Barry, House Minority Leader John Boehner, and former Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, were among several who voiced support yesterday for school choice in Washington, D.C. It remains uncertain what will happen to the program. On July 30, Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), George Voinovich (R-OH), Robert Byrd (D-WV), and John Ensign (R-NV) introduced legislation expanding the program, but it hasn't been brought to the floor for a vote. The bill would authorize $20 million in Opportunity Scholarships.

The fight for school choice in D.C. has pitted predominantly black, Democratic parents against their own party and produced an unlikely alliance with the GOP. Barack Obama's election was arguably the culmination of the civil rights struggle. But these parents are still looking for someone to let their people go.


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