Saturday, February 28, 2009

An Option to Save $40,000: Squeeze College Into 3 Years

For many years, Australian and British bachelor's degrees have been 3-year degrees

Here's one way of cutting college costs: get a degree in three years, instead of four. This fall, Hartwick College, a small liberal arts college in Oneonta, N.Y., will offer students the option of doing just that, at a savings of more than $40,000. In the college's three-year degree program, students will complete the standard 120 credits, taking 18 credits in the fall, 4 in a January term and 18 in the spring. Students will be able to keep their summers free for internships or jobs. Whether for a three-year degree or a four-year one, Hartwick's tuition next year will be $32,550, 3.9 percent higher than the current year. Room and board will be about $9,000. "We anticipate a great deal of interest in an option that lets students get a top-quality education and save a whole year of tuition," said Margaret L. Drugovich, president of Hartwick.

Although most American students now take longer than four years to complete their degrees, the idea of three-year degrees has been gaining favor in some circles, with several colleges talking about or experimenting with such programs, often involving online courses or summer school.

Earlier this month, at the American Council on Education's annual meeting, Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, a Republican who served as education secretary and president of the University of Tennessee, urged colleges to consider three-year degrees, calling them the higher education equivalent of a fuel-efficient car.

Molly Corbett Broad, president of the council, said she believed the three-year degree option could help private colleges attract students as more families struggle with tuition costs. "Three-year degrees are a very important option, and I think we'll be seeing more of them," she said. "They won't serve a large proportion of students since a three-year degree requires that you finish high school college-ready, enroll full-time and be focused."

Some schools that considered the three-year approach have encountered strong resistance from faculty - or little interest from students. At Upper Iowa University, for example, a three-year option created about five years ago remains on the books, although only five students signed up for it and not one actually finished a degree in three years.

Three-year undergraduate degrees are the norm in Europe, but for the most part, students there have an extra year of schooling before going to a university, apply to a particular department and do not take general-education courses.

Although a growing number of American students arrive in college with several Advanced Placement credits, the College Board discusses that program not as a route to early graduation, but rather as a tool to promote on-time graduation.

Hartwick's three-year program will be open only to students with at least a 3.0 high school grade-point average and will be offered in 22 of the college's 31 programs. "This is not an easy thing for a college to do, and there are some programs, like music education, where we just didn't think students could get through in three years," Dr. Drugovich said. "In each program, students signed up for a three-year degree will have a special adviser to help them move through their courses."


Australia: Schools dump stupid Leftist grading scheme

A PIVOTAL part of the controversial outcomes-based education system will be killed off at WA schools. From 2010, teachers will no longer use a "levels" system to calculate grades for school reports for Years 1 to 10. But Education Department Director General Sharyn O'Neill said schools could "choose to dispense with levels with immediate effect". "Certainly the use of levels to assess and report to parents has been a major platform of OBE and we're removing that today," she said today at a media conference at Applecross Primary School.

Ms O'Neill said simplifying assessment by removing the use of levels would free teachers to focus on teaching and make it easier for parents to track their child's achievement at school. "Teachers will continue to report to parents using A to E grades, but without the current requirement of having to convert levels to grades," she said. Levels were dropped for years 11 and 12 in early 2007, after extreme pressure on the previous Labor Government from the anti-OBE group People Lobbying Against Teaching Outcomes. Many teachers felt that the eight levels of achievement were too complex, inconsistent, and created unnecessary and time-consuming paperwork.

Ms O'Neill said parents had told her they had been "confused" by levels. She said that to determine grades under the new system, teachers would use their ``professional judgement''. But Ms O'Neill, who conceded that WA had previously gone further with OBE than other states, also said teachers would be given online resources showing what standard earned a particular grade. "I want to make sure that an A in Albany is the same as an A in Applecross, as in any other place,'' she said. The Education Department would also give principals a grade distribution guide.

Ms O'Neill said student grades would be based on information including class work, tests and a student's performance in national literacy and numeracy tests. From what she could see, the new system would be compatible with the proposed national curriculum.

The move is seen as honouring a pre-election commitment by the Liberals, who when in Opposition promised an independent audit of WA's curriculum framework by an expert advisory group if they won government and to abolish levels from kindergarten to Year 10. Education Minister Liz Constable said she applauded the decision because unlike the new system, the use of levels did not meet the criteria of being fair to students, easily understood by parents and not creating extra and unnecessary work for teachers.

Rob Fry, president of peak parent group the WA Council of State School Organisations, said the move was a positive step in the right direction. "This way the teachers can focus on doing the grades, making the best judgement from their professional point of view and everyone will know exactly how the child is progressing,'' Mr Fry said.

Applecross Primary School principal Barry France said his teachers would appreciate the decision because it would save them doing a "significant'' amount of work that was part of an "unnecessary bureaucratic step'' - freeing them to focus on teaching and learning.


Friday, February 27, 2009

May the Fleas of 1000 Camels Infest Your Speech Code

by Mike S. Adams

I once had a dog named Jake that I liked very much. He was a well-behaved dog. When I asked him to sit, he would sit. When I asked him to shake, he would shake. When I asked him to stay, he would stay. Because he was so eager for praise and approval, it was easy to control his behavior. That old dog was a lot like the liberals who read my columns. Because I am very good at predicting the behavior of liberals, I did a very risky thing yesterday by taking credit for an email I did not actually send. It was all part of a little experiment on tolerance and diversity, which has yielded results much like I had predicted.

Those who read yesterday's column read my spoof apology for an email I claimed I had sent to the Department of Sociology and Criminology at UNC-Wilmington. The email, sent under the subject line "Bin Laden Found!", had a picture attached which showed the terrorist behind a cash register wearing a "7-11" vest. The responses to my apology were predictable. Here are a few of the highlights:
"You are not a conservative, you are a rude and insensitive bigot."

"You should resign from your position as a professor immediately. Don't wait for a conviction for hate speech."

"You are a complete embarrassment to academia."

"I hope Al Quada [sic] bombs your office."

"You are an arrogant bigot."

"I bet you're not sorry you fraud. You just don't want to lose your job."

"What a childish bigot you are. You'll get what you deserve. Finally."

"You are a predicably [sic] racist Republican. Please pardon any redundancy."

Of course, these are not all of the angry emails I got. But they do summarize the general sentiments of my numerous liberal readers - people who come back to my columns constantly because they are addicted to being angry. And now that I'm about to deliver the punch line of my little joke their anger is about to reach unprecedented heights.

For those who haven't yet figured it out, I was not the person who sent the racially insensitive email to the entire department. It was actually sent by a self-proclaimed liberal and atheist who, get this, teaches a university course in race relations. And, after sending the email to the entire department, no one (myself included) responded with a denunciation. The reasons for the silence are twofold:

1. The lone conservative on the mailing list recognizes that the First Amendment protects speech that is controversial and inflammatory. If the First Amendment was meant to protect speech that is main stream and uncontroversial it would hardly be necessary.

2. The over two dozen liberals on the email list believe in the selective application of the concept of hate speech. Specifically, they only apply it to speakers they hate such as conservatives and Christians and, of course, conservative Christians. They really have no concern for the groups they claim to be protecting from offense. In other words, hate speech is an objectively meaningless concept created by ideological bigots who are incapable of defending their ideas without government intervention. That is why the same people who support the discriminatory application of speech codes also support the "fairness" doctrine.

The whole problem of speech codes could be solved if we could just find a way to make liberals happy. But that would be harder than finding Osama Bin Laden in a convenience store in New Jersey. So I think we should sue the enforcers of these codes when it is necessary to do so. And we should ridicule them even when it isn't.


Race Cowards? In Academia, Certainly

Attorney General Eric Holder said the U.S. is "a nation of cowards" when it comes to race relations. In one sense, he is absolutely right. Many whites, from university administrators and professors, to schoolteachers, to employers and public officials, accept behavior from black people that they wouldn't begin to accept from whites. For example, some of the nation's most elite universities, such as Vanderbilt, Stanford and the University of California, have yielded to black student demands for separate graduation ceremonies and separate "celebratory events." Universities such as Stanford, Cornell, MIT and Cal Berkeley have, or have had, segregated dorms.

If white students demanded whites-only graduation ceremonies or whites-only dorms, administrators would have labeled their demands as intolerable racism. When black students demand the same thing, these administrators cowardly capitulate.

Calling these university administrators cowards is the most flattering characterization of their behavior. They might actually be stupid enough to believe nonsense taught by some of their sociology and psychology professors that blacks can't be racists because they don't have power. What about Holder's statement that America is "voluntarily segregated"? I say so what. According to the census, in 2007 4.6% of married blacks had a white spouse; less than 1% of married whites were married to a black. While blacks are 13% of the population, they are 80% of professional basketball players and 65% of pro football players. Mere casual observance of audiences at ice hockey games or opera performances would reveal gross voluntary segregation.

What would Holder propose the U.S. Justice Department do about these and other instances of voluntary segregation? The attorney general's flawed thinking is widespread whereby people think that an activity that is not racially integrated is therefore segregated. Blacks are about 60% of the Washington, D.C., population. At Reagan National Airport, which serves D.C., nowhere near 60% of the airport's water fountain users are black; I'd guess blacks are never more than 5% of users.

The population statistics of states such as South Dakota, Iowa, Maine, Montana and Vermont show that not even 1% of their populations are black. Does that mean Reagan National Airport water fountains and South Dakota, Iowa, Maine, Montana and Vermont are racially segregated? If Holder does anything about "voluntary segregation" at the state level, I hope it's not court-ordered busing; I'm not wild about their winters.

Just because some activity is not racially integrated does not mean that it is racially segregated. The bottom line is that the civil rights struggle is over and it is won. At one time black Americans didn't share the constitutional guarantees shared by whites; today we do. That does not mean that there are not major problems that confront a large segment of the black community, but they are not civil rights problems nor can they be solved through a "conversation on race."

Black illegitimacy stands at 70%, nearly 50% of black students drop out of high school and only 30% of black youngsters reside in two-parent families. Even though they're just 13% of the population, blacks in 2005 committed over 52% of the nation's homicides and were 46% of the homicide victims. Ninety-four percent of black homicide victims had a black person as their murderer.

Much of that pathology is precipitated by family breakdown and is entirely new among blacks. In 1940, black illegitimacy was 19%; in 1950, only 18% of black households were female-headed compared with today's 70%. Both during slavery and as late as 1920, a teenage girl raising a child without a man present was rare among blacks. If black people continue to accept the corrupt blame game agenda of liberal whites, black politicians and assorted hustlers, as opposed to accepting personal responsibility, the future for many black Americans will remain bleak.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Obama: High School Education Not Enough

This has sure got me confused. It sounds good but does it make sense? He rightly deplores the large numbers who drop out of High School and college but seems to think that the cure for that is for everyone to take post-high school education! I would have thought that the dropout rate shows that many people are not capable of higher education. How are they going to handle further education when they cannot even handle high schoool education? And if lots of people fail to complete college studies, does that not show that FEWER people should be enrolling in such studies?

President Obama called on all Americans to commit to at least one year of higher education or career training Tuesday, as he stressed the importance of better schooling in reviving the nation's economy during his first address to Congress. The president, arguing that a high school education is no longer adequate in the global economy, said the federal government just made a "historic investment" in education with its $787 billion stimulus plan. He said that while lawmakers and educators are responsible for making the system work, individuals are responsible for participating in it.

"So tonight I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training," Obama said. "This can be a community college or a four-year school, vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma." Obama lamented that just over half of Americans achieve an education beyond high school and warned of the consequences such trends could have on the country's standing in the world.

"We have one of the highest high-school dropout rates of any industrialized nation, and half of the students who begin college never finish," Obama said. "This is a prescription for economic decline, because we know the countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow." He said his new goal is for America to have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.

"Dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It's not just quitting on yourself -- it's quitting on your country. And this country needs and values the talents of every American," Obama said.


Amazing British discovery: "Back to basics discipline in school would curb bad behaviour"

Schools should adopt back-to-basics discipline methods to curb bad behaviour and improve results among pupils, according to the Government's education watchdog. Traditional rules such as banning children with shaven heads and those wearing designer trainers or gang colours have proved effective in maintaining order at the best comprehensives, according to a report by Ofsted. Formal assemblies, regular patrols of corridors, frequent school trips, strong values and appointing good teachers are also successful methods of raising standards, the study says.

The report examined how state schools in the most deprived areas improved standards, describing how one head teacher tackled troublemakers by suspending 300 pupils in a week. Parents of all children barred from school were also ordered to meetings - often at anti-social hours such as 6am or 11pm - to be given a dressing-down. Ofsted said the approach had proved successful and that poor-performing schools in England should mimic the methods to turn themselves around.

According to the watchdog, four in 10 secondary schools in England are still not good enough. Christine Gilbert, chief inspector of schools, said: "Although there has been some improvement in the last year, two secondary schools out of five are still judged to be no better than satisfactory. I commend this report to those who lead and govern these schools."

Michael Gove, the Tory shadow children's secretary, said: "These schools demonstrate that disadvantage should not mean low standards. Schools that have excellent head teachers with strong discipline policies and high expectations can help children thrive regardless of their economic background. We should celebrate this achievement and give parents the power to ensure that these approaches are adopted more widely across the state sector."

The Conservatives claim attempts by many heads to control pupils have been undermined in recent years with some parents over-turning heads' decisions to expel.

Figures published in December showed police were called out to deal with 40 violent incidents in schools every day, while a separate report suggested gang membership among pupils had become "more overt" in recent years.

In its report, Ofsted investigated 12 successful inner-city state secondary schools with high numbers of pupils from "poor or disturbed home backgrounds" and examined how they had approached school discipline. Inspectors said they ensured "the street stops at the gate" by imposing tight rules on behaviour and focusing on the basics. Many of the schools had police officers permanently stationed within the grounds, inspectors said.

Middleton Technology School, Rochdale, which is surrounded by neighbourhoods "beset with alcohol and drugs in one direction and gangs in the other", imposes strict uniform rules, said Ofsted. It bans students with "shaven heads or emblematic patterns in their hair, trainers with brand marks and conspicuous designs and other manifestations of group or gang culture".

Inspectors said Robert Clack School in Dagenham dealt with troublemakers "swiftly and severely". Some 300 were suspended in just a week and Paul Grant, the head teacher, once personally drove the school minibus around nearby streets looking for truants. The head also introduced formal assemblies "to explain to students how he expected them to behave".

At Greenwood Dale School, Nottingham, staff are "smartly dressed as professionals, and students reflect as well as respect this", said the report.

Margaret Morrissey, from the campaign group Parents Outloud, said: "Most parents will be pretty shocked if this sort of thing is not already happening in other schools. If schools don't have good discipline and expectations of youngsters then something is going very wrong. Teachers in many schools are clearly not being allowed to get on and do their jobs - they are spending too long being tied down by Government edicts."

Ofsted said all the schools in its study also focused on a system of praise and rewards for outstanding work. Other schools improved behaviour and exam results by focusing on the basics of literacy and numeracy in the classroom and refusing to "jump on bandwagons" by introducing every Government initiative. It said the schools had "generally not been rushing into" the Government's new diplomas, which are being introduced as an alternative to GCSEs and A-levels, although "this is likely to change".

Ofsted said the regular exodus of good teachers was "the scourge of many urban schools" and was one of the most "disruptive influences" on children's education. But these schools, including Bartley Green School in Birmingham, Harton Technology College in South Tyneside and Lampton School in Hounslow, London, reversed the trend. Some embarked on "worldwide recruitment" drives to find the best teachers.

Jim Knight, Schools Minister, said: "We should never shy away from celebrating success, especially when that success has been achieved in challenging circumstances. "We should continue to learn from our variety of successful schools in this country - this moment is theirs to enjoy."


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dumbing Down America

Enemies of testing are major culprits. Tests offend against their nonsensical "all men are equal" gospel

One of the most contentious social and political debates of our time pits the opposing goals of equality of opportunity versus equality of outcome. Some would claim the point was settled before the Founding of the American republic in that the Declaration of Independence recognized as an unalienable right the "pursuit" of happiness rather than happiness itself. Others argue that various social and political disadvantages through history create the need for more balanced outcomes as recompense for past wrongs.

This discussion is no more heated than in the world of education. The question of opportunity versus outcome is vexing and whether the discussion revolves around K-12 education or higher education, opportunity and outcome continually collide. We increasingly see this conflict played out in the way colleges and universities decide whom to admit and the unfortunate trend is that too many schools are redefining merit as it has traditionally been recognized.

The main engine behind this effort to change the nature of academic merit is a group called Fair Test, a Boston-based organization that characterizes itself as working to "end the misuses and flaws of standardized testing." The reality, however, is far different. The efforts and track record of this organization demonstrate that simply administering a standardized test constitutes a misuse, while the primary flaw of such tests is that they exist at all.

Standardized tests have been accused of potential bias since the 1970s when activists insisted that an Scholastic Aptitude Test question involving the word "regatta" was biased against women, minorities and anyone else who hadn't sported a silk ascot at the yacht club. In fact, the SAT and the ACT, another widely used college admissions test, have long since addressed legitimate claims of bias in testing. Both are scrupulously developed, reviewed and updated by dedicated educators to ensure they reflect a student's academic merit. They also are administered in a consistent manner, which is more than you can say about a lot of things in life. Anyone who must adhere to a set of standards in any endeavor knows they sometimes seem arbitrary. But arbitrary as college admission standards may be, they are nothing compared to the tyrannical anarchy of ill-defined or holistic admissions, which Fair Test promotes.

Human nature demands that we be given a target something for which we can strive. This is why humanity sets and seeks specific goals. But the holistic college admissions structure promoted by Fair Test and others destroys empirical standards and leaves such decisions to the whims of shifting admissions policies and those who formulate them. It's reminiscent of the uncertain standards I sometimes faced as a young black man coming of age in the post-segregation world of Cincinnati.

And who is formulating such policies? It varies from institution to institution but a look at the funding of Fair Test is troubling. Writer and college educator Mary Grabar revealed in her recent article that Fair Test is funded by men like liberal billionaire George Soros and the Woods Fund, who counts among its board members Bill Ayers, the former domestic terrorist who admitted complicity in a series of bombings from New York to Washington, D.C. during the 1970s.

All this, of course, would be forgivable if the goal was sincere, however misguided. But it's largely an extension of an education strategy that has been in place for nearly a half-century. In the 1960s, liberals began a concerted effort to seize control of higher-education, via dominating professorships and tenure. It worked. Now, the social engineers aren't content with dominating the faculty rooms they want to control who gets admitted to colleges and universities.

Ideology aside, the efforts of Fair Test and others who want to eliminate standardized testing stand to put all of American higher education at risk. Jonathan Epstein, a senior researcher with the private sector educational consultancy Maguire Associates, notes that colleges with test optional admission policies could disorient students and their families in terms of determining which college to attend. The result, says Epstein, is that "a disoriented customer market is not in the best interests of any institution or higher education in general."

Standards of academic excellence are critical to the future of students and our economy. If we forsake such standards based on the ill-conceived ideology of Fair Test and like-minded individuals, we risk not only our children's future but that of our nation.


The Groves of Hackademe

by Burt Prelutsky

Down through the years, there have been a great many movies in which school teachers have been portrayed as decent and hard-working, even heroic. Just a handful that come to mind are "Goodbye, Mr. Chips," "Holland's Opus," "This Land is Mine," "Up the Down Staircase," "Good Morning, Miss Dove," "Cheers for Miss Bishop," "The School of Rock," "Dangerous Minds," "Blackboard Jungle," "Stand and Deliver" and "Dead Poet's Society."

But when it comes to college and university professors, they tend to be portrayed either as comical buffoons ("The Nutty Professor," "Monkey Business," "Son of Flubber," "The Absent Minded Professor," "It Happens Every Spring," "Horse Feathers") or as petty, demented and, often as not, alcoholics ("Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf," "People Will Talk," "The Squid and the Whale"). In fact, the last time I recall a movie about a professor that any normal person would wish to spend time with was the 1948 release, "Apartment for Peggy," and even in that one, Edmund Gwenn spent most of his time planning to commit suicide.

Feeling, as I do, that most professors, aside from those teaching science or math, are over-paid, under-worked, left-wing narcissists infatuated with the sound of their own voices, it makes perfect sense that it would be nearly impossible to make a movie about them that wasn't a slapstick comedy.

One of the things that makes them particularly offensive is their hypocrisy. Although everyone of them would insist that tenure is essential -- not because it guarantees them a secure livelihood just so long as they don't burn down a dormitory or give a star athlete a failing grade -- but because it ensures them the right to voice unpopular, even unpatriotic, opinions. The truth, however, is that, more often than not, they're the bullies censoring free speech and punishing with low marks those students with the gumption to speak their own minds.

Just the other day, I read about a student here in L.A. whose professor called him a "fascist bastard" and refused to allow him to conclude his remarks in opposition to same-sex marriages. Although I am aware that this betrayal of the First Amendment occurs regularly in classrooms and lecture halls all across America, the reason I'm aware of this particular case is because the student, Jonathan Lopez, is suing. When Lopez, a devout Christian, asked his professor what grade he was getting for his speech, he was told to go ask God! So, on college campuses, it's okay to ridicule a student's religious convictions, but not to voice an objection to homosexual marriages.

I find it fascinating that academics see no need to be honest, tolerant or even logical. My friend, Larry Purdy, a Minnesota-based lawyer who worked on the University of Michigan cases regarding racial preferences, has written a book, "Getting Under the Skin of `Diversity': Searching for the Color-Blind Ideal," that makes mincemeat of the Supreme Court's fatuous decisions, while reminding many of us why we celebrated Sandra Day O'Connor's departure from the bench.

In 1998, Derek Bok, former president of Harvard, and William Bowen, former president of Princeton, collaborated on a book, "The Shape of the River," which greatly influenced O'Connor and a majority of her associates.

The entire purpose of the book was to prove that racial preferences (aka affirmative action) were beneficial for the elite schools and for society at large. For openers, Purdy proves that Bok and Bowen were deceptive, to say the least, because they never released the data that allegedly made their case. Instead, we're all simply expected to take their word for it even though, as clearly spelled out in Brown vs. Board of Education, the government is prohibited from treating citizens differently because of their race. According to Bok and Bowen, the benefits of racial diversity on elite college campuses, no matter how it's achieved, simply outweighs all other considerations.

The fact is, they admit that they don't have any idea how many of the minority students they claim to have studied made it to the university on their own merits and not simply because a bunch of elitist pinheads decided that leapfrogging them over more deserving white and Asian students was the American way.

Something else that Bok and Bowen didn't bother mentioning was the large numbers of minority students who graduated from historically black colleges and universities and went on to achieve a reasonable amount of fame and fortune in spite of not attending Ivy League schools.

As much as I'd like to, I can't deny that Ivy League graduates tend to go on to greater success than most people. But that has far less to do with the quality of education than with the fact that the students so often come from families that are already wealthy and powerful because their ancestors owned railroads, banks and oil companies, and they therefore have dibs on Senate seats and the Oval Office.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

UK: Latest weapon in War on Fat — dancing classes in school

Sounds harmless and provides a useful social skill

Ballroom dancing is set to become the latest craze in classrooms across Britain, as part of an effort to harness the success of the television show Strictly Come Dancing to combat childhood obesity. In the scheme to be launched tomorrow, schoolchildren in both primary and secondary schools will take part in Strictly Come Dancing-style sessions in school hours. The scheme, which will be piloted in 26 schools across the country, aims at improving youngsters’ health and self-esteem as they learn a range of dance styles. If it proves successful, it will be offered to all schools nationwide from this summer, and slotted into the national curriculum as part of the PE syllabus. Two teachers at each participating school will themselves be given lessons in ballroom dancing techniques so they can lead the sessions. The youngsters will then be put through their paces as they attempt the cha-cha-cha, waltz, jive, salsa and quick step – and other styles of ballroom and Latin dancing.

It will be launched by two of the professional dancers who have partnered celebrities on the BBC show, Darren Bennett and Lilia Kopylova. Darren partnered the actress Jill Halfpenny when she won the competition in 2004, and Lilia danced with the rugby player Matt Dawson – who lost to cricketer Mark Ramprakash in the finals of the 2006 television series. Darren, who first learnt to dance when he was just six years old, said: “Not everyone who learns ballroom dancing is going to take it up as a profession and win trophies, but that’s not the point. “It’s about having fun, getting fit and mixing socially with your peers.” The scheme is being launched by the Aldridge Foundation – an educational foundation which is planning sponsorship of two of the Government’s flagship academies – and City Limits Education.

The chairman of the Aldridge Foundation, Rod Aldridge, said the scheme was “about inspiring the nation’s young people to get off their feet to enjoy the physical exercise and confidence you can gain from ballroom dancing. “Ballroom dancing used to be seen as something old-fashioned and inaccessible – but by making it part of the national curriculum we can break down those barriers and give young people from all backgrounds the chance to benefit.” Mr Aldridge, who founded the Capita Group outsourcing business in 1984, and set up the foundation to concentrate on charitable activities after quitting as the group’s chairman in 2006, spoke of how learning to dance had changed his life.

“I was not particularly good at school. I didn’t do very well,” he said. “I was good at sport, though, and my father and mother introduced me to dance. My confidence and self-esteem were massively high as a result of being able to do it. “Dance wasn’t something a young lad should be doing in those days because it was considered a bit out of character. I did it through a dance school that my mother introduced me to. “Hopefully, those days have changed, now that Strictly Come Dancing has become so popular. I danced competitively until my early twenties and then – sadly – gave it up,” he said.

However, as a special surprise for his 60th birthday party, he invited Darren and Lilia – and trained with Lilia so he could stun guests by putting on a dance show. “It was from there that this started,” Mr Aldridge said.

The introduction of the scheme in primary and secondary schools follows an exhortation from the Health Secretary Alan Johnson for adults to consider taking dance classes as a means to improve their health and fitness and crack down on obesity. The scheme, called “Essentially Dance”, also mirrors a project pioneered in New York public schools, which was featured in the film Take The Lead starring Antonio Banderas. Academic experts who evaluated that project found that engaging young people in the discipline of ballroom dance gave students who struggled academically an outlet of expression that boosted their self-esteem, confidence and improved classroom behaviour.

The UK project will be evaluated by researchers at Roehampton University. Some of the schools involved in the pilot scheme have already been putting pupils through their paces in preparation for tomorrow’s launch.


Virtual universities a flop

American astronomer Clifford Stoll believes that "techies" like himself have a responsibility to challenge the hype surrounding computers. And if anyone is qualified to do so, it is Stoll: he is one of the pioneers of the internet. The former scientist at the University of California, Berkeley campus, has spent a good part of his career questioning the role of computers in the classroom. In his 2000 New York Times best-seller, High-Tech Heretic: Why Computers Don't Belong in the Classroom and other Reflections by a Computer Contrarian, Stoll predicted that virtual universities set up in the dotcom boom would flop.

Although Stoll often felt that he was a lone voice in challenging the viability of the new online university, he now feels vindicated. "I was right," he tells The Sunday Age from his home in San Francisco.

Despite many commentators such as US management guru Peter Drucker saying that "bricks and mortar" universities would disappear within 30 years, there's no sign they are vanishing. In fact, many universities have plans to update and expand their campuses. Monash University is spending $85 million on a new law building to allow the law faculty to move from its Clayton campus to Caulfield, and the University of Sydney has an $800 million program to renew and rebuild campuses.

But the virtual universities that were set up during the dotcom boom have almost all disappeared. Britain's virtual university, UKeU, which was set up in 2000 with £62 million ($A138 million) of government money, has folded.

Fathom, launched by Columbia University in association with 14 other universities, libraries and museums, is another casualty, as are New York University Online and AllLearn, a non-profit venture between Oxford, Yale and Stanford universities. None of the virtual universities could get enough enrolments, and some were plunged into debt.

Universitas 21 Global, which former Melbourne University vice-chancellor Alan Gilbert spearheaded, is still going and offers business courses and training for company employees. But its original predictions for enrolments and profit gains were wildly optimistic, and some universities have pulled out of the venture.

All along, Stoll has maintained that students want social interaction. "There's the interaction with other students. It isn't just memorable; it's really the purpose of living. The reason we go to college or even elementary school is to be closer to others, to develop friendships. I'm sure I'm like you. I went to college thinking, 'Hey, this is going to be a weird experience'," Stoll says.

More here

Monday, February 23, 2009

NY: Mom Accused of Sending Child to Wrong School

(Rochester, New York) A 31-year-old local mother, Michelle Aponte (pic), pleaded not guilty last Thursday to charges that she sent her daughter illegally to an out-of-district school.
Aponte’s daughter legally attended East Irondequoit school Laurelton Pardee from 2005 to 2007, but when Aponte moved to Rochester in 2007, she filed paperwork that falsely claimed her daughter lived with a friend in Irondequoit for the 2007-2008 school year.
Aponte faces two charges, making a punishable false written statement and filing a false instrument. She has a court appearance scheduled for March 12.

It's crazy, but I think Aponte would have been okay with the school system if she had listed herself and family as illegal aliens from Elbownia or if she had said she was homeless.

Kind of ironic, eh? We've got millions of people illegally in the U.S. sending their kids to schools with impunity while we're prosecuting actual citizens for having kids in the wrong schools.
British government determined to destroy any good schools in their sector

It takes good pupils to make good schools. Feral children will make any school a sink school. To preserve good education for the able poor, what is needed is a totally different policy: Separating out disruptive pupils and sending them to schools designed to deal with their problems. That's not blue sky. Something similar is already being done under Labor party governments in some parts of Australia. If it keeps on its present course, the British government will simply ensure that only privately-educated kids will be equipped to take leadership positions in Britain -- which is the opposite of what they claim to want

Thousands of children must take part in random lotteries for school places in a Government attempt to break a middle-class stranglehold on the best schools. Schools in a quarter of council areas are allocating places by lottery or "fair banding" – in which the school uses test results to deliberately select a proportion of pupils of poor ability. The move could cause difficulties for affluent families who have dominated successful schools by buying houses within their catchment areas, often paying a premium of tens of thousands of pounds.

Last year, Brighton became the first area to allocate places at all oversubscribed schools through lotteries after Government reforms gave councils and schools the power to do so. The policy is designed to make all state schools truly comprehensive by ensuring they contain pupils of mixed abilities and social backgrounds, rather than being dominated by those who can afford to live nearby.

The Daily Telegraph has found that lotteries and fair banding are in widespread use across the country. At least one of the methods is being used by state secondary schools in a quarter of the 150 council areas with responsibility for education across England. This means that up to 150,000 pupils applying for places this year could effectively have their futures decided "by the roll of a dice". Critics said that the methods amounted to social engineering and threatened misery for many middle-class families. Children can be forced to travel several miles every day after being turned down by their local school.

Michael Gove, the shadow schools secretary, said the Tories would prevent local authorities from enforcing lotteries in future, calling them an "unsatisfactory" way of assigning places. "The real problem is the lack of good schools," he said. "Far too many parents are denied a chance to educate their children in high quality schools."

Robert McCartney, the head of the National Grammar Schools Association, said: "There is something mildly offensive about a child's future being decided by nothing more than the roll of a dice." Margaret Morrissey, of the campaign group Parents Outloud, said the increasing use of lotteries was evidence that the Government was going back on its pledge to offer parents more choice.

The Daily Telegraph surveyed all 150 councils in England with responsibility for education. Of the 135 that responded, 25 said that some secondary schools in their area were using lotteries to assign places this year, while 22 said some of their schools were using "fair banding" to deal with oversubscription. Some council areas had schools using both methods, meaning that in total 37 councils had schools using at least one of them.

Juliette McCaffrey, a Labour councillor who was removed from Brighton & Hove council committee because of her opposition to lotteries, said they had failed to bring about the cultural diversity that their proponents promised. "If you look at the free meals statistics it didn't change the social make-up of the schools. It didn't benefit the people with lower educational aspirations – all it did was force some middle-class families to send their children to schools miles away."

Approximately 600,000 children are applying for places this September, and will find out in a fortnight if they have a place at their chosen school. Mark Willimott, a senior assistant principal at Brooke Weston Academy in Corby, Northamptonshire, which adopted random allocation last year, said: "It's the only way of giving every child a fair chance. If you are just going to draw a straight line from the school you are going to get the problem of rich parents buying houses on the local estate and sending up house prices."

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said that random allocation and fair banding were options open to schools to ensure fair admissions.


University policy goes full circle in Britain

The former polytechnics are to take back much of their previous role of providing adult education and vocational degrees rather than trying to ape leading academic institutions under reforms being drawn up by John Denham, the universities secretary. The change will mark a shift in policy for the government, which for years has tried to promote the research credentials of “new” universities alongside those of traditional institutions. It follows the eruption of “class war” between vice-chancellors this year over how to share 1.5 billion pounds of research funding. Universities created since 1992 claim they are entitled to a far higher share than in the past.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, Denham also signalled an easing of Labour attacks on Oxbridge “elitism” long pursued by ministers including Gordon Brown. Denham instead wants to encourage the emergence of an elite including Oxford, Cambridge and a handful of others. These would receive most research funding, although “pockets of excellence” in the post1992 group would also get a fair share. Denham will launch a strategy for higher education this summer and will give indications of its direction in a speech this week.

The concrete changes will include a fresh form of vocational degree. This will be offered mainly by new universities and will benefit teenagers who take specified vocational qualifications rather than A-levels. For example, those serving apprenticeships in hotels and restaurants could earn degrees in hotel management, while those with vocational qualifications in building could study part-time for a degree in construction while working on site. “I want to nurture the different parts of the system,” said Denham. “[For example] research-intensive universities and the ones who do most for part-time and adult education.” He added: “The truth is that a classics degree at a traditional university is not the same as a degree in mining and engineering at another.”

Denham has told friends that a country this size can probably support no more than five to 10 universities as an equivalent to America’s Ivy League. His remarks will come as a relief to leading universities. Labour has been putting them under relentless pressure to increase the proportion of students they admit from poorer backgrounds.

Denham, who attended a comprehensive in Lyme Regis, Dorset, and Southampton University, acknowledged that post1992 institutions must take the lead in bringing more working-class pupils into higher education. “Institutions that take most of the students who would not traditionally have gone to university are in a different position from those that are most research-intensive and selective,” he said. “We are not expecting those places to be the major places for widening participation.” He added: “We can’t expect universities to put right the whole welter of social disadvantage, low aspirations, lack of tradition of going to higher education.” The minister does, however, believe leading universities should put strenuous efforts into encouraging more applications from the 10,000 or so highly able teenagers from poorer families who never even apply “perhaps because nobody inspired them”.

Denham’s approach is likely to anger vice-chancellors of former polytechnics and dozens of other institutions that have been turned into universities in the past 16 years. Last week Malcolm Mc-Vicar, vice-chancellor of the University of Central Lancashire, warned that dividing institutions by role was “outdated” and could “lead to a row that will make the 2005 fees row look like a Sunday afternoon tea party”.


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Black State University sued for racial bias

Student says aid denied because she is not black

A Tennessee State University student from Guam has sued the historically black Nashville school in federal court on grounds of racial discrimination. In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, Angela Cela accuses TSU and three faculty members of violating her civil rights. The complaint says TSU refused to give Cela, a Pacific Islander, a financial grant available to graduate students in speech pathology and audiology because she isn't black. "You can't do those things anymore," said Hal Hardin, one of Cela's lawyers and a former U.S. attorney for Middle Tennessee.

Cheryl Bates-Lee, a TSU spokeswoman, declined to comment.

The legal action comes less than three years after TSU emerged from a court order - cited in Cela's lawsuit - that required the university to work to become more attractive to students of all races. A federal judge lifted the order in September 2006, declaring that TSU and other public universities had met their obligations. TSU is getting $40 million from the settlement of the case. It is using the money to create a $30 million endowment and pursue programs to boost and diversify enrollment.

The court order grew out of a lawsuit filed in 1968 by Rita Sanders Geier, a TSU instructor who argued the state was maintaining a dual, race-based system of higher education. But George Barrett, Geier's attorney, said Cela's suit has nothing to do with the Geier case. That case is over," Barrett said. "The court found that we have a unitary system." Cela's suit seeks to create a class action. Hardin said he wouldn't know how many students had been discriminated against until he could see the university's data, but he was aware of "several."

Two generations after Geier took the state to court, TSU remains predominantly black. White students made up 21.9 percent of the student body last fall.

Susanne Bonds is white, 23 and two years into her physical therapy doctoral program at TSU. Bonds opted to attend TSU because she wanted to study in her hometown and could afford it. She said she has heard about financial aid delays from black and white students and experienced a mix-up with paperwork that caused her health insurance to lapse. But she isn't convinced her experiences had anything to do with race. "I have no idea why they are the way they are, slow to get things done," Bonds said. "But I don't feel like I've been treated differently because of the color of my skin."

Jonathan Ramsey, an African-American business management student, finds it hard to believe nonblack students are being mistreated as a group. "Honestly, if anything, I would say that TSU is looking to grow the university," said Ramsey, 24, of St. Louis. "So they aren't looking to turn people away or turn people off."

According to the suit, Cela sought a grant in March 2007 to help her enroll in graduate school at TSU the following August. But she didn't receive any information on her request before classes started. In February 2008, Harold Mitchell, head of the department of speech and audiology, told Cela she didn't qualify for the grant because she wasn't black, the complaint says. Cela told Mitchell that Pacific Islanders were represented even less than African-Americans in the field of speech pathology.

"Ms. Cela stated that she was advised by several of her professors that this entire situation could have been avoided had she announced that she was not white," the suit says. "Then and there Dr. Mitchell stated: 'Well, what do you expect? You are at an historically black university. You have to know the backdrop and understand our professors' point of view when they converse with white students.' Mitchell's department offered Cela a grant retroactively, but she had already found other funding.


Quality teachers in British government schools

Teacher who used crack cocaine and fell asleep during lessons allowed to keep his job

A teacher who admitted using crack cocaine and falling asleep during lessons has been allowed to keep his job at the Government's newest academy school. William Horseman, who now teaches at the Merchants Academy in Withywood, Bristol, was a user of crack cocaine during 2005 and 2006 when he was working at Ridings High School, in nearby Winterbourne. He admitted one count of unacceptable professional conduct at a hearing of the General Teaching Council on Thursday.

It was told that on six occasions he failed to turn up for work at Ridings and fell asleep during lessons and on a school trip to a zoo in 2006 and 2007. He was found to be a user of the class A drug after an incident in a Bristol flat in where he had his car stolen, and after calling the police, admitted to them he used the class A drug.

The maths teacher, who was not represented at the hearing in Birmingham, told the panel committee he 'had learnt his lesson' and wanted to move forward. Mr Horseman, who had worked at the Ridings school for 25 years, said he wanted to rebuild a reputation that he had spent a long time constructing. Asked why he had used the drug, Mr Horseman replied: 'I was unhappy at home, I wanted to get out. Nobody has ever caught me doing it, the only reason is I admitted it. 'I'm not proud, I'm ashamed and I've learnt a lesson from it.'

Mr Horseman told the panel he had only taken the class A drug for three to four months. When asked by a committee member how he could stop taking such an addictive drug, Mr Horseman said that after being found out, he 'had no wish or desire to carry on'. 'The situation frightened me,' he added. Aaron King, chairman of the GTC committee, said: 'The use of crack cocaine a class A drug by any member of the teaching profession is completely unacceptable.'

But Mr Horseman was allowed to carry on teaching at the 23million pound Merchants Academy. Mr King said the panel had taken into consideration his 'candour in accepting his past failings' and 'various stressful circumstances in his personal life at the time'. He added: 'We accept his assurance that such conduct will not be repeated. 'We have decided given the seriousness of the matters proved, a period of further monitoring of Mr Horseman's teaching progress is appropriate. We have therefore decided to impose a conditional order.' The conditions of the order specify that three times per year he will provide to the GTC a report from his employer confirming satisfactory conduct. It will remain in place for two years.