Saturday, March 28, 2009

Jeffrey Maxwell’s Silver Hammer

by Mike S. Adams

I like teaching police officers because it virtually assures that no one will ever go on a shooting spree in my building at UNC-Wilmington. The officers I teach are, of course, allowed to carry guns – and many do as they go on duty directly after attending classes. Because criminals a) are aware of this, and b) are generally rational, the next shooting rampage will not be happening in my general vicinity.

The fact that most academics are generally ignorant of the benefits of guns on campus is readily apparent to those following a recent case at Western Oregon University located in Monmouth, Oregon. The case involves a former Marine named Jeffrey Maxwell who used to carry a derringer to school along with a small knife. He carried both concealed.

Maxwell carries his gun because, like many former Marines, he has a license to do so. His permit allows him to carry although not in federal buildings or in courthouses. He was studying in the student union when Monmouth Police officers approached him to ask whether he was armed.

Maxwell admitted he had a gun and knife in his pocket and an unloaded rifle in his truck. He was arrested and cited for possessing a firearm in public. Of course, he was let go by a district attorney who recognized that Maxwell simply had not committed any crime. But the fact of his complete innocence didn’t stop the university from going after Maxwell.

The university should have apologized to Maxwell. Instead, a student judicial panel suspended him from school for violating a student conduct rule banning the possession of weapons on campus.

The Oregon legislature could try to pass a law banning firearms possession - even for those with concealed carry permits - in places other than courthouses or federally owned buildings. If they tried to pass such a law they could well succeed.

But, in this case, Maxwell’s decision to carry was not challenged by any change in state law. It was challenged by yet another lawless university trying to trump state law with its own handbook. (For those who have not noticed, universities also try frequently to trump federal law with their handbooks. Often, they try to do both at once. It’s an old trick that often succeeds without challenge).

But the Maxwell case involves a more novel trick. It involves having this falsely accused man (who, remember, served his country in the Marines) get a mental health evaluation before returning to school. This may be worse than Hamline University’s decision to suspend a student simply for advocating concealed weapons permits on campus. That student was also ordered to submit to a psychological evaluation before returning to school.

To make matters in this case even worse, Maxwell is being told to write a 10-page paper on following the law and accepting responsibility for his actions. This requirement is coming from a university that did not follow the law and, in fact, is trying to trump it. And the university seems unwilling to take responsibility for doing so.

Speaking for the Oregon university system, Di Saunders correctly asserts that the question of allowing concealed weapons on campus is one of student safety. But she incorrectly asserts that allowing permit holders to carry on campus will make the campus more dangerous. No peer-reviewed publication has ever come to that conclusion based on actual evidence. And many have come to a contrary conclusion.

But university administrators rarely make decisions based on evidence. Instead, they make decisions based upon feelings. How will they feel when the next Jeffrey Maxwell is unable to stop the next Seung-Hui Cho?


Teachers attack 'absurd' British plans to measure pupil happiness

Plans to grade schools based on pupils' happiness have been branded "meaningless" and "absurd". Headteachers said Government proposals for a radical overhaul of school inspections were too bureaucratic and would lead to schools in deprived areas being "castigated".

Under plans, schools will be rated on a range of measures including the take-up of lunches in canteens, the proportion of pupils doing two hours of sport a week, the quality of sex education lessons and relationship advice. Schools will also be measured on truancy, exclusions and the ability to promote "emotional resilience" in their pupils. The so-called wellbeing indicators could also be used in a "report card" system being proposed by the Government as a new way of ranking schools.

It follows a recent report from the Children's Society that said that competitive schooling, league tables and selfish parenting was creating a generation of miserable young people.

But the "happiness" measures are being opposed by teachers' leaders, who claim they are almost impossible to quantify. In response to an official Government consultation on the plan, the Association of School and College Leaders, which represents more than 14,000 secondary heads and deputies, said they were creating "widespread anxiety" in schools. The use of school lunches as a proxy for pupil wellbeing was "absurd", claimed the association, while exclusion rates said little about whether pupils were happy. Officials also warned that schools in the poorest areas would suffer because they admitted large numbers of problematic pupils.

The National Association of Head Teachers, which represents primary heads, said the plans were "fundamentally flawed".

The National Union of Teachers said the proposals would "simply reduce schools' work in this area to a checklist of Ofsted indicators". Another union, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: "We are disappointed that the Government is spending time and money developing indicators which will indicate nothing of any substance."

But Phil Revell, chief executive of the National Governors' Association, said: "The aim behind what the Government is trying to do – that schools should be reporting to parents on the basis of more holistic indicators than simply pupils' exam performance – is right. But the current set of measures are not good enough."

The comments come days after Carol Craig, chief executive of the Centre for Confidence and Wellbeing in Glasgow, said that teachers' drive to build their pupils' self-esteem had gone too far, with many parents unwilling to have their children criticised for fear it might damage their feelings.

Ofsted and the Government are due to respond to their consultation by the end of the month. An Ofsted spokeswoman said: "Early analysis of the consultation responses shows broad support for many aspects of the consultation. Many of the indicators proposed, including those derived from surveys of parents/carers and pupils and information about attendance and exclusions, are invaluable. They will help schools to evaluate and compare aspects of their own practice with schools nationally, as well providing evidence for Ofsted inspections."


Filipino teachers for America

More than 100 school districts, including at least 20 in California, are recruiting in the Philippines to fill teacher shortages in math, science and special education.

Filipino exchange teacher Ferdinand Nakila landed in Los Angeles expecting "Pretty Woman" scenes of swank Beverly Hills boulevards and glittering celebrities. What he got was Inglewood, where he stayed for two weeks in temporary housing and encountered drunkards, beggars, trash-filled streets and nightly police sirens.

It got worse. In training sessions about American classrooms he received in the Philippines, he was told his students might not be quite as polite and respectful as those in his homeland. Nothing, however, prepared him for the furious brawl that broke out in one of his Los Angeles classrooms, where two girls rolled around on the floor clawing at each other while the other students jumped on the desks and cheered.

But Nakila said his American sojourn has transformed him into a far better educator than when he arrived in August 2007. In the Philippines, he was imperious and demanding, throwing students out of his classroom for inadequate preparation with little thought of their plight.

In Los Angeles, his daily encounters with students struggling to learn despite shattered homes, sexual abuse, physical violence or hunger have humbled him into a new vision of teaching. "I realize we are servants and teaching is more about touching lives and helping students own their own learning," said Nakila, 38, a special education teacher in English at Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles.

Nakila is part of a recent wave of foreign exchange teachers from the Philippines, who are primarily being recruited to fill chronic teacher shortages in math, science and special education throughout the United States. More than 100 school districts, including at least 20 in California, are recruiting from the Philippines, said Los Angeles immigration attorney Carl Shusterman.

The Los Angeles Unified School District has hired 250 to 300 teachers from the Philippines -- the largest contingent among more than 600 foreign exchange teachers overall, a district official said. The statewide budget crisis and impending layoffs, however, have prompted L.A. Unified to suspend its foreign recruitment this year, said Deborah Ignagni, a district human resources administrator.

Ignagni said the L.A. district first began recruiting foreign exchange teachers in the 1980s from Mexico and Spain to help with bilingual elementary education. But it shifted to the Philippines and Canada for math, science and special education teachers in the last four years, she said. L.A. school officials have tapped the Philippines for several reasons, Ignagni said. The higher education system is similar, so credits are easily transferable for U.S. teaching credentials.

The Philippines has an abundance of teachers, which allows U.S. recruiters to avoid perceptions that they are taking educational resources needed by Filipinos, Ignagni said. And most Filipinos speak English and can understand some Spanish, which is embedded in the Filipino language as a result of Spain's 300-year colonization of the islands.

Many of the teachers themselves say they jumped at the chance to work in the United States, lured primarily by far better pay. Most teachers in the Philippines earn $300 to $400 a month, less than one-tenth what they can pull down in Los Angeles. But high processing fees from recruitment and visa sponsoring agencies have strapped many with debts of $10,000 or more. Some, such as Gelacio Aguilar, sold land in the Philippines to finance their ventures. Others scraped up money from family and friends; still others took out loans.

To be hired in L.A. Unified, the teachers must pass basic skills exams and interviews, fulfill the requirements for a California teaching credential and have three to five years of successful teaching experience in public schools.

The teachers had hoped for work visas that would potentially lead to green cards. But L.A. Unified brings them in on three-year teacher exchange visas known as J-1s because they are easier to obtain, Ignagni said. The district is now applying for work visas for some teachers whose exchange visas have expired.

Once the teachers arrive in Los Angeles, school officials give them a two-week orientation and offer job fairs to connect them with schools. But many describe a rocky start: loneliness, befuddlement over bus routes, apartment hunting, dealing with U.S. currency, American-style resume-writing. And, once in the classroom, utter shock.

Asked to describe his first year, Garcia leaned back in his chair, covered his face with his hands and murmured, "Oh, God." His ninth-graders' average math skills were sixth-grade level. While he was trying to teach, students roamed the classroom, applied makeup, chatted with one other, tuned out with iPods. A hallway fight started spilling into his class, and when he tried to push the brawlers back out, he said, he was reprimanded for touching them.

During a recent evening interview at his Washington Boulevard apartment, Nelson de la Cruz pulled up his shirt to reveal a black and blue bruise. He got it, he said, after a student threw a book at him. Another teacher suffered injuries after a chair was thrown at her, said Daniel Gumarang of the Filipino American Educators Assn. of Los Angeles, which is aiding the teachers. Some teachers have given up and headed back to the Philippines, but Ignagni estimated them at "less than a handful."

Nakila, for instance, said he learned something every day about how to handle his students. One lesson: be sensitive to their backgrounds. Aiming to inspire them, he presented Latino success stories and asked students to write about their own heroes, but the reaction was negative, even angry. When he told them about his own heroic father and asked them to describe their own, Nakila said one lashed out, "I don't even know his name, and I don't want to know." Now he avoids lessons that might cause them to feel inadequacies in their own families.

He keeps cookies in the classroom to feed students who come to school without breakfast, a situation he said he never imagined he would find in wealthy America. He calls parents to ask why they're giving their children Kool-Aid rather than something more nutritious. He tells students he will never give up on them, even if they show their worst. "I used to wake up thinking 'Oh, my God, let me survive this day,' " Nakila said. "Now I wake up excited, eager to meet my students."


Friday, March 27, 2009


Two reports below:

Exit Winston Churchill, enter Twitter ... Yes, it's the new British primary school curriculum

Primary schools could ditch traditional lessons in favour of teaching children how to use social networking sites such as Twitter, it emerged yesterday. The usual Leftist fear of knowledge at work

In the biggest education shake-up for 20 years, pupils would no longer have to learn about the Romans, Vikings, Tudors, Victorians or the Second World War. Instead, under the blueprint for a new primary curriculum – which was drawn up by former Ofsted chief Sir Jim Rose following a request from Children's Secretary Ed Balls – they would have to be able to master websites such as Wikipedia, as well as blogging and podcasting. Compulsory sex education will start from five and children as young as nine will be taught to make 'informed decisions' about taking drugs and drinking alcohol.

As swathes of prescribed knowledge in science, history and geography are stripped back, schools will be encouraged to put a big emphasis on internet skills, environmental education, healthy eating and well-being. 'English will cover 'media texts' and 'social and collaborative forms of communication' alongside traditional works of literature.

These should include 'emails, messaging, wikis and twitters'. Wikis, as in the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, are information databases that rely on being edited by the public, regardless of whether they have any specialist knowledge in the subject being discussed. Twitter is the latest phenomenon in social networking that entails writing short messages of just 140 characters to update other users of one's activities, feelings or thoughts.

Sir Jim's proposals are the biggest shakeup of primary schooling since the Tories introduced a national curriculum in 1988. But the final draft, which was leaked yesterday, was last night branded 'dangerous' and an assault on knowledge, while critics said children were accustomed to using modern media at home and needed no encouragement at school.

Robert Whelan, deputy director of the Civitas think-tank, which published a damning critique on the curriculum two years ago, said: 'This is yet another step on the journey to drain all academic content from the school curriculum and to replace discrete bodies of knowledge, which have been organised under subject headings for hundreds of years, with a lot of social engineering and flabby attempts at feelgood philosophy. 'These proposals will only serve to increase the educational apartheid between the state and independent sector, because the latter will retain traditional subjects.'

Pointing out the need for greater historical education, not less, he said he had recently asked a group of pupils in their late years at primary school when Shakespeare lived, and the answer came back as '50 years ago'.

Sean Lang, senior lecturer in History at Anglia Ruskin University and secretary of the Historical Association, said: 'This is part and parcel of a general trend both at primary and secondary level to downgrade knowledge, as if all you need is techniques, and knowledge is just stuff you get from the web.'

The Conservatives' education spokesman, Michael Gove, said: 'Sir Jim Rose's review of the primary curriculum has already promised to teach our children less. Now it proposes to replace solid knowledge with nods towards all the latest technological fashions.'

Under the proposed curriculum, children must also gain 'fluency' in keyboard skills as well as handwriting, and learn to use a spellchecker as well as learning to spell. Meanwhile a physical development, health and wellbeing programme will make sex education compulsory in primaries for the first time. From around the age of five, pupils will be taught about gender differences while at nine, they will learn about 'the physical changes that take place in the human body as they grow and how these relate to human reproduction'. They will also be told 'how new relationships may develop'. Under this section, schools will be required to cover healthy diets but will able to offer less variety of competitive sport.

Schools Minister Jim Knight said: 'Sir Jim Rose's report has not been completed let alone published yet – but we are already getting stories about dropping this or removing that from the curriculum. The bottom line is that we are working with experts to free up the curriculum in a way that teachers have asked us to do but British history has, and always will be, a core part of education in this country. 'Of course pupils in primary schools will learn about major periods including the Romans, the Tudors and the Victorians and will be taught to understand a broad chronology of major events in this country and the wider world.'


British grade-schools will teach seven-year-olds to speak properly

Primary school pupils will be taught to speak properly and recognise how to use standard English in formal settings, under proposals to overhaul of the curriculum for seven to 11-year-olds. The proposals will place strict emphasis on teaching children to “adjust what they say according to the formality of the context and the needs of their audience”. The reforms, to be finalised in April, follow similar changes to the secondary curriculum, which aimed to banish expressions such as “I ain’t” from pupils’ presentations.

They will also be taught how to create multimedia products, such as blogs, using moving images, text and sounds and to “share information with people and audiences within and beyond the school”. Crucially, they will also be taught to “make judgements about the reliability” of information gleaned on the internet, so they understand that cutting and pasting someone else’s work from the the internet does not constitute independent research.

The reforms aim to declutter the curriculum and to give teachers more control. The 13 traditional subjects would be merged into six learning areas and cross curricular learning would be the order of the day. These are: understanding English, communication and languages; mathematical understanding; scientific and technological understanding; human, social and environmental understanding; understanding physical health and well-being; and understanding arts and design.

In history children will no longer have to study both the Victorians and World War Two, as there will be greater flexibility over content. But they will still have to learn about “two key periods of history” significant to the UK and will study “a broad chronology of major events in the UK and the wider world”.

Flora Wilson, education manager of the Historical Association, which represents historians history teachers, said she believed that many teachers would welcome the more flexible approach of the reforms. Cross curricular teaching could enable more history teaching to take place than at present. An example may be a course on ‘the role of women in World War 2’, which would combine teaching about the war with lessons on food production and nutrition, she said.

John Bercow, Conservative MP, and author of a government backed review of communication skills, welcomed the report’s emphasis on oracy. “In a world where the job for life has disappeared, there is a premium on communications skills - speaking and listening, which in turn promote social mobility,” he said.

But Michael Gove, the Shadow Education Secretary, expressed scepticism about Sir Jim’s emphasis on technology. “Information technology is hugely important, but it should be a means, not an end in itself,” he said.


Australia: Christian school rejects Muslim teacher

A CHRISTIAN school in Werribee has been forced to defend its refusal to offer a training placement to a Muslim teaching student on the grounds of her religion. Victoria University student Rachida Dahlal has reportedly lodged a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Commission against Heathdale Christian College, accusing it of discrimination and prejudice.

But the faith-based private school stood by its decision last night. It said it would have been "inappropriate" to offer the student a placement because of the school's Christian ethos. Principal Reynald Tibben said Mrs Dahlal - who wears a head scarf and is a devout Muslim - may have found it difficult to work at a school where the teachers' morning staff briefing includes prayer devotion and Bible reading. "The way we practise our education is not just nominal, it's actually what parents want for their kids, and it would have been confusing for the kids. It's not that we have anything against her or her beliefs, we just felt it was an inappropriate placement," Mr Tibben said. "There's obviously a difference between being a Muslim and a Christian - so it was a religious issue from that perspective - but it was as much about supporting her as it was the college."

Mrs Dahlal could not be contacted by The Age last night.

According to the Wyndham Leader, the 35-year-old mother had chosen Heathdale because it was the closest school to her home, and one of few offering her specialty subjects of mathematics and French.

Mr Tibben said his school, which takes about 12 university students for training each year, offered to support Mrs Dahlal in finding another school and questioned why Victoria University hadn't given "a little more thought" in guiding her into a school-based placement. The university's acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor John McCallum, said Mrs Dahlal had been counselled about Heathdale's policy of taking those whose values aligned to its own.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

OH: College Hides Child Porn Sculpture

(Huron, Ohio) The National Coalition Against Censorship has condemned the removal of a sculpture from a college's art gallery based on free speech concerns. College administrators called the sculpture "inappropriate."
The sculpture by Edinboro, Pa., artist James Parlin was taken last week from an exhibit at Bowling Green State University's Firelands campus.

It was placed in a closet at the school in Huron in northern Ohio because officials said it showed a female middle school student on her knees performing oral sex on a male teacher. [my bold]
Okay, readers, this is an example of the moral and cultural degradation of society. The best that the BGSU administration could say is that a sculpture of a girl giving a male teacher a knobber is that it's "inappropriate."

Contrary to the BGSU assertion, I'll contend that the sculpture is pornographic. Not only that but it pornographically displays the image of a child which, it could be argued, is criminal. Calling it inappropriate is wrong. It's much more than inappropriate.

Nevertheless, one group thinks that an image of a child performing a sex act is protected speech. I suggest that the Supreme Court would rule against them in this case.

More than a quarter of England's primary schools have no male teachers

More than a quarter of England's primary schools do not have a single male teacher, it has emerged, with 4,587 school staffrooms populated solely by women. The figures are despite a multi-million pound Government campaign to encourage men back into what is now seen as a "feminine" career. Men also tend to shun working with younger children over fears they will be accused of paedophilia, but experts say it is vital for boys – many of whom do not have a father present at home – to have positive male role models as they grow up.

For many young men, the lack of male teachers at primary school means they do not have regular contact with an adult man until the age of 11, when they go to secondary school.

The figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act, show that more than a quarter of all the 17,357 primary schools in England do not have a single male teacher. Some counties, including Hertfordshire, Derbyshire, Essex, Surrey, Hampshire, Lancashire, Norfolk and Cumbria, have more than 100 primary schools where there is not a single male teacher. Teacher training colleges are still admitting three women for every man, and the men that do train mostly go into secondary education.

The latest revelation follows research by the Government's Training and Development Agency (TDA) that found that almost half of men believed that male primary school teachers had helped their development. Of the 800 adults surveyed, a third had been challenged to work harder because of men in their primary years, while half said they had been more likely to report problems such as bullying to male teachers. The TDA also found that 83 per cent of parents and 76 per cent of boys want more men teaching in primary schools.

But Matthew Friday, a 32-year-old teacher at Ravenstone Primary School in Balham, south London, said parents were still suspicious when a male teacher arrives. "People expect male teachers to fit into one of two stereotypes: sporty and practical or effeminate and 'therefore gay'," he says." I am neither, so I'm in a sort of uneasy third place. People can be suspicious of your motives and feel they need an explanation, which they don't with female teachers."

Tanya Byron, child psychologist and presenter of BBC's Little Angels, believes the Government needs to do more to reverse the decline. She said: "There is a paranoid, over-the-top concern about paedophilia and child molestation – that it is not safe to leave children with men. "Our anxiety does ultimately discriminate against men. This puts men off working in primary schools because they are concerned about how they will be viewed and what parents will think of them. We have to challenge these negative and unhelpful belief systems."

Although a Durham University study recently revealed that the presence of a male teacher does not improve boys' grades – which have fallen significantly below those of girls in recent decades – they are vital for their overall development and to make clear that learning is not a "feminine" virtue. Miss Byron said: "Male primary school teachers can often be stable and reliable figures in the lives of the children that they teach. They inspire children to feel more confident, to work harder and behave better."

Schools Minister Jim Knight insisted the situation was improving. He said: "There has never been a better time to be a teacher with pay at record levels; more support staff than ever before to free them up to focus on the classroom; better facilities; and schools given full power to impose discipline – but we know there is more to do to take on a long-standing and completely false perception among some men that primary schools don't offer as demanding a job as secondary schools. "The Teacher Training and Development Agency's more direct and male-centred recruitment campaigns are helping to get more men in the classroom – and we are starting to see more male applicants come forward in the last year."


Racial preferences: Wrong In Theory And Practice, Part I

Virginia under the Byrd Machine engaged in “massive resistance” to attacks on state-supported racial discrimination. For a while now Prof. Douglas Massey, a sociologist at Princeton, has been engaged in scholarly resistance to attacks on the racial discrimination at the core of affirmative action in higher education. The Chronicle of Higher Education has a long article today, “Affirmative-Action Programs for Minority Students: Right in Theory, Wrong in Practice,” by Massey and several colleagues. It is adapted from their new book, Taming the River: Negotiating the Academic, Financial, and Social Currents in Selective Colleges and Universities, which will be published by Princeton this year. Their argument, so far as it can be determined by this adaptation, is wrong in both theory and practice.

The first clause of the first sentence turn out to be a reliable tip-off to what’s coming: “The use of race-sensitive criteria in admissions continues to be controversial....” Aside from the not so hidden implication that those of us who oppose the use of “race-sensitive” admissions criteria are insensitive to race, this euphemism reveals a discomfort with the literally accurate “race preference” label these criteria deserve. In less politically correct times I would be tempted to describe this euphemistic squeamishness as a reluctance to call a spade a spade.

The second clause of that first sentence — “and critics have leveled three basic charges against it” — is followed immediately by another and far more serious problem in their handling of the first of the “charges” against those “race-sensitive criteria”:
For one, opponents say the practice constitutes reverse discrimination, lowering the chance of admission for better-qualified white students.

First, as I argued here (and many other times),
Regular readers will know that I don’t believe there is any such thing as “reverse discrimination.” A policy or practice is either discriminatory, or it isn’t.

Racial discrimination, in short, is racial discrimination, no matter what the race of the victim. Even more incorrect, however, is the notion that the only thing wrong with “reverse discrimination,” in fact the only reason for opposing it, is that it “lower[s] the chance of admission for better-qualified white students.”

This assertion is simply, flatly not true. Many (indeed, I believe most) of us oppose racial discrimination because we believe it is immoral, illegal, unconstitutional, and just plain wrong, regardless of the identity or number of victims. Because of this fundamental error, Massey et. al. think they can refute Charge No. 1 by claiming that it
has not stood up to empirical scrutiny. In fact, studies show that affirmative action generally has had only small and insignificant effects on the admission prospects of white students.

First, as I’ve just argued, the argument that not many whites or Asians were and are injured by race preferences policies, even if it were true (which it is not, as I argue below), would not rebut the most fundamental criticism of those policies, that racial discrimination is wrong whether its victims are many or few. This failed rebuttal, in fact, implicitly but no less offensively redefines “discrimination” to be something that can only be suffered by groups, not individuals.

On a number of occasions we have confronted Massey’s argument that racial preference for blacks and Hispanics “has had only small and insignificant effects on the admission prospects of white students.” For example, I looked (rather closely, I think) at the University of Michgan’s use of this argument here1, here2, and here3, from which the following comes:
The following is from a Q&A re University of Michigan Admissions Policies on a Michigan web site with its legal materials. [At least it was there, when I discussed it here and here. Now it has apparently been “revised” and “archived.”]
Q: Does the University’s consideration of race hurt a white student’s chances of getting into the University?

A: No. The numbers of minority applicants are extremely small compared to the numbers of white students who apply to the University.... It is not mathematically possible that the small numbers of minority students who apply and are admitted are “displacing” a significant number of white students under any scenario.

But this is highly misleading. Remember, Massey et. al. argue that affirmative action has “only small and insignificant effects on the admission prospects” of whites, not on whether they are actually “displaced.” Thus the relevant question is how many whites and Asians (ignored by Michigan) were denied admission because of their race. Not all of those who were denied admission because of Michigan’s affirmative action would have actually enrolled had they been admitted, but they nevertheless were victims of race discrimination.

For a peek at how many were discriminatorily denied admission let’s turn, as I did in the posts linked above (and staying still with the third one here), to another Michigan source, Dr. Stephen Raudenbush, and expert witness for Michigan in Grutter v. Bollinger, the law school case. I quoted from Judge Bernard Friedman’s summary of some of Dr. Raudenbush’s data in his U.S. District Court opinion in Grutter, namely, that under the race preference policy in effect in 2000 170 “underrepresented minorities” were admitted to the University of Michigan law school that year and that, if Michigan had used race-blind admissions, 46 would have been offered admission. Thus 124 white, Asian, or unpreferred minority applicants were denied admission solely because of their race.

Michigan, of course, was and is not unique, although the degree of discrimination is even greater at some other schools. For example, here, I quoted Prof. Robert Heidt, a law professor and former member of the admissions committee at the University of Indiana law school, who wrote in a courageous article that
to meet our de facto quotas, we must leapfrog less qualified minority applicants over approximately 330 more qualified non-minority applicants each year, many of whom, of course, will be Indiana residents.

But wait; there’s more. In the “Q & A” I quoted above Michigan also leaned heavily on the weak reed of Bowen and Bok’s The Shape of the River.
William Bowen and Derek Bok, in their book The Shape of the River, look at the nationwide statistics concerning admissions to selective universities. They determined that even if all selective universities used a race-blind admissions system, the probability of being admitted for a white student would go only from 25 percent to 26.2 percent.

Here’s what I had to say about that in the post I’ve been quoting from:
What Michigan, and Bowen and Bok, are actually saying here is that there is no discrimination because there's not much of it, and what there is affects only some individuals, not their groups. Their argument is that discrimination against individuals doesn't count. The only discrimination that matters, that is in effect even worthy of being called discrimination, is against “groups” — and even then, only if its impact is severe enough to make a group “underrepresented.”


Go back and look at the Bowen and Bok numbers quoted above. [But before you accept these numbers as accurate, you should read the long critique by Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom in the UCLA Law Review, June 1999....] According to Bowen & Bok, “a white student” has a 25% probability of being admitted to a selective college under the current regime of race preferences, but under a “race-blind” system that probability would increase “only” to 26.2%. But what if one also considers Asians and other non-preferred minorities? B&B don't say. In any event, based on their numbers, for every thousand applicants to a selective college, 12 whites (Asians, etc., still invisible) are rejected only because of their race or ethnicity. Applying those numbers to Michigan’s 25,000 applicants every year to its freshman class, Michigan rejects 300 white applicants a year based exclusively on their race.

The article by Massey et. al. does not refer to the studies that allegedly find insignificant amounts of discrimination (presumably they do in the forthcoming book), not do they acknowledge here the studies that reach the opposite conclusion. For example, to pick just one example from one organization that has conducted many such studies, the invaluable Center for Equal Opportunity, here are some numbers for a 2006 study of the University of Michigan (taken from the Oct. 17, 2006, press release):
In the four years analyzed [1999, 2003, 2004, 2005], UM rejected over 8000 Hispanics, Asians, and whites who had higher SAT or ACT scores and GPAs than the median black admittee — including nearly 2700 students in 2005 alone.

Of course not all of those 8000 rejected applicants would have been admitted in the absence of racial preferences — selective universities do not and should not admit on the basis of test scores and grades alone — but surely more than a “small and insignificant” number would have been.

Do Massey et. al. really regard those numbers — and the 124 applicants to the University of Michigan law school in one year and the 330 applicants to the University of Indiana law school in one year and the roughly 300 applicants for undergraduate admissions to Michigan in one year and the 1.2% of all white (and Asian etc.?) applicants to all selective colleges and graduate schools and professional schools ever year (if Bowen and Bok’s estimates are correct) who are denied admission solely because of their race — as “small and insignificant”? Perhaps they will tell us in their forthcoming book.

Attentive readers will have noticed that I have dealt with only the first of the “three charges” Massey et. al. say we critics make against affirmative action. That’s why this post is Part I. If you’ve got the stomach for it, come back later when I’ll be back with Part II.


NOTE! This UPDATE is not Part II. In fact, it is not so much an UPDATE as a transition to the still coming, later today, Part II. But I need to point you here and now, not there and later, to Roger Clegg’s post today on National Review Online’s Phi Beta Cons. I would like to say that great minds work alike, but it would be much more accurate to say that a great mind says there one or two things I said above, several things I didn’t say but should have, and more things that I like to think I would have thought to say in Part II even if I hadn’t read them here. Here’s one of the things he said that I should have said but didn’t: “... there are a lot more than just three criticisms of racial admission preferences”:
The list of costs [of using racial preferences], on the other hand, is long and largely irrefutable: It is personally unfair, passes over better qualified students, and sets a disturbing legal, political, and moral precedent in allowing racial discrimination; it creates resentment; it stigmatizes the so-called beneficiaries in the eyes of their classmates, teachers, and themselves, as well as future employers, clients, and patients; it fosters a victim mindset, removes the incentive for academic excellence, and encourages separatism; it compromises the academic mission of the university and lowers the overall academic quality of the student body; it creates pressure to discriminate in grading and graduation; it breeds hypocrisy within the school; it encourages a scofflaw attitude among college officials; it mismatches students and institutions, guaranteeing failure for many of the former; it papers over the real social problem of why so many African Americans and Latinos are academically uncompetitive; and it gets states and schools involved in unsavory activities like deciding which racial and ethnic minorities will be favored and which ones not, and how much blood is needed to establish group membership.

So much for what the Massey et al. article doesn’t discuss, Clegg writes. (By the way, he also suggested a major revision of my post, which I’ve made: he informs — wish I could say reminds — me that it’s “et al.,” not “et. al.”) “As for what it does discuss,” you’ll have to read his entire post ... and my forthcoming Part II.


No, this still isn’t Part II. There’s one more aspect to the Massey argument that affirmative action produces only a “small and insignificant” amount of discrimination against whites, Asians, and others that I would like to keep with this post. Above, I discuss what I think is overwhelming, irrefutable evidence (much of it from defenders of racial preferences) that the number of white, Asian, and other victims of affirmative action admissions is in fact dramatically large and significant.

But there is another measure of discrimination, in addition to and beyond the number of victims, and that is the amount, extent, depth of the preference given to the preferred groups. And here, too, Massey et al. minimize the amount of discrimination at the core of affirmative action. Consider the following:
To measure affirmative action at the institutional level of each campus, [Massey et al.] took the difference between the average SAT score earned by blacks or Hispanics and that earned by all students at a particular institution. We hypothesized that the larger the gap, the more an institution used criteria other than test scores to determine minority admissions. Among the 28 institutions that we studied, none displayed mean black and Latino SAT scores that were above the institutional average, suggesting that all institutions practiced some form of affirmative action. The differences between the SAT scores of black students and all students at those institutions ranged from 43 to 194 points and averaged 122 points. For Hispanics the average difference was 61 points, with a range that went from 56 to 139.

This SAT score gap is considerably smaller than that found in many other studies. For example, in these studies of freshmen classes entering in Fall 2003 “[t]he median SAT score
for all University of Virginia admissions is 1350, while the average for admitted black students is 1026” and at less selective North Carolina State University “[t]he average SAT score for all ... admissions is about 1200; the average for admitted black students is 909.”

Perhaps part of the reason the Massey numbers minimize the degree of preference awarded to minority students is that they are based on a comparison of minority SAT scores to the SAT scores for “all students,” a group that includes the minorities. Comparing minority scores to the scores of those not receiving admissions preferences is much more revealing, as was done in this 2006 study of the University of Michigan, also cited above, which found that “[i]n the most recent year (2005), the median black admittee’s SAT score was 1160, versus 1260 for Hispanics, 1350 for whites, and 1400 for Asians.” This Michigan study also found that “[t]he black-to-white odds ratio for 2005 was 70 to 1 among students taking the SAT.... (To put this in perspective, the odds ratio for nonsmokers versus smokers dying from lung cancer is only 14 to 1.)”

I wonder if Massey et al. think the distance the bar is lowered for minorities is as "small and insignificant" as the number of white, Asian, and other victims of discrimination it produces.

SOURCE. (See the original for links)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Why the phonics phobia?

Leftist educators have long been waging a war on teaching kids phonics -- even though it works much better than any other method of teaching kids how to read and write. Is it just normal Leftist destructiveness? A reader has written in with the explanation below:

I have read a different theory on why leftists and state-sector teachers are hooked on whole language. Phonics (which is the way I learned to read) empowers the individual. With the skills he learns, he can read any text, either to himself, or aloud. If he reaches a word he cannot understand, he will be able to pronounce it anyway and can discover its meaning himself. Although Whole Language advocates like Mr. Cambourne talk about love of reading, whole language turns reading into a chore. I started school at the end of the 1980s, which meant that there were come children (such as I) who had learned by the traditional method before starting school, and others who would learn whole language in school. Thirteen years later the differences were all too clear, with people who had learned by whole language stumbling over all but the simplest words, and looking to the teacher to give them the pronunciations. I can’t speak for them, but I cannot help but think that an eighteen year old, told that he has reached the age in which he is considered an independent, matured human being, must feel great humiliation at asking a teacher to tell him how to say a word.

Learning to read has become a political issue for simple reasons that; parents vote; teachers’ unions make political contributions; and business has to pick up the mess and create a productive labour force. Learning to read is an ideological issue because the two methods, whole language and phonics, can stand for, and perhaps even define the way an individual sees himself vis a vis the state. Whole language teaches dependence on authority, dependence on the state. Phonics emphasises the ability of the individual, guided by his knowledge and his reason, to make his own way through the world. Can you think of a leftist who would tolerate that?

Political row as top British grammar school becomes the first to be placed into special measures despite brilliant exam results

British Leftists HATE selective (Grammar) schools because they offend against the "all men are equal" Leftist faith. Below we see that they are trying to destroy one because it is not politically correct enough

A grammar school with a 96 per cent GCSE success rate has been threatened with closure after inspectors criticised its 'outdated' race equality policy. Stretford Grammar was branded 'failing' by Ofsted inspectors who also singled out its sex education programme. They said the school's curriculum was 'inadequate', while admitting academic standards were 'exceptionally and consistently high'.

The Manchester school is the first grammar in Britain to be placed into special measures, putting it at risk of closure if it does not improve. But the decision has caused fury, with school supporters accusing the Government of hostility to grammars. Robert McCartney, of the National Grammar Schools Association, said: 'This report seems ludicrous. 'Here you have a school getting almost 100 per cent five A* to C GCSEs and they are getting caned because they're not allegedly up to the mark in some non-academic subjects. 'This smacks of a plot, another line of attack, to try and undermine grammar schools. Ministers have a skewed idea of what is really valuable to children in education. 'You wonder how many comprehensives are failing on the criteria this school is alleged to have failed.'

Last year, 96 per cent of Stretford pupils achieved five GCSEs at A* to C grade, or vocational equivalent. But Ofsted said achievement, the curriculum and leadership were inadequate. It said of the curriculum: 'Arrangements for sex and relationship education are underdeveloped.' Its report also warned that the school was 'not compliant with statutory requirements in relation to race equality and community cohesion'.

Achievement was judged inadequate despite its headline results because 'girls and higher ability students make very slow progress'. Ofsted found persistent 'significant underachievement' in relation to children's abilities on arrival.

Stretford is in the constituency of Children's Minister Beverley Hughes, who criticised the school and Tory-run local education authority. She added: 'This is the first grammar school in the country to go into special measures. The Conservative council is trying to brush this under the carpet and pretend this is not happening. This is a shocking indictment of the management.'

But parent Kevin Parker, 50, said: 'On one hand Ofsted are saying how excellently they have done in their exams, on the other there is an assertion of out-and-out failure. It's hard to make head or tail of it. 'We have been pleased. My son gets all kinds of great attention.'

Headmaster Peter Cookson was on extended sick leave before resigning soon after Ofsted visited. The head of nearby Sale Grammar has been drafted in to turn the school around.

Rakshanda Ali, 39, whose son is in Year 7, said: 'On the days the school hasn't had a head in place, conditions have been poor and parents were worried. But I'm confident things are going to change for the better.'

Graham Brady, the Conservative MP for nearby Altrincham and Sale West, said: 'Any school can suffer if its management and leadership are not right, and it appears from this Ofsted report there are significant problems in that regard at Stretford Grammar.'

Councillor David Higgins, chairman of Trafford council's children's committee, said: 'Schools depend very heavily on a good head teacher and unfortunately the head has been away through illness for some time.' But he added: 'There must be a lot of teachers doing a good job to have obtained the results Stretford Grammar School has obtained. They stand very well against results across the country. It's hard to argue how much further you can get above excellent.'


Number of students achieving three A-grade A-levels double in a decade

British exam results are becoming increasingly meaningless

The number of sixth-formers gaining three As in their A-levels has doubled in a decade, according to figures published yesterday. Just days after Cambridge University announced that a hat-trick of As was no longer enough to win a place, it emerged that one in eight students are now achieving the feat. Last year, 12.1 per cent of students achieved a trio of As - more than 31,000 - against just 6.1 per cent when Labour took office in 1997, according to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

As the pass rate soared to 97.2 per cent last summer, exam chiefs heralded the era of 'unfailable' A-levels.

Cambridge said it had opted to raise standard entry requirements to an A* and two As after being forced to turn away record numbers of students with three As - around 5,500. Senior tutors said that in time the standard offer could be raised to two A*s and an A.

Dr Geoff Parks, director of admissions at Cambridge, said: 'This is about a move towards a system where we are using the public examinations system to do the selection for us, rather than just saying three As, which is easier to get. 'It means students are proving themselves in the public examination system, rather than proving themselves in the interview process.'

Meanwhile Imperial College, Bristol University and University College London have revealed they will make some offers using the A* when the new grade is awarded for the first time in 2010.

While ministers staunchly deny claims of grade inflation, A-levels have been plagued by suspicions that relentlessly rising pass rates cannot be solely down to pupils' and teachers' greater mastery of their subjects. With sixth-formers now passing one in four of all A-levels with a grade A, sceptics fear standards have been eroded over the years. This is said to have been hastened in 2000 by the splitting of A-level courses into bite-sized chunks which are separately examined and can be retaken an unlimited number of times.

A Durham University study recently suggested that A-level standards have fallen at the rate of one grade a decade since the mid-1980s. Sixth-formers now achieve two grades more than students of the same ability in 1988, it was claimed, meaning that a pupil who gained a C two decades ago would now be in line for an A.

Isabel Nisbet, acting chief executive of Ofqual, said last month that A-levels may need to be 'recalibrated' upwards for the first time in 50 years to counter rising pass rates.

Nick Seaton, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said: 'Many universities have to run remedial courses to get the students up to the standards they had been in previous years.' He added: 'Grade inflation has to be halted or the exam system will descend into chaos.'


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Canadian university to probe clashes over Mideast

One of Canada's largest universities says it will probe recent campus clashes relating to the Middle East.

In a move welcomed by Jewish students and communal leaders, York University announced Monday that it will form a task force "to review concerns about the student environment" on campus. Jewish students have complained of a toxic atmosphere on campus arising from Israel's recent military incursion in the Gaza Strip.

On Feb. 11, about 100 anti-Israel protesters barricaded Jewish students in a Hillel lounge and shouted anti-Semitic and anti-Israel slurs. Police were forced to escort Jewish students from the lounge to ensure their safety. Other anti-Semitic incidents, including graffiti and verbal attacks, continue to be reported on campus. "Recent events on campus have raised serious concerns over whether our most cherished values and commitments are being undermined by excessive conflict, intolerance and even intimidation," said the task force's terms of reference, the Globe and Mail newspaper reported.

"We are pleased that the university has taken into account the deep concerns expressed by our community," said David Koschitzky, chair of the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto. "We will lend support to this task force with the expectation that it will lead to a campus that respects civil discourse and the fair enforcement of the rules," said Daniel Ferman, president of Hillel@York. "We also urge the York administration to address the immediate safety concerns affecting Jewish students on campus prior to the Aug. 31 deadline of this task force," he said.


Australian university rejects demand for Muslim prayer room

The existing eight Muslim prayer rooms are not enough, apparently

AUSTRALIAN universities are responsible for providing quality education, not consecrated religious spaces, according to a university involved in a bitter dispute over Muslim prayer rooms.

Dozens of Islamic students plan to protest today to demand that a dedicated Muslim prayer room replace an existing multi-faith centre at Melbourne's RMIT. But acting pro vice-chancellor Maddy McMaster said it was not for universities to provide consecrated religious spaces. "A university's responsibility to its students is to provide them with a quality education," she said. "Recognising that the educational experience is not confined to the classroom, RMIT offers other services, including prayer rooms. It falls to religious communities to provide the consecrated spaces."

The dispute over prayer rooms at RMIT's Swanston Street campus began when a Muslim prayer room was demolished in late 2007 as part of renovations. The university's Islamic student association claims it was promised new rooms but that the institution reneged on its promise by making them multi-faith. They are now campaigning to have the multi-faith rooms declared Muslim-only. "As a result (of the multi-faith centre) students and staff have been forced to pray," the RMIT Islamic Society said on its website. "As a consequence of not having a Muslim prayer room on Swanston St, Muslim females have allegedly been subject to sexual abuse, harassment and religious vilification."

Organisers of the protest - which has the backing of the National Union of Students and the RMIT Student Union - say they have been left with no choice but to take action.

But Dr McMaster said the university already provided a number of prayer rooms for Muslim students across all its campuses. "It is difficult to see how we can improve on eight Muslim prayer rooms, with one more opening, as well as providing Muslim students with preferential access to two prayer rooms in the multi-faith Spiritual Centre," she said. "(Universities) should provide quality resources for those who choose a spiritual path. But as a secular institution, such resources do not include consecrated spaces such as churches, synagogues or mosques."

NUS president David Barrow said the demand for Muslim prayer rooms was increasing and space was a problem. "With the influx of international students from Muslim countries, the Muslim prayer rooms haven't been able to cope with the load," he said.


Australia: The crazy politics of learning to read

Miranda Devine comments on destructive ideas that also flourish in the USA and UK

Ideological promoters of the discredited "whole language", or osmosis method, of teaching children to read have been unmasked this week. The whole language lobby's devious and irrational opposition to evidence was exemplified in a bid to derail the State Government's trial of MULTILIT, a successful remedial reading program based on explicit phonics teaching.

In an email stream last week from Associate Professor Brian Cambourne, of Wollongong University, to literacy educators who subscribe to a university mailing list, strategies for winning the "reading wars" were laid bare. Cambourne, regarded as the "godfather" of whole language in Australia, urges his network to "flood Verity's [the Education Minister, Verity Firth's] office" with messages designed to denigrate MULTILIT and undermine the trial "at an almost subconscious level". He also suggests linking the program to "readicide", which he defines as "the systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools".

Confronted this week by The Australian's education writer, Justine Ferrari, Cambourne came up with this extraordinary quote: "When you rely on evidence, it's twisted … We rely on the cognitive science framing theory, to frame things the way you want the reader to understand them to be true."

That sounds like a postmodern justification for obfuscation.

To their great credit, it appears that both Firth and the federal Education Minister, Julia Gillard, are more interested in results than ideology. Gillard has tied literacy and numeracy funding to programs proven effective by evidence-based research. "This is about finding out what works," Gillard said in a press release last May. Similarly, Firth has said she is not interested in "internecine debates". She urged educators to "stop arguing about what we believe and start talking about what we know".

In other words, reading programs should be based on evidence of what works. Paying lip service to phonics under the rebadging of whole-word theory as "balanced" instruction isn't enough. Both Firth and Gillard are lawyers who understand the value of evidence. Interestingly, both are also members of the Labor Left, which will insulate them from the ideological ad hominem attacks usually employed by the leftists of the whole-language lobby, and may help to unhook the teaching of reading from its historic left-right baggage.

It has never made sense that the whole-word doctrine has been a hobbyhorse of left-wingers, when its results work particularly to the detriment of the working class. Underprivileged children have suffered most from the marginalisation of phonics in schools, as their homes are generally not rich learning environments. The National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy (of which I was a member) found as many as 30 per cent of year 5 students had literacy problems preventing them from "effectively participating" in further schooling. The National Curriculum Board reportedly puts the figure for struggling readers at between 20 per cent and 40 per cent.

How can anyone dismiss the miracles that go on every day in classrooms in Uniting Church centres in Ashfield and Redfern and in a Noel Pearson-led trial in Cape York, where the reading age of indigenous students is three to four years behind the national average.

You just have to see for yourself the joy in the faces of children as they learn the sounds of the alphabet and how to put them together in words, and they suddenly realise what the "black stuff" on the page means.

In the program trial in Coen, on Cape York, some children started learning so quickly a special accelerated program had to be devised for them. After two terms there were average gains of almost two years in reading accuracy.

How can anyone ignore Melbourne's Bellfield Primary, one of the most disadvantaged schools in Australia, which transformed itself by rejecting whole language theory and instituting a program of explicit phonics instruction. The results were stunning, with 91 per cent of grade 2 students reading with 100 per cent accuracy compared to the previous 31 per cent. How can anyone reject results of the seven-year study of underprivileged children in Clackmannanshire, Scotland, who were taught to read using an intensive form of phonics, and wound up more than three years ahead of their peers.

In his email stream, Cambourne gives a clue to the origins of his ideological blinkers when he dismisses the evidence on which the MULTILIT trial rests as a "neo-liberal" concern.

"I believe that the neoliberal views of 'evidence-based research' … can be shown to be just as flawed as their economic theories". How the science of teaching children to read became an ideological battleground is a mystery to Professor Kevin Wheldall, the inspirational creator of MULTILIT. But there is no doubt it has been a tragedy, as the whole language movement has held sway for 40 years, with its Rousseauian notion that children learn to read naturally just by being exposed to books. When it became clear this was not the case for as many as two-thirds of children, whole-language proponents did not question their beliefs but turned to social justice for justification. Teacher education courses became infected with the revolutionary idea that only by eradicating poverty and underprivilege (by overthrowing the patriarchal, authoritarian, elitist capitalist system, of course) could students progress.

This has been as futile and damaging as the notion that we cannot prevent catastrophic bushfires unless we stop climate change. It is using the tragedy of illiterate children as the means to achieve an ideological end.


Monday, March 23, 2009

SC: No girls here, no boys there

School's single-gender classes show promising early results

Berkeley Middle School sixth-grader Matthew Desmond said he loves learning in a single-gender program so much that he'd recommend to fifth-grade boys that they sign up next year. "You can throw balls in class and stuff, and you're with your friends all day," he said. Matthew thinks he's just having fun when he and his classmates toss a ball in class or do some other activity that gets them out of their seats. But he's really learning while moving, a technique single-gender advocates have said resonates with boys.

Berkeley Middle School joined a growing statewide trend when it began offering a single-gender program last fall. South Carolina leads the nation in the number of schools that offer single-gender classes, said David Chadwell, single-gender coordinator at the state Department of Education. About 500 schools across the country offer some all-boy or all-girl classes or programs, and 216 of them are in South Carolina, he said.

Berkeley Middle School Principal Lee Westberry said her school's program is unique because it is comprehensive. Students take all four of their core courses — English, math, science and social studies — in a single-gender setting, she said. And only students, parents and teachers who want to be in the program are taking part in it. About 140 middle-school students in sixth through eighth grades are enrolled this year, Westberry said.

Staff members spent the entire year last year developing the program, she said, and they regularly get training in how to teach in ways that work with boys and girls. The teacher's gender isn't important, she said. What matters is the teaching style.

Westberry, a strong supporter of single-gender education, said such programs are successful not because they separate boys and girls but because teachers use strategies that work with the gender they are teaching.

In a boys' class Tuesday, the teacher and students spoke loudly and everybody moved around. In a girls' class, students sat in small groups and talked to each other. Their teacher dimmed the lights and the slight smell of cinnamon wafted through the air.

Chadwell said the Berkeley Middle School program also is collecting data on how students are doing, which is very useful. According to the data, Westberry said, the program is working. After one semester:

• Sixth-grade girls' average grade-point average in all four classes is 4 points higher than their peers in mixed-gender classes.

• Sixth-grade boys' average is 4 points higher in math and social studies and the same in English and science.

• Seventh-grade boys' and girls' averages are 5 points higher in all core classes.

• Eighth-grade girls' average is 2 points higher in English and social studies, but their average in math and science is slightly below that of their peers in mixed-gender classes. Program leaders attribute that, at least in part, to more students enrolling after the start of the school year.

• There is no group for eighth-grade boys.

Overall, Westberry said, "they're performing better and they're happier." In the single-gender classes, discipline problems among the same students have dropped 72 percent from last year, and absences are down 50 percent, she said. Those are impressive early statistics for a school that didn't set out to start a single-gender program, she said.

Westberry started as principal at the school last year and learned immediately that "our girls outperformed our boys in every subject area and at every grade-level," she said. The idea for single-gender classes was born as a method to help boys succeed, she said. But it's worked well for girls, too.

Chadwell said many schools in the state offer single- gender options because they give public-school parents a choice about the learning environment in which they enroll their children. State Education Superintendent Jim Rex is pushing for more choices in public schools, he said.

Chadwell also said the programs are easy and inexpensive to implement and don't require that schools purchase a lot of new materials. "There's no boys' curriculum or girls' curriculum," he said.

All that's really required is teacher training, Westberry said. To help her teachers decide if they would be better at teaching boys or girls, Westberry tapped her pen loudly on her note pad throughout a meeting. At the end of the meeting, she asked teachers to raise their hands if they found it annoying. Those who did probably aren't well-suited to teach boys, who usually like to move and tend to fidget as they learn, she said. Boys also tend to respond well to a fast pace, loud voices and competition, while girls often do better working face-to-face in a quieter, more colorful environment.

"It's all about strategies," Westberry said. "The kids love it and they're thriving."


More than 100,000 children languish in 'coasting' British schools, figures show

More than 100,000 children are being taught in "coasting" schools which fail to stretch their most able students, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal. The schools, many of which are located in leafy suburbs and shire counties, have avoided scrutiny in the past because they achieved average or better than average exam results. But the statistics hid the fact that talented pupils failed to achieve their full potential.

Figures obtained by this paper from more than half of England's 150 education authorities suggest that at least 130 schools across the country can be classed as "coasting". The figures are an embarrassment for the Government which has poured millions of pounds into raising standards in secondary schools and improving provision for bright pupils.

Michael Gove, the shadow children's secretary, said: "It is worrying that so many schools are being identified as coasting. Parents have a right to expect that heads are continually striving for improvement. We need to shine the light of accountability on all schools to ensure that parents do not have to put up with a second class education for their children."

Schools are classed by the Government as "coasting" if they display one or more of a list of indicators. These include pupils starting school with good SATs results but going on to get poor GCSEs, "unimpressive" pupil progress, static exam results, disappointing Ofsted ratings, "complacent" leadership and lack of pupil tracking and early intervention.

The Sunday Telegraph asked education authorities if they had entered any of their schools into a new Government scheme, called Gaining Ground, which aims to tackling coasting secondary schools.

Of the 83 councils which responded, 34 said they have entered more than 76 schools between them. Some, such as Calderdale, Leicestershire, Bedfordshire, Herefordshire and Norfolk, have entered at least five coasting schools each.

If the responses were replicated across all 150 authorities in England, it would mean that more than 130 schools, with more than 130,000 pupils, would be affected.

The 40 million pound Gaining Ground scheme aimed at "kick starting" coasting schools will start next month. It will pay for consultants and training in the schools and for possible federations with successful secondaries. If schools fail to respond, local authorities have the power to intervene, by replacing governing bodies or head teachers.

Councils with schools in the scheme denied that they were "coasting" and said none were complacent. A number of shire counties also complained of years of low per pupil funding, with the lion's share of Government spending focused on inner cities.

Karen Charters, the head of school improvement at Gloucestershire County Council, which has five schools in the Gaining Ground scheme, said: "These schools are not seen as 'coasting' – they had already been addressing issues and measures are in place to support improvement. There should be no suggestion of complacency on the part of the authority or the schools."

Leicestershire County Council said: "The term 'coasting' is not a phrase the authority wishes to subscribe to. It is not clearly defined and for some implies negative characteristics, such as complacency, that cannot be fairly ascribed to the schools."

Norfolk County Council also objected to the term. It said the eight schools it had proposed for the scheme, which were yet to be signed off by the Department for Children, Schools and Families, were judged by Ofsted to be satisfactory but with the potential to improve.

Professor Alan Smithers, the director of the centre for education and employment research at Buckingham University questioned how successful the Gaining Ground measures would be. "What is proposed smacks of bureaucratic intervention" he said. "Labour does not have a very good track record and has spent immense amounts of money on education in the last 12 years but we still have failing and coasting schools. Sending in consultants sounds like tinkering at the edges. "Research shows that what makes the greatest difference is the quality of teaching. The quality of teaching and shortages of specialist teachers in areas like maths, physics and foreign languages needs to be addressed."

Head teachers criticised the crudeness of the indicators used by the Government to categorise schools. John Dunford, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "Local authorities should not be forced to label schools as 'coasting' on the basis of only one indicator. Five of the indicators on the list do not qualify as good reasons on their own to judge a school."

A Department for Children, Schools and Families spokesman said: "These schools are not 'failing' schools – they will have acceptable, or sometimes even good results, but may not be fulfilling the potential of their pupils. Sometimes they may not be stretching their most able pupils, or perhaps not meeting the needs of their pupils who face difficulties. "These schools may not have received focused attention to date, but will now qualify for additional funding and support to raise their ambition and improve pupils' progress."


Sunday, March 22, 2009

British 'Islamophobe' head-teacher wins claim against Muslim-loving County Council

A campaign by two Muslim governors to give Islam a greater presence in a state school played a key part in forcing a successful head from her job, the High Court found yesterday. Erica Connor, 57, the former head teacher of the New Monument primary school in Woking, Surrey, was forced to leave the school because of stress after she was accused of Islamophobia.

The High Court ruled yesterday that Surrey County Council had failed in its duty to protect her and to intervene when the actions of the governors created problems in the school’s governing body, and awarded her 400,000 pounds damages.

The court was told that over two years, two governors campaigned to make the school more Islamic and that their behaviour had torn apart the school’s governing board. Paul Martin, a Muslim convert, tried to stir up disaffection in the community against the school and Mumtaz Saleem was verbally abusive in school meetings, it was said in court.

Although during the first five years that Mrs Connor was in charge of the school there had been good relations with the local Muslim community and improved results, the judge, John Leighton-Williams, QC, said that the situation had changed when the two men were elected as governors in 2003. He said that the school’s governing body had become dysfunctional as a result of the behaviour of the two, and that the authority’s failure to act had led to low morale and stress among staff. The council had shown excessive tolerance for the two governors and had lost sight of the adverse effects of such conduct on the school.

Judge Leighton-Williams said that the men had an agenda to increase the role of the Muslim religion in the school and that this, combined with the authority’s failure to protect Mrs Connor, had led her to suffer serious depression. “Mr Martin’s and Mr Saleem’s conduct had the effect of tearing apart the governing body, and together with the poor response by the defendants, had as their effect two years of anxiety and low morale for the school staff, stress leading to early retirement for some staff and disruption in the local community with little, if anything, positive to show for it.”

Mrs Connor told the court that she had suffered serious depression after a string of vituperative complaints against her by members of the school’s governing body, and that the council had left her as a helpless scapegoat after failing to defend her. She was forced to quit her job suffering from depression and with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Ill health forced her to take early retirement.

Mrs Connor said after the ruling: “The last five years have been a long haul, at great personal cost to myself and my family, so I am thrilled that justice has prevailed. I was subjected to dreadful pressures from a small group of individuals, unrepresentative of the local community, without the support I would have expected from Surrey County Council.”


British school subjects 'should be ranked by difficulty'

School subjects should be ranked according to difficulty to help pupils and academics determine the merits of a particular set of A levels, a leading education expert has said.

All subjects are not equal and Government exam agencies should introduce league tables reflecting this, Professor Peter Tymms, director of the Centre for Education and Monitoring at Durham University, said today. He also called for university subject tables to recognise the fact that the same degrees from different universities are not of equal quality. “It is not reasonable to expect that the difficulty of subjects are made equal by exam bodies.

“An A in physics is not the same as an A in theatre studies. A first from Cambridge is not the same as a first from another university. We need to look at league tables of subject difficulty,” Professor Tymms told a meeting of exam regulators and education policy makers.

His comments are a barb to the supporters of standardisation of exam grades which critics say is dumbing down the more academic subjects.

Fears that people will be offended if told they took soft or easy A levels have prevented the Government from admitting that some subjects are harder than others, Professor Tymms added. “There is no debate that some subjects are graded more harshly than others. There is a real problem with making subjects similar difficulty. “If you shifted them all to be the same then everyone doing further maths would get an A* and everyone doing theatre studies would fail. We need to look at the relative difficulty of subjects.”

A spokesman for the Department for Schools said: “We simply don't recognise the labels ‘soft’ or ‘hard’ A-levels. All subjects are rigorously measured against each other to maintain standards.” “The new independent regulator, Ofqual, has been set up precisely to maintain rigorous standards and control the exam and qualifications system tightly.”

The league table - which Ofqual could administer - would be based on a points system with each subject awarded points according to its relative difficulty, Professor Tymms said. University tutors and employers would use the information to help them choose between candidates with similar grades in different subjects.

A spokeswoman from Ofqual said the debate about standardisation of exams was important. "All subjects have to meet strict criteria in order to be accredited. Ofqual has led the way in looking at comparability across subjects and developing ways in which to do this.”

Professor Tymms added: “We know that [degrees] are not the same. From subject to subject and university to university they are different.”

Pam Tatlow, chief executive of million+, a university think-tank representing former polytechnics, said: “Such a league table would be fiendishly difficult to apply with any degree of reliability, is unlikely to add value to the university application process and is very likely to mislead both students and employers.”

One source close to the Government said such a league table would not be useful because no-one is under the impression that a degree from Cambridge is the same as a degree from elsewhere.