Saturday, January 02, 2010

Democrats resegregate DC school system

Are you surprised? I’m not surprised.
The leaders of D.C.’s school choice movement, Kevin P. Chavous (former D.C. Councilman) and Virginia Walden Ford (executive director of D.C. Parents for School Choice), today issued the following statement:

“House and Senate Appropriators this week ignored the wishes of D.C.’s mayor, D.C.’s public schools chancellor, a majority of D.C.’s city council, and more than 70 percent of D.C. residents and have mandated the slow death of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. This successful school voucher program—for D.C.’s poorest families—has allowed more than 3,300 children to attend the best schools they have ever known.

You know, there’s a part of me that would almost prefer that this was evidence of some sort of long term payback - one that would have been in the works for about 150 years at this point - against African-Americans by the Democratic party. At least that would be a reason to wreck school choice. It would be a conscious decision. Instead, though, I’m faced with the tawdry reality that the Democratic Party simply just doesn’t care.


Berkeley High School May Drop Science Labs because they are mainly attended by whites

On international science tests, American students perpetually lag behind their peers in other developed countries. A logical response might be to beef up science programs in government schools, but logic is hard to come by in skin-deep-only-diversity-obsessed bureaucracies.

One school seeks to do the opposite, and for the most insulting of reasons. Berkeley High's School Governance Council, a body of teachers, parents, and students, proposes to eliminate before- and after-school science labs at Berkeley High School (BHS) and divert resources to narrowing the intractable racial academic achievement gap.

According to the East Bay Express, an alternate parent representative on the council said "information presented at council meetings suggests that the science labs were largely classes for white students," although black students take science classes. One teacher said she has 12 black male students in her Advanced Placement classes, and black and Hispanic students account for a third of her four environmental science classes.

BHS purportedly has the widest racial academic achievement gap in California, which the council deemed "unconscionable." Depriving students of science lab instruction because the labs benefit mostly white students apparently isn't unconscionable. "The labs help the struggling students most," physics teacher Matt McHugh told the Berkeley Daily Planet, "because they're the ones who need the most help."

For those who frequently blog and write about racial preferences and lowered standards for blacks, this isn't surprising or shocking. Bureaucrats are embarrassed that blacks lag behind their peers, so taxpayers fork over millions to try to achieve the unattainable goal of equal outcomes.

Berkeley High's plan apparently was surprising and shocking to tech blogger and Wired magazine editor-in-chief Chris Anderson. Author of The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More and Free: The Future of a Radical Price, Anderson mentioned the story on Twitter, and other bloggers picked it up. "I'm not necessarily opposed to race-based proposals," Anderson told me via e-mail. "I just think the premise of this one—'science is for white people'--is absurd and deeply counterproductive."

TechDirt blogger Mike Masnick saw Anderson's tweet. "It seems like there must be more to this story than what's being reported," Masnick wrote. "The concept of cutting science labs because more white students take them just seems too preposterous to make sense." Unfortunately, there isn't more to the story, and yes, cutting programs because they benefit white students is preposterous and doesn't make sense. But that's what misguided social engineers do.

The school board will discuss the plan at its January 13 meeting. In the meantime, parents and guardians of BHS students are asked to sign a petition opposing the plan: "The elimination of these labs would reduce instructional time by more than 21% (30% in AP classes). Such devastating cuts would force science teachers to eliminate many of the labs that enrich the experience for students by having them 'do science.' These cuts would result in the reduction in coverage of the state standards and the inability to effectively use instructional strategies that support student learning. This flies in the face of the current push for equity and the 2020 Vision. To close the achievement gap, students require more instruction, not less; more time with qualified instructors, not less."

Is the proposed elimination of the labs per se the problem, or the reason behind the proposal? No matter how much money the government spends trying to close the achievement gap, individuals will never, ever, perform equally, nor will outcomes between racial groups reach parity. Individuals have varying levels of interest, aptitude, motivation, and determination. Bureaucrats need to get over the "unconscionable" gap, keep expectations high for all students, and stop defining achievement down.


British Government spending on schools soars but parents are flocking to go private

The Leftist government's refusal to tackle bad behaviour in the schools makes many parents desperate. Money is no substitute for discipline

The proportion of children sent to private schools has risen to a 12-year high despite billions of pounds of extra spending on state education. Nearly 9 per cent of pupils of secondary school age are being educated in the independent sector as growing numbers of middle-class parents turn their backs on comprehensives.

The scale of the exodus to fee-paying schools is greatest in shire counties such as Cambridgeshire, Cheshire, Dorset, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire, Shropshire, Somerset, Surrey and West Sussex. But official figures also point to significant numbers of privately educated pupils in many major towns and cities – outside private schools’ traditional Home Counties heartlands. In Bristol, 21.4 per cent of parents are paying for their children’s secondary education, while in Blackburn and Portsmouth the figure is 19.1 per cent. In one London borough, 56.5 per cent of secondary pupils and 52.1 per cent of primary are privately educated. [Because the state schools are mainly black and Muslim -- with all the problems that entails]

The figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act, are based on a census in January 2009. They show private schools weathered the early effects of the credit crunch and increased their market share despite a hike in fees estimated at 40 per cent in five years.

But the success of private schools during 12 years of Labour rule has triggered claims that the party has failed to reform state schools. Ministers promised to boost state schooling so that parents no longer felt the need to go private. In 1996 Tony Blair, then leader of the Opposition, insisted: ‘The heart of any attempt to break down the barriers must be improving the quality of the state sector.’ His party significantly increased investment in state education, with public funding rising from £35.3billion a year to £63.9billion.

Responding to the new figures, Tory schools spokesman Michael Gove said: ‘The fact that parents are increasingly opting for fee-paying schools is a worrying sign that state education is not good enough in too many areas.’

The statistics, from the Department for Children, Schools and Families, show how the proportion of 11 to 19-year-olds being taught in independent schools reached a low of 8.3 per cent in 2000 but rose to 8.9 per cent by January 2009 – the highest figure for at least 12 years. The area with the highest level of private attendance is the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea, where fee-paying parents are in a majority in both the primary and secondary stages.

There were also warnings of a growing educational apartheid as it emerged towns with some of the highest levels of child poverty also had large numbers of privately-educated youngsters. In Manchester, where 16 per cent of secondary pupils are privately educated, 28 per cent get free school meals, compared with the national average of 10.3 per cent.

A DCSF spokesman said: ‘The overwhelming majority of pupils attend state schools, which are delivering the best standards ever. Some parents will always choose the private sector.’


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