Sunday, January 31, 2010

U.S. Teachers' union fails mathematics

Political scientist Jay Greene bravely decided to read the new NEA paper that is billed as showing that “Teachers Take ‘Pay Cut’ as Inflation Outpaces Salaries. Average teachers’ salaries declined over the past decade.”

But a funny thing happened when he reviewed the study: it didn’t support the NEA’s own claim. Here’s Jay: "The only problem is that this is not what the data in the NEA report actually show. In Table C-14 “Percentage Change in Average Salaries of Public School Teachers 1998-99 to 2008-09 (Constant $)” we see that salaries increased by 3.4% nationwide over the last decade after adjusting for inflation…. I can’t find a single table or figure in the report that would justify the headline and claims in the press release. But when the Ministry of Truth speaks, who are you supposed to believe — them or your lying eyes?"

Of course the real reason that public school labor costs have risen so much in the past 40 years is not that salaries have skyrocketed, but that employment has. We now have 70% more staff per student than we did in 1970, and students’ scores are not a whit better for it at the end of high school.

Would the NEA be happy if we gave every teacher a raise but returned to the staff/student ratio of 1970? I doubt it. It would drastically cut the union’s dues revenues.

In any event, the union’s impact through collective bargaining, as I wrote in the Cato Journal recently, appears to be negligible. Where they make a difference is in effective lobbying to preserve the existing government education monopoly. The monopoly is great for public school employee unions, but lousy for kids, parents, and taxpayers.


British teacher fired for offering to pray for sick girl gets job back

Only after the intervention of a national newspaper, though

A Christian teacher who was sacked after she offered to pray for a sick child has won her job back. The case of Olive Jones was highlighted by The Mail on Sunday just before Christmas. After a case review council bosses now say she can return as supply maths teacher.

At the time Mrs Jones, 54, said she had been a victim of religious persecution, having been told her behaviour was akin to bullying. Last night she said she was ‘delighted’, adding: ‘I am hugely relieved. I feel I’ve been vindicated. 'But I wouldn’t have been able to do it without The Mail on Sunday.’

Mrs Jones was dismissed within hours of discussing her religious beliefs and offering to pray for the sick girl during a home visit. The family lodged a formal complaint, saying they were nonbelievers and the girl had been ‘traumatised’ by Mrs Jones’s attempts to impose her beliefs. As she worked only about 12 hours a week without a formal contract, Mrs Jones’s job with North Somerset Tuition Service in Nailsea, near Bristol, could be ended with immediate effect.

However, Mrs Jones said she had been unaware that the family were unhappy with her attempt to comfort them. It emerged during the case review that the mother had made a previous complaint when Mrs Jones had spoken of her belief in miracles. However, Mrs Jones was not told about the criticism. On a later visit, she talked about Heaven and asked if she could pray for the child, but did not do so after she learnt the family were not believers. She thought she had left the family on good terms.

‘My bosses assumed I knew about the complaint,’ she said. ‘But had I known I would never have offered to pray.’ North Somerset Council agreed it could be appropriate for a teacher to share his or her faith, but a spokesman added: ‘A careful judgment has to be made. We have now offered Olive further work.’

Andrea Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre, which advised Mrs Jones, said she was ‘delighted’.


Australian parents act on new school information

PARENTS rocked by the My School website have already begun pulling their children out of poorly performing schools. At the same time, principals from Sydney schools that rate highly on the Federal Government website have received dozens of calls from parents wanting to transfer their children, the Sunday Telegraph reports.

The unprecedented interest in the website, launched last Thursday, is set to cause further fallout this week as more parents try to make last-minute changes to enrolments at the beginning of the first full week of school.

Public School Principals Forum chairperson Cheryl McBride said parents were already removing their children from schools that recorded poor numeracy and literacy results. "There are certainly anecdotal reports coming through from principals," she said. "On Friday morning, I heard of some parents of children at a western Sydney school who were extremely upset and were threatening to withdraw their children."

Ms McBride said principals were particularly concerned about how parents of pre-schoolers would react. She was worried parents whose children were due to begin school next year would be turned off their local school if its results lagged.

Under current Department of Education guidelines, all public schools must accept enrolments from students who live in the local catchment area, regardless of the existing number of pupils. Parents can enrol their children at public schools in other areas only if the school has vacancies. They are accepted at the principal's discretion.

Some highly ranked schools, such as Cheltenham Girls High, at Beecroft, and Killara High, on the lower north shore, already have more than 1200 students enrolled this year.

St Francis of Assisi Regional Primary School, at Paddington, posted one of the highest average scores in literacy and numeracy across junior schools in the State. Principal Louise Minogue said a handful of parents called her on Friday to discuss future enrolments. "Someone I spoke to, their child doesn't even begin school for a couple of years but they were worried whether the child would get in. "It's amazing how many people have gone to the website."

Federation of Parents and Citizens' Associations of NSW president Di Giblin said she had heard of parents already transferring their children out of the worst schools. Ms Giblin said she advised parents against taking such drastic action, but conceded "a small percentage" would move suburbs to nab a place at a coveted school.


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