Monday, February 15, 2010

Children of the British poor a year behind when they start school, study says

Children from poor families are already a year behind in vocabulary tests when they start school, according to research published today. It reveals the full impact of upbringing and home life on attainment [Utter rubbish. It is another confirmation of the amply documented fact that the average IQ is lower among the poor. A smart kid from a poor background usually doesn't stay poor. He usually moves into the middle class one way or another -- and then his kids mostly stay outside the ranks of the poor too], and how those from troubled or impoverished homes can fall behind at a young age. Many never catch up with better-off classmates and become stuck in a cycle of underachievement.

The report, by the Sutton Trust, highlights the importance of activities such as bedtime stories and taking children to museums and libraries. In isolation, these appear to have a bigger impact on progress than wealth.

It shows that home environment has an overwhelming influence on children’s academic achievement and raises questions in the build-up to the general election about whether social mobility has declined under Labour. [It certainly has some influence but genetics is the main influence. I come from a poor background but I was reading Homer in my teens and have never looked back --JR]

Researchers from the trust, a charity that aims to cut inequality in education, said that politicians had oversimplified the problem by using phrases such as “Broken Britain”, and polarising the argument of whether poverty or parenting was the root cause.

They tracked the performance of more than 12,000 five-year-olds, and found that the poorest fifth were almost a year behind pupils from middle-income families and 16 months behind those from rich backgrounds when they started school.

The report said: “Parenting style, for example rules about bedtimes and factors like parental reading and trips to museums and galleries, contribute up to half of the explained cognitive gap between the lowest and middleincome families.”

Forty-five per cent of children from the poorest backgrounds were read to every day at age 3, compared with 78 per cent from the richest families. When all other factors were equal, those read to daily had a vocabulary two months ahead of peers. Children taken to the library regularly were 2.5 months ahead, as were those who had regular bedtimes. Parenting and home environment were responsible for almost half of the gap in achievement, the report said. Material possessions such as internet access, cars and good living conditions, or lack of them, caused about 30 per cent of the difference. Maternal and child health accounted for about 10 per cent, and whether the mother was employed and the type of childcare was responsible for the other 10 per cent. [No mention about how much each of those factors was influenced by IQ]

However, there was an overlap between wealth and home life. A third of children from the most impoverished homes were born to parents without a good GCSE, and the parents of two thirds had split up by the time the child was aged 5.

The report said: “In some poor households, good parenting can still overcome these limitations and lead to high-achieving children.”

It recommended setting up children’s centres to offer effective parenting programmes. It also said that the funding intended to pay for free nursery places for all three and four-year-olds should be diverted to provide 25 hours of nursery education for all two to four-year-olds from the most disadvantaged families.

Lee Elliot Major, research director at the trust, said: “We suspect parenting is an even bigger factor than the statistics show. Good parenting trumps adversity in terms of poverty, but at the same time poverty is a big factor in this. There’s a political debate; David Cameron was quoted as saying it’s warmth not wealth that matters in parenting. But sometimes these are nuanced issues that get politicised and polarised to parenting vs poverty, which is an oversimplification.”

Michael Gove, the Shadow Children’s Secretary, accused the school system of failing the most deprived children. According to analysis by the Tories, only 45 children on free school meals get into Oxford or Cambridge each year, but an average of 82 pupils a year went to Oxbridge from one leading independent school, Westminster.


Australia: No mathematics teacher in a NSW government High School? Due to lack of money says schools boss

So a teacher is replaced by a website. It's not money that is needed. It's a congenial working environment. Teaching was once seen as a noble profession. With today's chaotic schools, capable people avoid a teaching career. Some previous imbecilic comments from the pig's Trotter here (3rd article down)

NEW South Wales schools are doing all they can to attract maths teachers but are competing with higher-paying employers for a small pool of talent, a senior education official says.

The comments come after revelations that HSC students at Davidson High School in Sydney's north were being forced to teach themselves maths online because of a teacher shortage. The students have been without a qualified 2-unit maths teacher for the first month of year 12, following the retirement of a teacher last year.

NSW Department of Education and Training director-general Michael Coutts-Trotter says Davidson High School is searching for a permanent teacher and an interim teacher will be sent to the school tomorrow.

Mr Coutts-Trotter says he understands the frustration of parents and students, but the school has done all it can to support the students and to try to find a suitable permanent teacher. "They've begun the HSC year with a whole lot of undesirable changes, but the school has done everything it possibly can to support the people in that class," Mr Coutts-Trotter told Fairfax Radio Network.

"Nationally in the last 15 years people are taking fewer challenging maths and science subjects through their schooling, and as a result there is a shrinking pool of people of real ability in maths and science to take up teaching positions. "We're also competing for their skills against the finance sector particularly."

Mr Coutts-Trotter said about $7 million a year was being spent on scholarships, retraining and a range of inducements to encourage more people to train as teachers.


Stigma, Gay Philosophers, And Christian Colleges

Maybe I am missing something here but it seems to me that the American Philosophical Association is making it MORE difficult for homosexuals to get jobs at Christian colleges. In the current job market, the college should have a big range of choice among potential philosophy teachers and should be able to find one that suits it just fine -- JR

Inside Higher Ed reports this morning that Calvin College, a “distinctively Christian” liberal arts college, has become the first institution to run afoul of a new rule adopted by the American Philosophical Association “requiring any college that violates any part of the association's anti-bias policy to have job listings with the association flagged.” The rule was adopted last year because of the opposition of many philosophers to “having their association list jobs from institutions that do not hire gay professors.”
One aim of the policy, proponents said, was to then be able to lobby colleges to change their policies. Some philosophers are now trying to do just that with a petition urging the college to accept gay professors. “One might puzzle over a form of Christianity that is committed to the inequality of people, and in particular of job applicants for positions in philosophy. More disturbing, however, is the stigma Calvin College feels entitled to place upon those who are doubly exposed: as lesbians, gays, bisexuals or transgendered in a society that has yet to accept them, and as people seeking jobs during difficult economic times.

I don’t want to address the substance of this issue here. For what it’s worth (about what you paid for it), I don’t believe employers should discriminate against gay applicants, and I also believe religious institutions deserve broad exemptions from anti-discrimination laws and regulations that violate their religious beliefs.

But I do want to address two petition points quoted above, one of which I question as a matter of fact and the other strikes me as just whiningly silly.

First, the questionable fact: I wonder if the “stigma” Calvin College allegedly inflicts on gays by refusing to hire them is actually greater in our society and culture at large (not to mention among the opinion-shaping elites) than the “stigma” suffered, especially in academic circles, by “distinctively Christian” institutions and individuals. Clearly representatives of Calvin College and similar institutions would be no more welcome at meetings of the American Philosophical Society or other assemblies of culture-producing citizens (despite the “diversity” they would provide to such gatherings) than gay professors are at Calvin or than blacks were at Bob Jones University when its tax exemption was revoked.

Now the whiningly silly: I’m sorry philosophers are having trouble finding jobs, but I don’t think their difficulty imposes any additional duty to be nice to them on Calvin College, nor does it make them “doubly exposed.” All those “seeking jobs during difficult economic times” are equally “exposed,” and that exposure is no worse, no different, for philosophy applicants (even gay philosophy applicants) than for anyone else.

Do philosophers really want to argue that since gay philosophy applicants are “doubly exposed” they deserve special, preferential treatment? Oh wait, don’t answer that....


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