Saturday, April 24, 2010


The one below is an example. It is an academic journal article that comes to some very unsurprising conclusions -- but its first sentence is still one that would be denied by evidence-ignoring Leftists

Teacher Quality Moderates the Genetic Effects on Early Reading

By J. Taylor et al.

Children’s reading achievement is influenced by genetics as well as by family and school environments. The importance of teacher quality as a specific school environmental influence on reading achievement is unknown. We studied first- and second-grade students in Florida from schools representing diverse environments. Comparison of monozygotic and dizygotic twins, differentiating genetic similarities of 100% and 50%, provided an estimate of genetic variance in reading achievement. Teacher quality was measured by how much reading gain the non-twin classmates achieved. The magnitude of genetic variance associated with twins’ oral reading fluency increased as the quality of their teacher increased. In circumstances where the teachers are all excellent, the variability in student reading achievement may appear to be largely due to genetics. However, poor teaching impedes the ability of children to reach their potential.

Science 23 April 2010: Vol. 328. no. 5977, pp. 512 - 514

Muslims, Christians challenge content of Canadian sex ed curriculum

Christians and Muslims in Ontario are united in their objections to the province’s new sex education curriculum.

Mentions of homosexuality as early as Grade 3 have raised objections from diverse groups and the participants in a school boycott on May 10 – aimed at putting pressure on Premier Dalton McGuinty to pull the new curriculum – will likely represent a cultural cross-section of the city.

“There’s a big reaction in Muslim community,” said Suad Aimad, president of Somali Parents for Education. “We believe basically that sex education may be taught by the parents to their children. It’s not public, it’s a private matter and that’s why I don’t think [sex] should be part of education, especially at such a young age.”

The new curriculum, outlined in 208 pages that were quietly posted on the Ministry of Education's website in January, will for the first time teach Grade 3 pupils about such topics as sexual identity and orientation, and introduce terms like “anal intercourse” and “vaginal lubrication” to children in Grades 6 and 7. The new curriculum begins in Grade 1 with lessons about the proper names of body parts.

The changes are part of a regular review of Ontario’s physical education and health curriculum, which hasn’t been updated since 1998. They went nearly unnoticed until a Christian group, led by evangelist Charles McVety, threatened to pull its children from school.

Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak plans to use the new sex education curriculum as an opportunity to attract advocates for family values, party insiders say.

The Tories began staking out their position Wednesday, arguing that it is the responsibility of parents to teach children in Grade 1 about body parts.

“A six-year-old should be learning how to tie their shoes and playing with Barbies,” said Lisa MacLeod, a Tory MPP and mother of a five-year-old daughter.

The Tories already have the support of conservative and religious groups. But Mr. Hudak also has an opportunity to characterize himself as a moderate, and Premier McGuinty as a leader who has gone too far, said David Docherty, a political scientist at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont.

This will involve walking a political tightrope, Prof. Docherty said, where Mr. Hudak and his caucus colleagues will have to stick to their message that children in Grade 1 are too young to be taught such words as penis and vagina.

“It’s going to allow Tim Hudak to talk about family values,” he said. “If he goes any further, it does risk becoming a faith-based education argument where he risks losing ground.”

A party insider said the Tories plan to seize on the new curriculum, because it is such a sensitive issue that speaks to many families’ values and beliefs. Mr. Hudak echoed Ms. MacLeod on Wednesday, saying children in Grade 1 are too young to learn about genitalia.

“The notion of teaching sex ed to kids as young as six years of age just doesn’t sit right,” Mr. Hudak told reporters. “I don’t think it sits right with the vast majority of moms and dads in our province.”

Murielle Boudreau, of the Greater Toronto Catholic Parent Network, said Catholic parents aren’t happy that Mr. McGuinty is condoning such an explicit approach to sex education and she expected many would keep their children at home in protest.

“I don’t understand how the business of sensual behaviour between consenting adults has anything to do with Grade 3,” she said. “Grade 6? Getting them ready for masturbation and vaginal lubrication? Give me a break. They’re going to traumatize these children – they’re going to be doing everything out in the schoolyard.”


Australia: Small classes for schools a 'costly mistake'

Nice to hear the occasional voice of sanity on this

THE head of the Productivity Commission has attacked the emphasis on reducing class sizes in schools as "the most costly mistake" in education policy in recent years, stealing scarce resources from investment in teaching.

Productivity Commission chairman Gary Banks also pointed to the waste of money in highly bureaucratic state school systems, with NSW spending more money than Victoria per student to achieve similar results.

Mr Banks said the "performance of teachers appears not to have been a priority of education policy" and "if anything, attention to it seems to have been weakened over the years, at least until recently".

"Arguably the most costly mistake has been to spend scarce budgetary resources on smaller class sizes instead of better teachers, notwithstanding steadily accumulating evidence that smaller classes, in the ranges contemplated, were unlikely to achieve improved learning outcomes," Mr Banks said.

"While there are many more teachers in Australia than ever before. . .the average teacher who joined years ago seems to have effectively paid for this with a lower salary today."

Mr Banks's comments come as the federal government this week asked the Productivity Commission to look at the education and training workforce, including school teachers.

In a speech on the government's human capital agenda, delivered last week but released yesterday, Mr Banks said opposition to reform in the school sectors seemed "particularly strong and wrong-headed" but future policy needed to rest on the evidence of what worked.

Mr Banks said the debate over teachers' pay had to look not only at improving the overall rate of pay compared to other professions, but also paying more to certain types of teachers, such as maths and science teachers, who are in short supply.

"Currently, one finds little recognition in remuneration structures for experience or skill levels, let alone for scarcity, or the contentious matter of differential performance on the job," he said.

Mr Banks noted the $500 million partnership on teacher quality between the federal and state governments, which is trialling schemes to pay more to highly qualified teachers or those in remote or disadvantaged schools.

"The main constraint on their success -- or the scope to extend them -- may be resistance by teacher associations, rather than the budget," he said, pointing to objections by the NSW Teachers Federation to the introduction of a highly-paid teaching position for "highly accomplished teachers" in disadvantaged schools.

Mr Banks also championed autonomy for school principals, saying most had little or no say in hiring, firing or promoting staff. This ran counter to the trend internationally, with Australia being among the most centralised systems in the OECD.

"There is little between Victoria and NSW currently in relation to literacy and numeracy outcomes. What does seem clear is that Victoria's devolved system achieves comparable outcomes at a significantly lower cost per student than NSW's more highly centralised and bureaucratised one," he said.

"Or, to put it another way, NSW has achieved similar results to Victoria with additional resourcing."


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