Saturday, May 08, 2010

Bigot Principal Under Fire for 'Blacks Only' Field Trip

Mike Madison, the principal of Dicken Elementary School in Ann Arbor, Mich., is lashing out at his critics and defending a field trip the school organized for black students to visit a rocket scientist. According to Madison, the trip was merely a part of his school's efforts to close the achievement gap between whites and blacks.

In a letter addressed to parents, Madison wrote, "In hindsight, this field trip could have been approached and arranged in a better way." (Uhh, ya think?) But, Madison says, the opportunity for the black children to be "in the presence of a renowned African American rocket scientist... gave the kids an opportunity to see this type of achievement is possible for even them."

"It was not a wasted venture for I know one day they might want to aspire to be the first astronaut or scientist standing on the Planet Mars," he wrote.

Despite singling out black students in this trip and talking about how achievement is possible for them, Madison insisted the intent of the field trip "was not to segregate or exclude students... but rather to address the societal issues, roadblocks and challenges that our African American children will face as they pursue a successful academic education..."

Such a nice sentiment. Now, who is going to address the challenges the kids will face after having such a doofus for a principal?


One teenager in five leaving British schools unable to read or do maths

A similar proportion to the USA. Most will be blacks going by the U.S. experience

One in five teenagers leaves school illiterate and innumerate despite two decades of education reform, research shows. More than 100,000 lack the basic skills needed to function in society.

A study found there has been little or no change in the last 20 years in the proportion of youngsters rendered unemployable because they have such a poor grasp of words and numbers.

About 17 per cent of 16 to 19-year-olds are functionally illiterate, according to the study led by Professor Greg Brooks from the University of Sheffield.

'People at this level can handle only simple tests and straightforward questions on them where no distracting information is adjacent or nearby,' the study said. 'Making inferences and understanding forms of indirect meaning, e.g. allusion and irony, are likely to be difficult or impossible. 'This is less than the functional literacy needed to partake fully in employment, family life and citizenship and to enjoy reading for its own sake.'

Some 22 per cent of 16 to 19-year-olds are essentially innumerate, according to the study. This means they have 'very basic competence in maths, mainly limited to arithmetical computations and some ability to comprehend and use other forms of mathematical information'.

The study adds: 'While this is valuable, it is clearly not enough to deal confidently with many of the mathematical challenges of contemporary life.'

Levels of functional innumeracy are even higher among older age groups, the research claims.

The Tories claim Labour has been too slow to embrace the 'synthetic phonics' method of teaching children to read, which has been credited with virtually wiping out illiteracy where it has been used. The technique, which involves teaching children the sounds that make up words, was only made mandatory four years ago.

The failure to get to grips with the basics early on is thought to increase pupils' disaffection with school, leading to them becoming alienated and dropping out.

Teachers said a 'long tail of underachievement' had long been a feature of English education.

John Bangs, head of education at the National Union of Teachers, said the Government should offer one-to-one tuition for pupils, support for parents and more training for teachers. But he added: 'There are no magic solutions.'

The study, which analysed decades of evidence, found that the average reading scores for 13 to 19-year-olds improved between 1948 and 1960 but remained 'remarkably constant' between 1960 and 1988.

They rose 'gently' until 2004 before a further plateau. Writing performance has been relatively static since 1979.

The study was published by the Times Educational Supplement as it emerged that one in three primary schools are failing to meet a Labour performance benchmark and facing greater scrutiny from local authorities and Government. About 6,000 primaries are deemed to be under-achieving or 'coasting' because they are failing to improve results fast enough.

Labour has spent billions on a string of initiatives aimed at raising standards of basic skills. This has included giving teachers extra training in grammar and maths and making them follow prescribed lesson plans.

A 'functional skills' exam for 16-year-olds was devised to tackle employers' concerns, but plans to make passing this a pre-condition of good GCSE results were dropped.

Labour embraced the Conservatives' primary school literacy hour in 1997 and introduced a similar initiative for maths, before extending the drive to secondary schools. But it dropped the prescribed daily literacy and numeracy hours following numerous updates to the programmes and evidence that test results were stalling.


Australian Federal government forced teachers to call off boycott of tests

Julia Gillard has stared down the teachers' unions and forced them to drop their plans to boycott next week's national literacy and numeracy testing in schools.

The Australian Education Union yesterday called off the proposed boycott of the NAPLAN tests after the Education Minister agreed to set up a working party to examine student performance data.

But Ms Gillard did not agree to remove any information from the controversial My School website, concerns about which prompted the union's boycott threat.

A meeting of the union's federal executive yesterday decided to lift the moratorium on administration of the NAPLAN tests. Before the AEU had time to make its backdown known, Ms Gillard angered some in the union by publicly praising its decision.

It is understood Ms Gillard had struck a deal with the union in the past few days and was told the executive would support a backdown by 11am yesterday. Ms Gillard's statement was sent out before the meeting ended.

AEU federal president Angelo Gavrielatos said Ms Gillard had offered to set up a working party to provide advice on the use of student performance data and indicators of school effectiveness.

"The working party will provide a way to advance and address the profession's educational concerns relating to the misuse of student test data including school league tables," he said.

"It will also provide an opportunity for teachers and principals to engage in a genuine dialogue with the government on a sound approach to school accountability and improving results."

Mr Gavrielatos said the working group provided a resolution to the impasse, which had led state governments to seek casual or relief teachers to oversee the tests.

Ms Gillard said the government would ask the Australian Curriculum, Reporting and Assessment Authority to set up a working group with literacy and numeracy specialists, principal organisations and representatives of the Independent Education Union and the AEU.

The AEU had threatened to boycott the tests because it believed the results published on the My School website were misleading for parents.

Ms Gillard said the tests would proceed next week without disruption, saying the union had made a sensible decision.

She denied she had made concessions to the unions. "The government has always said we were committed to the My School website, that all of the information on the My School website would stay and be updated."

Ms Gillard said the working group would help provide advice on the use of student performance data that would be used to improve the My School website.

School principals welcomed yesterday's resolution, but remained cautious about the proposed working party.

The president of the Australian Primary Principals Association, Leonie Trimper, said she hoped it would prevent misuse of the My School website.

The NSW Teachers Federation executive late yesterday endorsed the decision to abandon the boycott.


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