Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Some Alaskan Parents Fined if Kids Skip School

I'm guessing that this mostly concerns Eskimos. The pressure to "modernize" native populations is always considerable. I think they should be left alone

School districts in western Alaska have found a new way to crack down on truancy -- or rather, an old way: They're getting police to enforce a years-old state law that lets them fine parents whose children skip school. Court records show some parents are being fined hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars, if their children miss too many school days.

State law says children between the ages of 7 and 16 have to be in school or their parents can be fined up to $500 for every five unexcused absences. But not all school districts are making sure the law is enforced. Anchorage Superintendent Carol Comeau, for instance, can't recall her district pursuing a truancy violation in court in at least a decade.

In rural Alaska -- in regions such as Unalakleet, Kotzebue and Bethel -- districts are turning to the truancy law as a way to get kids back in classrooms. "It's not to get people into court. It's to get kids in school," said Sgt. Duane Stone, a supervisor for the trooper post in Kotzebue.

In all three regions, a series of warnings and meetings with parents generally come first, and courts allow the families to reduce or avoid the fees simply by improving attendance. Villages stretching from Kotzebue Sound east to Kobuk, the Northwest Arctic Borough School District may be the latest where parents are being fined.

Attendance counselor Michelle Woods, a former police detective, said she's been trying to ticket parents in communities outside Kotzebue since she was hired four years ago. At first, some schools officials worried they wouldn't have support from local school boards. The feeling was that troopers and courts are too busy fielding felonies, she said.

This year things are beginning to change, with troopers issuing truancy citations under the blessing of the district attorney's office, she said. "No attorney needs to be assigned. It's just like a speeding ticket," she said.

The first parent fined among the village schools in her region was the former village public safety officer, who was charged $100 last month, Woods said. "In my tenure here, at least in four years, we've never before had this kind of support from entities and law enforcement," Woods said.

Court also have fined parents in the Unalakleet-based Bering Strait School District more than $24,000 in truancy cases involving 49 children last year, said Carl White, a special assistant to the superintendent.


Religious schools are still leading the way as they dominate British league tables

Faith schools have increased their dominance in the ­primary league tables. Two thirds of the 50 best ­performing institutions were Church of England, Roman Catholic or Jewish. This comes despite the fact that faith schools account for only one in every three schools. Nearly every 11-year-old pupil in a faith school was a whole academic year ahead of the ­Government’s target level.

The head teacher of the country’s top-performing faith school, St Wilfrid’s Catholic primary, Sheffield, attributed its success to ‘religious conviction’.

The results will reignite the debate on admissions policies. Schools minister Nick Gibb said yesterday that more work had to be done to ensure all schools ‘fulfill their potential’.

Yesterday faith school leaders called on him to learn from their good example. Barbara Jarrett, head teacher of St Wilfrid’s, which ranked third overall in the tables, said: ‘It’s all about shared values. We expect our children to be respectful, care for each other, be committed and hard working. Our values reflect the values of our church.

‘And we encourage children to have a love of learning and a belief in their own ability to do well. Too many people in this country are not prepared to put in the effort to achieve. We don’t want our children to be among them. ‘There is a real crisis in our education system today, we call on the Government to learn ­lessons from faith schools.’

But critics of faith schools said their growing stranglehold is the result of a selective admissions process which secures more middle-class pupils. Paul Pettinger of campaign group the Accord Coalition, said the schools tended to attract aspirational parents who tend to have high-achieving children. He said: ‘It is because they have control over admissions. They attract more middle-class and aspirational pupils. ‘As a result performance is improved. And it is an upwards spiral because good results attract more aspirational ­parents and better teachers. ‘Nearby local community schools are undermined.’

Critics also say the schools register high performance because they allow middle class parents to ‘pew jump’ – discovering religion to enhance applications.

Last year the number of faith schools in the top 50 was just under two thirds. Of yesterday’s top 50, the proportion had risen to almost exactly two-thirds – with 33 schools making the grade.


The 1,000 primary schools failing Britain's children: 11-year-olds leave unable to read or write

One in four 11-year-olds leaves primary school without a proper grasp of the 3Rs, according to detailed Government data released yesterday. The league tables show that 112,600 pupils failed to reach the minimum standard in English and maths.

These children will start their secondary education unable to understand a simple piece of prose, write extended sentences using commas, recite the ten times table or add, subtract, multiply and divide in their heads.

And the shocking results mean more than 1,000 schools face being turned into academies or even closed because, under tough guidelines introduced by the Coalition, they would be judged to have failed their pupils.

The bleak picture was exposed by school-by-school data from 11,500 ­primaries published by the Department of Education yesterday.

The bad news was compounded by a teacher boycott of the SATs tests used to compile the tables, which left the parents of more than 100,000 pupils unable to assess the standard of their children’s education.

This year’s figures show that 73.5 per cent of 11-year-olds showed they had a grasp of the basics in maths and ­English at level four, the Government’s target for a typical child of their age. It is a marginal improvement on the 72 per cent of a year earlier, but remains a damning reflection of Labour’s education legacy, which failed to make an impact despite a ­doubling of spending during their years in power.

Education Secretary Michael Gove, in his recent White Paper, set new rules for failing schools. Under the guidelines, head teachers must ensure at least 60 per cent of 11-year-olds reach the target level in English and maths. Sub-standard schools will be closed and reopened as academies or merged with successful primaries. Those that do not meet the 60 per cent target will get a reprieve only if they can satisfy ‘pupil progression’ measures charting improvement between the ages of seven and 11.

Although the rules will not be effective until next year, the Government is already in discussion with the worst offenders.

The 2010 tables show that at almost 350 schools, more than half of pupils fell short of the expected standards. And just 280 schools ensured that all their pupils finished primary education with a decent grasp of English and maths.

The best-performing primary is Manuden, in Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire. The most improved was the Pilgrim School, in Rochester, Kent, which has produced the fastest improvement in results in the past three years.

At the bottom of the table is Starks Field Primary in Enfield, North London, where no pupils received an acceptable standard of English or maths.

The tables also showed that half of all children who qualify for free school meals do not leave primary with a grasp of the 3Rs.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said the poorly performing schools had been ‘failed’. He said: ‘It is unacceptable that after seven years of primary school these children are not at the standard in English and maths that they need to flourish at secondary school. ‘It’s why we are putting such an emphasis on improving pupils’ reading ability in the first years of primary school, with a focus on phonics.’

But Russell Hobby, of head teachers’ union the NAHT, said: ‘League tables confuse, conceal and disparage school performance. They say nothing about the quality of teaching and downplay the fantastic work of many schools in the most challenging circumstances. League tables paint a hugely misleading picture.’


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