Saturday, August 07, 2010

Texas at war with the Federal Democrats

Led by Sen. John Cornyn , 20 members of the Texas GOP congressional delegation have sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., urging her to strip a Texas-specific provision out of an upcoming spending bill.

The amendment, inserted by Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, requires Texas to preserve current education funding levels through 2013 in order to receive $820 million in federal funds to protect teacher jobs. Texas is the only state to face specific requirements.

Republicans, including Gov. Rick Perry, say the provision violates Texas' state Constitution. "By adding the additional two-year requirement, the House language only punishes Texas students and teachers," the letter says. "Therefore, we urge you to strike the previous House-passed provision in the bill."

Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Lewisville, is among the eight North Texas representatives to sign onto the letter. "This ridiculous education funding provision, which some have even called 'wacky,' was written to only impact Texas and has got to go, so that Texas teachers and students are provided the same opportunities as teachers and students in every other state," Burgess said.

In an interview Thursday, Doggett said Republicans were concocting "phony legalistic arguments," and that the amendment is intended to ensure that the federal funds were not diverted elsewhere.

The amendment is included in a $26 billion state aid bill passed by the Senate on Thursday. The House will vote on the bill next Tuesday.


Coalition pledge on three-Rs as third of British pupils fail basic grade-school test

More than a third of pupils left primary school after 13 years of Labour without a proper grasp of the basics, it has emerged. Sats results published today showed 35 per cent of 11-year-olds in England failed to reach the standard expected for their age in reading, writing and mathematics. Scores in reading actually slipped for the second year in a row, despite the launch of a multi-million pound programme designed to help the worst performers catch up.

It means hundreds of thousands of children will start secondary education without "getting the point" from passages they read, using proper spelling and punctuation in writing and being able to employ the 10 times table.

Today the Coalition pledged a renewed focus on the core subjects amid claims too many children were failing to get the “fundamentals right”. Nick Gibb, the Schools Minister, said the Government would emphasise mental arithmetic in maths and prioritise back-to-basics methods of reading in English lessons.

A new reading test will also be introduced for all six-year-olds to pick out those struggling the most at the start of primary school.

Sats results soared when Labour first came to power but progress has practically stalled in recent years.

Mr Gibb said: “Despite pupils’ and teachers’ hard work one-in-five pupils are still not reaching the expected level in either English or maths and over a third are not achieving this level in reading, writing and maths combined. “We need to ensure government gives teachers the support they need to get the basics right.

"Getting the fundamentals right – being able to read and write and having a solid foundation in Maths – is crucial to a child’s success in secondary education and throughout their adult life.”

He added: "The Coalition Government is committed to promoting the use of systematic synthetic phonics in primary schools and to ensuring that pupils are fluent in arithmetic and basic maths by the time they move to secondary school. We will provide the help teachers need to do their job even better."

But the publication of today’s results also prompted renewed controversy over the use of Sats tests to measure education standards. In an unprecedented wave of industrial action, more than a quarter of state schools in England – 4,005 – boycotted the exams this year amid claims they narrow the curriculum and force schools to “teach to the test”. Unions also said the high-stakes tests jeopardised teachers’ jobs. Figures show 155,000 out of 575,000 children failed to sit tests this year.

But the Coalition insisted the sample was large enough to proceed with the publication of national results.

For the first time this year, the Government published the results of teachers' own assessments of pupils in the classroom alongside official Sats scores. Under the less formal system, 81 per cent of children made the grade in English and a futher 81 in maths – almost mirroring the Sats results.

Labour welcomed the publication which they said proved major reforms of primary education over the last 13 years had worked. When Labour came to power, only half of children gained good scores in English and maths.

Vernon Coaker, shadow schools minister, criticised the Coalition for failing to support Labour’s flagship policy of more one-to-one tuition for children falling behind in reading and writing between the age of seven and 14. “Around 100,000 more children now leave primary school secure in the basics than in 1997,” he said. “But there is obviously more to do, particularly in reading where the results are disappointing.

“These results show why the coalition’s cuts to the budgets of successful catch-up programmes like Every Child a Reader, which we were rolling out across the country, are so short-sighted and disastrous for educational opportunity.”

The Coalition insisted one-to-one tuition and the intensive reading scheme would continue for another full year, while more money was being earmarked for the poorest schools to run other similar programmes in the future.

According to Government guidance, to achieve Level 4 in reading children must display an understanding of ideas, themes, events and characters in texts and use inference and deduction.

In writing, pupils should be starting to use grammatically complex sentences. Spelling should be accurate, pupils should use joined up handwriting and sentences should contain full-stops, capital letters and other punctuation in the correct place.

Guidelines on maths say children should be able to multiply numbers up to 10 x 10 in their heads and add or subtract numbers to two decimal places.


Huge waste of money in putting up new Australian school buildings -- the evidence spreads

No spending discipline or attempt to get value for money -- so everything costs twice as much as it needs to. Good for builders but bad for everyone else

FOR the past 18 months, the federal government has dismissed reports of problems with its $16 billion school building program. This is despite a litany of concerns revealed in The Australian. But the government's refrain that the Building the Education Revolution is a success was erased yesterday by the release of the price paid by the Victorian government to build a school hall.

Like NSW, Victoria is paying twice as much as the Catholic school system and well above standard industry costs. Of necessity, The Australian's series of reports documenting concerns about the BER has focused on NSW; until yesterday, it was the only state to have made public its building costs.

The federal government has dismissed reports of inflated costs as being confined to NSW but the story is similar in Victoria and, presumably, around the nation. The onus is now on the other states and territories to reveal the figures. The lack of information about BER construction costs is unnecessary and unacceptable.

The biggest spend on schools in the nation's history requires a commensurate level of scrutiny. Yet The Australian is the only newspaper to have consistently asked where the money was going.

The BER stimulated the economy, helped Australia through the financial crisis and gave schools new buildings. But schools, parents, principals, teachers and other taxpayers have a right to expect value for money.


Friday, August 06, 2010

Federal bailout for teachers in cash-strapped States

This just delays the unavoidable need for cost cutting -- easily achieved by slashing the bloated school bureaucracies. When I was in grade school there were only teachers in the school, no clerks or "administrators" at all -- and I got a great education. We learned to read by phonics ("The cat sat on the mat") and I started reading a couple of books a week at age 8. There were no computers or TV then so books were a major source of entertainment -- JR

A bill championed by Democratic lawmakers that would restore the jobs of teachers and other education professionals cleared the Senate on Thursday.

The $26 billion H.R. 1586, the Education Jobs and Medicaid Assistance Act, will provide an emergency $10 billion to hire teachers and school workers and $16 billion to help keep state workers on the job caring for the elderly and sick. It is estimated that this fund will help keep nearly 140,000 teachers and other school workers employed next year. The bill will go before the House for a rare August vote on Tuesday to approve the legislation and send it to President Barack Obama for his signature.

U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Solano, chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee and a major proponent of the bill, introduced the Local Jobs for America Act in March to help create and save public and private sector jobs and restore vital services in local communities. The provision in the bill to support education jobs was initially included in the Jobs for Main Street Act of 2010, which passed the House in December.

While a pared down version of the bill moved forward Thursday, locally, school districts could stand to receive millions in one-time aid.

"I applaud the Senate for passing this emergency legislation that protects not only our teacher jobs but our economic competitiveness," Miller said in a statement. "Next week, my colleagues and I in the House will return to Washington to take this important vote -- a vote we've taken twice already in the House -- to keep thousands of teachers in their jobs.

"We need this bill to ensure our teachers remain in the classroom and our students continue to learn. It's clear our students, our teachers and our country will reap the benefits of our decisive action. This investment will save jobs and help prevent districts from shortening the school year, increasing class sizes and closing libraries in the wake of horrific and damaging budget cuts. While this latest round of funding isn't enough to avert all layoffs, it is a critical investment in our children and in our future."

According to U.S. Department of Education projections, California could stand to receive about $1.2 billion.

But with school starting in the coming weeks for area school districts, it is unlikely the money, while desperately needed, will arrive in time to have an immediate effect.

In places like the Vacaville and Travis unified school districts, budget cuts have already increased class sizes, resulted in teacher layoffs and, in Vacaville's case, a shortened school year.

Vacaville Unified School District Superintendent John Aycock estimates that the district could potentially see about $150 to $200 more per student should the bill pass. That could equate to somewhere around $2 million -- roughly a quarter of what the district had to slash from its 2010-11 budget.

"Of course, any money is good money," Aycock said. But the money will first have to roll its way out from the federal government to the states, and ultimately to school districts, a process that Aycock guessed could take several months. "There is no easy and quick pass through," Aycock said.

Assuming the money does arrive, a plan would be drafted and the Governing Board would vote on how to use the funds.

During a budget session in June, multi-year projections showed that Vacaville Unified would need to cut another $2.9 million from its budget in 2011-12. This latest round of stimulus could go a long way toward easing the burden.

According to Miller's office, the bill includes provisions to ensure that states use the money to preserve jobs in elementary and secondary education. Amounts from the Education Jobs Fund may not be used for purposes such as equipment, utilities, renovation or transportation. The bill prohibits states from using any of these funds to add to "Rainy-Day Funds" or to pay off state debt.


Parents' outrage over halal-only school dinners planned for British primary schools

A council has triggered a backlash among parents and animal welfare groups after introducing halal-only menus at state schools. Only meat from animals killed in line with Islamic teaching will be offered at 52 primary schools in Harrow, following a switch by ten secondaries to halal menus.

But parents have voiced concern over the methods used to slaughter animals in this way and say they haven't been properly consulted over the changes.

Harrow Council is among the first in Britain to encourage halal meat. It says dieticians recommended the policy due to difficulties storing and preparing two sorts of meat.

According to the 2001 census, the North-West London borough is among the most religiously diverse areas in Britain. Just under half of the population is Christian, a fifth is Hindu, 7 per cent is Muslim and 6 per cent Jewish. The council says the composition of the area's primary schools is now significantly different and the Muslim population is larger.

Halal slaughtering involves cutting through the large arteries in the neck with one swipe of a blade, while a Muslim butcher recites a religious verse. All blood is then drained away since the consumption of blood is forbidden under Islamic law. Animal welfare campaigners say the method, which is exempted from welfare laws, is inhumane as animals are not stunned before being killed.

Harrow resident Sheila Murphy called the council's move 'appalling'. 'The Farm Animal Welfare Council has lobbied the government in the past to get the kosher and halal method of slaughter banned,' she said. 'The halal method is deemed cruel by some animal-lovers, who object to the slow death it involves.

'Harrow Council's decision is also taking away the choice of children and their parents over what meat they eat and I urge residents to make their views known to Harrow Council and get this decision overturned.'

Contracts signed with the council's preferred catering company, Harrison's, stipulate that only halal meat is served. The firm has been providing nine of the borough's secondary schools with meals for two years and will take on the final high school next month. The contract for providing meals to Harrow primaries is up for renewal and the council is planning to bring in Harrison's.

The council says primaries do not have to use its preferred caterer and governors are free to negotiate their own deals if they wish. Only two primaries have so far signed up.

Masood Khawaja, president of the Halal Food Authority, said: 'It is commendable for schools to provide halal meals but there must be an alternative for non-Muslims. 'Some people are opposed to halal and kosher meat on animal welfare grounds and they should be given the choice not to eat it.'

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: 'By only offering halal meat there is an assumption a Muslim's conscience is more important than someone who is concerned about animal rights.'

Councillor Brian Gate, portfolio holder for schools and colleges, said: 'The decision about whether to use an individual provider is for schools to make, as funding is delegated to them. 'At present we are not proceeding to roll this programme out but this is because of the cost constraints and the level of interest from parents.'


British parents 'threatened with court' by union after criticising school

Parents have been threatened with legal action after raising concerns about their children’s primary school. Two people were warned by a teaching union that they could be taken to court for “harassment” following a series of complaints directed at the head teacher. It followed a public meeting called by mothers and fathers of children at St Alban’s Roman Catholic Primary School in Cardiff.

Families raised concerns over the suspension of three staff members as well as education standards, the turnover of teachers and allegations the school had abandoned Holy Communion.

But two people at the meeting – Sue Evans and Martine Paterson – then received letters warning them against making “slanderous statements” about Jane Vaterlaws, 51, the head teacher. In the letter, the National Association of Head Teachers said: "Your actions are viewed as malicious and as harassment and you are warned that should you continue to make false and slanderous statements about Mrs Vaterlaws, you are likely to find yourself in court.

"Please be in no doubt that action will be taken against you and any other individuals that persist with what is an illegitimate campaign. "The NAHT will not tolerate any malicious campaign against any one of our members and you should take heed of this warning."

Parents at the 200-pupil school claimed they had been left in the dark about the head's decision to suspend the three members of staff. Some parents also claimed some children as old as nine did not have basic literacy, teachers did not always know children’s names because of high staff turnover and the school was failing to offer Holy Communion.

Last month’s public meeting – held in a church hall – was led by Mrs Evans who later wrote to the Roman Catholic archdiocese listing a number of "areas of concern".

The letter to the two mothers was signed by Annie Hovey, the NAHT regional officer. Mrs Hovey’s letter said: "You are strongly advised to consider your position carefully as what you are doing is wholly illegitimate and is open to direct challenge from us as well as from the school, Cardiff council and the diocese. "We have advised Mrs Vaterlaws to consult the police with a view to taking action against you for harassment.”

Mrs Evans said: "They are very threatening letters. The other parent involved has been absolutely distraught about the one she received. "We have been told the church had a letter as well, about us using the parish hall for meetings. "But we have got to keep on with this now; we can’t let these parents down."


Thursday, August 05, 2010

Massachusetts on track for $655 million from feds for Medicaid, educrat welfare

Massachusetts stands to receive some $655 million in federal Medicaid and education funding to prevent budget cuts, under a state aid package that narrowly cleared a key hurdle in the U.S. Senate this morning.

The money would save more than 2,400 public education jobs in Massachusetts, according to Sen. John Kerry, who supported the measure. “Gov. Patrick, mayors, teachers, parents, and first responders are breathing a sigh of relief now that the Senate has finally thrown them a lifeline,” Kerry said in a statement after the vote.

Final approval in the Senate is expected later this week, before the measure goes to the U.S. House, where it would be expected to pass.

The legislation, a $26 billion national aid package, is paid for by spending cuts and a tax hike on multinational corporations. The bill prevailed over a Republican filibuster by a vote of 61-38.

Sixty votes were required to overcome the GOP's procedural roadblock. Two Republicans broke ranks and supported the measure: Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both of Maine.

The Bay State's junior senator, Republican Scott Brown, voted against the bill, saying there were better options for paying for it. “We can pay for that by not increasing taxes in the middle of a two year recession,” said Brown, in an interview after the vote.


Britain's coming good degrees guide: Consumer crackdown on 'Mickey Mouse' courses by showing future prospects

Degree courses will be rated for teaching quality, salary prospects, tuition time and value for money under plans to unleash 'consumer power' on universities. Poor quality 'Mickey Mouse' courses will be exposed on a website - similar to those used to select car insurance or electricity - allowing potential students to compare them.

The 16 statistics students most want to know about courses before making their applications were revealed in a report published yesterday by England's higher education funding quango. They include the proportion of graduates employed in professional or managerial jobs, their average salary, the quality of teaching on the course, weekly hours of teaching time and the quality of library and IT facilities.

All measures should be published 'as a minimum' for each degree course in the country in a web-based format that will allow comparisons, the report said. The higher education watchdog should assess the 'accuracy and completeness' of statistics provided by universities and publicise failure to give full information.

Data on university courses is currently limited and scattered around several sources. So ministers hope the move will drive up academic standards by harnessing consumer pressure. Weaker courses would be forced to improve or wither on the vine. They also believe drop-out rates from university will fall if students have a better idea of what to expect from their degrees.

Yesterday's report, commissioned by the funding council and carried out by Oakleigh Consulting and Staffordshire University, said universities are facing increasing competition. Lord Browne's forthcoming proposals on reforming university fees and grants are 'likely to reinforce the idea of students as consumers or customers', it said.

The researchers questioned nearly 2,000 prospective and current students about university statistics they would find 'very useful'. The answers showed 'very little variation' between students.

The most valuable information was considered to be current students' satisfaction with standards of teaching on the course and overall satisfaction with the experience.

Employment data, including details of professional bodies recognising the qualification, was also rated highly, as were costs linked to the course, such as hall of residence charges and maximum available bursaries. 'A standard set of information should concentrate on satisfaction with teaching, actual employment outcomes and costs,' the study said.

Women, Asians and applicants with top A-level grades were most likely to seek out course information, it found.

The information must be attractive to all groups and available either through institutions' own websites or the UCAS service, the report recommended.

But Professor Alan Smithers, of Buckingham University, urged students not to be put off studying subjects such as philosophy or classics which may not guarantee immediate salary returns. 'The point of a degree is to enhance your life and there's no guaranteed route to a well-paid job from any particular qualification - that depends very much on the person you become,' he said. 'You are most likely to become yourself if you are study something you find fulfilling at university.'

The development follows calls by Universities Minister David Willetts for prospective students to be given a wealth of information about courses. He has previously criticised the 'reluctance' of universities to release data on their graduates' success on the job market - and has threatened to compel institutions to publish information if they fail to do so voluntarily. Speaking after taking up his ministerial brief, Mr Willetts called on universities to embrace 'transparency'.


Fear of information from Australian education elites

School league tables splashed across newspapers earlier this year, heralding an unprecedented era of education openness in this country, are on death watch.

A coalition of teachers unions, academics and public education advocates are well advanced with their mission to strangle through technological modifications any further league tables in 2011.

The tables ranking of individual schools for literacy and numeracy were the most sensational outcome the MySchool website, arguably Prime Minister’s greatest reform triumph as Education Minister.

The information they so succinctly presented in a ranking form offered fodder for a million dinner table and bus stop debates about education choice. Overnight, parents were empowered with knowledge, even if it was a brutal outing of school performance.

But the league tables, run in various forms in newspapers including The Australian, Herald Sun and the The Sydney Morning Herald, were not an authorised part of MySchool, more like its bastard child.

MySchool helpfully compares individual school results on national literacy and numeracy (NAPLAN) tests to the Australian average and a group of “statistically similar” schools. It was the media that took the next obvious step of producing league tables ranking schools.

Many of the 1.4 million visits to MySchool in its first four days were due to teams of journalists and support staff making thousands of repeat visits to strip out its NAPLAN data to create their league tables.

While the MySchool website will be back in 2011, possibly with enhanced features that will be welcomed by parents, a new round of league tables may not be possible.

The website changes, should they not be stopped, could mean attempts to collect the data in 2011 for league tables will now take weeks or months of commitment, possibly putting their creation beyond the resource availability media organisations.

The tables were an extraordinary tearing to shreds of the secrecy shroud that hid the vast differences in the performance of individual schools based on national tests and between private and public systems.

As popular as the league tables were with parents, they also enraged teachers unions and the public school lobby which saw them as the education equivalent to opening the gates of hell.

Australian Education Union federal president Angelo Gavrielatos said that the league tables were based on “simplistic” data that was highly damaging to individual schools, teachers and students.

It was never publicly stated, but there was a fear in the public school lobby the rankings might further encourage the flight to private schools.

Following threats of industrial action to stop the next round of NAPLAN tests going ahead in May, Ms Gillard appointed a working party of teacher unions, school representatives, academics and professionalised parent groups, to respond to their concerns about use of NAPLAN data.

That working party has already reported back to the national education watchdog, the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), with a list of technological proposals to prevent league tables when MySchool 2.0 is launched in 2011.

The ACARA media unit has confirmed that work is progressing on making the NAPLAN data much more difficult to strip out of the MySchool website next year.

Under one likely change, anyone logging on to check a school in 2011 will be confronted by a lengthy “click wrap” of up-front terms of conditions banning commercial use of the data they must formally agree to every time they log in, slowing down all access to a crawl.

A letter by ACARA chief executive Peter Hill, dated June 21, outlines options for changes to the 2011 MySchool website to “address” concerns expressed by the Australian Education Union and other groups.

Along with other recommendations, like adding information on funding sources, the document states that “Ministers have endorsed” investigating “action to minimise misuse” of the information on MySchool. It is clearly stated that ministers had endorsed the working party presenting “ways of deterring or preventing automatic scraping of data from the website”.

A final decision on the measures would be presented to a ministerial council of education ministers in August and October.

Australian Parents Council Executive Director Ian Dalton, a member of the appointed working party, said technical changes would stop “unauthorised usage” of MySchool data next year. Mr Dalton could not say whether the changes would prevent league tables, although he said it was important “to stop publishing data that misrepresented information included on the MySchool website”.

A spokeswoman for Education Minister Simon Crean, Ms Gillard’s replacement, would not comment on the proposal, referring all questions to ACARA.

Despite the move towards blocking league tables, there is strong evidence that the publication of league tables in NSW was handled sensibly by parents. There were no walk outs from schools that performed poorly, or any immediate flight to private schools.

Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act 1989 from the Department of Education and Training on enrolment changes on all schools between the period January 27 to February 28, 2010 showed no unusual enrolment changes compared to the same period in 2009.

Among those placed near bottom of league tables, Airds High School had more students withdraw in the 2009 period than in the 2010 period after My School was available and league tables were published. The school had 24 students leave in 2010 compared to 51 in 2009.

Another struggling performer, Lurnea High School had 84 students leave in 2010, compared to 100 in 2009, while another high school that was placed low in tables, Chifley College, Bidwill, had 52 enrolment withdrawals, down from 60 last year.

As well as no evidence of walkouts from individual schools, there was also no evidence of a flight from public to private schools. The documents showed there were 23,570 students who left the NSW public school system, about 2000 fewer than the same period in 2009.

But there were some parents who did react. Mum Gaynor Reid admits she quickly changed the kindergarten enrolment of her daughter Kiara Inman-Ried from Fort Street Public to Paddington Public after examining the MySchool website the night before. Fort Street recorded results below the average of schools in the inner city area in the NAPLAN test areas, so she contacted Paddington public immediately the next morning.

Ms Reid, a public relations manager with a large hotel group, even had to borrow a school uniform from a friend for the new school. “We literally had to change that very day. We had already bought the uniform for Fort Street and Kiara had even done an orientation and met a ‘buddy’ to look out for her,’’ Ms Read said.


Wednesday, August 04, 2010

National Education Association Orders Members to Read Communist Guide Book

The National Education Association (NEA) is the premier teachers union group in the country. As such it is instructive to learn the sort of reading material that the biggest of all teachers unions tells its own members to study so that they can more adequately represent teachers in America today.

A look at the NEA website reveals a shocking recommendation to its members. The union that represents the teachers that we send our children to every school day suggests that its members read the communist-like manifesto of famed left-wing agitator Saul Alinsky.

That’s right, the NEA wants its members, America’s teachers, to become programmed by the ideas and policy prescriptions in a communist manifesto.

And while making the recommendation, the NEA also absent-mindedly seems to forget that Alinsky was an avowed socialist that wanted to remake America from a representative democracy into a communist state.

Here is how they describe Alinsky’s books:
NEA recommends the following Saul Alinsky books to those members of our Association who are involved in grassroots organizing, especially Association Representatives (ARs) — also known as building reps or shop stewards — and leaders at local affiliates.

Saul Alinsky is widely recognized as the father of, and pre-imminent expert in, grassroots organizing, which is why we recommend that ARs and local leaders become familiar with his theories & materials.

Saul Alinsky is also “widely recognized” as a communist sympathizer, socialist theorist, and left-wing radical. I guess the NEA “forgot” to mention that, eh?

The left-wing tracking site reminds us of what else Alinsky “widely recognized” for:
Alinsky’s brand of revolution was not characterized by dramatic, sweeping, overnight transformations of social institutions. As Richard Poe puts it, “Alinsky viewed revolution as a slow, patient process. The trick was to penetrate existing institutions such as churches, unions and political parties.” He advised organizers and their disciples to quietly, subtly gain influence within the decision-making ranks of these institutions, and to introduce changes from that platform.”

THIS is the un-American agitator that the nation’s largest teachers union wants to expose the teachers we send our kids to, folks. This is why these unions need to be defeated.


After 13 years of Labour Party rule, one in three primary pupils are still failing the 3Rs in Britain

More than a third of children left primary school this summer struggling to read, write and add up – despite Labour’s £2.5billion drive to raise standards in the three Rs.

The Government yesterday pledged a return to traditional lessons in English and maths after warning that achievement had ‘flatlined’ for much of Labour’s time in office. This will include a fresh focus on arithmetic and the ‘synthetic phonics’ reading scheme.

About 200,000 11-year-olds – 35 per cent – failed to reach the expected standard for their age in reading, writing and maths, national SATs tests results showed yesterday.

It means they start secondary school next month unable to grasp the point of a story, write extended sentences using commas or add, subtract, multiply and divide in their heads.

Reading standards slipped for the second year running, with 84 per cent making the grade this summer compared with 86 per cent last year and 87 per cent in 2008.

While results for writing improved, boys fell further behind girls, which will raise fears that many will fail to cope at secondary school.

Results for English overall – reading and writing combined – showed a slight improvement on last year, with 81 per cent of 11-year-olds reaching the required ‘level four’ grade against 80 per cent last year. Maths standards also rose, edging up from 80 per cent to 81 per cent.

But just 65 per cent of 11-year-olds reached ‘level four’ in each of reading,writing and maths, the results from the Department for Education showed.

Ofsted earlier this year estimated the cost of delivering Labour’s literacy and numeracy programmes since 1998 at £4.5billion across the education system – £2.5billion for primary schools and £2billion for secondary.

Despite former prime minister Tony Blair’s ‘education, education, education’ mantra, inspectors said progress had been ‘too slow’, particularly over the last four years.

Ministers are concerned that standards have barely risen in recent years. Schools Minister Nick Gibb said yesterday: ‘We need to ensure Government gives teachers the support they need to get the basics right.

‘Getting the fundamentals right – being able to read and write and having a solid foundation in maths – is crucial to a child’s success in secondary education and throughout their adult life. ‘This is why the coalition Government is committed to promoting the use of systematic synthetic phonics in primary schools and to ensuring that pupils are fluent in arithmetic and basic maths by the time they move to secondary school.’

Ministers will launch a review of the curriculum in the autumn and outline plans for boosting the status of traditional synthetic phonics, where pupils learn the 44 letter sounds of English and how they blend together. Other systems of phonics involve learning the sounds that make up whole words first, then splitting them up.

Plans for a new reading test for six-year-olds to ensure those who are struggling are identified early will also be unveiled.

Yesterday’s results came with controversy after 26 per cent of primary schools – 4,005 – refused to carry out the tests this spring as part of a campaign of industrial Government to scrap SATs. About 155,000 children were caught up in the boycott.

The Government was unable to publish authority-wide results for 20 local authorities because too few pupils took SATs for scores to be valid. Parents will be forced to rely on results in teachers’ own assessments when assessing schools’ performance.

Education secretary Michael Gove, who has pledged the tests will go ahead in 2011, is heading for a showdown with unions next summer if, as expected, the boycott gathers pace.

Results of teacher assessments of pupils aged 14, also published yesterday, showed 79 per cent achieving the expected standard in English – up two percentage points on 2009. Eighty per cent hit the target in maths – up one point – and 80 per cent in science, up from 78 per cent.

Shadow schools minister Vernon Coaker said English and maths results were ‘encouraging’ and ‘the culmination of a transformation in school standards thanks to Labour’s investment and reforms’. But he added: ‘There is obviously more to do, particularly in reading.’


Australia: Father fined for confronting child's bully

What are you supposed to do when your kid is bullied at school? The schools and the police are useless. Kids have been killed because handwringing is all that schools do about bullying

An Ipswich dad has been fined $300 for confronting bullies who relentlessly teased his daughter at school.

Ipswich Magistrates Court was told the man's daughter had been teased at her school after she was scarred in an accident.

But the 34-year-old father, who had no previous criminal history, took matters into his own hands after he saw his daughter's tormentor at a shopping centre.

Prosecutor Senior Constable Adam McDonald said the man grabbed the bully by his shirt and said, "If you touch my daughter again I'll kill you".

The juvenile then went to Karana Downs police station to complain about the assault.


Tuesday, August 03, 2010

'Higher Education' Is A Waste Of Money

An old-fashioned call below for critical thinking to be encouraged. The guy hasn't got a hope. Indoctrination is the new aim of education. Just mention global warming in almost any American classroom and you will soon see the truth of that

Professor Andrew Hacker says that higher education in the U.S. is broken. He argues that too many undergraduate courses are taught by graduate assistants or professors who have no interest in teaching.

Hacker proposes numerous changes, including an end to the tenure system, in his book, Higher Education?

"Tenure is lifetime employment security, in fact, into the grave" Hacker tells NPR's Tony Cox. The problem, as he sees it, is that the system "works havoc on young people," who must be incredibly cautious throughout their years in school as graduate students and young professors, "if they hope to get that gold ring."

That's too high a cost, Hacker and his co-author, Claudia Dreifus, conclude. "Regretfully," Hacker says, "tenure is more of a liability than an asset."

Book excerpt:

Our concern, both in this book and for the world at large, is with the undergraduate years. We regard this as a span when young people are sufficiently mature yet still not fully formed, when they can begin to discover themselves and take on the universe. But before we go into particulars, we'd like to specify what we do not regard as higher education's obligations.

• As we've noted, we want to distinguish education from training. Today's young people are likely to live to be ninety. So there is no need for them to start preparing themselves for careers while they are in their teens. We join Diane Ravitch, who laments that "American higher education has remade itself into a vast job-training program." Indeed, since the mid-1960s, English majors have dropped 51 percent in relation to all degrees, history has experienced a 55 percent decline, and students opting for mathematics are down a whopping 74 percent, despite a putative demand for high-tech experts.

• Nor do we feel undergraduate years should be an apprenticeship for a PhD, let alone a first step toward an academic career. We feel obliged to say this because too many college courses center on topics of interest only to professors. But professors don't have a monopoly on erudition. We believe that the arts and sciences, properly understood, must have a broader and deeper base.

• Perhaps the best way to get support for higher education, or so it is thought, is to warn that the United States is falling behind other nations in skills needed in a competitive world. But the alarms so resoundingly sounded don't decry that we are lagging in philosophy or the humanities. Rather, it's that in countries like China, India, and Korea more students are specializing in the sciences and engineering. The worry is that our workforce —including college graduates —isn't ready for a high-tech age. At this point, we'd only ask, if our economy needs more scientists and engineers, why students aren't enrolling?

• Please give us a hearing while we suggest that a purpose of college is not to make students into better citizens. Of course, we'd like everyone to be committed to their communities. But we aren't convinced that we should look to colleges to instill "the knowledge needed to be a reasonably informed citizen in a democracy," as Harvard's Derek Bok puts it. The unstated assumption here is that people who have attended college will end up being better citizens than those who have not.

For our part, we're not that sure that the kinds of insights and information imparted in college classrooms lead to a higher quality of civic engagement. Nor should we forget highly educated cadres described as "the best and the brightest" have plunged us into unwinnable wars and onto economic shoals. For our own part, we haven't found that ballots cast by college graduates express more cogent thinking than the votes of other citizens. Even now, as a nation, are we more thoughtful than the Illinois farmers who stood for three hours as they pondered the Lincoln-Douglas debates?

• Or listen to Shirley Tilghman, Princeton's president, speaking at its 2009 commencement: "Princeton invests its considerable resources in its students in the belief that we are preparing young men and women to become leaders and change the world for the better."

Had we been there, we're sure we would have applauded. Still, to our mind, leadership refers to a willingness and ability to rouse people to a party, a purpose, a cause. Here, too, we're not convinced that what happens in classrooms or on campuses nurtures leaders more than other settings — than, for example, back roads of the Mississippi Delta or lettuce fields in California. We will agree that college graduates are more likely to attain positions where they rank ahead of others. Yet if Princeton and other colleges boast strong contingents of such people, most of them got to their corner offices by being appointed or promoted. If that's all Shirley Tilghman meant, we can agree.

What do we think should happen at college? We want young people to use their minds as they never have before, thinking hard about realities and issues that strain their mental powers. They should be urged to be imaginative and inquiring, to take risks without having to worry about their transcripts or alienating their teachers. To quote a friend, colleges should be making their undergraduates more interesting people. Higher education is an ongoing conversation, created for students poised at adulthood, which can and will continue throughout their lives.

This is a natural process, one for which young people are already fitted. After all, curiosity comes with being human. The problem today is that too much college teaching seeks to channel thinking into tight academic grooves. That is why we've deliberately avoided using terms like cognitive and analytic, or phrases like critical thinking and moral reasoning. There's nothing inherently wrong with these rubrics, it's just that they've been recast to force freshmen to view the world through professorial prisms.

In fact, there are thousands of undergraduate teachers who regard education as a lively interchange. We have sat, admiringly, in many of their classes. Yet few of them are recognized beyond their campuses, since they haven't conducted the research their disciplinary peers demand. So we'll cite some better-known models. There is Princeton's Paul Krugman, a Nobel Laureate, who makes economics explicable in the New York Times. Or Jill Lepore of Harvard, who brings history to life for readers of The New Yorker. Cosmologist Lawrence Krauss of Arizona State University, who loves meeting with high school students and brings his Nobelist friends to chat with them. These professors do not set boundaries between how they address a general audience and what they do in their classrooms. For them — and for us — it's all higher education.


Thousands left confused by British grade-school results

The war on assessment goes on. Teachers hate it because it exposes incompetent teaching and parents hate it when it shows that their little treasure is no genius: "He was just having a bad day/month/year"

Children and parents will be left in confusion as national Sats results and teacher assessments for around 600,000 pupils are published together on Tuesday for the first time, education experts have warned. Pupils who sat this year’s exams face being awarded different marks in the same subject if teachers’ appraisals do not match their test scores.

Sats were designed to give parents an indication of the academic standard their child has reached and to help schools stream pupils into the correct classes. Teachers now assess each pupil’s performance over the year and grade them based on their overall ability.

But confusion arose after Ed Balls, the education secretary at the time, decided last November to publish the two sets of national figures side by side. The move was designed to placate unions which had threatened to boycott the exams after teachers claimed they were forced to drop subjects including art, history, geography and PE in the final year of primary school and drill pupils to pass the tests.

A quarter of England’s 15,000 primaries refused to stage the exams in May, meaning pupils at around 4,000 schools will be judged on their teachers’ assessments alone.

There were calls last night for the Government to publish one set of results. Prof Alan Smithers, from the University of Buckingham, said: “Publishing the two sets of results together is confusing. If you are getting contradictory results that is a problem. But it is also information overload and what we need is good, simple, reliable information.”

Anastasia de Waal, the head of family and education at the think tank Civitas, said: “We would be much better off sticking with one system. “Testing needs to be a snapshot of what the children are learning, whereas at the moment all they are learning is the snapshot.”

Sats for 14 year-olds were scrapped along with the science exam for 11 year-olds after teachers complained they had to teach to the test, leaving gaps in the curriculum. Many secondary schools retest pupils in their first few weeks because they do not view Sats results as an accurate measure of ability.

Parents also called for the exams to be abolished, arguing that they were an unreliable measure of children’s ability. Margaret Morrissey, the founder of Parents Outloud, a campaign group, said: “Sats really should not exist. Most children do not perform that well under pressure. “It is a big possibility that they may get two different marks, and parents will be even more confused by this system than before.”

Sats tests were introduced for 11 year-olds in 1995. Teachers have been asked to assess their pupils individually since 1996, with these unofficial results released to parents alongside the test score.

Unions warned last night that pupils might receive worse marks from teachers than in their exams because they were unable to fulfil their potential in a curriculum geared towards the test.

One in five pupils could be given the wrong grade in Sats papers due to inconsistent marking, the exam watchdog Ofqual warned last month.

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has admitted there are “flaws within the current testing system” and is committed to a review.


A Damascene conversion for the Australian Labor Party?

How come the centralizers have discovered decentralization?

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard might describe herself as an atheist. But yesterday's speech arguing that principals and parents should be given the freedom to manage their own schools represents a road-to-Damascus experience when it comes to empowering school communities.

While the Prime Minister's statement that a re-elected ALP government will work "to ensure that core decisions that make the most difference to student outcomes are devolved to schools" is commendable, Gillard's record as minister for education proves that her epiphany is more about political opportunism than conviction.

It also smacks of catch-up politics when the ALP releases a policy giving principals power over their schools just weeks after the Tony Abbott-led opposition promised to give school leaders control over school infrastructure spending - a policy condemned by federal Education Minister Simon Crean. During Gillard's time in charge of education, even though schools are a state's responsibility and the commonwealth government neither employs teachers nor manages schools, all roads led to Canberra and, as a result, classrooms have been paralysed by a command-and-control model of education.

During her nearly three years in charge of education, Gillard championed a raft of centrally inspired programs involving a national curriculum and assessment regime, national literacy and numeracy testing and a national approach to teacher registration and certification.

It's widely accepted that the Rudd-Gillard education revolution is inflexible and statist in its approach. Not surprisingly, the eminent educationalist Brian Caldwell from the University of Melbourne, gives the education revolution 2/10 for school autonomy and 1/10 for introducing models of innovative school governance. Across Australia, primary as well as secondary principal professional organisations have bemoaned the educational straitjacket being imposed by the ALP's education revolution and called for increased school autonomy.

One cannot but conclude that any Gillard-inspired school autonomy program, not starting until 2012 and only with a sample of schools, will be a Clayton's one. The promise to give school principals and parents freedom and flexibility at the local level amounts to nothing if schools are constrained and shackled by the type of government directives and demands exemplified by the ALP's education revolution.

Best illustrated by the fate of government schools under the Building the Education Revolution fiasco, the result of Gillard's approach is that state schools are denied the power to manage their affairs and tailor programs and initiatives to best suit their needs.

Whereas Catholic and independent schools, given the freedom and flexibility they have, are able to deliver school infrastructure efficiently and economically, government schools have been plagued by dodgy deals, cost over-runs and white elephants.

Yesterday's admission by Gillard that "without control over decision-making, principals are limited in their ability to respond to problems and are impeded in attempts to improve educational outcomes for their students" makes a good deal of sense.

Unfortunately, it comes too late for government schools shackled with useless infrastructure, and cannot absolve her of the failure to give state schools the power to properly implement the BER program over the past two years.

Doubts about yesterday's conversion to school autonomy in the middle of an election campaign, three weeks before judgment day, are reinforced by Gillard's inaction on the issue during her term as minister for education.

Under the Howard government a report was commissioned into school leadership and principal autonomy, undertaken by Educational Transformations and completed in December 2007. The report, based on national and international research, concluded that school autonomy was critical for raising standards, and that Australian principals are concerned about the adverse effect of the centralising of control over education.

Not only did Gillard, while she was minister for education, bury the report for nearly two years, finally releasing it in November 2009, but the Labor government has failed to adopt any of the report's recommendations.

At the 2007 election, the then Rudd opposition promised to give every senior school student a computer and to build a trade centre in every secondary school; neither promise has been fully implemented.

There must also be doubts whether the promise on school autonomy will ever be delivered. As the NSW ALP-led government learned a couple of years ago when it attempted to allow principals to hire and reward staff, the Australian Education Union is vehemently opposed to giving state schools control over their own destiny.

It's no secret that the AEU regularly campaigns in support of the ALP, injecting millions into marginal seats campaigns and funding anti-Coalition advertising. If the ALP is re-elected, it should not be a surprise if the promise to deliver school autonomy is put on the back burner and that it disappears into the byzantine bureaucracy represented by bodies such as the Council of Australian Governments.


Monday, August 02, 2010


Three of the four posts below are ones that I put up on other blogs yesterday but they clearly have a place here too

Secular attempt to dictate religion in Australia

Creationism is a historic Christian doctrine so Christian parents have every right to have their kids taught about it. If they don't want to have their kids taught about it, nobody is telling them that they have to. It's not "hijacking" anything to teach the doctrines of your faith.

Kids have all the rest of their school time to hear the evolutionist side of the story so what is so bad about a different view being given at least some exposure? Where is the "tolerance" and respect for "diversity" among those who oppose it?

I am an atheist but I sent my son to a Catholic school precisely because I wanted him to hear the other side of the story. He seems to have emerged unharmed from the experience and in fact enjoyed his religion lessons at the time. So it is possible to practice tolerance as well as preach it -- JR

Primary school students are being taught that man and dinosaurs walked the Earth together and that there's fossil evidence to prove it.

Fundamentalist Christians are hijacking religious instruction classes despite education experts saying Creationism and attempts to convert children to Christianity have no place in state schools.

Students have been told Noah collected dinosaur eggs to bring on the Ark, and Adam and Eve were not eaten by dinosaurs because they were under a protective spell.

Critics are calling for the RI program to be scrapped after claims emerged Christian lay people are feeding children misinformation.

About 80 per cent of children at state primary schools attend one half-hour instruction a week, open to any interested lay person to conduct. Many of the instructors are from Pentecostal churches.

Education Queensland is aware that Creationism is being taught by some religious instructors, but said parents could opt out.

Australian Secular Lobby president Hugh Wilson said children were ostracised and discriminated against if they were pulled out of the class. In many cases, the RI lay people were not supervised by teachers. {So...?]

Kings Christian Church youth worker Dustin Bell said he taught "about creation" in Sunshine Coast schools. Set Free Christian Church's Tim McKenzie said when students questioned him why dinosaur fossils carbon dated as earlier than man, he replied that the great flood must have skewed the data.

Queensland Teachers Union president Steve Ryan said teachers were sometimes compelled to supervise the instructors "because of all the fire and brimstone stuff". Mr Ryan said Education Queensland had deemed RI a must-have, though teachers would prefer to spend the time on curriculum.

Buddhist Council of Queensland president Jim Ferguson said he was so disturbed that Creationism was being aired in state school classrooms that he would bring it up at the next meeting of the Religious Education Advisory Committee, part of Education Queensland. He said RI was supposed to be a forum for multi-faith discussion. [Since when?]

Education Queensland assistant director-general Patrea Walton said Creationism was part of some faiths, and therefore was part of some teaching.

New research shows three in 10 Australians believe dinosaurs and man did exist at the same time. The survey, by the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies, shows a "worrying" lack of basic scientific principles.

"The results underscore the need for students to be exposed to science and mathematics through a well resourced education system, rather than learning about science through Jurassic Park," FASTS president Dr Cathy Foley said.

PhD researcher Cathy Byrne found in a NSW-based survey that scripture teachers tended to discourage questioning, emphasised submission to authority and excluded different beliefs. She said 70 per cent of scripture teachers thought children should be taught the Bible as historical fact.

A parent of a Year 5 student on the Sunshine Coast said his daughter was ostracised to the library after arguing with her scripture teacher about DNA.

"The scripture teacher told the class that all people were descended from Adam and Eve," he said. "'My daughter rightly pointed out, as I had been teaching her about DNA and science, that 'wouldn't they all be inbred'? "But the teacher replied that DNA wasn't invented then."

After the parent complained, the girl spent the rest of the year's classes in the library. [That is punishment?? I didn't realize that books are such a bad thing]


For decades American college students have been taught a Communist version of history

The prominent "progressive" historian Howard Zinn, whose books are force-fed to young people on many college campuses, was not only a member of the Moscow-controlled and Soviet-funded Communist Party USA (CPUSA) but lied about it, according to an FBI file released on Friday.

The file, consisting of three sections totaling 423 pages, was made available on the FBI's website and released in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from this writer.

Zinn taught in the political science department of Boston University for 24 years, from 1964 to 1988, and has been a major influence on the modern-day "progressive" movement that backed Barack Obama for president.

Although Zinn denied being a member of the CPUSA, the FBI file discloses that several reliable informants in the party identified Zinn as a member who attended party meetings as many as five times a week.

What's more, one of the files reveals that a reliable informant provided a photograph of Zinn teaching a class on "Basic Marxism" at party headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, in 1951. A participant in the class said that Zinn taught that "the basic teaching of Marx and Lenin were sound and should be adhered to by those present."

The FBI file also includes information on Zinn's pro-Castro activism and support for radical groups such as the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), Progressive Labor Party (PLP), Socialist Workers Party (SWP), and Black Panther Party. Much of the latter was in connection with Zinn's support for a communist military victory in Vietnam. His dealings with the Communist regime in Hanoi included a visit to the communist capital.

Zinn was included on the "Security Index" and "Communist Index" maintained by the FBI. The "Security Index" was more ominous and included individuals who could be detained in the event of a national emergency.

The files confirm Zinn's membership in the party from 1948-1953 and one says he was "believed to be a CP member as of October, 1956." However, he denied membership in the party when interviewed by the FBI in 1953 and 1954 and claimed to be just a "liberal" or "leftist." He did admit involvement in several CPUSA front organizations, the documents say.

A 1964 FBI memorandum refers to Zinn as "a professor and writer who has a background of known membership in the Communist Party (CP) and has continued to demonstrate procommunist and anti-United States sympathies." It says that while Zinn had denied membership in the CPUSA, his denial "was not supported by facts"-a reference to the substantial evidence and eyewitness testimony provided by informants in the CPUSA.

Much more HERE

More brainwashing coming up

Everybody from the Jesuits to Hitler have tried to capture the education of the young as the best way to perpetuate their ideology

Hey mama grizzlies, it appears as if the White House wants more time with your cubs. Yep, I guess Barack and his socialistic cabal have had a rough go at “fundamentally transforming our nation” in dealing with the increasingly-jaundiced thinking adults who’ve lost the Obama buzz, still dig America, love God and our Constitution, and ask questions (and crap like that). So, like good brainwashers who cannot bamboozle adults, they go in for our babies.

Yep, for the sake of socialism and with an eye to “changing our traditions, our history,” as Michelle Obama said, BHO’s boy Arne Duncan is tabling a plan for parents to give “them” more time with our tots. That means “alone time,” as in big chunks of alone time with the teachers whom “they” have fed a steady diet of “America sucks and socialism is yummy” sauce.

It’s the same stack of teachers the NEA has greatly encouraged to read Saul Alinsky’s commie rag, Rules for Radicals. And you won’t have to worry about them being physically harmed while they’re away from your gaze, Mr. and Mrs. Grizz, because radical gay activist Kevin “Fistgate” Jennings will make sure your kids are okay. Especially your teenage boys.

This past week, Secretary of (Re)Education Arne Duncan said at the National Press Club that he’d like to have schools open 12 to 14 hours a day and 11 to 12 months out of the year. Dr. Evil couched his desires for huge chunks of time spent with your children in the most flowery of language, musing aloud that he wanted to have your children for an extended period to help them “compete internationally.”

Really, Arne? Correct me if I’m wrong, but we used to compete internationally … as in run the flippin’ planet … didn’t we? That is until dipsticks like you and your progressive posse decided to toss God, the Constitution, common sense, a clear delineation between right and wrong, and discipline out of school and replace it with Muslim sensitivity training classes, books about Penguins sodomizing each other, and social justice as you passed out condoms to first graders and provided secret abortions for 13-year-old girls. It’s funny that America never had a problem excelling until secular progressives, with their Marxist bent, became the pace car for the public school system.

The ambitious Obama administration is not content with trying to rule our freedom of speech (especially squelching critiques of their feckless policies), but they also want to put the joystick of our economy, our car companies, our health care, our self reliance and independence, our retirement, and now our kids into their sweaty palms because, you see, they’re wiser than we are in regard to what our kids need to know about how the world should tick—thus Duncan’s talk about more time to uh … um … “educate” your cubs.

This is no surprise, however, as the re-education of our kids has been the wet dream of Bill Ayers, domestic terrorist and Obama’s buddy, as well as his radical ilk for a long, long time.

For mama grizzlies truly concerned about the health and well-being of their cubs and the environment they grow up in (i.e. the USA), you have two options for this public school mess: either get into the system and fight this virulently anti-American agenda … or remove your children from it.


Children at risk in 'failing' British nurseries

Thousands of children are being left in the hands of “inadequate” childminders, nurseries and crèches, according to Ofsted. Figures show more than 800 childcare providers have been branded as failing in the last two years, while almost 12,000 were no better than satisfactory.

In all, almost a third of early years care is said to be not good enough since the introduction of Labour’s “nappy curriculum” in 2008, it was disclosed. According to Ofsted, many were also given the lowest possible rating for keeping under-fives safe, raising fears that adults may not have been given criminal record checks.

Nurseries and childminders can also be failing in their duty towards “safeguarding” for a lack of first aid, unhygienic premises and a poor health and safety record.

The disclosure follows the announcement of a major review of early years education by the Coalition Government amid fears that many children are not being given a “good start”. The review – led by Dame Clare Tickell, chief executive of the charity Action for Children – will cover child welfare, education and early development.

Ministers have refused to rule out abolishing the Early Years Foundation Stage – a series of 69 targets introduced by Labour that must be followed by all state and private childcare providers.

New figures published by Ofsted chart standards achieved by childcare providers in England since September 2008 – when the rules were made compuslory.

According to the watchdog, two per cent of the 40,081 nurseries, childminers and crèches inspected over the last two years were “inadequate”. A further 30 per cent were merely rated satisfactory. The watchdog has previously said that satisfactory – the second lowest rating – was not “good enough”.

Figures show that two per cent of all providers were also inadequate at keeping children safe – one of a series of criteria that nurseries and childminders are judged against. Some 27 per cent were merely satisfactory.

Sarah Teather, the Children’s Minister, said: “Early years professionals should be congratulated on their hard work to drive up standards. “However, we want to see more children from poorer backgrounds getting the right support so that they have the same opportunities to achieve as their peers.” She added that Dame Clare’s review would aim to “ensure all young children are getting the best early learning, as well as keeping them safe and supporting their healthy development”.

The bureaucracy involved with the Early Years Foundation Stage has been blamed for a sharp drop in the number of registered childminders. The latest figures show the equivalent of 520 childminders left the profession in the three months to the end of June. Numbers have now dropped by 6,396 – 10 per cent – following the introduction of the compulsory rules two years ago.

The number of “non-domestic” early years providers – such as nurseries – fell by 134 in the last three months.


Sunday, August 01, 2010

Schools leaving ever more children behind

Fewer top rating schools, more under review

About half of Delaware's schools failed to make adequate progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, a dramatic increase from a year prior.

The number of top-rated schools dropped as federal standards for test scores in math and reading increased from the year before. The state's school accountability ratings also showed that 20 percent fewer schools received a "superior" ranking from the state Department of Education.

"We have to take big, giant steps toward radically improving our education system quickly enough to have this generation of students ready to compete for the next generation of jobs and opportunity," state Secretary of Education Lillian Lowery said in a statement.

Delaware officials determine school accountability ratings based on three components: annual progress toward federal goals in student reading and math performances; more rigorous state requirements that also consider science and social-studies performances; and the school's accountability history.

The school ratings, released late Friday afternoon, included ratings and AYP status for 192 of the state's 210 schools. This year, 66 schools were ranked "superior," 17 were "commendable" and 46 were on "academic review." Another 63 were considered to be "under improvement" for failing to make adequate progress for two consecutive years. Last year, 83 schools ranked "superior," 34 were "commendable" and 28 were on "academic review." Another 50 were considered "under improvement."

The designations -- "superior," "commendable," "academic progress" and "academic watch" -- tell parents how well their children's schools are progressing toward federal goals.

Schools considered "under improvement" receive sanctions, such as being required to offer free tutoring to struggling students or to restructure by hiring a new principal or changing curriculum.

The ranking came on the same day Gov. Jack Markell signed a new law that ties teacher ratings to new performance standards. The law -- which is mentioned in the state's winning $119 million Race to the Top plan -- requires that teachers must show two years of student growth within three years before the teacher may receive tenure. Tenure provides the highest rating, which provides for special job protections and will make the teacher eligible for bonus pay programs under Race to the Top.

"We are all aligned -- our state's parents, teachers, administrators and employers -- on the need to work together to strengthen our schools," Markell said in a statement. "From earlier in the year, when we won Race to the Top and implemented tough new regulations, to today's new law linking student achievement to new teacher evaluations, we've got to work together to ensure the best tomorrow for our kids."

The state is currently engaging teachers in a conversation to help shape the exact definition of student growth. Markell and Lowery promised Friday that the measurement would be rigorous and fair. The new teacher accountability law will begin in the 2011-2012 school year. The state is working out how test scores will be used to determine teacher effectiveness and has enlisted teachers to help decide what will work best.

Not all believe that standardized test scores are the best way to rate teachers. Teachers unions in several states have fought efforts to tie teacher pay and performance rankings to standardized test scores.

Bob Hamper, professor and interim director of the University of Delaware's school of education, said he believes Delaware's efforts to connect test scores and teacher evaluations is misguided.

"Universities devote painstaking attention to a wide range of evidence of effectiveness, and our public schools should do the same," Hamper said in an e-mail. "To yoke tenure to one indicator is unwise, just as it is unwise to grant tenure after only three years."

Teacher accountability is one part of the state's Race to the Top application.

Delaware's plan also includes restructuring 10 schools with low academic achievement rates. Until now, those schools' improvement plans have included mainly changes in curriculum, but no big staff changes.

State officials have not released the names of the first few buildings that will enter the turnaround program yet. Those schools will be named in late August. Some school districts have already begun replacing principals at low-achieving schools that are likely to face interventions.


360,000 troublemakers suspended from British schools last year

The sheer number of such suspensions shows what a futile disciplinary measure it is

More than 360,000 children were suspended from school last year amid Government warnings that classroom behaviour remains a “significant problem”. Pupils were temporarily barred from lessons 86,000 times for attacking teachers and classmates, while 3,440 suspensions were meted out for sexual misconduct.

Official figures show that large numbers of very young children were also excluded from state schools in England. Some 4,000 pupils aged just five or under were suspended in 2008/9, with a further 70 expelled altogether.

But data from the Department for Education showed an overall drop in the number of children kicked out of lessons compared with a year earlier.

The disclosure will fuel claims that schools are reducing the number of suspensions following the introduction of rules by Labour requiring them to educate pupils excluded for more than a week.

Ofsted has already warned that many secondary schools are giving children “managed moves” to other comprehensives to get around the policy.

The Coalition has pledged to crackdown on bad behaviour by introducing new powers to allow teachers to retain “control of the classroom”.

Nick Gibb, the Schools Minister, said: “Despite the fall in exclusions, poor behaviour remains a significant problem in our schools. “Tackling poor behaviour and raising academic standards are key priorities for the Coalition Government,

“We trust teachers and that's why we have already announced a series of measures to put head teachers and teachers back in control of the classroom – including ending the rule requiring schools to give 24 hours written notice for detentions and increased search powers. “We will introduce further measures to strengthen teacher authority and support schools in maintaining good behaviour.”

According to figures, children were suspended 363,280 times last year – representing almost 4.9 per cent of the school population. In primary schools, 39,510 children were suspended. The average length of a suspension was two-and-a-half days and boys were three times more likely than girls to be punished. In all, 6,550 pupils were also permanently expelled from schools in England, compared with 8,130 a year earlier.

Physical assaults on fellow pupils were named as the main reason for fixed-period exclusions. Children were suspended 69,090 times for attacking peers, while a further 17,200 suspensions were made for assaulting staff. Pupils were barred on 93,000 occasions for threatening pupils and staff, while 3,440 suspensions were made for sexual misconduct, 8,580 for drug and alcohol use and 3,930 for racism.


Australia: Arrogant education bureaucrats upsetting parents in Victoria

PARENTS are losing patience with the failure of some principals and education bureaucrats to resolve festering disputes with schools.

Parents Victoria executive officer Gail McHardy said poor communication from some principals was traumatising mums and dads. "Schools are very quick to slap a trespass order on someone rather than actually deal with the problem, and that's not helpful," she said.

Ms McHardy said that though dispute resolution had vastly improved in the past few years, an independent commissioner was needed to resolve lingering complaints.

"It could be just a personality clash, but then that festers and gets bigger than Ben Hur. And it didn't need be," she said. "Often it's the result of the initial situation not being managed correctly and schools not getting appropriate support, like more welfare officers."

Cases reported to the Herald Sun include that of a Bendigo student who almost died in a car crash and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He was expelled for truancy and, despite intervention by the department, the school will not take him back.

Another mother complained to the ombudsman that an outer western suburbs school, and the department, had failed to properly address bullying of her daughter.

Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals president Brian Burgess said intervention orders against parents were a last resort. "In the main, complaints are handled well. But in a small number of cases we need to make sure that the communication is better and the response timely," he said.

Opposition spokesman Martin Dixon said parents' legitimate complaints were being smothered. Education Minister Bronwyn Pike said parents were given new advice last year on lodging complaints.