Saturday, December 25, 2010

Short Hiatus

This blog is suspended for a couple of days over the Christmas period. But as Macarthur said for the cameras: "I shall return"

Friday, December 24, 2010

Report: One in four flunk Army entrance exam

Nearly one-fourth of the students who try to join the Army fail its entrance exam, painting a grim picture of an education system that produces graduates who can't answer basic math, science and reading questions, according to a new study released Tuesday.

The report by the Education Trust bolsters a growing worry among military and education leaders that the pool of young people qualified for military service will become too small.

"Too many of our high-school students are not graduating ready to begin college or a career, and many are not eligible to serve in our armed forces," Education Secretary Arne Duncan told the Associated Press. "I am deeply troubled by the national-security burden created by America's underperforming education system."

The effect of the low eligibility rate might not be noticeable now - the Department of Defense says it is meeting its recruitment goals - but that could change as the economy improves, said retired Navy Rear Adm. Jamie Barnett. "If you can't get the people that you need, there's a potential for a decline in your readiness," said Barnett, who is part of Mission: Readiness, a coalition of retired military leaders working to raise awareness of the high ineligibility rates.

The report found that 23 percent of recent high-school graduates don't get the minimum score needed on the enlistment test to join any branch of the military. Questions are often basic, such as: "If 2 plus x equals 4, what is the value of x?" (The answer is 2.)

The military-exam results are also worrisome because the test is given to a limited pool of people: Pentagon data show that 75 percent of those ages 17 to 24 don't even qualify to take the test because they are physically unfit, have a criminal record or didn't graduate from high school.

Educators expressed dismay that so many high-school graduates are unable to pass a test of basic skills. "It's surprising and shocking that we are still having students who are walking across the stage who really don't deserve to be and haven't earned that right," said Tim Callahan of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, a group that represents more than 80,000 educators.

This is the first time the Army has released this test data publicly, said Amy Wilkins of the Education Trust, a Washington, D.C.-based children's advocacy group.

The study examined the scores of nearly 350,000 high-school graduates, ages 17 to 20, who took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery exam between 2004 and 2009. About half of the applicants went on to join the Army. Recruits must score at least 31 out of 99 on the first stage of the three-hour test to get into the Army. Marines, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard recruits need higher scores.

Further tests determine what kind of job the recruit can do.

SOURCE






The Obama administration’s misguided war on for-profit colleges

In Forbes, economist Richard Vedder of Ohio University documents the blunders behind the Obama administration’s war on for-profit colleges that wiped out $8 billion in value for shareholders.

Earlier, former Congressman Bob Barr wrote about the topic. Forbes also has articles on how America is saturated with unnecessary college graduates, and how government-subsidized higher education is increasingly becoming a bad bargain for state taxpayers.

As Vedder notes, the government is foolishly attacking for-profit colleges even though non-profit colleges have even worse outcomes in terms of leading to gainful employment for their students. Moreover, some public colleges have drop-out rates that exceed 90 percent.

At Reason magazine, Nick Gillespie explains how claims that elite colleges use to justify their inflated tuition are based on a statistical fallacy.

We wrote earlier about how college tuition is increasingly a rip-off, since most of the people who have ended up in college due to increasing college-attendance rates in recent years have ended up in unskilled jobs (such as 5,057 janitors with Ph.D’s or advanced degrees), and since the current college debt bubble dwarfs the housing bubble. (100 colleges now charge $50,000 or more a year, compared to just 5 in 2008-09.)

SOURCE




Shrinking British universities

There will be a freeze in university places next year and 10,000 fewer places the following year as the higher rate of tuition fees comes into force, the government has announced, meaning that hundreds of thousands will fail to get onto degree courses. David Willetts, the Universities and Science minister, said that teaching budgets would be slashed by almost £400 million, equivalent to 6% of the overall budget, next April, more than a year before fees rise to a maximum of £9,000.

The University and College Union (UCU) said the announcement was a “Christmas kick in the teeth for the sector” and warned that British universities face falling behind on the world stage. The union said the cuts, outlined in a grant letter to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), will force academic institutions to freeze staff pay and cut courses.

Mr Willetts said that “extremely challenging” public spending constraints meant that public expenditure costs had to be controlled by controlling student numbers. The fine on over-recruitment comes despite Mr Willetts' criticism of a similar policy implemented by Labour last year, which he said at the time would add "real pressure" to the sector and was "very bad news" for Britain's universities.

There has been a substantial rise in applications for places in 2011 as students battle to enter higher education before the new fee cap is introduced. At the end of November, applications were up by around 12% on the same period last year, meaning that some 235,000 people could be without places next autumn.

The grant letter, from Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, and Mr Willetts, said that total funding from loans and HEFCE grants would fall by around £600 million in 2011, from £9.8 billion to £9.2 billion. That figure will rise to £9.412 billion in 2012, when a larger proportion of the cash will be made up of Government loans to cover students' tuition fees, to be repaid when they reach an income of £21,000 after graduation.

Teaching grants will be cut from £4.9 billion to £4.6 billion in 2011. This will drop to £3.8 billion in 2012, which will be offset by raised tuition fees. The figures are based on assumed average fees of £7,500 per year.

Ministers insisted that universities continue to receive "significant public funding", with the total budget from Government grants and tuition fees rising from £9 billion to £10 billion by 2014. They suggested that in order to save money, universities collaborate “through greater sharing of research equipment and infrastructure”.

Mr Willetts said that despite the tough fiscal scene, institutions would be able to cope with the cuts and that in cash terms, there would be a “modest recovery” of funding going into universities in 2012, providing that they could attract the necessary number of students.

“We believe there is scope for efficiency savings within English universities and that they can handle cuts on this scale,” he said. “With the increase in revenues we expect universities to get from fees and loans, the aggregate effect could represent a rise in cash terms.” He said the rise in fees should create incentives to improve the quality of teaching.

Gareth Thomas MP, Labour’s Higher Education Spokesman criticised the government's "triple whammy" imposed on universities - cuts in teaching funding, in research funding and in capital investment. He said: "Even within the terms of their own reckless approach to cutting the deficit such big cuts were not needed. Every other country in the G8 is increasing their higher education, science and research budgets despite their economic challenges.”

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said the coalition’s Christmas message to the sector was “funding cuts, higher fees, fewer university places, a pay freeze and attacks on staff pensions”. She said: “After weeks of attacks on students and universities through budget cuts and increased tuition fees the coalition has delivered a real Christmas kick in the teeth to the sector by announcing these cuts to funding and student places and attacks on pay and conditions.

“The government seems to think that the sector will be able to deliver more for less and students will be happy to pay three times the price. “That is absolute madness, especially when we consider the increased spending on higher education in the vast majority of developed and developing countries around the world. “Put bluntly, by cutting funding and access to university, attacking staff pay and conditions and charging students record fees we are going to be left behind.”

Aaron Porter, NUS President, said that fines for over-recruiting would see hundreds of thousands of highly qualified students “missing out on places and being left between a hostile jobs market and tripled tuition fees if they dare to reapply".

SOURCE

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Black Education Disaster in America

Black kids learnt a lot more in the high discipline schools of the past, so improvement is possible if the right learning environment is provided

Walter E. Williams

Harvard University Professor Stephan Thernstrom's recent essay, "Minorities in College---Good News, But...," in Minding the Campus (11/4/10), a website sponsored by the New York-based Manhattan Institute, commented on the results of the most recent National Assessment of Education Progress test: The scores "mean that black students aged 17 do not read with any greater facility than whites who are four years younger and still in junior high. ... Exactly the same glaring gaps appear in NAEP's tests of basic mathematics skills."

Thernstrom asks, "If we put a randomly-selected group of 100 eighth-graders and another of 100 twelfth-graders in a typical college, would we expect the first group to perform as well as the second?" In other words, is it reasonable to expect a college freshman of any race with the equivalent of an eighth-grade education to compete successfully with those having a twelfth-grade education?

SAT scores confirm the poor education received by blacks. In 2009, average SAT reading test scores were: whites (528), Asians (516) and blacks (429). In math it was whites (536), Asians (587) and blacks (426). Twelve years of fraudulent primary and secondary education received by most blacks are not erased by four or five years of college.

This is evidenced by examination scores taken for admission to graduate schools. In 2007, Graduate Record Examination verbal scores were: whites (493), Asians (485) and blacks (395). The math portion scores were: whites (562), Asians (617) and blacks (419). Scores on the LSAT in 2006, for admission to law school, were: whites (152), Asians (152) and blacks (142). In 2010, MCAT scores for admission to medical schools were: whites (26), Asians (26) and blacks (21).

What's some of the response of the black community to efforts to do something about fraudulent primary and secondary education? Voters in Washington, D.C., might provide a partial answer. Mayor Adrian Fenty appointed and backed Michelle Rhee as chancellor of D.C. Public Schools.

She fired large numbers of ineffective teachers, most of whom were black, and fought the teachers' union. During her tenure, there were small gains made in student test scores.

How did all of this go over with Washington voters? Washington's teachers' union, as well as D.C.'s public-employee unions, spent massive amounts of money campaigning against Fenty. Voters unseated him in the November elections and with him went Chancellor Rhee. Fenty had other "faults"; he didn't play the racial patronage game that has become a part of D.C.'s political landscape. The clear message given by D.C. voters and teachers' union is that any politician who's willing to play hardball in an effort to improve black education will be run out of town.

The education establishment's solution is always more money; however, according to a Washington Post article (4/6/2008), "The Real Cost Of Public Schools," written by Andrew J. Coulson, if we include its total operating budget, teacher retirement, capital budget and federal funding, the D.C. public schools spend $24,600 per student.

Washington's fraudulent black education is by no means unique; it's duplicated in one degree or another in most of our major cities. However, there is a glimmer of hope in the increasing demand for charter schools and educational vouchers. This movement is being fought tooth and nail by an education establishment that fears the competition and subsequent threats to their employment. The charter school and the educational vouchers movement will help prevent parents and children who care about education from being held hostage in an environment hostile to the learning process. And there's plenty of evidence that children do better and parents are more pleased when they have a measure of school choice.

The fact that black youngsters trail their white counterparts by three or four years becomes even more grim when we recognize that the education white youngsters receive is nothing to write home about.

According to the recently released Program for International Student Assessment exam, our 15-year-olds rank 25th among 34 industrialized nations in math and 14th in reading.

SOURCE






Distance Learning Students Make Performance Gains

Probably because they are more motivated

Post-secondary students who take online “distance learning” classes outperform their peers who work face-to-face with teachers in a physical classroom, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Online Learning and Teaching.

The study by Mickey Shachar and Yoram Neumann could aid efforts to extend learning opportunities to students in rural communities and others—for example, whose parents want them to be able to work at their own schedule and pace—via remote technology instead of building and equipping expensive new schools for small or remote populations.

“For many years distance learning was treated as the stepchild of higher education,” said Neumann, now president and CEO of United States University in National City, California. “Now we have verifiable proof and results that distance learners outperform their traditional counterparts.”

The duo’s “meta-study” examined studies comparing the academic achievement of postsecondary students over two decades, between 1990 and 2009. “We found that in 70 percent of the cases, distance learning students outperformed their traditional counterparts,” Neumann said, “and in the past seven years, when distance learning was mainly using the online modality, the online learning students outperformed their counterparts in 84 percent of the cases.”

Shachar and Neumann’s conclusions come as no surprise to Michael Ritter, a faculty member at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point who teaches geography and meteorology courses online. He featured Shachar and Neumann’s study on his blog “The Digital Professor.” “Distance education is simply education that occurs when the instructor and student are physically separated from one another.” Ritter said. “Hence there may be no pedagogically significant difference.”

However, Ritter added, virtual classrooms come without many of the distractions of a bricks-and-mortar school building, even with a teacher right there to focus on a student. “I’m less distracted when teaching in a synchronous online environment than in a classroom of 80 students,” Ritter said. “I, and other students, don’t have the distraction of those who are not paying attention to the class activity and possibly disrupting the learning process.”

“I’m finding it’s easier to provide one-on-one help in an online environment,” Ritter said. “Though I have to set boundaries on my time, students are able to get help much quicker in an online environment than having to physically show up at my office.”

Neumann says distance teaching doesn’t just allow for more focus—it demands it. “I found from my own experience that online learning requires much more discipline, in terms of focused leadership, design, and planning,” he said. The result is that distance learning tends to feature “a major emphasis on learning outcomes, accountability, timely feedback, and continuous student engagement in the learning process itself.”

The study didn’t look at the performance of distance learners in elementary and secondary schools, and Neumann declined to speculate whether the postsecondary results have implications for younger grades. “I am not in a position to offer any prediction,” he said.

Ritter, however, says he thinks the results could be similar in K-12. “For the most part I do, so long as there is on-site guidance by a parent,” he said. “The most difficult aspect of distance education is keeping students on task.”

In their study, Schachar and Neumann suggest policymakers should consider distance learning as an option in dealing with tight education budgets and growing market demand.

“The improvements of technology, the widespread Internet access, the increased legitimacy of online learning within established universities and employers, and the increased participation of adult learners in higher education with clear preferences toward learning anytime and anywhere will further drive future improvements in the quality of distance learning programs,” they wrote.

That money, though, will come with oversight and regulations. It will also attract the attention of educators and others who stand to be affected by changes in their job requirements.

Paul E. Peterson, director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University and author of Saving Schools: From Horace Mann to Virtual Learning, says it would “be a shame” for policymakers “to use this difficult economic environment to suppress the growth of online learning.”

Although Peterson says he doesn’t oppose regulation, he worries overregulation would undermine the cost savings and other benefits of distance learning programs. “There’s going to have to be some regulation,” Peterson said. “The question is whether it will be attentive to genuine pedagogical objectives or whether it’s going to get captured by unions, and they’re going to say, ‘OK, you’ve got to have X number of people teaching the course, or involved in the instruction part so we can save jobs.’ That would be the bad thing that could happen.”

Peterson warns that opponents of online learning may go too far, too fast. “They can’t win when people begin to see the cost savings and the possibilities of distance learning,” he said.

Ritter says he’s hopeful for change. “Though changing at some public institutions, I’ve found reticence on the part of some administrators, and everything from ambivalence to outright hostility by faculty to the idea of teaching online,” he said. “It is clear from recent data that there is a demand for online learning. If the same outcomes can be achieved with a delivery system that students want, policymakers must take notice.”

SOURCE





Bible study opens door to mastering literature

David Hastie, commenting from Australia

In this yuletide Tony Abbott went on record again as regarding the Bible as essential for all Australian schools. "It is important for people to leave school with some understanding of the Bible," he responded to a question from the floor at his Penrith community forum on November 29. "It is impossible to imagine our society without the influence of Christendom."

Abbott stated a similar position in December 2009, drawing the ire of ACT Labor Senator Kate Lundy, prominent Muslim academic Ameer Ali and Australian Education Union federal president, Angelo Gavrielatos, who stated: " ultimately we consider it a private matter for parents and their children". Is it?

In my role as an English and history teacher, rather than as a person of faith, I am convinced we disadvantage our public school students by not acquainting them with the meta-structures, motifs and moral queries of the Abrahamic scriptures. And I am not alone.

Cantankerous atheist Christopher Hitchens declared in 2006: "You are not educated if you don't know the Bible. You can't read Shakespeare or Milton without it . . . And with the schools now, that's what I hate about secular relativism. They're afraid of insurance liability. They don't even teach it as a document. They stay out of the whole thing to avoid controversy."

Indeed, when studying literature, children now in Australian faith-based schools (about 32 per cent of total enrolments, and much higher in senior secondary) enjoy a significant advantage over their state-school peers. Shakespeare, Donne, Milton, Dickens, Bronte (both), George Eliot, Hopkins, Hardy, T.S.Eliot, Steinbeck, Beckett, Yeats, Plath, Golding, Attwood and many, many others, require more than a passing knowledge of the Abrahamic Old and New Testaments.

The necessary time taken to induct students unfamiliar with them when studying literature is time saved in faith-based schools.

And it's not just Western texts: post-colonial writers such as Rushdie, Allende, Marquez, Neruda and lots more are infused with biblical material. Emerging Australian "canons" - Hart, Murray, Winton, Harwood, Dawe, Keneally and so forth - are also littered with biblical plot lines and motifs. With the shift of the New Australian English Curriculum back to a more "canonical" approach to teaching literature, this inequity is only set to intensify.

Similarly in teaching history, ancient religion is extra weird for students who can't access the language and categories of our own Western (even secular) religiosity.

So too medieval and renaissance history, the Elizabethan era, the English republic, the Reformation, the post-Christian Enlightenment, the American and French revolutions, anti-slavery movements, Darwin, American civil rights, Australian stolen generations, and political language of the Cold War. These are all intrinsically informed by explanations, motivations and the language of the Bible. The same could be equally said for the study of film, visual art and music.

British educationalist John Hull describes the phenomena of "bafflement" in adolescents: suddenly realising their lived experience contradicts their education. If an institution continues to dogmatically hold the line in such matters, students develop what he terms "learning sickness" or "ideological enclosure", ultimately rejecting what they have learned, along with its institutional context.

Ironically, he was describing fundamentalist religious schools, yet his critique applies to much of Australian state education where religion is concerned, effectively excised from curriculum as a "non-topic". Hence, the master-originating Urtext of the Bible is treated as the "untext".

Yet students continually stumble across it in their novels and history lessons, in their homes, in public debate, in geopolitics, in the playground, and become baffled by the contradiction.

Certainly, religious proselytising is inappropriate through the state curriculum: parents thus inclined can send their child to a faith-based school. But vital cultural knowledge is vital to the universal "public guarantee".

Narratives and motifs of Abrahamic scriptures form a vitally significant mythic text for Western civilisation, and are also important for Jewish and Islamic civilisations.

After all, curriculum is always about what is deemed as important. Existing Australian English curricula, and the New Australian English Curriculum, for example, rightly regard Aboriginal spirituality as nationally important. Indigenous dreaming stories are thus mandated and studied as "canonical" texts.

Yet, even though these are obviously religious in character, they are clearly not to be treated as "religious tracts", but rather as significant cultural texts.

Why should we not also endow our children with understanding of Western literary and historical heritage in the Abrahamic Old and New Testaments?

Abbott may be regarded as the mad monk, but in the case of the Bible in schools, there's certainly method in him, particularly considering the vast amount of Australians vaguely sentimental about Christianity, or Christmas, or voting.

SOURCE

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

School punishes Virginia kids for sharing candy canes that could be used as weapons

What utter nonsense!

TEN high school students attempting to spread holiday cheer have been disciplined for distributing candy canes that school administrators said could be used to maim other students.

The boys were punished with detention for giving out 5cm candy canes to fellow students as they entered Battlefield High School in Haymarket, located in northeast Virginia, WUSA-TV said.

School administrators accused them of trying to "maliciously maim students with the intent to injure," according to high school junior Zakk Rhine. "They said the candy canes are weapons because you can sharpen them with your mouth and stab people with them," said Skylar Torbett, also a junior.

While the boys' disciplinary notices do not mention maiming, they do say the boys littered and created a disturbance. The boys said their candy giveaway may have caused litter because some students dropped the treats on the floor. Their punishment also included at least two hours of cleaning, WUSA-TV reported.

Battlefield High School Principal Amy Etheridge-Conti said she would not comment specifically on the discipline but said it was warranted.

But the boys' parents believe their sons were punished for trying to spread Christmas cheer. Mother Kathleen Flannery alleged that one administrator told her that "not everyone wants Christmas cheer. That suicide rates are up over Christmas, and that they should keep their cheer to themselves, perhaps."

SOURCE





British private pupils 55 times more likely to go to Oxford or Cambridge universities than some others

Entirely to be predicted from the well-known correlates of IQ. But what a nutty comparison: Comparing the richest with the poorest. It is the large middle that counts and because of the large middle, around half of the students at Oxbridge did NOT go to private schools

Children at independent schools are 55 times more likely to go to Oxford or Cambridge than the poorest state school students, a report has found. The gap extends to Britain’s other top-­ranking universities, where private pupils are 22 times more likely to get in than those entitled to free school meals – the Government’s ­measure of poverty.

The research on social mobility by education charity The Sutton Trust suggests that success at getting into elite universities is largely based on wealth. [Rubbish! It's IQ. Being smart helps you to get rich]

Only one in 100 students admitted to Oxbridge between 2005 and 2007 had been entitled to free school meals. At the 25 most academically selective universities, free schools meals pupils made up just 2 per cent of the student intake.

The report found that the ‘stark’ income gap begins early, with students at independent schools three-and-a-half times more likely than free school meals pupils to get five GCSEs at grades A to C, including English and maths.

It said: ‘This newly available data provides an insight into the extent of the widening education gap between the latest cohorts of the poorest and most privileged students both at school and university.’

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman and founder of the Sutton Trust, said the situation would get worse as a result of Government cuts and allowing universities almost to treble tuition fees.’

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, which represents lecturers, said the Coalition was sending ‘a clear message that university is only for those able to afford it’ and that ‘social mobility remains a pipe dream for far too many people’.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said closing the attainment gap between rich and poor pupils was a ‘key priority’ for the Coalition.

SOURCE






South Australia: Fired Principal in line to return to school

A difficult school got a capable principal for once -- so the bureaucrats fired her. They should have stood up for her but were too gutless. Amusing that the bureaucrat who fired here has now himself been fired, though. Background here

FORMER Coober Pedy Area School principal Sue Burtenshaw could return to the school she was ousted from if she wins an appeal. But the school will start 2011 with another principal appointed for Term 1 while the matter is resolved. The Education Department cannot appoint a permanent replacement until the appeal is settled.

Yesterday the Supreme Court ruled Ms Burtenshaw could continue with her appeal through the Teachers Appeal Board, after the department sought clarification on whether her challenge could be heard by the board.

Ms Burtenshaw has appealed against the disciplinary decision of former chief executive Chris Robinson, and also the separate decision to transfer her, which was handed down in July.

She was put on "special leave" in January so the department could investigate concerns raised by parents and the community about the principal's alleged unreasonable disciplinary action and abrasive behaviour.

The Education Department will now face the Teachers Appeal Board. "A principal has been appointed (to the area school) for Term 1, and term-by-term appointments of that principal will be made until the outcome of the appeal is known," a department spokeswoman said.

At the time of Ms Burtenshaw's transfer, Mr Robinson - who has since been sacked by Education Minister Jay Weatherill - said it was not disciplinary action but in the best interest of the school community that the principal did not return.

SOURCE

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

American Education, Curbing Excellence

America's primary and secondary schools have many problems, but an excess of excellence is not one of them. Not only do our weak students fare poorly in international comparisons, so do our strong ones. Mediocrity is the national norm.

The very best students are the ones most likely to do things of great benefit to the rest of us -- cure malaria, devise revolutionary inventions, start the next Apple or plumb the secrets of the universe. But we don't always put much importance on helping them realize their full potential.

A case in point is Evanston Township High School in Evanston, Ill., a racially and economically mixed suburb of Chicago that is home to Northwestern University. It recently decided to eliminate a high honors freshman English course aimed at challenging the top students.

Henceforth, these youngsters will be grouped with everyone else in a regular "honors" class in humanities. Next year, the same may be done with biology. Your kid is an honor student at ETHS? Heck, everyone is an honors student at ETHS.

It's hardly the only school in America where grouping students according to their ability is in disrepute. There is a widespread impulse to treat all kids as equally able and willing to learn. But the results often fall dismally short of the hopes.

When the Chicago public schools scrapped remedial classes for ninth graders and put everyone in college-prep courses, "failure rates increased, grades declined slightly, test scores did not improve and students were no more likely to enter college," according to a study by the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago. Among average and above-average students, absenteeism rose.

The danger in putting the brightest kids in general classes is that they will be bored by instruction geared to the middle. But their troubles don't elicit much sympathy. Brookings Institution scholar Tom Loveless told The Atlantic magazine, "The United States does not do a good job of educating kids at the top. There's a long-standing attitude that, 'Well, smart kids can make it on their own.'"

But can they? Only 6 percent of American kids achieve advanced proficiency in math -- lower than in 30 other countries. In Taiwan, the figure is 28 percent.

School administrators in Evanston insist the change is aimed at making the curriculum more demanding, even as they make it less demanding for some students. Thanks to the abolition of this elite course, we are told, "high-achieving students" will profit from "experiencing multiple perspectives and diversity in their classes to gain cultural capital."

In other words, racial balance will take priority over academic rigor. Blacks and Hispanics make up nearly half of all students but only 19 percent of those in advanced placement courses and 29 percent of those in honors courses.

This is because minority students at Evanston, which has an enrollment of nearly 3,000, generally score lower on achievement tests. Putting all students together is supposed to give everyone an equal opportunity.

But if you have a fever, you don't bring it down by breaking the thermometer. The low numbers of black and Hispanic students are a symptom of a deeper problem, namely the failure of elementary and middle schools to prepare them for the most challenging course work. Evanston has had a big racial gap in academic performance for decades, and there is nothing to gain from pretending it doesn't exist.

Schools that group (or "track") kids by ability generally get better overall results. Chester Finn Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, notes in a recent report, "Middle schools with more tracks have significantly more math pupils performing at the advanced and proficient levels and fewer students at the needs improvement and failing levels."

Why would that be? Teaching is not easy, and teaching kids with a wide range of aptitude and interest is even harder. Grouping students by ability allows the tailoring of lessons to match the needs of each group. Putting them all together is bound to fail one group or another.

Shortchanging gifted teens creates the risk of another unwanted effect: inducing their parents to leave. Families in Evanston can always move to neighboring suburbs with good schools, or they can opt for several fine private and parochial alternatives. Average students don't gain from being in the same classes as exceptional ones if the exceptional ones are not there.

We as a society have not been very successful at turning average students into high achievers. Maybe we'll have better luck doing the opposite.

SOURCE






School sports U-turn: British government forced into embarrassing back-track after public outcry at cuts

The Education Secretary has performed a U-turn over his controversial decision to cut funding for school sports. Michael Gove, who announced plans to scrap the School Sports Partnerships scheme earlier this year, has now agreed to invest £112 million in a network of 3,600 sports teachers until the London Olympics in 2012.

His climbdown came after his plans to scrap the £162 million-a-year scheme was met with criticism by headteachers and prominent athletes including heptathlon gold medallist Denise Lewis and diver Tom Daley.

Announcing his compromise yesterday, Mr Gove said he has found £47million to fund the scheme until the start of the academic year in September. At that point 100 nationwide competition managers and 300 further education sports coordinators will be axed.

But £65 million will be spent to the end of the 2012-13 academic year for 3,600 PE teachers to spend one day a week on school sport. They are currently funded for two days a week.

David Cameron told Mr Gove to change tack when it emerged that the number of young people doing two hours or more of sport per week increased from 25 per cent in 2002 to more than 90 per cent now, demonstrating the success of the sports initiatives.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt had also demanded a partial reprieve, saying scrapping partnerships could harm the pledge to use the Olympics to increase participation in school sport.

The funds will also pay for encouraging take-up of competitive sport in primary schools and securing a fixture network between schools. Mr Gove said: ‘I want competitive sport to be at the centre of a truly rounded education.’

Labour education spokesman Andy Burnham Mr Gove’s ‘overruling’ was ‘a warning to this Tory-led Government that it cannot simply do what it likes’.

SOURCE





Australia: School bully victims paid $1m in NSW

A poor substitute for discipline

SCHOOL bullying victims have received almost $1 million in compensation from the Department of Education since January last year. One student who was harassed over 10 years won $500,000 in a court settlement, while two children were paid more than $15,000 each after their arms were broken by bullies. Another boy was paid more than $4200 because he claimed harassment by teachers caused him to fail his HSC.

The claims, which include both physical and severe psychological injuries up to September 30, were obtained under freedom of information laws by the Opposition.

The figures show students whose claims were settled by the department received less than those who went to court. A student who claimed to have been assaulted and that bullying caused a psychiatric illness was given $11,636.

The claims coincide with the Child Death Review Team this year that revealed several students committed suicide in 2009 after being bullied. One boy who claimed to suffer from gender identity disorder was "teased and threatened" at school.

Another boy was driven out of school by "taunts" in the lead-up to his suicide, while a third boy was also the subject of "taunts and bullying" while at his school.

The compensation claims show staff won payouts of more than $5000 between them over bullying cases, including ongoing sexual harassment in the school workplace and bullying and victimisation by a superior.

"These documents confirm that bullying is rife in our public schools, with both students and teachers feeling the brunt of it," Opposition education spokesman Adrian Piccoli said yesterday. "What is worse is the state is losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in claims from students and teachers that have been victims of bullying. "Bullying can leave its victims with severe and lasting physical and psychological damage, and it must be stamped out immediately."

A spokesman for Education Minister Verity Firth said there were 26 claims which were "a tiny proportion" of staff and students. "We have given principals the power to impose strong sanctions to counter bullying, including suspensions of up to 20 days," he said. "NSW public schools are among the safest places in the community for young people, and serious incidents of violence are rare."

The department has introduced a web guide for parents on cyber bullying, including tips on how to prevent it.

SOURCE

Monday, December 20, 2010

Plan bans illegals from public universities

Virginia could join list of states creating off-limits locations for aliens

The "DREAM Act" plan, defeated in Congress today, would have given benefits and rights to illegal aliens who want to go to school in the U.S., but the state of Virginia isn't prepared to depend on what Washington decides - it has its own plan to address the situation: a ban on those students in public colleges and universities.

A leading GOP legislator in the Virginia House of Delegates is poised to introduce a bill which would prohibit illegal aliens from attending public colleges and universities in the commonwealth, and a constitutional scholar tells WND that U.S. Supreme Court case law may well ensure that the proposed law can be enforced.

Delegate Chris Peace, a Republican from the state's 97th House district in suburban Richmond, in an interview with WND said he was "amazed" to learn when researching the bill that some of Virginia's public universities, like Virginia Tech, did not have any policy regarding the admission of illegal aliens.

Others, like the prestigious University of Virginia, founded by Thomas Jefferson, told Peace they did not "knowingly" admit or enroll individuals who were illegally present in the U.S.

The result was Peace's bill, House Bill 1465, which he says provides not just cost savings for the state, but also creates a uniform policy for state-supported institutions of higher education. Further, it ensures that bright youngsters from Virginia who have received perfect grades are not shut out of the admissions process because of issues of "space" at the public colleges, he said.

"Should this legislation pass, it is difficult to determine how much savings would accrue to the Commonwealth, since there is no current policy screening applicants," Peace told WND. "But the public policy goal does not center on savings, per se; rather, it is one of principle. If all colleges and universities created policies sua sponte [Law Latin – for on their own initiative] then there would be no need for this legislation. To date, several have been unwilling to do so." Peace noted that higher education is a "privilege," not a "right," and that illegal aliens would still be able to attend private colleges in Virginia.

Straight 'A's' required

Schools like the College of William & Mary, University of Virginia – like University of Maryland and UCLA, considered "public Ivies" – report that the average grade point average of incoming freshman is 4.0 on 4.0 scale – straight A's.

"The bottom line is that there's wide-spread sentiment that public benefit should not be going to those who are here illegally," said Peace. "The opponents of this legislation say it is targeting one group of people, or establishing preferences. But we're not trying to be mean-spirited here. Instead, those who support this legislation are simply trying to open the doors to Virginians."

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina already ban illegal immigrants from some or all public colleges. But the report said 10 other states, including Florida, New York and Texas, give them permission to pay only in-state tuition under many circumstances.

The Chronicle report documented the decision from the California Supreme Court just a few weeks ago that affirmed a law allowing some illegals to pay in-state tuition. Justice Ming Chin concluded that providing that special benefit does not violate federal immigration law. The case might be advanced to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Peace noted that his plan is timely "in light of the proposed amnesty-lite, DREAM Act."

A leading constitutional law expert, Professor Ronald D. Rotunda, at Chapman University School of Law, Orange, Calif., told WND that the U.S. Supreme Court said it was illegal for states to discriminate against legal aliens in "Toll v. Moreno" (1982). The court, what is more, has not allowed states to discriminate against minor illegal aliens attending grades K-12 in "Plyler v. Doe" (1982).

"But Plyler emphasized that these children are minors, not 18 or over, and have little control over what their parents do," Rotunda tells WND. "The court has suggested that states can deny free public education to illegal aliens who want to attend state universities because these aliens are not children and university education is not like K-12."

Immigration attorney Michael Wildes said he does not think the legislation will pass because "a blanket policy of verifying every student's immigration status would be onerous and time-consuming." Further, he said, it would be "wildly discriminatory" to verify the immigration status of individuals based on "presumptions about students' ethnic identities, or the sound of someone's last name."

But Peace waved off those concerns. "Many will try to use emotional arguments for those children brought here without consent by their parents, who access the K-12 system, but then would be ineligible for the public college experience," Peace said.

Peace noted that there is widespread support for the legislation in the House of Delegates, where a different, earlier version of the measure passed overwhelmingly with bi-partisan support, 73-26, in 2008, but failed to get out of committee in the Democrat-dominated Senate. Now the GOP has increased its strength in the Virginia Senate, and elected a Republican governor in 2009.

Peace pre-filed the bill on December 6, and it will be formally offered to the legislature on Jan. 12, 2011. The bill allows the board of visitors or board of governors of every public college in Virginia to establish rules and regulations, and prohibit "an alien who is unlawfully present in the U.S." from being admitted to "any public institution of higher education in Virginia."

Wilde says he'd rather have Washington making rules for the states. "It's important to keep in mind that immigration law is within federal jurisdiction and it is not the state's place to enforce federal law," Wildes says. "The proper forum is Washington, D.C."

SOURCE






Union Leaders want Tenure to be Automatic, Even For Unsatisfactory Teachers

Teacher union leaders have been known to bark back when their strongest job protection – tenure – is referred to as a job for life. Typical rebuttals include: “It’s a necessary protection from overzealous administrators,” or, “It’s critical to maintain academic freedom.”

But in a recent blog post ,United Federation of Teachers honcho Jeff Kaufman sticks his foot in his mouth when he attempts to clear up misconceptions about how tenure is granted in New York City. The blog, titled “Is tenure a strike issue?” is in response to the city Department of Education’s call to overhaul the process, and reveals that some union leaders may be willing to fight for the currently ineffective system at any cost.

“Despite current misconceptions tenure is not ‘given’ by the DOE. The only legal requirement for tenure is actually time; three years for teachers. After a three year period, within license, of being on payroll and the DOE has done nothing to stop the clock, you are automatically granted tenure,” Kaufman writes. “In fact you can be theoretically rated unsatisfactory for each of the three years and still get tenure if the DOE doesn't fire you or cause you to extend your probation.”

I believe that Kaufman’s musings are clear evidence that the UFT and its affiliated locals are keenly aware that the current tenure process in NYC is flawed. The fact that Kaufman and his UFT brethren continue to defend that process, regardless of the problems it creates for improving student instruction, only further exposes the union’s already obvious selfish interests.

Kaufman leaves his readers with a little nugget to ponder, possibly foreshadowing serious resistance to the city’s promised tenure reform. He reflects on the good old days with former UFT President Randi Weingarten, who now heads the union’s national affiliate - the American Federation of Teachers.

“So, is tenure a strike issue? I am reminded of one of my first arguments with Randi Weingarten in the early days of the Bloomberg administration at a Chapter Leaders' retreat. After making it clear how a strike or job action was almost never justified I asked her whether there was ‘any’ strike issue,” Kaufman writes. “She thought for a moment and said, ‘Yeah, tenure.’”

Kaufman’s lesson on how easy it actually is for teachers to be granted tenure in New York City only solidifies our support for DOE officials working to protect the interests of students by injecting some sanity into the process. We continue to be amazed by union insiders like Kaufman, who knowingly fight to maintain a tenure system that costs taxpayers millions each year at the expense of student learning.

His conclusion is clear - if you can fog up a mirror, you can have a job seemingly for life. It says a lot about the mentality of labor leaders, and quickly erodes any credibility they might have left with the public.

SOURCE





Israel on Campus, Where Are We?

The situation on campus continues to change for Israel’s supporters: abuse is now almost everyplace. There have been important successes, like upholding the recent veto of a “boycott, divestment and sanctions” (BDS) proposal at the University of California at Berkeley’s student council, and the U.S. Civil Rights Commission’s recent definition of anti-Semitism on campus as a violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But there have also been notable failures, such as the continuing unwillingness of the administration of the University of California at Irvine to take harassment of Jewish and Israeli students and speakers seriously. Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren was heckled and silenced there by a group of students from the Muslim Student Association before university security stepped in and removed them. These students later accused the university administration of denying them their First Amendment rights.

At Evergreen State University Jewish students have felt compelled to transfer to other schools after overt harassment. Sukkahs have been vandalized in recent years at Stanford, the University of Colorado, the University of Southern California, and other campuses. “Israel Apartheid Week” is now an established part of the calendar at colleges across the country, bringing verbal harassment and even physical assaults against Jewish students. At these events, “Jews” are assumed to be “Zionists” and are subject to abuse on this basis, as well as because they are Jews. Worse, universities and the community at large are getting accustomed to it all.

Seeing the anti-Israel movement in isolation has always been part of the problem. There is a well-organized network of international anti-Israel activists and organizations. In the U.S. it operates at all levels, from giant state universities, to local churches, to suburban living rooms. The group that makes up “International Apartheid Week” sponsors a coordinated week-long protest in the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Israel, Italy, South Africa, Holland and elsewhere. Groups like “Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition” sponsor speaking tours by noted anti-Israel figures such as Norman Finkelstein, George Galloway and countless others throughout the U.S.. Local branches of Al-Awda and the “International Solidarity Movement” are found throughout the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom. Coordinated internationally, these groups share speakers and also train and bring “activists” to Israel. Muslim student groups facilitate and support these. and bring their own speakers, such as the radical Muhammad al-Asi, to their gatherings.

These groups have made common cause on and off campus with extremist groups, seemingly united by their hatred of Israel, the U.S., and its policies worldwide. Anti-Israel events have also been co-sponsored — or organized as a part of “anti-war,” “anti-globalization’” and “anti-imperialism’” protests — by groups such as “Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER),” “United For Peace and Justice,” and the “Stop the War Coalition.” The U.S. and Israel appear to be regarded as part of a larger “capitalist-imperialist conspiracy” that must be “exposed” and “smashed.”

Anti-Israel groups have also been allied with those defending Iran, such as the Socialist Workers Party; although the “Great Satan” and the “Little Satan” are both forthright about defending themselves and the freedoms of others. The related “boycott, divestment and sanction” (BDS) movements against Israel are also active everywhere, from the Cambridge City Council to the Olympia Food Co-op in Olympia Washington, to pension funds in Canada and England. This too is an international movement. The group “International BDS” is directed by the “Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions Campaign National Committee,” made up of Palestinian non-governmental organizations (NGOs), trade unions and Islamist groups While they have so far failed to get any American university or significant group to actually boycott or divest from Israel, they lie and say they have succeeded, as occurred recently at Hampshire College and Harvard University.

In Europe, BDS has mostly succeeded in provoking weekly protests outside Israeli shops, such as the Dead Sea cosmetics firm Ahava, and rampaging through French supermarkets.

While extreme right-wing groups have always hated Israel, usually on traditional anti-Semitic terms, anti-Israel organizations are now primarily on the far left. But Neo-Nazis, radical Muslims and anarchists are all happy to put aside their differences to join in hatred of Israel. Far right groups such as the John Birch Society or the Lyndon LaRouche movement and neo-Nazis are still not welcome on campus. But left-wing groups have been accepted or even invited on American university campuses by faculties that either embrace them or who are merely “tolerant” of their presence, and who indignantly pull out free speech and academic freedom defenses when challenged. University administrations and trustees have been equally tolerant. They simply want the problem to stay manageably quiet, and for the money to keep flowing in from the government and from donors.

The language and tools of human and civil rights have also been hijacked. The respect for NGOs like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International is especially high on campuses, along with the United Nations, since these represent secular and “global” alternatives to the U.S. government and groups like church-based charities. NGOs and international organizations are wrapped in a “halo effect” provided by the secular religious term “human rights.” To question them and their ideas is to appear to be “against human rights.” Mainstream NGOs tend to focus on Israel to a disproportionate degree, as opposed to countries that violate human rights extravagantly; these NGOs bitterly criticize every Israeli action to defend itself against terrorist attacks and overt threats of annihilation. Other NGOs, such as Adalah, Badil and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, often backed by the European Union, attack Israel as virtually their sole focus, and are deeply connected with the BDS movement. Even Israel’s defense of its identity as the sole Jewish state has been cast as a violation of “international law” and “human rights,” and regularly send speakers to appear regularly on U.S. campuses.

The Goldstone investigation, ordered by the United Nations Human Rights Council, was apparently intended provided legal cover for the intensification of such abuses of law and language. By ignoring evidence presented to them by Israelis, and ignoring the words and deeds of Hamas, the report reached a completely predictable outcome that has rippled around the world. Shooting back at those who shoot at you was declared de facto a “war crime;” Israeli politicians and military leaders have now been subjected to investigations and arrest warrants in Europe, on charges brought by NGOs, Muslim groups and other fellow travelers. Pro-Palestinian groups have long claimed that Israel is practicing “genocide,” albeit a strange kind that actually increases the life span and numbers of its alleged “victims,” as just this year alone, over 180,000 Palestinians, as well as people of all races and creeds are treated daily in Israeli hospitals.

This vitriol, however, has has spilled over onto college campuses in the U.S., where Israel is branded as a criminal state by a growing number of activists and professors, both inside and outside the classroom. Convincing idealistic college students not to be blinded by the “halo effect” around NGOs is a challenge. Helping them to recognizing that faith in NGOs and other forms of “global governance,” which may be distorted and politicized, and is part of a Western secular religion of internationalism, albeit where there is no further recourse, is vital to understanding and combating their abuses.

More here

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Scientist alleges religious discrimination in Ky.

An astronomer argues that his Christian faith and his peers' belief that he is an evolution skeptic kept him from getting a prestigious job as the director of a new student observatory at the University of Kentucky.

Martin Gaskell quickly rose to the top of a list of applicants being considered by the university's search committee. One member said he was "breathtakingly above the other applicants."
Others openly worried his Christian faith could conflict with his duties as a scientist, calling him "something close to a creationist" and "potentially evangelical."

Even though Gaskell says he is not a creationist, he claims he was passed over for the job at UK's MacAdam Student Observatory three years ago because of his religion and statements that were perceived to be critical of the theory of evolution.

Gaskell has sued the university, claiming lost income and emotional distress. Last month a judge rejected a motion from the university and allowed it to go to trial Feb. 8.

"There is no dispute that based on his application, Gaskell was a leading candidate for the position," U.S. District Judge Karl S. Forester wrote in the ruling.

Gaskell later learned that professors had discussed his purported religious views during the search process. Gaskell told the AP in an e-mail that he didn't grow frustrated, but felt "one should not allow universities to get away with religious discrimination." University scientists wondered to each other in internal e-mails if Gaskell's faith would interfere with the job, which included public outreach, according to court records.

The topic became so heated behind the scenes that even university biologists, who believed Gaskell was a critic of evolution, weighed in by citing a controversial Bible-based museum in Kentucky that had just opened.

"We might as well have the Creation Museum set up an outreach office in biology," biology professor James Krupa wrote to a colleague in an October 2007 e-mail. The museum was making national headlines at the time for exhibits that assert the literal truth of the Bible's creation story.

Science professors cited a lecture Gaskell has given called "Modern Astronomy, the Bible and Creation," which he developed for "Christians and others interested in Bible and science questions...," according to an outline of the lecture. Gaskell told the AP he was invited to give the lecture at UK in 1997, and organizers had read his notes.

The wide-ranging lecture outlines historical scientific figures who discuss God and interpretations of the creation story in the biblical chapter Genesis. Also in the notes, Gaskell mentions evolution, saying the theory has "significant scientific problems" and includes "unwarranted atheistic assumptions and extrapolations," according to court records.

Gaskell was briefly asked about the lecture during his job interview in 2007 with the chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Michael Cavagnero, according to Gaskell's deposition. Gaskell said he felt that questions related to religion during the job interview were "inappropriate." "I think that if I had a document like this and I was advocating atheism ... I don't think it would be an issue," he said of his lecture.

Science professors also expressed concern that hiring Gaskell would damage the university's image. An astrophysics professor, Moshe Elitzur, told Cavagnero that the hire would be a "huge public relations mistake," according to an e-mail from Cavagnero in court records. "Moshe predicts that he would not be here one month before the (Lexington) Herald-Leader headline would read: 'UK hires creationist to direct new student observatory.'"

University spokesman Jay Blanton declined to comment Monday because the litigation is pending.

Gaskell said he is not a "creationist" and his views on evolution are in line with other biological scientists. In his lecture notes, Gaskell also distances himself from Christians who believe the earth is a few thousand years old, saying their assertions are based on "mostly very poor science."

Gaskell's lawsuit is indicative of an increasingly tense debate between religion and science on college campuses and elsewhere, said Steven K. Green, a law professor and director of the Center for Religion, Law & Democracy at Willamette University in Salem, Ore. "I think it reflects a phenomenon that the sides in this debate are becoming more encamped, they're hunkering down," Green said. "Because certainly within the biology community and within the science community generally, they see the increasing attacks creationists are making as very threatening to their existence — and vice versa, to a certain extent."

Gaskell was uniquely qualified for the new position at the University of Kentucky, according to court records, because he oversaw the design and construction of an observatory at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He also advised UK during the building of the MacAdam facility. He currently teaches at the University of Texas.

His attorney, Frank Manion, said scientists at UK were too quick to place Gaskell on one side of the creation-evolution debate.
"Unfortunately too many people get hung up on the idea that you have to be one extreme or the other," said Manion, who works for American Center for Law & Justice, which focuses on religious freedom cases. They say "you can't be a religious believer and somebody who accepts evolution, which is clearly not true. And Gaskell's a perfect example of that."

SOURCE






A vivid example of the collapse of behavior standards under Leftist permissiveness

What a shame it is that Dunbar Senior High School, noted for its academic rigor during the era of segregated schools, is now the duty station of several police officers backed by security cameras overseeing a student body enrolled in mandatory sessions designed to prevent sexual assault and other inappropriate behavior.

When I was coming along, Dunbar was the school you wanted to attend if you hoped to enter college and pursue a professional career. Dunbar's reputation was such that some black parents in other parts of the country sent their children to Washington just to attend the school.

My mother, a 1935 Dunbar graduate, was so set on attending the school that, lacking streetcar fare, she would walk there and back from her Foggy Bottom home at 716 23rd St. NW - a six-mile trek roundtrip. She and the house on 23rd Street are gone. But her rich stories about life at Dunbar in the 1930s live on.

My sister and I shared in the wealth of Dunbar experiences when we went there in the 1950s. Excellence, preparedness, hard work and high standards were Dunbar's watchwords.

Contrary to what some believe, the Dunbar of our day was not a school for the city's black elite. If that had been true, the King family, and hundreds of children of the city's working class, would never have entered that citadel of learning.

The disparaging descriptions of today's Dunbar may be accurate, but they are hard to take. My Post colleague, education columnist Jay Mathews recently described Dunbar as a "long-troubled" school with "a stubborn culture of absenteeism, tardiness and wandering the halls during class." Post education reporter Bill Turque wrote that Dunbar "has been a failing school for years."

But it's not the reporting about Dunbar that is distressing; it's what has occurred within the school.

In May 2009, the school system asked Dunbar students their opinions on their school. Forty-seven percent of the 331 students who responded disagreed with the statement "I feel safe at my school." More than 70 percent disagreed with "My school is orderly and in control." Almost 80 percent disagreed that "My school is clean and well maintained."

Our ancient Dunbar building at First and N Streets NW, demolished years ago, was always clean, and it was a source of school pride. It was a safe place to be, too. Of course the Dunbar of old is gone. Ironically, it went the way of segregation, taking with it a cadre of outstanding veteran teachers and administrators, and students drawn citywide to Dunbar by choice.

More HERE





Why my child wanted to go to a British public school

Expat Anna Nicholas's son found Spanish education no match for a British "public" school. This article is from the Telegraph, where the old British convention of referring to private schools as public schools is still usually observed

Some time ago my mother, a teacher for many years, told me that the three most valuable gifts a parent could give a child were love, education and travel. Having relocated from London to rural Majorca with my husband, Alan, and son, Ollie, at the beginning of the new millennium, I found myself, a decade later, pondering her words.

Our son had undoubtedly received love in spades, and from an early age had learnt to regard airports as his second home. We hunted with the Vedda warriors of Sri Lanka, worked at an orphanage in Colombo and communed with the Ember√° tribe in Panama. We scored points for love and travel, but what about Ollie’s education? Aye, there was the rub.

Before setting foot in Majorca, we had rigorously researched the international schools, enrolling Ollie in what was considered to be the best, in Palma. In the junior school he fared well, mixing with children of different nationalities and benefiting from a cosmopolitan education. But within years, more than 70 per cent of the pupils were local, and this inevitably posed a problem for teachers forced to juggle classes of native English speakers with the linguistically challenged.

ISC Research, which analyses the international sector, claims that only 20 per cent of students now at international schools are from expat families, and that the biggest, most rapidly expanding group is wealthy local children seeking to learn English. We also observed a high turnover of mostly young British teachers, who returned to more lucrative teaching posts in the UK after a few years abroad, which created uncertainty and a lack of cohesion.

A Spanish friend, whose son attended Ollie’s school, persuaded us to consider a new private Spanish boys school in the north-west of the island. Both boys relocated and were placed in the same class.

As the only English pupil, with limited Spanish and Catalan, Ollie found the first year daunting. But he graduated, aged 11, to the upper school with flying colours.

There, however, the regime was tougher and the curriculum reminiscent of a Fifties English school. The pupils learnt by rote, and there was little class discussion or creativity, with emphasis placed on maths, Spanish grammar and linguistics.

At 13, Ollie mooted the idea of returning to England for his schooling. He began to tire of learning in two foreign languages (Catalan and Castilian Spanish) and found the lack of creative subjects, most notably English language and literature, irksome. He romanticised about rugby and cricket, and - God forbid - the British weather.

We decided to look for schools in Dorset because both its airports offered direct flights to Majorca. By chance, I came across the Canford School website. The school’s architecture, landscape and elegant library filled me with awe. I also liked its work ethic, philosophy and lack of pretension.

Although all expat applicants must take the Common Entrance exam or equivalent, much is based on how the prospective pupil performs at interview, and their schooling background. Ollie had never stepped foot in a laboratory or studied chemistry so his level in the subject was pretty woeful. Canford’s head, John Lever, took this on board. His view was that “knowledge per se was less important than enthusiasm, curiosity, a good work ethic and good mental machinery”.

Of all the schools we visited, Canford was the only one to show us lessons in action, and the head never once clock-watched.



Having applied late, we were lucky to be offered just a day place at Canford. This wasn’t such a hardship, because we decided to relocate temporarily to settle Ollie into school, commuting between Dorset and Majorca.

Ollie has so far embraced life at Canford with gusto, made many friends, and greatly enjoyed the wide range of sports and activities. He is keen to board, and when he does, Alan and I will feel happy that we had time to meet teachers, and to attend sports matches and events. Now we have witnessed the fantastic pastoral care, being abroad while Ollie boards will not feel so daunting.

SOURCE