Friday, January 28, 2011

PA High School Defends Plan to Segregate Students by Race & Gender‏

A Lancaster, Pa., high school is defending its decision to segregate students according to race and gender in an attempt to foster higher standards of student achievement.

The plan recently implemented at McCaskey East High School segregates black students from the rest of the school body and then divides them further according to gender, dividing black females and black males. The separation is brief — just six minutes each day and 20 minutes twice a month — but the controversial move is drawing some heated criticism and stirring comparisons to past “separate but equal” racial segregation schemes.

Bill Jimenez, the school’s principal, defended the policy Wednesday, claiming that the school’s experiment was an attempt to improve the performance of black students whose performance was noticeably lagging behind their fellow students. According to Jimenez, research suggests that same-race classes led by strong same-race role models may improve academic results.

“One of the things we said when we did this was, ‘Let’s look at the data, let’s not run from it. Let’s confront it and see what we can do about it,’” he told

The idea originated with Angela Tilghman, a McCaskey East instructional coach who was alarmed at the poor academic performance of the school’s black students. Only about a third of McCaskey’s African-Americans scored proficient or advanced in reading on last year’s PSSAs, compared with 60 percent of white students and 42 percent of all students. Math scores were even worse, with just 27 percent of black pupils scoring proficient or advanced.

Research has shown, Tilghman said, that grouping black students by gender with a strong role model can help boost their academic achievement and self-esteem. She and fellow instructional coach Rhauni Gregory volunteered to mentor the African-American girls, and Michael Mitchell and Willie Thedford each took a homeroom of black males.

No other students were divided by race, Jimanez said, although pupils enrolled in the school’s English language learners program were paired with ELL teachers.

Initially, some McCaskey East students and staff objected to separating out black students. Some juniors asked to go back to their old homerooms. Others complained that the experiment ran counter to the culture of McCaskey, long a melting pot of students and staff from many diverse backgrounds.

Now, mentors are closely watching students’ performance in the segregated classrooms, including grades, test scores and attendance.

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity,” one math teacher and mentor, Michael Mitchell, remarked, quoting the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Mitchell now says he hopes to inspire his black male students during their short daily meetings, noting that some of them were even failing gym class.

“They’re all young. They’re all strong. They’re all athletic. But they’re failing because they chose not to participate,” he said. “That‘s an example of ’conscientious stupidity.’ You can do but you choose not to do. These are the things we need to get away from.”

In the few weeks since the mentors began holding their homeroom meetings, the mentors claim they’ve seen changes in their students. “You notice the level of interaction is different, the way they talk is different,” one mentor pointed out. “One of the simplest things you notice right away is, before, the pants were hanging down; now, they are up. The shirt is tucked in, where before, it was hanging out. That’s tangible.”

The test score results haven’t yet been calculated, but at least one student, junior Mikeos Ango, claims the new set-up has made a difference for him. “It definitely makes you think about stuff more,” he said. “We have great role models as our teachers right now. They’ve been in our shoes before, and so we learn something from them every day.”


School chaplain scheme goes to court

A rare event: Australia's version of the U.S. First Amendment in play. The court is asked to overturn a scheme supported by both sides of politics

A FATHER won the first round in his historic battle yesterday to have government-funded chaplains thrown out of the nation's public schools.

Ron Williams journeyed from Toowoomba to Sydney yesterday for a directions hearing in his challenge and was thrilled to hear that his case could be heard in the High Court over three days in May. "This is a very important moment," a jubilant Mr Williams said yesterday.

The father of six, who has four children attending Queensland public schools, said his main argument was that the funding for chaplains in schools breached Section 116 of the Australian Constitution, which states that the "Commonwealth not legislate in respect of religion". "This is not about getting chaplains out of schools, it's about the government funding them, which I believe is against the Constitution," he said.

If Mr Williams wins his challenge, government funding for chaplains would be removed.

The National School Chaplaincy Program was introduced in 2006 by former prime minister John Howard. The national program won support from Prime Minister Julia Gillard, an atheist who, just before the election last year, pledged $222 million to extend the program for four years.

More than 430 schools in NSW get up to $20,000 each a year for their chaplain services, totalling almost $12 million, and more than 2500 school across Australia now have chaplains at a cost of more than $151 million.

The chaplain program is run in Queensland by that state's branch of the Scripture Union. In NSW the program is run by the National School Chaplaincy Association which is based in Western Australia.

A spokesman for the association said yesterday it was not appropriate to comment.

NSW Greens MP John Kaye said yesterday's decision was good news for those who believed in separation of church and state. "The anger felt by many of us at the use of public money will now at least be tested in the court," he said. "There will now be an opportunity to hear in court why this program so deeply contradicts the integrity of the Australian Constitution."


Australia already has substantial school choice but that is being "reviewed" and is at risk of being scaled back

by Kevin Donnelly

Just ask Mark Latham about the impact of the hit list of so-called privileged schools he championed when he was leader of the ALP. No wonder that Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, on taking over as leaders, rejected the politics of envy and argued in favour of school choice.

During the 2010 campaign, Prime Minister Gillard was so concerned about the issue that she promised to keep the existing socioeconomic status (SES) funding model for an additional year, until 2013.

Gillard also promised that Catholic and independent schools would not lose money as a result of the Gonski funding review currently underway – established by Gillard when she was Education Minister and due to report in 2011.

Unlike the Liberal Party, the ALP is a late convert to school choice. Such pragmatism is understandable. Across Australia, approximately 34% of students attend non-government schools and the figure rises to over 40% at years 11 and 12.

Parents, especially in marginal seats, are voting with their feet and over the years 1999-2009 enrolments on Catholic and independent schools grew by 21.3% while the growth figure for government schools flatlined at 1.2 per cent.

Given that non-government schools are increasingly popular and that school choice, especially for those parents committed to faith-based schools, is a fundamental human right, one might expect that all would agree that such schools should be properly funded.

One might also expect that the best response to government schools losing market share is to ask why state schools are no longer attractive to increasing numbers of parents and what can be done to strengthen such schools.

Logic and reason are not the hallmarks of the self-serving groups like the Australian Education Union and it should not surprise that the AEU, instead of addressing underlying causes, has mounted the barricades to argue that non-government schools should be starved of funding and subject to increased government regulation and intervention.

The AEU has mounted a campaign, including petitions, dedicated websites, surveys and fact sheets, arguing that non-government schools are over-funded, that such schools only serve the privileged and that Catholic and independent schools promote social instability and reinforce disadvantage.

The reality suggests otherwise. Instead of being over funded non-government schools receive significantly less funding when compared to government schools (the following figures are taken from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library Background Note on school funding, dated 17 November 2010).

On average, and excluding capital expenditure, government school students receive $12,639 in funding from state and federal governments, the figure for non-government schools is $6,606. Every student that attends a non-government school saves government, and taxpayers, approximately $6,000.

In terms of total funding non-governments schools raise 43% of their income from private sources with state and federal governments providing the other 57%. Contrary to the impression created by the AEU it is also the case that federal funding is allocated to schools according to a school’s socioeconomic status (SES).

In the words of the Parliamentary Library paper, “Australian Government recurrent per student funding for non-government schools is based on a measure of need”. Wealthier non-government schools only receive 13.7% of the federal funding figure, known as the Average Government School Recurrent Costs (AGSRC), with less privileged schools receiving 70%.

The AEU also argues that non-government schools contribute to social inequality and educational disadvantage. Once again, the evidence suggests otherwise.

Research both here and overseas concludes that Australia has a high degree of social mobility and one of the main reasons is because we have an education system, based on an analysis of the 2007 PISA results, that is high quality/high equity.

In the words of the 2008 OECD report Growing Unequal?: Income Distribution and Poverty in OECD Countries, “Australia is one of the most socially mobile countries in the OECD” and “the educational attainment of parents affects the educational achievements of the child less than in most other countries”.

It’s also the case that while the ALP and the cultural-left condemn low SES students to educational failure, supposedly as disadvantage automatically leads to poor results, the example of non-government school proves otherwise.

Researchers at the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) after analysing Year 12 results conclude that non-government schools are more effective, compared to government schools, in getting low SES students to succeed.

In a 2002 ACER report analysing the factors that lead to success at Year 12, the researchers state, “Students who attended non-government schools outperformed students from government schools, even after taking into account socioeconomic background and achievement in literacy and numeracy”.

During the 2010 election campaign Julia Gillard nullified funding as an issue by maintaining the existing SES model until 2013 and promising that “no school will lose a dollar in funding”.

It’s significant that while the ALP’s rhetoric is supportive, the Gillard-led Government refuses to guarantee that funding will be maintained in real terms and that Catholic and independent schools will not suffer, either financially or in terms of their autonomy, as a result of the Gonski review.


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