Saturday, February 26, 2011

British school "lotteries" hitting the middle class

Typical Leftist stupidity. They overlook what makes a school "good". The main factor is that the pupils are well-behaved and diligent children from middle-class homes. Break that up and the school will no longer be desirable -- to anybody

Schools in more than a third of council areas are selecting low-ability students or using lotteries in an attempt to break the middle-class hold on the most sought-after places.

The number of authorities where such admission policies are used has increased sharply as competition for the best schools has intensified, a survey by The Daily Telegraph has found.

The rise of lotteries and so-called "fair banding" – where test results are used to select a proportion of pupils with lower ability – could thwart affluent families who have bought homes within the catchment areas of successful schools. They have often paid a premium of tens of thousands of pounds to do so.

This is the fifth year since councils were given the power to use such admissions techniques. Fair banding has since been encouraged by Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, who has said that it could help make schools "truly comprehensive".

But opponents say the policies amount to social engineering and can result in children travelling miles every day after being turned down by a first choice local school.

Families also face a potential fall in house prices if an oversubscribed school decides to employ a random admissions policy.

The disclosure comes ahead of "admissions day" on Tuesday when the parents of almost 540,000 children in England will find out which secondary school their son or daughter will go to in September.

At least 60,000 children are expected to miss their preferred school, one in nine. In some areas, 40 per cent of children are being turned down by their preferred school.

The Telegraph surveyed 150 councils in England with responsibility for education. Of 110 that responded, 27 said that some schools in their area were using lotteries to assign places, while 21 said some were using "fair banding".

A number of councils included schools using both methods, with the result that 38 in total – more than one in three – had schools using at least one. A similar survey in 2009 suggested the figure was around one in four. The results suggest that, across all 150 councils, up to 180,000 pupils are applying in areas where their admission could effectively be decided "by a roll of the dice" or fair banding.

The measures are most common in urban areas, where competition for the best schools is particularly fierce, and at academy schools.

Local authorities and schools were given the power to use lotteries and fair banding in 2007. Local authorities decide whether ordinary comprehensives can employ the policies while academies, voluntary aided and foundation schools decide for themselves.

Brighton became the first council to allow random selection in 2008. Since then such procedures have become widespread. Mr Gove has previously explained his support, saying: "You can make sure that if your school is located in an area which may well be relatively privileged, by dint of house prices and background and so on, that you are spreading the load academically."

However, he is facing mounting opposition to their growing use. Jennie Varley, the vice-chairman of the National Grammar Schools Association, said: "This is a form of social engineering. "It seems wrong to decide the fate of children on the roll of a dice. It means that children might end up with the wrong education which can have a damaging impact on their lives. "An academic high-flier would be bored to tears in a school which catered for special needs. “The Government should be focusing instead on improving the standards of all schools.”

Margaret Morrissey, of the campaign group Parents Outloud, said: “Middle-class families are being penalised because of political correctness. “There was nothing wrong with the previous system – local children should be allowed to go to local schools. Catchment areas have been hugely successful.”

In Westminster, London, 40 per cent of children have been turned down by their preferred school while in Sandwell, West Midlands, 27 per cent have missed out. Schools in both areas use fair banding to cope with demand. One of the most oversubscribed schools in the country is the William Hulme Grammar Academy in Manchester, which had 433 applicants for 120 places.

The school has adopted both fair banding and random selection. Peter Mulholland, its head teacher, said: “Fair banding ensures we have a completely comprehensive intake with children of all abilities and from all ethnic backgrounds. We reflect the full range of society. “We have an excellent and completely multicultural school. It is genuinely comprehensive.”

Mr Gove last night expressed his sympathy for parents whose children are being turned away from their preferred school. He declined to comment, however, on the use of lotteries and fair banding in deciding admissions. He said: “It’s heartbreaking for parents when they don’t get their children into the school they want.

“The fact is that after 13 years of Labour there simply aren’t enough good schools. That’s why we’re turning around failing schools and letting teachers set up new schools to give all parents, not just the rich, access to schools with strong discipline, great teaching and small class sizes.”


Education Revolution... Without the People?

Over the past few years, a mix of political, corporate and foundation interests has launched American education on a profound and largely unnoted revolution. Its victims are the democratic process, educational freedom, local control and parental authority.

The story dates back decades, but its current phase began in 2007. That year, the Gates and the Eli Broad foundations pledged $60 million to inject their education vision, including uniform “American standards,” into the 2008 campaigns. Then, in May 2008, the Gates Foundation awarded the Hunt Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy a $2.2 million grant “to work with governors and other key stakeholders” to promote the adoption of standards. The following month, Hunt and the National Governors Association hosted a symposium to explore education strategies.

In December 2008, during the transition to the Obama administration, the NGA, the Council of Chief State School Officers and Achieve, Inc. (an entity founded by NGA, governed by six state governors and six corporate leaders, and funded by several mega-corporations and foundations) set out their education vision in “Benchmarking for Success,” funded by the Gates Foundation. It outlines five “reform” steps, including nationwide standards.

NGA wanted to implement its plan quickly -- and avoid the tedium of the democratic process. If given the chance, the people -- through their elected representatives -- might muck around with, or reject, NGA’s eventual product. (That’s what happened with the Constitution; the people demanded the addition of the Bill of Rights.) The 2009 stimulus bill provided NGA’s breakthrough. It increased the Education Department’s discretionary spending by 25,500 percent, giving it a fresh pot of money and a means to shape state and local curricula without congressional interference.

In March 2009, one month after passage of the stimulus bill, the Education Department announced a two-part “Race to the Top” “national competition” to distribute the money. It tied 14 percent of the proposal evaluation in the first round to commitment to ratifying (with an August 2010 target date) and implementing the standards. A state could not get money unless it signed onto the standards.

Meanwhile, NGA and CCSSO had formally launched their Common Core Standards Initiative to develop and implement national K-12 academic standards. They planned to “leverage states’ collective influence to ensure that textbooks, digital media, curricula and assessments are aligned” with the standards. CCSSO President-elect Sue Gendron aptly described it as “transforming education for every child.”

The cash-starved states jumped for a share of the $4.35 billion. By June 2009, only Republican Govs. Sarah Palin of Alaska and Rick Perry of Texas had refused to join the effort. Perry argued that it would be “foolish and irresponsible to place our children’s future in the hands of unelected bureaucrats and special interest groups thousands of miles away in Washington, virtually eliminating parents’ participation in their children’s education.” He said it “smacks of a federal takeover of our public schools.”

In March 2010, NGA released the “first official public draft” of the standards, followed by a June release of the final product. The two first “winners” of R2T funds were announced that month. At that point, to meet the deadline for the second and larger round, states had only two months to commit to adopting the standards. Regarding New Jersey’s June 16 adoption, Rutgers professor Joseph Rosenstein remarked in Education Week, “Deciding so quickly … is irresponsible.”

In May 2010, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell sided with Texas and Alaska and withdrew from R2T and the standards. He argued that Virginia’s “standards are much superior” and are “validated” (the federal standards have not been field-tested). Nonetheless, by the end of June 2010, 16 states had formally adopted the standards. By the Aug. 2, 2010, R2T application deadline, 31 states had adopted them. That number now stands at 42.

NGA is becoming even more involved through the development of “a State Policymaker Guide to Implementation … planning the future governance structure of the standards and convening the publishing community to ensure that high-quality materials aligned with the standards are created.” The Gates Foundation is developing new courses “with content aligned to the common-core standards and [is] reinventing and realigning traditional courses like Algebra 1 and Geometry to the common core.” And it seems that the administration will request additional R2T funding. It seemingly also intends to tie Title I education funds -- a dramatically larger sum that few states can do without -- to agreement to national standards and tests.

This entire process was problematic.

First, there are the standards themselves. They cover fewer topics than what children are learning now. The Gates Foundation explains that “fewer” means “giving students enough academic preparation, without exceeding the math and literacy requirements that evidence demonstrates are necessary to enter two-year colleges.” And to keep the people in line, the NGA ruled that states “may choose to include additional standards beyond the common core as long as the common core represents at least 85 percent of the state’s standards in English language arts and mathematics.”

There are legal issues. The federal role in the standards initiative contravenes laws prohibiting the Department of Education from directing a state’s curriculum.

Furthermore, the underlying process showed great disrespect for the American people. The discretionary nature of R2T excluded the people’s representatives in Congress from a meaningful decision-making role. Likewise, the short time frame and huge R2T cash incentives were intended to exclude the states from meaningful decision making. The Founders considered a great defect of the Articles of Confederation to be, as stated by Alexander Hamilton, “that it never had a ratification by the People.” They did not make that mistake with the Constitution, and they would be disappointed that we have not learned the lesson.

And then there’s the NGA. It is not an official body of the states. Yet, it is acting like a legislative body and, on a transformative initiative, helped cut the American people out of the democratic process. Each governor is responsible for safeguarding that process. A good start on that would be to reform the NGA.


Abolish all federal education spending

Quote of the Day: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." -- Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America

The Federal State has no constitutional authority for involvement in education. This alone should be sufficient reason to abolish the Department of Education and all federal education spending. But there are also two other powerful reasons . . .

* Federal education programs don't work. Instead, they actually cause harm.

* The Federal State is headed toward bankruptcy and needs to cut spending.

Statist schools don't work because they have no incentive to perform adequately. Unlike businesses in the Voluntary Sector of the economy, Statist schools can't be fired or replaced by the people they supposedly serve.

This is the nature of Statism. It constantly compels the masters (citizens) to serve the servants (politicians and bureaucrats). As a result . . . You're now spending more than twice as much for the Feds to meddle with education as taxpayers did in the 1970's, but student performance hasn't improved. Instead, costs have soared. For instance . . .

College tuition has increased at twice the rate of inflation. Federal grants and guaranteed loans that were supposed to make education more affordable, have actually increased costs by enabling colleges to raise their prices. The result is that students are now tens of thousands of dollars in debt when they graduate.

This is par for the course for Statist programs. Consider just two other examples of this phenomenon . . .

* Federal politicians create lots of schemes. Take Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. These boondoggles were intended to make housing more affordable. The result was housing prices that skyrocketed, then burst, leaving millions of people poorer, and even bankrupt.

* Other federal schemes like Medicare and Medicaid were supposed to make sick-care more affordable too, but here again the costs have risen far faster than the rate of inflation.

The same thing has happened with education.

We can derive a principle from this . . . Every time the politicians promise they can make something cheaper by spending more, that "something" becomes more expensive, not less, and we have to carry more debt and pay more taxes on top of it.

This makes the comparison between the Coercive State and the Voluntary Sector very stark. The Voluntary Sector constantly does more with less, while the Coercive State constantly does less with more. The incentives dictate that it must be this way . . .

* The Coercive State rewards itself for failure -- the worse schools perform the more money the politicians spend on them. This gives Statist institutions an incentive for INcompetence.

* But businesses and institutions in the Voluntary Sector have to perform well, or consumers reject them. This gives the Voluntary Sector a powerful bias towards competence.

The conclusion we should draw from this is equally stark . . . The education of children is too important to be trusted to politicians and bureaucrats. We should abolish all federal involvement in schooling.

The Constitution got it right when it failed to authorize a federal role for education. Schools should be managed at the local level, NOT from the top down. Better yet, schools should work for parents, NOT for teachers unions and the local Statist school board. We need consumer centered education, just like we need consumer centered sick-care.

Abolishing all federal education spending would cost us nothing and gain us much. It would bring us in compliance with the Constitution, restore a certain amount of local control to education, and save us about $120 billion a year.


No comments: