Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Indiana University students file complaint over Chick-fil-A discrimination

Students at Indiana University South Bend have filed a formal complaint against the university's Chancellor, alleging the presence of the fast food restaurant chain Chick-fil-A violated vendor policy prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

"Students impacted by the continued presence of Chick-fil-A on campus have come forward today to file formal discrimination complaints within the Judicial Affairs office of the university against the university's Chancellor, Una Mae Reck," Jason A. Moreno, a spokesperson for the students, said in a statement.

Chick-Fil-A, which has 1,550 locations in 39 states, is accused of having deep financial ties to nationwide organizations that oppose marriage equality and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights. According to an investigation by the progressive blog EqualityMatters, the restaurant chain's charitable division has provided more than $1.1 million to anti-LGBT organizations, including the Alliance Defense Fund and Family Research Council.

"Chancellor Reck has continued to proactively purchase goods from this vendor for the purpose of resale on campus despite all evidence proving the damage it causes the students she's charged to protect," Moreno added. "These purchases aren't automatic, but rather she's making the conscious decision to do this every week on her own authority and of her own volition, with full knowledge of the overwhelming evidence that shows she's participating in the promotion of discrimination."

A petition to remove Chick-fil-A from the Indiana University South Bend campus started by Moreno at Change.org has received over 8,000 signatures.

The president of Chick-fil-A has insisted that the company is not anti-gay, but is merely operating a business according to Biblical principles and supporting healthy families.

"We have no agenda against anyone," Dan Cathy, President and COO of the restaurant chain, said in a statement from January. "At the heart and soul of our company, we are a family business that serves and values all people regardless of their beliefs or opinions."

He added that Chick-fil-A had a long history of encouraging and strengthening marriages, but had decided not to "champion any political agendas on marriage and family."

"At the same time, we will continue to offer resources to strengthen marriages and families. To do anything different would be inconsistent with our purpose and belief in Biblical principles."


Six-figure pay deals given to 700 British head teachers

Hundreds of head teachers are being awarded inflated six-figure pay deals, it was disclosed yesterday. Figures were released showing that 700 heads or deputy heads in state schools earn more than £100,000, including 200 paid more than £110,000.

The NASUWT union called for individual heads’ salaries to be published to stop pay being “abused”, putting them under the same scrutiny as council chief executives and quango bosses.

The number of senior teachers on six-figure pay is likely to be much higher because hundreds of schools failed to disclose proper salary details.

Data released by the Department for Education showed that 500 senior teachers will earn between £100,000 and £109,999 in the current academic year, including 100 heads and deputies in academies. A further 200 heads earn more than £110,000.

The figures show teachers’ pay from last November. John Howson, of Education Data Surveys, a research firm, said the highest salaries were likely to have increased in the past 12 months. This was the first time that the figures have been published in this form.

The GMB union has claimed as many as 100 state school heads earn more than David Cameron’s salary of £147,000.

Last year, it was disclosed that Mark Elms, head of Tidemill Primary School in south east London, was given a remuneration package of £276,523 for 2009-10, which included fees for helping other schools. Another head, Jacqui Valin, from Southfields Community College in south-west London, received a £20,594 pay rise in 2009-10 to take her salary to £198,406.

The NASUWT said schools were by-passing rules on pay by rebranding senior staff as “executive heads” or letting them take jobs as consultants.

It also claimed that academies, which are free of council control, were awarding huge salaries because they were not bound by national pay deals.

At the NASUWT annual conference in Glasgow, Chris Keates, its general secretary, said: “We’ve heard of head teachers taking schools to academy conversion, calling themselves executive heads and saying they should get more pay,” she said. “There’s no rationale about it.”


Make poor teaching a dismissable offence

Comment frtom Australia

A POPULAR myth about teaching is that if you increase salaries, you will get better teachers. This is an idea that gains traction with the teachers unions. It also resonates with those frustrated with poor school outcomes.

The pay and performance equation is disarmingly obvious. If you don't pay teachers enough, you can't attract the best. This view informs the position of Greg Craven, vice-chancellor of the Australian Catholic University, who wrote on this page on April 13: "If you want brain surgeons and international lawyers to consider teaching as an option, then you are going to have to supplement altruism with cash."

And Ben Jensen, director of the school education program at the Grattan Institute, wrote on this page on April 18 that a "system of meaningful appraisal and feedback for teachers will increase their effectiveness by 20 to 30 per cent".

Jensen goes further and says of the institute's recent report on appraisal: "Our proposal concentrates on improving teaching, not sacking teachers." But how can teaching be improved by not getting rid of inferior teachers? Why is teaching sacrosanct?

There is no other profession, job or vocation that closes ranks on incompetence in the same way. When was the last time you heard a teaching union call for the sacking of incompetent teachers? Never. "It's OK to be a dud, we won't tell on you" is union-speak for membership.

This is why Australian Education Union president Angelo Gavrielatos says the union supports the idea of appraisal and is reported as saying on the release of the Grattan Institute report that it reinforces the union's view that the best professional development for teachers occurs when they are given time to work together.

But appraisal is a delaying tactic on palpably bad teachers. It can take years with minimal or no improvement. In the meantime, students are damaged. In a normal full-time teaching load of, say, five classes of 25 students each, this means 125 students. Multiply that by a three-year cycle of appraisal. That is 375 students who have not been well taught.

A survey by Britain's National Foundation for Educational Research shows only 21 per cent teachers think schools have enough freedom to sack incompetent colleagues. The Times Education Supplement reported on April 8 that a study of 2100 teachers found 73 per cent of school heads and 52 per cent of classroom teachers agreed there was not enough freedom for schools to dismiss poorly performing teachers. In response, Britain's National Union of Teachers general secretary Christine Blower said: "It is regrettable that colleagues agree it is not easy enough to dismiss teachers." There was no mention of appraisal being used to fix the problem.

Why the AEU does not ask its members similar questions is obvious. Many would support sacking teachers. Colleagues are aware of teachers who are failures. They all know who should go and why.

If appraisal and dollars held the key to better teachers, why hasn't performance-related pay been an unambiguous winner? In a report titled "The bonus myth" in New Scientist magazine this month, Alfie Kohn, a teacher turned writer, says: "Economists and workplace consultants regard it as almost unquestioned dogma that people are motivated by rewards, so they don't feel the need to test this." The magazine notes that, in many circumstances, paying for results can make people perform badly, and that the more you pay, the worse they perform.

It is obvious what will improve teacher performance. Australian schools, particularly state schools, must be given the autonomy to hire and fire. The growth in independent school enrolments is in part related to the view held by parents that state school education in some areas is in serious decline and teacher quality is a lottery. They pay independent school fees for not having to gamble on incompetence. The problem is also who gets into teaching. This is unpleasant to say but many teachers are simply not high-flyers, something that the federal government partly understands.

As of 2013 there will be tougher university entrance requirements for teaching. The pool of potential teachers will come from the top 30 per cent of Year 12 students, as well as others who meet the expectation of a high level of proficiency in literacy and numeracy.

Federal School Education Minister Peter Garrett said on the announcement of the new teaching entry expectations earlier this month: "We want the very best people coming into the teaching profession. The Australian community wants to see high-quality teaching in schools."

The problem with poor outcomes in schools is not a matter of funding, class sizes, difficult children or any other excuse. The problem is teachers.

Those who are incompetent, who are inadequately trained or are allowed to consolidate poor performance under union sanction, secure that they will be appraised continuously rather than sacked, are the malady of Australian education.

The only way to tell a teacher they are hopeless is to remove them, as in the case of every other job I know.


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