Friday, May 27, 2011

More destruction coming for British schools

Poorer pupils to get priority access to good schools over those living nearby.

In the absence of significant discipline, pupil behavior is a major determinant of how good a school is. Pupils from poor backgrounds are often unruly so will simply destroy any school into which they are inserted. It will not benefit the poor kids but it will destroy the educational chances of all the kids. No kid will learn anything much in a chaotic environment.

One hopes and imagines that few school heads will take the "opportunity" that has been handed to them. Would any head want to preside over a behavioral sink?

Poor pupils can be taught perfectly well in a well disciplined environment but that is not an option in Britain today

Ministers will today signal an end to ‘selection by mortgage’ by allowing the most popular schools to discriminate in favour of the poorest children. A new admissions code will let academies and free schools prioritise children on free school meals – whose parents earn less than £16,000.

Currently, only pupils with special needs, in the care of local councils or with siblings at the school can be given such priority when it is oversubscribed.

The move, criticised as an assault on the middle classes, has prompted allegations that the Coalition Government is attempting to socially engineer secondary school admissions.

It will spell an end to well-off parents buying a home in the catchment area of a popular secondary school to secure places for their sons or daughters. In future, even living right next door to an oversubscribed school may not guarantee a place for a pupil. In London, property prices can be inflated by as much as £400,000 close to the best institutions.

The announcement today from Education Secretary Michael Gove is likely to trigger a backlash from many Conservative MPs and the party’s traditional middle-class supporters, who are already angry that the Coalition has ruled out any return to selection by ability.

At present, one third of all secondary schools – 1,070 – are either an academy or in the process of becoming one. Two secondaries become academies every day and the Government wants all schools to convert eventually.

And with many academies heavily over-subscribed – some by ten applications for every place – competition is fierce. This year one in five pupils in England missed out on their first choice of school.

Mr Gove’s proposal will be seen as an attempt to appease Liberal Democrat members of the Coalition, who have pushed existing plans to boost funding for underprivileged children. The Education Secretary believes the change will provide a vital boost for social mobility.

Whitehall sources close to Mr Gove yesterday stressed any change would not be ‘prescriptive’, and schools would simply be permitted to admit children entitled to free school meals in preference to others if they wished to do so.

However, Mr Gove is also introducing incentives for schools to select more poor pupils – the pupil premium and a new performance measure. Under the pupil premium, schools will receive extra funding based on the number of pupils on free school meals. And a new league table performance measure will rank schools on the achievements of their most disadvantaged youngsters.

These incentives will encourage in-demand schools to select poorer pupils over those from wealthier backgrounds who may live on the doorstep.

But schools wishing to prioritise disadvantaged children will have to consult the community first, as is the case with any changes to admissions criteria.

In addition to the controversial new criteria, today’s code will give priority to the children of serving troops – of which there are some 35,000. These children will be able to queue-jump during the application process and will be accepted at ‘full’ primary schools.

The code will also enable selective schools to expand, by removing caps on the number of places they can offer. Many grammars are intending to increase their capacity by as much as 50 per cent by 2015, which will make a selective education more accessible.

Mr Gove’s move follows a report by the Sutton Trust which found England had moved from ‘selection by ability’ to ‘selection by mortgage’.


Mind-boggling Increase in Tuition Since 1960 Even as Students Learn Less and Less

There has been a truly mind-boggling increase in college tuition since 1960. For example, law school tuition has risen nearly 1,000 percent after adjusting for inflation: around 1960, “median annual tuition and fees at private law schools was $475 … adjusted for inflation, that’s $3,419 in 2011 dollars. The median for public law schools was $204 … or $1,550 in 2011 dollars … in 2009 the private law school median was $36,000; the public (resident) median was $16,546.”

Due to market distortions like the proliferation of unnecessary state licensing requirements that require useless paper credentials, and financial aid that directly encourages colleges to raise tuition, colleges can raise tuition year after year, consuming a larger and larger fraction of the increased lifetime earnings students hope to obtain by going to college. As George Leef notes, “long-term average earnings for individuals with BA degrees have not risen much and in the last few years have dipped.”

Meanwhile, college students learn less and less with each passing year. “Thirty-six percent” of college students learned little in four years of college, and students now spend “50% less time studying compared with students a few decades ago, the research shows.” Thirty-two percent never take “a course in a typical semester where they read more than 40 pages per week.”

People thought college was too expensive back in 1960, when tuition was just a tiny fraction of what it is today. For example, they worried about the rising cost of a law school education, and the resulting increase in student loans and debt: “The cost of attending law school at least doubled in the [past] 16 years,” “raising the question whether able, but impecunious, students are being directed away from law study … schools reported that students were reluctant to take out loans owing to ‘fear of debts, particularly during the low income years immediately after graduation.’” They could never have imagined what a monumental rip-off college tuition would be today.

Cultural factors may also have contributed to students’ willingness to pay exploding law school tuitions. Too many people have gone to law school in recent years thanks to the romanticization of the legal profession in shows like “Ally McBeal” and “L.A. Law” that make law look sexy and exciting. (Legal shows also falsely suggest that most judges are wise and that the legal system is swift and just, rather than conveying the unpleasant reality: that our legal system is a slow, costly, inefficient mechanism for enforcing often-arbitrary legal norms that are invented by judges and lawyers or enacted by legislators who frequently do the bidding of special-interest groups.)

For a fascinating discussion of how the country has been harmed by legal norms invented by law professors who dislike free markets, and by massive lawsuits launched by law school litigation clinics, read Walter Olson’s book Schools for Misrule: Legal Academia and an Overlawyered America, which got good reviews from some law professors and the Wall Street Journal.


Fast-track teaching program gets green light for West Australian schools

A version of "Teach for America" -- but anything that exposes the usual ludicrous four-year "teacher training" courses is welcome. I was a successful High School teacher without one minute of teacher training

A program that launches top-ranking university graduates into teaching positions within months will be rolled out across WA next year, addressing shortages the state government has struggled to fill.

The Teach for Australia program is in its second year in Victoria and the ACT, with dozens of graduates placed in low socio-economic and disadvantaged schools across the states.

The program has previously drawn criticism from the State School Teachers Union of WA, which claimed the fast-tracked program was undermining those who had completed traditional teaching degrees, and would place the already-disadvantaged students into a further vulnerable position.

However, the founder of the program has defended the high quality graduates accepted into TFA, which only places its graduates in schools where teachers refuse to go.

It had previously been reported that the TFA graduates would not have the authority to teach in local schools, but the WA College of Teaching has confirmed that they can work in WA after being issued with a Limited Authority to Teach.

This permits the graduate to work in a particular area, only when there is no registered teacher for that position, and where no teaching graduates will go.

Successful applicants will be placed in schools in term one next year, after completing a six-week intensive course through the University of Melbourne. This will mark the start of a two-year degree at the school, through which they will continue to teach at an 80 per cent load, allowing one day per week for studies.

TFA chief executive officer Melodie Potts-Rosevear said that ideally there would be between 25 and 30 new graduates in the program next year who would be ready to be placed in a WA school.

With the aim of the program to put the graduates where no other teachers want to go, she said it is a balancing act ensuring the school was big enough to accommodate at least two graduates, and that there was adequate support in the form of a mentor based at the school.

"We'll recruit as many as we think that are suitable and can fill genuine vacancies," she said. "We just respond to what the school's needs are, and it just becomes a bit of a matching process. "The school really has to be big enough to have two vacancies that we can fill, along with a mentor that can support them on a day-to-day basis. "Schools where there's only two or three classrooms are probably not suitable to the program."

She said they tried to get a minimum of two graduates at a school, and that they tried to "cluster" the graduates among schools in a close vicinity so that they have a support network.

TFA has been a success in its short two-year history in Victoria, with dozens of graduates among the best in their field choosing to take up the program.


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