Friday, May 13, 2011

Why Bullying Remains a Problem

Michael Milczanowski has been bulled constantly at his high school. He says: "It was ever-constant, never changing, ongoing harassment—that's all it was." We hear constantly, when some poor kid finally takes his life to end the torment, that the schools "did all they could" to end it. We are told that they try to address such issues but that they don't know about many of the cases. Kids in the schools regularly contradict the school authorities. They say that the teachers turn a blind eye to the problem. Rarely have we had such dramatic proof.

Milczanowski does not return the punches. He is not complicit in the assault in any way. His math teacher stands there watching and says a few words but otherwise does NOTHING. Milczanowski said: "I expected him to physically intervene to keep that from happening, but I guess I was wrong." The victim has dropped out of high school because he is afraid to go back.

The parents of this Texas town, as Texans are known to do, are attacking the victim. I have read dozens of hateful comments from parents saying that Milczanowski is violent. Odd that the "violent" student is the only one not trying to take punches?

As for the "poor" teacher that they are all lamenting about, well it appears he has allowed fights in his classroom before. And one of them was video taped as well. The second video is instructive. In the video the fight continues until the teacher says: "Okay, that's enough." I'm sorry, but that appears as if he allows them to punch each other until he decides they've had "enough" and only then does he step in.

With two videos of students fighting in the same classroom, with the same teacher, it is much harder to feel sorry for the teacher. This is especially true given that he seems to have a policy to allow the fighting to go on. In the Milczanowski case he stood by allowing it to happen even as the attacks pummels Michael, who does not attempt to fight back.

But we also have the problem, in this case, of a governmental school system that tends to be, of the teachers, by the teachers, for the teachers. The teacher's unions put teachers ahead of students. And the politicians allow it because the unions make sure they get re-elected and teachers, being independent thinkers, tend to follow instructions from the unions. What we have is a system where teachers get attention while students don't. Teachers' unions treat teachers the way the police treat their own: they deny wrong doing unless absolutely forced to face reality.

If this teacher had not been caught on video ignoring a bully attacking another student, I can assure you he'd still be in the classroom. As is, various bureaucrats are defending him. The assumption from government employee unions is that their members are a sacred bunch whose interests must always come first—even when they are complicit in bankrupting states like California. Politicians who dare touch the sacred band of political parasites are pummeled, much the way Milczanowski was pummeled in the government-owned, government-controlled educational prison.

The whole rotten system has to go. I stand by the reform that all funding should follow students and that the funding should be allowed to go to private school as well. We here people whining about monopolies all the time and then defending the education monopoly. The government school system is a coercive one. It exists entirely because it has the ability to force people to fund it, force parents to send their children there, and because the unions have such a powerful hold over the politicians.

We have crappy, violent schools because they don't have to be better. They have a captured audience and captured funding. Only when a blatantly awful thing happens, and can't be ignored, does it get attention. Otherwise it is business as usual. It takes a video tape of a student being assaulted in full view of a do-nothing teacher to get attention. It takes kids around the country going home and hanging themselves, or putting a bullet in their brain, before anyone pays attention. Even then the hateful types come out and blame the victims.


British educational standards steadily falling

Ofqual will announce an investigation into claims that the tests taken by hundreds of thousands of youngsters every year are too easy. The inquiry, the largest the education watchdog has carried out, is expected to cover annual rises in grades, the perceived difficulty of qualifications, the range of courses and commercial competition between exam boards.

The regulator has already been asked to look into the issue of exam resits and how tests compare with those carried out overseas. Glenys Stacey, the regulator’s new chief executive, told The Daily Telegraph that “an objective and constructive debate” on the state of the exam and qualifications system was needed. The comments come as up to 800,000 pupils across England, Wales and Northern Ireland prepare to start GCSE and A-level exams next week.

Last year, the number of A* and A grades awarded at GCSE increased to almost 23 per cent – the 22nd annual rise and a near tripling in the number of top marks awarded since 1988. A record 27 per cent of A-level students gained A* or As.

The year-on-year rise has prompted claims that tests are less demanding and schools are playing the system to maximise pupils’ scores.

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, delivered a fresh warning on Thursday over the exams system, saying “dumbing down has got to stop”. The comment came in response to a report that suggested that up to a third of teenagers are taking worthless vocational qualifications that fail to lead to a good job or higher education.

In her first interview since taking over at Ofqual, Ms Stacey said she wanted to hold a review of exam and qualification standards. This would coincide with government plans to give the watchdog extra powers to raise the standards of qualifications next year. It is expected to start after the summer exam season.

“We do a lot of work here to maintain standards on all the key qualifications; across the board on subject matters and subject levels,” she said. “But still there is a public concern over standards and a feeling that things aren’t what they used to be.

“Well, I would like to understand that better and actually bring some evidence to the debate as well. I want an objective and constructive debate.

“We need to be firm and fair and we really want to focus on the big ticket items; things people are truly concerned about and where regulatory action could actually make a difference to public confidence.”

The exams system has faced repeated criticism in recent years over claims of a fall in the standard of questions and the content of courses. Research by Durham University has suggested that A-levels — the gold standard exam taken by some 250,000 teenagers each year — are two grades easier than they were 20 years ago.

Concerns over standards have been fuelled by the new Government. Mr Gove has already criticised the number of resits taken by pupils, warning that it risks devaluing the exams system.

He asked Ofqual to conduct a separate inquiry into the issue as well as analysing the value of vocational qualifications and setting a benchmark for English exams against those elsewhere in the world.

The latest inquiry will look into the standard of exams and qualifications over time alongside other issues, such as the commercial competition between exam boards and the use of modular GCSEs – breaking qualifications down into bite-sized units that students can retake to boost their scores.

Ms Stacey, who joined Ofqual in March from Standards for England, the local government watchdog, said: “When I listen to what others tell me about their concerns about standards, I hear common themes coming through; concerns about resits, modularisation, concerns about the commercial behaviours of awarding organisations, concerns about the range and nature of qualifications.

“As a regulator, we need to understand to what extent there is a real issue about standards and we need to do that in the interests of young people going forward. I don’t take a predetermined view, but these concerns are expressed sufficiently frequently by a wide range of interested people – employers, higher education, parents and Government – so let’s have a look.”

Ms Stacey, who was head of Animal Health, the farming regulator, and has led the Criminal Cases Review Commission and Greater Manchester Magistrates Court Committee, acknowledged concerns over competition between exam boards.

Several private companies and charities sell qualifications to schools and colleges. Many also provide supplementary text books and run courses in how to maximise results. Last year, Mick Waters, a former director of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, admitted that the system was “almost corrupt”.

Thousands of teenagers will be encouraged to leave school at 14 to enrol in colleges under a government overhaul of vocational qualifications. The Coalition said more children should transfer to further education colleges to benefit from decent practical training. The recommendation was made in a report by Alison Wolf, the professor of public sector management at King’s College London.

The report included a recommendation to require pupils to study English and maths up to the age of 18 if they fail to gain a decent GCSE in the subjects at 16.


Australian study shows that the success of a child is linked to father's education

No surprise to anyone who follows genetics research. It's all IQ and IQ is genetically transmitted. Government "support" will do little.

A Smith Family study has linked a father's education level to the professional success of his children. The report - titled Unequal Opportunities: Life Chances for Children in the Lucky Country - compares the lives and backgrounds of 13,000 university graduates aged 30 to 45.

It found those who had a university educated father were more likely to hold a degree themselves, have a professional job and earn around $300 more a week than those without an academic dad.

Among those people whose fathers did not go on to higher education, only 30 per cent had achieved a degree, compared to 65 per cent for those whose fathers did get a degree.

"If you think about a parent who had a limited education their understanding of career paths available to their kid would be much more limited," the charity's Wendy Field said. "For families on income support the difference is really, really stark.

"For kids it can mean that they make choices in their life that really protect their families from any additional financial stress and it can also mean that they just don't have access to a whole lot of opportunities."

The Smith Family says the report is disheartening and shows Australia has a way to go before its lucky status can be justified.

In 2008, after the Bradley Review into higher education, the Government adopted a target of increasing the number of university students from poor families to 20 per cent. The latest report shows that the current level is hovering around 15 per cent.

Last week Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced new funding measures to help achieve the 20 per cent goal. Low income families will receive an extra $10,000 a year to encourage their teenage children to stay at school or in training.

Ms Field says it is a welcome first step. "It'll be interesting to see how that translates into take-ups," she said. "And it'll also be interesting to see what supports are available to help those kids to stay at university, because it's so much more difficult for kids whose parents are not in a position to support them financially."


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