Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Chicago mess continues

The drumming for a longer school day in Chicago Public Schools grew in volume yesterday with City Council joining Mayor Emanuel and CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard in calling for extending the length of classroom time. With many of the aldermen in the Council backed by organized labor, the stand against the Chicago Teachers Union on the subject of a longer school day is seen by some as more than a token gesture intended to curry favor with the mayor.

14th Ward Ald. Ed Burke, one of organized labor's staunchest allies, said he's finding it harder to back CTU and their opposition to a longer school day.
"I’m starting to get embarrassed at the attitude of some leaders of organized labor,” Burke said.

“... The union is not trying to figure out a way to get this accomplished. They seem to be obstructing the end goal that so many people agree needs to happen.”

Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) said extending the school day by 90 minutes isn't enough and called for an even longer day to allow working parents to pick up their children without having to leave their jobs early.

The teachers union responded to City Council's move by formally filing a complaint with the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board, charging the four schools who waived their CPS contracts in exchange for a 2 percent pay raise and 90 more minutes of classroom time amounts to tampering. CTU President Karen Lewis said Emanuel's actions were a "declaration of war."
"This is an attempt to take down and make irrelevant the Chicago Teachers Union because if the CTU goes, they can roll over every union in the city.’’

The complaint calls for canceling the waivers of the contracts at STEM Magnet and Skinner North (Burke has four grandchildren attending Skinner) on the grounds non-CTU members were allowed to vote in "sham elections." A press release from the union sent out after City Council's statements repeated CTU's position they're in favor of a longer school day, but not solely for the sake of having one.
“The Chicago Teachers Union supports a longer school day if it’s also a better school day. Our concern is about quality not quantity. We do not want our teachers and paraprofessionals coerced and bullied into signing away their contractual rights in order to get the resources they sorely need,” the statement continued.

“The longer school day campaign is nothing more than a political gimmick based on lies, misinformation and half-truths,” the statement said.

The piling on CTU didn't stop with City Council. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, a former CPS CEO, said the school system deserves a "badge of shame" for having such a short school day and expressed his wishes for extending it when he was in charge. Duncan said he couldn't because the system "couldn't afford it" during his time as CEO.

CTU has been asking all along how CPS can move to extend the school day and give the teachers who break the contract with the school system raises if they can't afford their negotiated pay raises.


British couple send their kid to school in Albania -- because the local British school discourages learning of basic subjects

A couple have taken the extraordinary step in sending their six-year-old son to study in Albania - 1,321 miles away. Petrit and Juliette Muca are sending their eldest son Aleks to school in Eastern Europe - because he will have a better chance to master maths, science and reading there.

Mr Muca is originally from Albania while his wife is from Northampton where their son was born.

The couple, who now live in Sunderland, had enrolled their son at the nearby Benedict Biscop Primary which was described in an Ofsted report as 'good and improving.' However when their boy returned home from his first year at school, his mother Juliette noted that having initially loved books that he 'went backwards,' and hadn't made any progress in his quest to read.

She revealed: 'My complaint with the system - it's all about being creative. But children need to learn science, maths and reading.'

Britain is trailing in the World Economic rankings, and is now sat in 43rd place, but that comes as no shock to Mrs Muca who insisted: 'It doesn't surprise me. Labour created a system where kids get 10 A stars at GCSE - but what does that mean if everyone gets them.'

And now young Aleks will live with his father Petrit's parents and will study in Tirana where schools follow a more traditional set-up.

The couple who own a shop in the North East will spend £1,500-a-year on school fees as they bid to prevent their son from failing. Juliette added: 'It's a major sacrifice but we have to do what's best,' with Aleks set to return to England during the holidays.


Dumb Australian teachers: Errors in Queensland Core Skills test highlighted by students themselves

EUROPE is not a country! That's just one of the duh! messages a fed-up student has sent in a letter to the creators of the Queensland Core Skills tests who claim their tests are "world-class".

More than 30,000 Year 12s across the state recently sat the tests, which are used to help calculate overall position (OP) scores.

Infuriated by the "appalling standard" of testing, the student who declined to be named, insisted the Brisbane-based authority take a closer look at how many countries there are in the world. A multiple choice question claims there are 188. Much less than the current widely accepted 196.

One part of the student's complaint to the Queensland Studies Authority reads: "The unit included a graph plotting the 'number of countries' against 'global GHGs (%)'. The graph not only claims that there are 188 countries in the world but classified Europe as a country.

"Europe is a continent. It is widely accepted that there are about 196 countries in the world. Even if the whole of Europe is classified as one country in this graph, Europe has more than eight countries in it. It was frustrating to have to lower myself to the appalling standard of calling Europe a country in order to calculate an appropriate response."

These are just some of gripes in the long letter, which also questions the use of the word quote as a noun and argues the difference between the meaning of the word tone and tonality.

Social blogging site Tumblr was red hot last week with student post mortems on the tests.

A QSA spokesperson said in a statement that the QCS tests were of a world-class standard. He confirmed the graph used was 12 years old. The QSA statement said: "We have not been contacted by any school about perceived errors in the 2011 QCS Test."


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