Tuesday, September 27, 2011

No Child Left Behind is leaving all children behind

The federal education program No Child Left Behind is leaving behind the very children it was supposedly designed to help. The law dictates that all elementary and secondary school children in government-run public schools be “proficient” in reading and math by 2014, according to standards set by politicians and federal bureaucrats. According to President Obama’s secretary of education, most of the nation’s schools are on the brink of getting a failing grade. Nearly 80 percent of schools are in danger of losing their federal funding, leaving the children in their classrooms behind for “failing” to meet bureaucratic standards.

President George W. Bush came up with this program and a Republican Congress passed it in 2002. This is apparently one of the few failures President Barack Obama doesn’t blame on his Republican predecessors. The president and his Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have decided fix the problem by allowing states to do what some have already tried to do – opt out of the federal mandate.

So here you have yet another federal government program that is not only unconstitutional but also an utter and complete failure. Yet rather than admitting it’s a failure and ending the program, politicians and bureaucrats insist on trying to “fix it.” However, the alleged fix is just a subterfuge for imposing standards the administration had already written but couldn’t get Congress to pass. This is another example of the dictatorial style used by modern American presidents from both parties. It is a classic example of the ruling elites trying to conceal failure in a blatant attempt to simply save face and subvert the limits imposed by law and the Constitution to expand their power.

Several states had already tried to resist this latest federal intrusion into education. Utah’s legislature almost passed a law that said the state’s education standards trumped those of No Child Left Behind, but then backed off because the state could have lost $76 million in federal funding. Idaho, South Dakota and Montana said they’d ignore parts of the law. Michigan, Tennessee and Kentucky applied for waivers even before they were announced. All of these states were close to being labeled “failing.”

Given this trend, I think it is a good bet that a majority of the states will attempt to opt-out of this federal burden. However, the “waivers” Secretary Duncan will dangle in front of the states will come with the usual strings attached, making it difficult for states to actually obtain these waivers. As a result, it’s very likely that only those states with passing grades will be left subject to the law. This will so skew the grades that federal education apparatchiks will be able to finally declare that No Child Left Behind is a success.

In defending No Child Left Behind, President Obama was right about one thing. He said, “Making a promise to educate every child with an excellent teacher, that’s the right thing to do, that’s the right goal.” The issue is not whether or not we want our children to have excellent teachers and a first-rate education. Of course we do. The question is whether parents can, or should, rely on government to provide it, or rather assume the responsibility themselves. The libertarian answer to that question is clear: nothing as important as educating a child should be left to bumbling bureaucrats.

The No Child Left Behind bungle is another situation where a government-run public education system doesn’t get a passing grade, at any level. One out of every three students entering high school doesn’t graduate. Minority students are twice as likely as whites to drop out. Even students who get their diploma have the reading and math skills expected of middle school students in other nations.

The worst consequence of taking the responsibility for educating young minds from parents and bestowing it on the State is that the task is botched so horribly. Some children are educated quite well in a state-supported system but most barely receive an average level of education. And, far too many fall through the expansive cracks of society that are the floorboards of a bloated bureaucracy grown so large it has become impossible to keep track of everyone.

Government-run education is a twelve-year “cookie-cutter” factory system that treats everyone the same and produces more than its fair share of functional illiterates. Secretary Duncan admitted as much when he said, “”No Child Left Behind treated everybody the same, as interchangeable, and that just doesn’t make any sense to me.” I am glad he thinks so! It never has made any sense to me.

But that is what government programs inherently do. They are intentionally designed that way, to always threat everyone and everything “the same.” They cannot operate any other way. Deciding educational issue by majority vote inevitably results in “dumbing-down” what is taught. Children in government-run public schools are not educated, they are indoctrinated. These children are not trained to take charge of governing themselves; but rather, they are almost programmed to be willing taxpayers who obey a ruling elite.

A child’s first and most important teachers are his or her parents. What a child learns and where he or she learns it is a decision best made by parents, not politicians, bureaucrats or educational experts. The most important thing we can do for the education of our children is to return the responsibility for that education to whom it belongs, to parents.

We should also restore to parents the means to afford the best education possible for their children by eliminating the property taxes that support failing, government-run public schools and repealing the income tax. If parents want their child to pray in school, to learn evolution or creationism, get sex education or learn abstinence, and not be harassed by bullies, they should have the means and ability to choose the school that best meets these needs. They should be able to send their children to a school that conforms to their family values and standards, not the values and standards imposed by distant and detached education “experts.” If we really want to leave no child behind we will eliminate the political experts from the educational equation, because they have already proven they are unable to deliver what they promise.


Revolution! British High School students to be docked marks over bad spelling and grammar in exams

GCSE candidates face losing as much as 12 per cent of their marks for poor spelling, punctuation and grammar. The writing errors will be punished to inject rigour back into qualifications taken by 600,000 pupils a year.

‘Bite-sized’ modules will also be axed in favour of final exams under the reforms outlined yesterday by regulator Ofqual.

From next September, pupils taking English language GCSEs will be assessed for their grammar, spelling and punctuation.

Twelve per cent of the total marks will be given for demonstrating writing skills in these subjects.

English literature, geography, history, ancient history and religious studies will follow in 2013, with 5 per cent of the marks granted for accurate writing.

Pupils will also be expected to use specialist terms.

For two-year GCSE courses starting next year, all examinations will be sat in summer 2014. Pupils will no longer be able to resit exams in order to boost their marks, except in English and maths.

The consultation sets out plans to allow students who need these qualifications to retake them – from November 2013 onwards – so that they do not have to wait another 12 months for the opportunity. The reforms were announced by Education Secretary Michael Gove last year and included in the Department for Education’s White Paper.

Speaking in the summer, Mr Gove attacked the ‘culture of resits’ that had resulted from allowing students to keep taking modules until they achieved the desired grade.

He told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘The problem that we had is that instead of concentrating on teaching and learning, you had people who were being trained again and again to clear the hurdle of the examination along the way. ‘It’s a mistake and I think the culture of resits is wrong. ‘What we need to do is make sure, certainly at GCSE, that you have a clear two-year run.’

The consultation on the changes will run until November.

This year, nearly one in four exam papers – 23.3 per cent – were awarded a coveted A or A*, up from 22.6 per cent in 2010. While the pass rates were a record high for the 24th consecutive year, the annual increase of 0.8 per cent was small in relation to that seen in previous years. Experts said it signalled the end of relentless grade inflation, with pass rates expected to level out as early as next year.

They claimed the year-on-year increases have been fuelled by a lack of rigour in the exams.

The move effectively scraps the current system, which splits GCSEs into 'bitesize' units, with students assessed on these throughout the course.

Pupils will also no longer be able to re-sit exams in order to boost their marks. The only exceptions would be English and maths.


Torment of teacher cleared of sex attack claims: Accusations saw him barred from birth of son

Who'd be a male teacher in Britain?

A teacher cleared of sexually assaulting six pupils yesterday told of the agony of being ordered to live away from his wife and baby son.

Peter Wilson suffered the indignity of social workers attending the birth of his first child and making him swear he would not live with his family for the eight months it took to resolve the allegations.

Yesterday a jury took just 20 minutes to acquit him of all the charges, brought after girls at his primary school accused him of kissing them and touching their bottoms.

The 35-year-old said the allegations were ‘probably malicious’ – he had merely been trying to encourage the pupils with a clasp of the shoulder, a hug or a pat on the back.

He remains suspended from his job while the council carries out its own investigation. His 29-year-old wife Clare, a teacher at the same school, has also been barred because of her relationship to him.

After the case, Mr Wilson spoke of their ‘horrible ordeal’ and told of his delight at having his reputation restored. ‘The past 18 months or so have been the most stressful of my life and my wife’s,’ he said.

‘My greatest distress was that as a result of these unfounded allegations, social services were present at the birth of our first child and I was required to sign an agreement to say that I could not live in the same house as my wife and newborn baby.’

Mr Wilson was suspended from the school in Blackpool – which cannot be named for legal reasons – after two pupils reported him to a teacher. Other children gave similar accounts of him rubbing his hand down their backs or leaning close to them cheek to cheek before patting them on the bottom.

Mr Wilson was charged by police and released on bail on condition he had no unsupervised contact with under-16s.

The jury at Preston Crown Court heard he had been considered a well-liked and well-respected member of staff until his suspension.

Giving evidence, Mr Wilson broke down in the witness box as he denied gaining sexual gratification and insisted any touching was part of his job.

His barrister, Mark George QC, had told the jury: ‘Nowadays, it seems as if encouragement, a clasp of the shoulders, or a pat on the shoulders, or pat on the arm can be misunderstood and lead to someone like Mr Wilson becoming the subject of suspicion and a case of this sort.’ The teacher told police four of his accusers were lacking confidence and self-esteem and needed praise.

The jury yesterday cleared him of 11 counts of indecent assault relating to five girls. Earlier in the trial the jury was ordered by the judge to find him not guilty on three further counts in relation to another girl.

Mr Wilson, of Thornton Cleveleys, Blackpool, cried in the dock as he was cleared. He was supported in the public gallery by members of his family.

Last night Blackpool council said both Mr Wilson and his wife would remain suspended ‘ahead of an internal investigation following the conclusion of the court case’.

A spokesman for Lancashire County Council’s social services department said the authority could not comment on individual cases.


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