Friday, October 07, 2011

President’s third edujobs stimulus more opiates for addicts

The proposed $60 billion in education funds in President Barack Obama’s $450 billion jobs plan offers schools and teachers false hope and will cause them yet again to structure spending around fantasy. This will devastate schools far beyond the current cries over recession-era education cuts.

This proposal is at least the third federal schools Christmas since 2009, when Congress designated $115 billion of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (aka “the stimulus”) for education. In 2010, Obama signed a $10 billion “edujobs” bill. The current proposal designates $30 billion to stop layoffs or pay for existing teachers, $25 billion to remodel schools, and $5 billion for community college renovations.

The statistics show teacher jobs don’t need another taxpayer boost. The Census Bureau’s latest education statistics compilation, released in May 2011 using 2009 data, demonstrates a marked increase in public school teacher hiring while student enrollment has been flat. Full-time teacher employment increased 2.3 percent, by 137,175 jobs, in the 2008–2009 school year over 2007–2009.

Student enrollment increased a cumulative 0.7 percent from 2004 to 2009, while the K–12 teacher workforce increased 6.5 percent. Per-pupil spending increased 12.5 percent in that period, after adjusting for inflation, and spending on education employee salaries and benefits increased 27.5 percent.

All this happened while states and the federal government spent themselves into a severe fiscal crisis that will persist for the foreseeable future. If the discarded terror alert system applied to government budgets, we would all hide in our basements with water and radios for the next decade. Three trillion dollars in unfunded state pension liabilities is only the beginning. Those and other fiscal pressures – such as the spiraling, $15 trillion national debt and plunging property tax revenues due to the recession – mean education budgets will be strained for at least the next five years, says a 2010 American Enterprise Institute report. Yet the president’s bill requires recipient states to keep education spending at current or increased levels until 2013, apparently to ensure states commit suicide by budget bloat.

“Under current policies, the federal budget is quickly heading into territory that is unfamiliar to the United States and to most other developed countries as well,” said Douglas Elmendorf, director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, in a statement to legislators this week.

Continuing to stuff educators with money when neither taxpayers nor our governments have it is like pumping them full of cocaine. They might feel over the moon for a while, but the crash landing, hangover, and subsequent addiction will bring nothing but misery.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan testified before Congress in 2010 that $69 billion in ARRA money had saved 400,000 education jobs. That’s a grand total of $172,500 per job, which doesn’t sound much like savings. The president’s current bill allows schools to use funds they receive for any employee compensation, so there’s no reason these funds won’t displace schools’ current salary pools, allowing them to spike funds elsewhere, prudent or not. Large school districts across the country kept the 2010 edujobs funds in reserve to prevent later layoffs instead of immediately rehiring, The New York Times reported.

What schools, teachers, and taxpayers need now is a sobering look at reality so we can pull together to stop the insanity and make necessary, tough spending decisions we can no longer avoid. By encouraging schools and districts to continue shooting up, the president’s education jobs stimulus will only push them into further recklessness.


Big upset now British pupils are not allowed to cheat

In a report published today, Ofqual warned that the introduction of “controlled assessments” in England had led to a drop in the amount of teaching time and reduction in the number of school trips.

The watchdog said the new system had also led to “widespread concerns” among teachers who reported problems finding classroom space, equipment and chasing down absent pupils.

The conclusions come two years after coursework was axed in most GCSE subjects. Some 600,000 children a year are now banned from writing up assignments at home to stop them asking parents for help and using the internet to cheat.

They are required to complete projects in class under “controlled” exam-style conditions, supervised by teachers and with limited access to websites and books.

But Ofqual said that more than four-in-10 secondary school teachers found the changes difficult to implement, particularly those teaching French, geography and history.

“The amount of time taken up in each subject by controlled assessment, meant a narrowing of teaching, and fewer opportunities for activities such as off-site trips that deepen students’ understanding and interest,” the study said. “In several subjects the loss of teaching and learning time was the single biggest drawback to controlled assessment.”

Controlled assessment was introduced in September 2009 in subjects including business studies, classical subjects, economics, English literature, geography, history, modern foreign languages, religious studies and social sciences. Maths coursework was axed two years earlier.

As part of the move, assignments are set by examination boards rather than teachers to ensure tasks are more rigorous.

In today’s report, Ofqual surveyed more than 800 teachers and staged in-depth interviews with senior education officials. Although the move has led to a dramatic reduction in cheating, some one-in-five teachers complained that the change had coincided with a loss of teaching time in the final year of school.

The report also said the system had a “negative impact on pupil well-being” as it meant children were forced to sit additional exam-based assessments. Some schools now spread work over two years instead of one to reduce the workload.

Many teachers also cited logistical difficulties, the study said, with foreign language assessments proving particularly problematic because students were forced to prepare for oral French exams in silence.

The lack of clear guidance in how to deal with pupils who are absent on the day of assessments “threatens to undermine the reliability of the new assessment”, said Ofqual.

The report added: “The most commonly mentioned problem was limited resources and finding classroom space. Many teachers prefer students to write up their tasks using computers, which creates pressure on school ICT resources, and requires careful timetabling.”

Controlled assessment was introduced by Labour.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “In the longer term, we will review the proportion of controlled assessment within GCSEs. “We recognise the value of such assessment in certain subjects but will make sure we have the right balance between controlled assessments and external exams in each subject.”

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT union, said: “Ofqual’s evaluation of controlled assessment practice reveals further worrying evidence of unsustainable assessment practices in schools which must now be taken seriously by the Coalition Government.

“The report by Ofqual is right to point to the concerns that Controlled Assessments has reduced teaching and learning time in our schools and increased the burdens on teachers in ways which could seriously jeopardise pupils’ learning and educational progress.


Australian teachers forced to act like police after court ruling

Stupid f*ckwit female judge perverts the course of justice

TEACHERS could be forced to warn students as young as 10 about their legal rights before counselling them after a remarkable court decision.

A 14-year-old boy who confessed to his teacher that he robbed a service station and stabbed the attendant with a knife, has been acquitted after the District Court refused to allow the teacher's statement into evidence because he had not "cautioned" the boy.

The Daily Telegraph reported it could change the way teachers and students relate to each other. NSW Teachers Federation President Bob Lips combe said: "This is potentially very serious for teachers".

"Teachers are expected to provide advice, assistance and counselling to young people on a daily basis and during the course of that, many things are disclosed to teachers. Most are fairly insignificant but often there are matters disclosed that are quite significant and in such cases teachers have never been advised that they can only act on information if they have previously cautioned the student," Mr Lipscombe said.

The federation was taking urgent legal advice, he said. "No teacher in the course of their work would caution students in the way this case states," he said. "Clearly this teacher did think he was doing the right thing and acting responsibly."

The history teacher, who cannot be named because it may identify the 14-year-old student, was also the boy's year adviser.

Soon after the boy enrolled at the high school mid-term last year, the teacher asked him how his previous day had gone and whether he would be returning this year. The boy said that it depended on the outcome of his upcoming court appearance. "I held up a servo and stabbed the attendant ... but the police have nothing on me," the boy said, according to Judge Helen Murrell.

The teacher spoke to the principal who urged him to talk to the Juvenile Justice officer who had helped the boy get a place at the school. The police were told and the teacher made a statement.

The boy's lawyers argued that he "was not issued with a caution" and that telling police was a breach of trust by the school.

Judge Murrell said that from the teacher's perspective, there was no confidentiality when students disclosed criminal matters, however this teacher usually forewarned them that if they disclosed crimes, he might have to take it further because he wanted them to feel confident about talking to him.

In this case he hadn't done so because he had no idea what the student was going to say, she said. She found the admission, while voluntary, had been obtained "unfairly" and refused to admit the statement into the boy's trial, held two weeks ago in Queanbeyan.


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