Friday, October 28, 2011

Teacher‘s Union Offered Grant to Create ’Activists’ Out Of 1st & 2nd Graders

The National Education Association (NEA), the largest labor union in the country, offered a $5,000 Learning and Leadership Grant to two Wisconsin teachers who intended to use the funds to “help first and second grade students” become “activists.”

The description of the grant for teachers Andrea Burmesch and Tara Krueger of Muskego Elementary read:
Ms. Burmesch and a team of colleagues will develop a critical literacy inquiry based unit of study to help their first and second grade students understand the role that power plays in their lives. The teachers will learn how visual literacy and technology, particularly website and podcast development, can be used by students to create activist messages that make a positive difference in their lives and the lives of others. The students will create their messages around issues important to their lives.

The grant description is no longer available on the NEA Foundation website as Muskego-Norway Superintendent declined to accept the grant given its dubious language and intent. The following is a screenshot of the grant information while it was still available on NEA’s site:

Muskego Patch adds:
Muskego-Norway Superintendent Joe Schroeder responded to an inquiry from Belling, and immediately “upon inspection, I found a description of the grant that, while rooted in the development of critical thinkers and positive community members, was described with some very concerning language.”

Schroeder said he had specific concerns over “helping first and second grade students ‘understand the role that power plays in their lives’ in effort to ‘create activist messages’ is language that, especially under the umbrella of a national union’s grant foundation, can understandably raise concern.”
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He explained that those involved in the grant application process were spoken to, and Schroeder believed them “to be people of integrity who have a sincere interest in developing critical thinkers and positive, contributing members of our school and the larger community who were simply seeking additional funds in their service to students.”

Schroeder asserts that the teachers’ intent and meaning of “activism” differed from the obvious interpretation.

“I also told them that I believe the language of the grant description, especially within the context of a national union’s grant foundation, understandably can cloud their original intent. Upon review, they now understand that,” Schroeder added.

“To date, we have not collected one cent of this NEA grant — and will not do so. I have contacted the NEA office that we are declining the grant and, therefore, are requesting that they remove our approved grant from their website,” he said.

But if a glance at the NEA’s “Activist’s Library” is any indication, this is not the last time we will see attempts from the union to indoctrinate children and turn them into “activists.” The following books, including one from none other than Saul Alinsky, are listed on NEA’s site:

Rules for Radicals
Saul Alinsky, Vintage Books, 1989

The classic book about organizing people, written by one of America’s foremost organizers.

Organize for Social Change
Midwest Academy Manual for Activists
Third Edition, Kim Bobo et al, Seven Locks Press, 2001

This is one of the best books about collective action and putting the screws to decision-makers. It’s about winning battles.

Building More Effective Unions
Paul Clark, Cornell University Press, 2000

Penn State Professor of Labor Studies Paul Clark applies the latest in behavioral sciences research to creating more effective unions. His insights are both astute and highly practical.

The Trajectory of Change: Activist Strategies for Social Change
Michael Albert, SouThend Press, 2002

Z Magazine’s Michael Albert has assembled a collection of thoughtful articles on ways to overcome various obstacles to social change.

Roots to Power: A Manual for Grassroots Organizing
Lee Staples, Praeger, 1984

This is a good nuts and bolts guide to organizing. It is especially good on recruiting, developing action plans, executing them, and dealing with counterattacks.

Taking Action: Working Together for Positive Change in Your Community
Elizabeth Amer, Self Counsel Press, 1992

Written by a Toronto community activist, this book is easy to read, full of examples, and sprinkled with how-to-advice.

Organizing: A Guide for Grassroots Leaders
Si Kahn, McGraw Hill, 1981, Revised 1991

This book is well organized. You can find relevant material for your situation without reading the whole book.

Ethical Ambition: Living a Life of Meaning and Worth
Derrick Bell, Bloomsbury, 2002

A gem of a book that delves into the question of “Why become an activist?” It is both thought-provoking and energizing.

Soul of a Citizen: Living with Conviction in a Cynical Time
Paul Rogat Loeb, St. Martins Press, 1999

Provides solace for the activist‘s soul and juice for the activist’s battery


Mistakes by British examiners fuel rise in number of teens being given extra marks for High School exams

The number of teenagers receiving extra marks in their A-levels and GCSEs rose this summer, fuelled by the mistakes in exam papers, figures show. The mistakes ranged from wrong answers in a multiple choice paper to impossible questions and printing errors.

Around 372,300 requests were made for 'special consideration', up 13 per cent on 2010, says exams watchdog Ofqual. Almost of all these - 354,200 in total - were approved.

Pupils can be awarded up to an extra 5 per cent of the maximum mark for a paper depending on their special circumstances. The maximum 5 per cent is usually awarded in 'exceptional cases', for example, if a candidate recently suffered the death of a close family member.

But around 2 per cent of the marks available can be awarded to a candidate who suffered a minor illness, such as a headache, on the day of the exam.

A separate report from the watchdog, also released yesterday, shows teenagers were caught cheating more than 3,600 times this summer. The most common offence was smuggling banned items, such as mobile phones, calculators, dictionaries or study guides, into the exam hall. The second most common type of offence was plagiarism, failure to acknowledge sources, copying or collusion, the report found.

In half of cases (51 per cent) students lost marks, and in nearly a fifth of cases (19 per cent) pupils lost the chance to gain a qualification. In almost a third of cases (30 per cent) candidates were issued with a warning. In total, 3,678 penalties were issued to candidates in England, Wales and Northern Ireland during the June 2011 exam series, down 11 per cent on last year.

Ofqual said the series of blunders in this summer's GCSE and A-level exams also accounted for part of the rise in special consideration requests.

It has been suggested that around 100,000 students were affected by around 12 mistakes in GCSE, AS and A-level papers set by five exam boards in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Ofqual chief executive Glenys Stacey said: 'The figures show an increase in applications for special considerations. 'We know that the exam paper errors account for some of this increase because special considerations were part of the redress arrangements put in place by the awarding organisations.

'We do wish now to explore further with the awarding organisations the details behind this year's figures, particularly the relationship with the exam paper errors. 'Our inquiry is ongoing and we will publish a final report before the end of the year.'

Ministers have also announced plans to give Ofqual the powers to fine exam boards that make mistakes.

Toni Pearce, National Union of Students (NUS) vice-president for further education, said: 'The large number of exam errors in the summer were unacceptable and these figures begin to show the huge disruption they caused.

'Young people should be able to sit exams confident that they will be a true test of their ability and exam boards must make sure that real improvements are made in time for next year's exams.

'The anxiety and uncertainty caused by knowing that someone else's mistake may have had a detrimental effect on a young person's exam performance is unacceptable and we look forward to the results of Ofqual's scrutiny of this year's failures.'


'Mickey Mouse' courses to be axed from British league tables

Thousands of so-called “Mickey Mouse” courses are being cut from school league tables under a government drive to restore rigour to the education system.

Currently about 7,000 vocational qualifications are counted in official school performance tables, a fact that has led to head teachers allegedly entering pupils for “soft” courses to boost their school’s position in the highly competitive rankings. Ministers have published “strict new rules” designed to ensure that only the most rigorous vocational qualifications can be counted in league tables in future.

Over the past decade, courses in cake decoration and hairdressing were allowed to be counted as “equivalent” to certain A-levels and GCSEs in official school tables. Labour education ministers insisted that vocational qualifications should be seen as of equal value to academic education, but critics argued that too many schools were choosing easier courses to boost their position in the league tables.

Under the current system, some vocational courses are worth multiple GCSEs, with a level 2 BTEC in “horse care” deemed to be equivalent to four GCSEs at grade C or higher. In future the number of vocational courses that will count towards a school’s league table result will fall to “a few hundred”.

Nick Gibb, the schools minister, said: “No pupil should be preparing for a vocational qualification simply to boost the school’s GCSE or equivalent score in the performance tables.

“These reforms will lead to a boost in the quality of vocational qualifications being taken and will enhance the opportunities for young people to progress.”

The number of qualifications judged to be eligible for inclusion in league tables has risen from 15,000 in 2004 to 575,000 last year.

Under the new rules, pupils will still be able to take existing vocational “equivalent” courses if they think they are the right option for their careers.

However, only those qualifications that meet the Department for Education’s new rules will be counted in official league tables ranking schools on their exam results from 2014.

In order to pass the test, vocational courses must offer pupils “proven progression” to a range of further study options, rather than sending teenagers into a dead end.

All courses must take up as much study time as at least one GCSE, and they will have to categorise results using a GCSE-style grading system of A* to G. This will exclude a range of qualifications that are short courses and offer simple pass or fail results. Ministers will publish the full list of courses approved for use in league tables early next year.

A government source said there had been a 3,800 per cent increase in the number of non-academic qualifications awarded to pupils since 2004.

“Under Labour, millions of children were pushed into non-academic qualifications that were of little value,” he said. “The Government is raising standards for all by allowing only the very best qualifications in the league tables and increasing the number of children doing the academic subjects that parents and universities value most.”


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