Wednesday, December 14, 2011

CA: Minorities hit hardest in epidemic of expulsions

Lots of blacks obviously can't help their unacceptable behavior but that's no reason to allow them to inflict that behavior on others

As he waited for his first disciplinary appeal hearing to begin this fall, the sixth-grade student began sobbing.

He was barely 11 years old. He had been expelled again - for the rest of the school year – from his Bakersfield elementary school district, this time for alleged sexual battery and obscenity. The offense: “Slapping a girl on the buttock and running away laughing,” according to school documents.

The boy’s pro bono attorney, a retired FBI agent, was appalled. “This, on his record, puts him right up there next to the kid who raped somebody behind the backstop,” said Tim McKinley, who spent 26 years in the bureau, much of it locking up murderous members of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang.

For the boy’s local school board in Kern County, the punishment fits the crime. It upheld a panel’s initial approval of expulsion.

For McKinley, the discipline is dramatic overkill sure to prove counterproductive for both the child and the community at large.

These days such disagreements are hardly unusual. In California’s southern Central Valley, Kern County is at the leading edge of a contentious debate over where to draw the line in exacting school discipline. Teachers want a safe environment in which to teach. Parents want to know their children are secure and not getting bullied. And no-nonsense school districts in this conservative oil and agribusiness region are suspending and expelling students for a broad range of indiscretions.

Meanwhile, a national reform movement is growing, fueled by reports that suspension and expulsion policies are disproportionately targeting minorities, and doing more harm than good by killing kids’ attachment to school and putting many on a fast track to failure.

Roots of a trend

Since the 1970s, multi-day, at-home suspensions and long-term expulsions have been on the rise nationally, many of them meted out not for violence, but for lesser violations like insubordination, according to research by associates of the Civil Rights Project of the University of California at Los Angeles.

Punishment of minority students is rising especially rapidly, the researchers have found. Between 1973 and 2006, the percent of black students suspended at least once during their K-12 years grew from 6 to 15 percent nationwide while Latinos’ rate rose from 3 to almost 7 percent. White students’ rate grew more slowly, from about 3 to almost 5 percent.

A root cause for the rise in removal of students is fear, especially fear of gun violence. The 1994 Gun-Free Schools Act required each state – as a condition of federal funding – to enact laws mandating a year-long expulsion of any student caught with a firearm, with little local discretion to reduce the duration of the punishment.

The “zero tolerance” phenomenon accelerated after the shocking 1999 suicidal shooting spree by two students at Colorado’s Columbine High School, which killed 15 and injured 24.

Against that backdrop, state legislatures began adding more specific infractions that could lead to suspensions and expulsions. California lawmakers, for example, approved a law in 2008 barring students from using cell phones and email for “cyber bullying,” and this year voted to add social networks to that mix.

At the local level, school boards, administrators and individual schools began exercising their discretion more broadly in deciding how tough to be in their interpretation of behavior codes.


Leadership shortage as British schools struggle to recruit new head teachers

Schools are facing a leadership crisis as primaries and secondaries across England fail to recruit head teachers, according to a new report.

More than a third of primary schools and almost a fifth of secondaries struggled to find a head after advertising the position last year.

Roman Catholic schools are being left with the most acute shortages because they traditionally restrict recruitment to religious applicants.

Head teachers’ leaders blamed rising workloads, the target culture in schools and a real-terms cut in pay, saying that teachers were reluctant to take on the extra pressure of headship – despite the publication of official data earlier this year that showed 700 heads or deputies earned more than £100,000.

Russell Hobby, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the report showed “worrying trends in the school labour market at the very top level”.

“Headship is a wonderful job, with challenges and satisfaction in equal measure,” he said. “We want people to become heads and experience the unparalleled power to make a difference to young lives. Against this are the prospect of a 20 per cent real-terms pay cut over the next four years despite rising targets, longer hours, increasing threats of violence and lower job security.’’ Mr Hobby added: “We run the risk of running out of heads, with dramatic damage to the trend of school improvement.”

A report by Education Data Surveys analysed the recruitment of senior school staff in the 2010-11 academic year.

It found that about 36 per cent of primary head teacher positions had to be advertised more than once after failing to find a successful applicant the first time, compared with 34 per cent a year earlier. At the same time, some 19 per cent of secondary school jobs were advertised more than once – the same as 12 months earlier.

According to figures, the number of vacancies for deputy heads dropped, suggesting that existing deputies are remaining in the job for longer – and failing to aspire to top positions.

The report – which was commissioned by the NAHT – described the development as “very concerning”. “As existing deputies come closer to retiring, there is a real danger that schools will face even greater difficulty in recruiting head teachers in years to come if there is not an available and ample supply of deputy head teachers from which to draw candidates,” it said.

Earlier this year a government consultation document outlined plans to hand Britain’s brightest students £20,000 to train as teachers in an effort to improve standards. Under the reforms, graduates with first-class degrees would be eligible for the most generous bursaries to teach shortage subjects such as science and maths.

The plans were designed to raise the profile of the teaching profession amid fears that English state schools were falling behind those in other developed nations.

Ministers also signalled their intention to train more students in schools – instead of universities – in a move seen as an attack on the Left-wing teaching establishment.

Under the strategy, student teachers will be expected to display better standards of English and maths before being allowed to qualify – scrapping a rule that gives trainees unlimited attempts to pass basic tests in the three-Rs.

The Government will also attempt to encourage former Armed Forces personnel into the classroom with the establishment of a new “Troops to Teachers” programme.


Public vs. private school: Which is better?

The following rather amusing and clearly biased defence of Australian public schools relies heavily on the fact that public schools have to take ferals. She seems to think that is a point in their favour. But that is very much a major reason why 39% of Australian parents send their kids to private High Schools!

The eternal question rears its ugly head [Ugly to whom?]: Do private or public schools provide the best education?

The research published in The Australian Economic Review released last week uses NAPLAN results to report that private schools produce better results than government schools, even once differences in student background are taken into account.

This is hardly surprising news. For some years more and more parents have been flocking to private schools based on the assumption that they produce "better" academic outcomes than their public counterparts.

But the study wasn't intending to generalise about the success of private education but rather to examine student performance on the NAPLAN test when socioeconomic status is not a factor. By the researchers' own admission they didn't take into account the discrepancies in funding and the needs of the students.

Here's some more unsurprising news: private schools are able to provide their students with better resources and more access to technology because they have more money. And on the whole private schools take fewer students with special needs, fewer indigenous students and fewer students whose first language is not English.

Meanwhile, public education cater for all, including high and low-achieving students. They are required to keep students with behavioural difficulties within the system until they're 17 and students with disabilities or learning difficulties are accommodated and provided with support.

Even when taking socio-economic status out of the equation, public and private schools have widely differing student bodies. Comparing their literacy and numeracy results is like comparing apples and oranges, and expecting them to taste similar.

Public education enrols the vast majority of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, yet operates on a budget that's close to 70 per cent of independent schools.

It's actually extraordinary what they do. If the MySchool website was to report individual students' literacy and numeracy improvement from test to test it would find that government schools far outperform private schools.

And while private schools have higher rates of students finishing year 12 and send proportionally more students to university, internal [unpublished?] research from Melbourne University shows that it is students from public schools who perform better in their first year of university, as they are required to be self-motivated and apply high levels of self-discipline while at school.

But NAPLAN doesn't report on students' independent study skills or self-discipline. These are also qualities usually developed in the high school years, but the research from The Australian Economic Review reported only on year 3 NAPLAN results.

In fact, the performance of public school students at university shows that the "real world" is the great leveller. When they're not being propped up by extra resources or facilities, the performance of public school students is equal to that of a student hailing from the private sector. [More precisely, a student who has SURVIVED the public sector]

But the purpose of school is not to get every member of society a university degree, and tertiary study is certainly not for everyone. The vast majority of school-leavers take other worthy paths, which include TAFE, apprenticeships or employment, all of which are encouraged as viable options in public schools.

Academic success can be measured in different ways. The fact is that NAPLAN and its partner in crime [Measuring student knowledge is a "crime"??], the MySchool website, reports on one narrow facet of education. Yes, literacy and numeracy are very important factors in a child's education, but they represent a small piece of the puzzle.

Parents who choose to send their children to public schools needn't necessarily think that they are getting a second-rate service. Public education produces commendable results given that its purpose is to educate the whole spectrum of students, regardless of their ability, special needs or their capacity to pay fees.

Public schools do extremely well to meet the individual needs of the 71 per cent of Australian school students who attend them, particularly considering that Australia is ranked towards the bottom of the OECD in terms of spending on public education.

But as long as NAPLAN is used as the sole measure to report academic "success", the myth of a failing public education system will continue to be perpetuated.


1 comment:

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