Saturday, October 22, 2011

Occupy Philadelphia Protesters Force Cantor to Cancel Speech‏ at University of Pennsylvania

The closed minds of the Left again

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor abruptly canceled an economic speech at the University of Pennsylvania after learning his Friday address was likely to be packed with Occupy Philadelphia protesters.

Cantor (R-Va.) was expected to address the issue of income disparity in a speech titled “A Fair Shot at the American Dream and Economic Growth” at the university’s Wharton School of Business, according to The Hill. He reportedly canceled it just three-and-a-half hours beforehand.

Occupy Philadelphia, the city’s offshoot of the ongoing Occupy Wall Street movement, had planned an “Occupy Eric Cantor” demonstration and march, according to the group’s Facebook page. They planned to march from City Hall to the campus to protest Cantor.

A Cantor spokeswoman said the last-minute cancellation was because the school couldn’t guarantee the previously set attendance policy.

“The Office of the Majority Leader was informed last night by Capitol Police that the University of Pennsylvania was unable to ensure that the attendance policy previously agreed to could be met,” Cantor spokeswoman Laena Fallon told The Hill. “Wharton is a educational leader in innovation and entrepreneurship, and the Majority Leader appreciated the invitation to speak with the students, faculty, alumni, and other members of the UPENN community.”

Cantor said earlier this month he was “increasingly concerned about the growing mobs occupying Wall Street and the other cities across the country.” He later walked back those remarks, saying the frustration they represent is “warranted.”

As news spread of the cancellation, Occupy Philadelphia celebrated on its Twitter account with the post: “#Winning. #OccupyPhilly.” It also changed its plans from a protest against Cantor to a “March for Integrity.”


Our 'obviously incapable' teachers: Britain's new chief schools inspector takes aim at staff who do the bare minimum

Schools are being failed by ‘obviously incapable’ teachers who get away with doing the bare minimum, Ofsted’s new chief inspector has warned.

Sir Michael Wilshaw said it was ‘pretty straightforward’ to identify weak staff by looking at consistently poor behaviour or teaching standards. But a ‘more pressing issue’ was ‘the teacher who just does enough and no more than enough, who year in year out just comes up to the mark, but only just, and does the bare minimum’.

Sir Michael, who takes up his Ofsted post in January, said the quality of teaching ‘has to improve’ and the problem of ‘coasting’ teachers had to be addressed if there were to be more ‘outstanding’ schools.

Ofsted’s last annual report revealed that only around half of lessons were good or better. ‘That is a key issue. It has to be much higher than that,’ said Sir Michael, 65, who is the feted head of Mossbourne Community Academy in Hackney, East London.

His comments are likely to cause disquiet within the profession, which was warned by former Ofsted chief Sir Chris Woodhead in 1996 that there were ‘15,000 incompetent teachers’ in the system.

Asked by the Times Educational Supplement if he was taking Ofsted back to Woodhead-style ‘teacher bashing’, Sir Michael said teaching was a ‘noble profession’ but some teachers were letting it down. He added: ‘The great majority are very professional people who do their best. But in any large body of people there are going to be people that are not very good, and that has to be recognised.

‘It is really important to tell the truth and if there is an issue of poor teaching in our schools it is really important that [the chief inspector] talks about it in a very clear unequivocal manner.’

Sir Michael has previously said head teachers can be divided into those who are ‘fairly mediocre’ and don’t challenge the performance of pupils and staff, and ‘good’ ones who do.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he insisted head teachers should challenge staff who were not up to standard. He said: ‘What we’ve got to do in schools is ensure there are strong performance management systems.... to identify not just the hopelessly ineffective and incompetent teacher, but also those that are coasting and letting children down.’

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said he was concerned about the ‘focus’ of Sir Michael’s comments and the balance they struck between emphasising weaknesses and strengths.

Sir Michael, who has been a teacher for 42 years, including 25 as a head, is credited with turning the Mossbourne academy into one of England’s best-performing schools.

Sir Michael has also revealed his Ofsted contract could be shorter than the five years served by his predecessor. Sources suggest it could be as little as two years.


Australia: A thirst for knowledge of ancient history and religion in NSW schools

Rev. Peter Kurti

Rising levels of school retention rates have contributed to record enrolments for this year’s HSC exams, with nearly 23,000 students taking part.

But some interesting and surprising trends have emerged from these figures. While the sciences have held steady according to the NSW Board of Studies, some subjects are fading in their appeal.

Interest in geography has declined steadily since 1998; the same trend can be seen in modern history, economics and information technology, according to figures from the Board of Studies.

It seems that students are now reaching further back into the story of early human civilisation, with ancient history studies increasing in popularity. Only 6,740 students opted for the topic in 1995 – in 2010, that figure doubled to 12,269.

Religion has also surged in popularity with a mere 4,834 students sitting the exam in 1995. Fast forward to 2010 and that figure had risen to 14,182.

Not that The Sydney Morning Herald considered it necessary to mention this, let alone its significance, in a recent article about the changing mindset of students.

According to the NSW Board of Studies, ‘religion has been and is an integral part of human experience and a component of every culture,’ and the increased enrolments suggest students are increasingly aware of this fact.

Through the study of religion, students are gaining an appreciation of society and how it has influenced human behaviour in different cultures. And they seem to be thinking this through for themselves. Perhaps they have also grown weary of sneering secularism and the postmodern scepticism about religion in popular culture.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Class Size: What Research Says and What it Means for State Policy on Education

Even the Brookings Institution says below that smaller class sizes are a dubious investment

Class size is one of the small number of variables in American K-12 education that are both thought to influence student learning and are subject to legislative action. Legislative mandates on maximum class size have been very popular at the state level. In recent decades, at least 24 states have mandated or incentivized class-size reduction (CSR).

The current fiscal environment has forced states and districts to rethink their CSR policies given the high cost of maintaining small classes. For example, increasing the pupil/teacher ratio in the U.S. by one student would save at least $12 billion per year in teacher salary costs alone, which is roughly equivalent to the outlays of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the federal government’s largest single K-12 education program.

The substantial expenditures required to sustain smaller classes are justified by the belief that smaller classes increase student learning. We examine “what the research says” about whether class-size reduction has a positive impact on student learning and, if it does, by how much, for whom, and under what circumstances. Despite there being a large literature on class-size effects on academic achievement, only a few studies are of high enough quality and sufficiently relevant to be given credence as a basis for legislative action.

The most influential and credible study of CSR is the Student Teacher Achievement Ratio, or STAR, study which was conducted in Tennessee during the late 1980s. In this study, students and teachers were randomly assigned to a small class, with an average of 15 students, or a regular class, with an average of 22 students. This large reduction in class size (7 students, or 32 percent) was found to increase student achievement by an amount equivalent to about 3 additional months of schooling four years later.

Studies of class size in Texas and Israel also found benefits of smaller classes, although the gains associated with smaller classes were smaller in magnitude than those in the Tennessee STAR study. Other rigorous studies have found mixed effects in California and in other countries, and no effects in Florida and Connecticut.

Because the pool of credible studies is small and the individual studies differ in the setting, method, grades, and magnitude of class size variation that is studied, conclusions have to be tentative. But it appears that very large class-size reductions, on the order of magnitude of 7-10 fewer students per class, can have significant long-term effects on student achievement and other meaningful outcomes. These effects seem to be largest when introduced in the earliest grades, and for students from less advantaged family backgrounds.

When school finances are limited, the cost-benefit test any educational policy must pass is not “Does this policy have any positive effect?” but rather “Is this policy the most productive use of these educational dollars?” Assuming even the largest class-size effects, such as the STAR results, class-size mandates must still be considered in the context of alternative uses of tax dollars for education. There is no research from the U.S. that directly compares CSR to specific alternative investments, but one careful analysis of several educational interventions found CSR to be the least cost effective of those studied.

The popularity of class-size reduction may make it difficult for policymakers to increase class size across the board in order to sustain other investments in education during a period of budget reductions. In that context, state policymakers should consider targeting CSR at students who have been shown to benefit the most: disadvantaged students in the early grades, or providing a certain amount of funding for CSR but leaving it up to local school leaders on how to distribute it.

In settings where state mandates on maximum class size are relaxed, policymakers need to bear in mind that the effect of any increase in class size will depend on how such an increase is implemented. For example, a one-student increase in the pupil/teacher ratio in the U.S. would reduce the teaching workforce by about 7 percent. If the teachers to be laid off were chosen in a way largely unrelated to their effectiveness, such as seniority-based layoffs, then the associated increase in class size might well have a negative effect on student achievement. But if schools choose the least effective teachers to let go, then the effect of increased teacher quality could make up for some or all of the possible negative impact of increasing class size.

State resources for education should always be carefully allocated, but the need to judiciously weigh costs and benefits is particularly salient in times of austere budgets. Class-size reduction has been shown to work for some students in some grades in some states and countries, but its impact has been found to be mixed or not discernable in other settings and circumstances that seem similar. It is very expensive. The costs and benefits of class-size mandates need to be carefully weighed against all of the alternatives when difficult decisions must be made.


British High School passes soar by 23% over 15 years as grade inflation runs rampant

Rampant grade inflation has apparently continued unchecked for yet another year as rising numbers of teenagers were awarded good GCSE grades. Official figures show 23 per cent more youngsters had good GCSE pass rates this summer compared with 1995/96.

This is the equivalent of an additional 150,000 teens reaching the government benchmark of five C grades or higher at GCSE, including English and maths. In the past year alone, the number of pupils who achieved the benchmark (58.3 per cent) represented a year-on-year increase of 4.5 per cent.

The astonishing figures from the Department for Education show the extent to which GCSE pass rates ballooned under the last Labour government.

And in another twist, just one in six pupils – 16.5 per cent – gained at least a C in the traditional disciplines of English, maths, languages and either history or geography, meaning teenagers are shirking rigorous, academic subjects required by leading universities and many employers. It suggests the Labour culture of schools steering teenagers towards 'soft' courses to improve league table rankings has continued apace.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said urgent action was needed to tackle grade inflation, and pupils and schools should expect exam results to drop in the next few years. Exam boards had made exams too easy, he added.

And Schools Minister Nick Gibb launched a scathing attack on schools for failing to ensure pupils sat core subjects. He said: 'It is a scandal that four-fifths of our 16-year-olds did not take the core academic GCSEs that universities and employers demand – when far more are capable of doing so. 'Parents across the country rightly expect that their child will receive a broad and balanced education that includes English, maths, science, a language and history or geography. 'Sadly, all too often it is the pupils from the poorest backgrounds who are denied this opportunity.'

Yesterday's damning data is based on GCSE results awarded this summer, and follows research from Durham University showing a 'U' in maths in 1998 is now equivalent to a B grade.

Meanwhile, research by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development reveals that England has tumbled down international league tables in the past nine years, going from seventh to 25th in reading, eighth to 28th in maths and fourth to 16th in science.


Dozens of British universities to cut fees after threat to slash student places

At least 28 universities and colleges plan to cut tuition fees to £7,500 or lower for students starting next year, it emerged last night. They have been granted a two-week window to reduce fees they have already set - amid fears they could lose hundreds of places if they fail to act.

The last-minute changes - which will cause confusion among the tens of thousands of teenagers who have already submitted university applications - have been triggered by a Coalition plan to discourage institutions that attract lower calibre students from levying the highest fees.

Ministers will take away places from institutions that want to charge more than £7,500 but which take on students with A-level grades lower than 'AAB'.

After ministers raised the cap on tuition fees from around £3,000 to £9,000 a year, more than a third of universities set their fees at the upper limit. The Coalition had budgeted on only a minority of the elite universities charging £9,000.

But the larger-than-expected fees horrified ministers as they are funded initially by the Government-backed Student Loans Company – and the bill runs to billions of pounds. As a result, institutions which charge the top price but attract students with grades of less than ‘AAB’ will lose places.

The freed-up places will then be pooled, with only those institutions charging £7,500 a year or less able to bid for a share of them.

Research suggests many lesser universities stood to lose up to 8 per cent of their places. Institutions now have until November 4 to submit revised plans to the Office of Fair Access. Offa said yesterday that 28 universities have expressed an interest in submitting revised plans for 2012, but it refused to reveal names.

It must inform institutions whether applications have been successful by November 30. The deadline is tight as students have only until January 15 to submit university applications.

Toni Pearce, vice-president of the National Union of Students, said last night: ‘The Government’s incoherent and unsustainable changes to higher education funding are continuing to wreak havoc on students and universities as ministers realise that they failed to do their sums properly.’


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Don't worry if your child fails to make the grade at age 11: Teens' IQs 'can leap during adolescence'

It has long been known that IQ does not peak until about age 16 so it is hard to see what's news below. What would be news would be if relative positions had changed drastically but that does not seem to be reported. If some relative positions changed, race would have to be held constant in examining that as blacks both mature younger and peak in IQ (at a lower level) younger.

No journal is cited as the source of this study so it may well be a trial balloon that has not yet passed peer review. The author does not list the paper in her CV

If your teenager is struggling at school, don’t write off their chances of academic glory. Researchers have found they could still turn out to be the next Einstein because IQs can change significantly during adolescence.

In some cases, they can go up by more than 20 points – the difference between an above-average score of 120 and a highly gifted child at 140 – though they can also fall by up to 18 points.

University College London researchers tested pupils between the ages of 12 and 16 in 2004, with scores ranging from 77 to 135. Four years later, scores were between 87 and 143, but with some major changes in individuals.

Not only was there a significant change in written tests but brain scans confirmed those who had improved their score had more grey matter. The tests suggest children who perform poorly at school in their early teens may still be high-achievers.

Researchers measured each person’s verbal IQ using standard tests in maths, English, memory and general knowledge, and also their non-verbal IQ, measured by identifying missing elements of a picture and solving visual puzzles.

In brain scans, increases in verbal IQ were accompanied by an increase in grey matter in the part of the brain which is activated when you articulate speech, called the left motor cortex. A rise in non-verbal IQ saw more grey matter develop in the anterior cerebellum – associated with hand movements.

Sue Ramsden, who lead the study, said: ‘We found a clear correlation between this change in performance and changes in the structure of their brain and can say with some certainty that these changes in IQ are real.’

Meanwhile, Professor Cathy Price told the journal Nature: ‘We have a tendency to assess children and determine their course of education relatively early in life, but here we have shown that their intelligence is likely to be still developing.’

A recent study, also by UCL neuroscientists, found a part of the brain called the hippocampus which plays an important in memory and navigation is far denser in the brains of London taxi drivers than other people.

Prof Price recently showed people in Columbia who grew up in remote areas and had learned to read as adults had a higher density of grey matter in several areas of the brain than those who had not learned to read.


The EduJobs III Bailout

Michelle Malkin

One of my son's Suzuki violin teachers had a wise twist on an old saying: "If at first you don't succeed, try something else." The corollary? "When you do succeed, don't stop. Do it again." The White House could use some remedial Suzuki lessons in economics. They've got everything completely bass-ackward.

In February 2009, President Obama signed the trillion-dollar American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Nearly $115 billion was earmarked for education. The stimulator-in-chief's crack team of Ivy League economists predicted the law would hold the jobless rate under 8.5 percent.

The actual unemployment rate in October 2009 skyrocketed to a whopping 10.2 percent.

In August 2010, President Obama went back to the well. With deep-pocketed public employee unions by his side, he lobbied hard for the so-called "EduJobs" bill -- $26 billion more to bail out bankrupt states, school districts and public hospitals. Nearly half went to teachers, whose unions raked in an estimated $50 million in rank-and-file dues as a result. Obama's economists had promised the jobless rate would be down to 7.9 percent by then.

The actual unemployment rate in August 2010 was 9.6 percent.

Now, after the Senate rejected President Rerun's latest half-trillion-dollar stimulus proposal, Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are pushing for a "mini" $30 billion union jobs package for teachers (with $5 billion to mollify police and firefighters unions). In addition to funding fantastical green school construction jobs (earmarked for unionized-only contractors in an industry that is 85 percent nonunion), the EduJobs III bill will purportedly "save" 400,000 education jobs at an average cost of nearly $80,000 per job. Those will be paid for with a 0.5 percent surtax on millionaires. The job-savings estimates come from the same economic wunderkinds who predicted the jobless rate today would be 7.1 percent.

The actual unemployment rate reported this month is 9.1 percent. While the White House decries layoffs, the inconvenient truth is that the EduJobs III union payoff is a drop in the bucket compared to the millions laid off in the private sector. According to official government statistics, the share of the eligible population now holding a job has sunk to 58.1 percent, the lowest since July 1983.

So, where did all the original EduJobs money go? One survey by the Center on Education Policy found that much of the cash went to bolster fringe benefits and administrative staff. The Fordham Institute's education analyst Chris Tessone noted: "There is no reason to expect anything but business as usual from another round of subsidies. ... More subsidies just protect the status quo at great expense to taxpayers."

While strapped, reckless-spending school districts bemoan the edge of the federal "funding cliff," another chunk of the EduJobs money went to states that didn't even need it -- and had kept their teacher payrolls full through responsible fiscal stewardship. As education journalist Chris Moody reported last summer, states including North Dakota, Tennessee, Arkansas and Alaska whose budgets are in the black received tens of millions in superfluous school subsidies. "Arkansas," Moody found, "has a fully funded teaching staff for the coming year, but the state will still receive up to $91 million for teaching jobs."

In Alaska, school districts had already made hiring decisions for teachers and apportioned the children in each class based upon those numbers. Nevertheless, to fulfill their teachers union-pandering mission, Obama showered the state with $24 million under the bill -- money that a state education bureaucrat acknowledged "probably would not go to adding new teachers."

Other states, such as Illinois and West Virginia, raked in hundreds of millions more in EduJobs dough even though they hadn't yet burned through 2009 education stimulus money. In fact, a total of 20 states and the District of Columbia have spent less than 5 percent of their allotments, according to Education Week magazine.

An Obama education official helpfully suggested that the unneeded money be spent on "on-campus therapists" instead.

Many other school districts failed to heed warnings against binging on full-time hiring sprees with temporary funding. Education Week reported this spring that the New Hanover County (N.C.) school district used $4.8 million in short-term EduJobs money to fund 88 teaching positions, in addition to more than 100 classroom slots funded with 2009 stimulus tax dollars. Obama and the Democrats blame meanie Republicans for the fiscal emergencies these districts now face.

But who devoured the Beltway candy instead of eating their peas? Washington rewards bloated school pensions, Taj Mahal construction outlays and chronic local education budget shortfalls by pouring more money down their sinkholes. Instead of incentivizing fixes, politicians -- dependent on teachers union campaign contributions and human shield photo-ops -- incentivize more failure.

The solution to this vicious cycle of profligacy? It's elementary: Try something else.


UN Schools Face Palestinian Heat for Trying to Teach Holocaust

A new report by MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute, describes a “fiery debate” between the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) and the Palestinian teachers it employs over the agency’s attempt to teach about the Holocaust to the 220,000 children in its Gaza schools.

The report quotes one Palestinian group calling Holocaust studies “a lie fabricated by Zionists” and a Hamas legislator labeling teaching it a “war crime.”

Trying to calm Palestinians protests, then head of UNRWA in Gaza said two years ago the Holocaust would be taught alongside studies about the Palestinian “Nakba” – the 1948 “catastrophe” of the founding of the State of Israel. (Raising the question: was a UN official suggesting a moral equivalency between the Nazi murder of six million Jews and the experience of Palestinians when seven Arab armies refused to recognize the new Jewish State and instead launched war on Israel?)

MEMRI describes UNRWA’s efforts in its refugee camps in Jordan which haven’t fared much better: "In early 2011, UNRWA announced plans to add Holocaust studies to the curriculum of its schools in Jordan, as well, but in light of opposition from teachers there and their threats to step up the protest against it, the organization backed down."

Palestinians aside, the UN agency is facing a bigger image problem on Capitol Hill.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee last week approved a bill which among its de-fund-the-UN-provisions threatens to cut off U.S. aid entirely from UNRWA for activities which the legislation says contradict American values and foreign policy priorities.
Click here to find out more!

According to its website, UNRWA protects and advocates for some five million registered Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza, “pending a solution to their plight.” Services include education, health, and social services in Palestinian refugee camps.

The House bill would prohibit further U.S. funding – to the tune of $230 million per year – of UNRWA until it: “vets its staff and aid recipients via U.S. watch lists for ties to Foreign Terrorist Organizations; stops engaging in anti-Israel propaganda and politicized activities; improves its accountability and transparency; and stops banking with financial institutions under U.S. designation for terror financing or money laundering.”

UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness wrote in The Huffington Post in August that: “UNRWA imposes the strictest standards of neutrality on its staff, beneficiaries, suppliers and installations that go well beyond those of many comparable organizations and even governments” and that “every six months, staff names are checked against the UN 1267 Sanctions Committee list of terrorists and terrorist entities.”

With Hamas controlling Gaza and its trade unions, it’s questionable even with the best intentions how effective UNRWA can be in vetting its thousands of employees, many of whom are themselves refugees.

Former UNRWA general counsel James Lindsay provided an insider account of the organization last year accusing it of perpetuating the scourge of Palestinians’ refugee status when some are able to support themselves. “No justification exists for millions of dollars in humanitarian aid going to those who can afford to pay for UNRWA services,” he wrote.

Lindsay also criticized UNRWA officials for expressing anti-Israel political positions on the conflict, writing the agency should: "halt its one-sided political statements and limit itself to comments on humanitarian issues; take additional steps to ensure the agency is not employing or providing benefits to terrorists and criminals; and allow the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), or some other neutral entity, to provide balanced and discrimination-free textbooks for UNRWA initiatives.” “The United States, despite funding nearly 75 percent of UNRWA’s initial budget and remaining its largest single country donor, has largely failed to make UNRWA reflect U.S. foreign policy objectives.”

The Obama administration strongly opposes the House bill. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent a letter to the committee which according to Time warned: "that the legislation would severely limit U.S. participation in the world body, undercut U.S. interests and damage the security of Americans at home and abroad. “This bill would effectively cede American leadership, creating a void for our adversaries to fill,” Clinton wrote.

It appears UNRWA is trying to address some of the criticism, though with Hamas running Gaza, it’s unclear how successful those efforts can be. Earlier this month, thousands of Gaza teachers went on strike for the day to protest UNRWA suspending staffer Suhail Al-Hindi, the head of the Local Staff Union, a pro-Hamas body. Hamas sources told Reuters said the U.N. agency had accused Hindi of meeting with Hamas political officials. Reuters reported:

"Buses took some 7,000 teachers employed at UNRWA-run schools to U.N. headquarters in Gaza city where they held a sit-in, calling for an end to “UNRWA political punishment of employees”.

All this raises tough questions: however flawed, is UNRWA providing even a small mitigating force against radicalism exemplified in its efforts to teach the Holocaust and fire employees? Would U.S. interests be better served by leaving the education solely in the hands of Hamas? On the other hand, as long as Hamas runs Gaza, do Americans want to keep footing the bill for a troubled enterprise?


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Education makes a political comeback in Washington

After years on the political back burner, education is making a comeback in Washington, driven in large part by Democrats.

President Barack Obama has made saving teachers' jobs a key part of his effort to sell his $447 billion jobs package as he travels the country. Senate Democrats have made dramatic pleas to help schools with budget woes, and in a last-ditch effort to get at least part of the president's plan passed, a vote is expected soon on a section of the plan designed to save the jobs of teachers and first responders.

Separately, a Senate committee was to meet Wednesday to debate and amend the education law known as No Child Left Behind, one of the most significant efforts in the Senate to update the law since it was passed in 2002. Signaling some rare bipartisanship on Capitol Hill, Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., the top senators from their respective parties on education, announced agreement on the bill Monday.

But that agreement didn't satisfy the Obama administration, which voiced concern that the bill doesn't include a requirement that states and local districts develop plans for evaluating teachers and principals.

Last month, Obama announced he was frustrated that Congress hadn't fixed No Child Left Behind, despite widespread agreement that the 2002 law had flaws. He said he would allow states that met certain conditions to get around some of the provisions of the law. At least 39 states, in addition to the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have told the Education Department they intend to seek a waiver.

Republicans have scoffed at many of the Democrats' efforts. On Tuesday, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell likened the president's jobs plan to "bailouts" that perpetuate economic problems, not solve them. He said the "American people didn't send us here to kick our problems down the road, and they certainly didn't send us here to repeat the same mistakes over and over again — and then stick them and their children with the tab."

As for changes to No Child Left Behind, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., a former education secretary, said Monday that while he wasn't completely happy with the Harkin-Enzi bill, he planned to support passing it out of committee because if Congress didn't act, Education Secretary Arne Duncan would become a "waiver-granting czar" under Obama's plan.

Alexander said there was no reason Congress couldn't fix the law and send it to Obama by the end of the year before the first waivers are expected to be issued to states.

On the House side, a GOP-led committee has forwarded three bills that would revamp aspects of the law but has yet to fully tackle some of the more contentious issues, such as teacher effectiveness and accountability.

The White House has said that nearly 300,000 jobs in the education sector have been lost since 2008 and that Obama's plan would support the hiring or re-hiring of 400,000 educators.

When the president's plan was brought up in the Senate last week, not a single Republican senator supported it and it died.

Democrats then said they would bring up parts of it separately, starting with the plan to save teachers' and first responders' jobs. Focusing on the plights of students unable to take physical education and art classes and school districts that have moved to a four-day school week because of budget cuts could help to put a sympathetic face on the administration's jobs plan and make it harder for Republicans to attack.

Obama, at a stop Tuesday at Guilford Technical Community College in Jamestown, N.C., sought to sell his plan by emphasizing that budget problems could get worse for schools. "I hope that members of Congress are going to be doing a little bit of listening to teachers and educators," Obama said. "We have a tendency to say great things about how important education is in the abstract, but we don't always put our money where our mouth is, and it's absolutely critical right now to make sure that we don't see the kinds of cutbacks that we've been seeing."

In support of the president's jobs plan, labor unions were expected to give the White House a boost Wednesday by sending hundreds of teachers, police and firefighters to a rally on Capitol Hill.

Terry Madonna, a political science professor at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., said he thinks Obama recognizes the pinch states and local governments are feeling and genuinely believes that educators' and first responders' jobs need to be preserved.

Madonna added that there's no doubt Obama can help rally key constituent groups such as teachers unions to support his plan. Along the way, Madonna said, the president is helping to make an argument that will probably be key to his re-election campaign — that Republicans are obstructionists.

"I don't think there's any doubt that they have constituencies in unions, they have constituencies in school boards, they have constituencies in elected officials. You get a lot of potential political support from the folks who deliver these services," Madonna said. "So I think he gains a lot out of that."


British schools issued with discipline 'checklist' to boost behaviour

Teachers are being told to punish bad behaviour outside school and shop unruly children to their parents as part of a new crackdown on indiscipline.

Schools are being issued with a 43-point checklist designed to root out the worst offenders and ensure staff reward well-behaved children. The guide – sent to all state schools in England – says pupils should be expected to move around corridors and classrooms in an “orderly manner” at all times.

Heads are told to identify teachers failing to uphold good standards of behaviour and ensure staff set a decent example to children by remaining calm at all times, learning pupils’ names and greeting them as they enter and leave the classroom. In a key move, it also tells staff to display all school rules – and a list of sanctions – clearly in each classroom to establish proper boundaries.

Charlie Taylor, the Government’s new behaviour tsar, warned that a failure to consistently impose rules was one of the key causes of indiscipline in schools. It follows the publication of figures by Ofsted last year that revealed standards of behaviour were not good enough in almost a third of secondary schools and one-in-10 primaries. Indiscipline is also seen as one of the main causes of teachers abandoning the profession altogether.

Unveiling the guide, Mr Taylor, the head teacher of the Willows Special School in west London, said: “There are schools in some of the toughest areas of the country who are getting discipline right, however, some schools struggle with managing and improving behaviour.

“Often the problem is that they aren’t being consistent with their behaviour policy such as ensuring that punishments always happen every time a pupil behaves badly. “As a head teacher I know that where there is inconsistency in schools, children are more likely to push the boundaries.

“If a pupil thinks there is a chance that the school will forget about the detention he has been given, then he is unlikely to bother to turn up. If he gets away with it, the threat of detention will be no deterrent in the future.”

The guide – “Getting the Simple Things Right” – was drawn up following talks with heads of outstanding schools across England. Staff are urged to run through the checklist twice a day – in the morning and after lunch – to maintain consistent discipline standards.

The document – consisting of 22 tips for heads and 21 for teachers – places a strong emphasis on acknowledging decent behaviour. Heads are told to celebrate children’s successes and set up a system of rewards for the best pupils.

It also underlines the importance of keeping staff in check, including ensuring individual teachers remain calm and do not over-use rewards or punishments. The worst teachers should also be identified and monitored, it suggests.

Heads are told to personally patrol lunch halls and playgrounds and check buildings are clean and well maintained.

In a further move, it says staff should “check up on behaviour outside the school” and give “feedback to parents about their child’s behaviour”.


Australia: Employers want final High School exam geared to workforce

THE last two years of high school need to be rethought to better engage and prepare the three in four school leavers who are not headed to university, according to a review by the NSW Business Chamber.

Praising the NSW government's scrapping of the "out-dated" school certificate, the chamber said it presents the opportunity for a much wider-ranging review of years 11 and 12.

Specifically, the chamber is seeking more core subjects for the HSC, better quality vocational courses and minimum standards for literacy and numeracy.

"The business community has a vested interest in the education system providing the right training for young people. We want young adults, when they finish their education, to have developed the skills they need to succeed in the workforce," Paul Orton, the chamber's director of policy and advocacy, said.

"Frankly, this area is too important for the state government to accept the status quo. Now is the time to have a serious community debate about how we are performing as a state in helping senior secondary students prepare for life after school.

"The last time we reviewed the HSC was in the mid-1990s at a time when very few, if any, students had even seen or been on the internet."

A blueprint, Could Do Better, will be discussed at a roundtable of key stakeholders in Parramatta tomorrow.

The primary focus is to lift the rigour, breadth and quality of vocational courses offered within the school system. The blueprint says core subjects for the HSC should include subjects such as numeracy, personal development and career planning. The number and capacity of senior colleges, and the range of subject choices available to high school students, should also be expanded.

Tom Alegounarias, the president of the NSW Board of Studies, said he was keen to listen to employers but defended the HSC as a rigorous credential that serves students and business well.

"The challenge we are facing is to ensure that every student can operate at a very high level of literacy and numeracy. This reflects the changing nature of the Australian economy, and education needs to be responsive to it," he said.

"Literacy and numeracy are inherent in being able to do the HSC but employers are looking for more explicit recognition and we are looking to respond to that."

The chamber is looking for more seamless progression between entering the final years of schooling and emerging into the labour market with a trade or significant qualification. Nine out of 10 16- and 17-year-old students enrolled in a vocational program are taking courses the chamber says will not lead to a qualification "adequate for a 21st century labour market".

The blueprint argues that what is learnt needs to lead to a qualification that is valued in the labour market. "Young people in senior high school need to be treated as young adults rather than as young children, and have a learning environment that reflects this," it says.

Mr Orton said university graduates are vital, particularly those with higher level degrees. "But let's do a better job for those who don't go to university," he said.

"We don't want them doing time, so to speak. It would be much better for them to get as much out of it as they can so that they are better equipped for whatever they choose to do."


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The downside of online education

Better informed children aren't the only public benefit of education. Elite educational institutions put highly intelligent and motivated people into direct contact with each other. The friendships that people form at university, prep schools, or professional schools form the nucleus of later collaborations that change the world in profound ways. Larry and Sergey met at Stanford University before they built Google. Bill Gates and Paul Allen met at an expensive private high school before they built Microsoft. Many ventures in Silicon Valley are started by old college buddies.

Meanwhile techies largely see the education sector as an elitist, wasteful system that needs to be replaced as soon as possible by online learning applications. But if programmers manage to move education onto the internet through efforts like the Khan academy and Stanford's online classes, they will destroy a huge portion of the social benefit that education provides. The future Paul and Bill will be taking class in the comfort of their parents' homes, separated by the same silicon that connects them.

To create a full substitute for the legacy education system, crowds of creative, smart students have to be thrown together so that they are constantly absorbing, modifying, and emitting new ideas. Putting video lectures on a web page is awesome, but it isn't good enough.


People with similar interests can meet in other ways -- through hobby groups, for instance.

Paxman's attack on Britain's 'dreary educational establishment' that is erasing Empire from history

Jeremy Paxman has attacked ‘the dreary educational establishment’ for treating the British Empire as ‘irrelevant’. The Newsnight presenter is angry that a key part of British and world history spanning more than 400 years is not being taught in schools.

He said: ‘This great motive force of our country for so long is not even part of the school curriculum. ‘The dreary educational establishment has passed judgment. It was a bad thing, end of story. ‘“It’s irrelevant,” was the way one particularly benighted teacher put it to me.’

Paxman, 61, who also hosts University Challenge on BBC2, added: ‘It’s to the Empire that we owe our sense of ourselves as somehow special, our distrust of continental Europe, the Windsor family’s tenancy of Buckingham Palace, the tandoori restaurants and open-all-hours corner shops on our high streets, the high proportion of us who carry passports and much of the international work of British charities. ‘It has even changed the genetic make-up of the British people.’

Suggesting that Britain’s modern foreign policy had been shaped by the Empire, he said: ‘This may be the first American war in Afghanistan but it is the third British campaign there.

'And it’s not just our generals with backgrounds in regiments carrying prized battle honours from colonial wars all over the world.

‘This spring, David Cameron deployed the RAF to the one-time British territory of Libya. Tony Blair sent our troops to war six times, everywhere from the former British colony of Sierra Leone to Iraq, a country whose borders were largely drawn by the British archaeologist Gertrude Bell. And yet we persist in claiming that the Empire is behind us.’

Writing in this week’s Radio Times, the veteran broadcaster, whose latest book – Empire: What Ruling The World Did To The British – will form the basis of a BBC series next year, said: ‘The Empire is still all around us. The country we live in is an imperial creation.

‘Anyone born since the end of the Second World War has lived with nothing but imperial decline, as the flag has been run down all over the world. ‘But the marks of our own Empire are everywhere. ‘The British Empire has turned out to have a remarkable life after death. ‘Pretending we don’t need to think about it is just stupid.’


'Educational' TV for under-2s could stunt their development

This neglects to look at what the alternatives are. In some homes there will be not a lot going on and not a lot to do. In such homes TV and computers can provide stimulation that would otherwise be lacking

'Educational' television programmes aimed at the under-twos do nothing to stimulate them and could actually stunt their development, according to new guidelines on the subject.

Paediatricians say there is "no evidence" that television programmes for the under-twos, marketed as educational, actually help them intellectually or socially, because they simply cannot understand them.

Watching television merely gets in the way of activities that such young children do understand, and do benefit them - most notably free play and engagement with other people.

DVD products such as Baby Einstein are marketed squarely on the premiss of educating babies and toddlers, while there are numerous British-made programmes, such as In the Night Garden, aimed at the age range.

While it is not presented as specifically educational, the popular BBC programme includes simple repitition of numbers and phrases that could be regarded as such.

Researchers said that children under two learn nothing from TV but watching too much can slow their speech development, making them behave badly.

They said parents were too quick to accept the educational value of a TV programme without actually checking if their children will learn anything from it.

The new guidelines were presented today at the annual conference of the American Academy of Pediatrics, in Boston, Mass. Dr Ari Brown, managing director of the AAP's council on communications and media, said: "Many video programs for infants and toddlers are marketed as 'educational' yet evidence does not support this.

"Quality programmes are educational for children only if they understand the content and context of the video. "Studies consistently find that children over two typically have this understanding.

"Unstructured play time is more valuable for the developing brain than electronic media.

"Children learn to think creatively, problem solve, and develop reasoning and motor skills at early ages through unstructured, unplugged play. "Free play also teaches them how to entertain themselves."

Writing in the guidance that there were "even entire cable networks" geared towards under twos, he noted that television executives viewed them as "key consumers of electronic media".

The updated guidance follows a document issued in 1999 that paediatricians should "urge parents to avoid television viewing for children under the age of two".


Monday, October 17, 2011

Education: The civil rights issue that matters most

Look at all the dignitaries gathered for Sunday’s dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the Mall. Hear them sing: “We Shall Overcome.” But if you believe overcoming should be more than a song, little children, better to march over to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library downtown and dedicate yourself to academic excellence.

Speaking at the memorial dedication, President Obama again mentioned “fixing schools so that every child gets a world-class education.” He’d already announced a goal for the United States to have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020. So there is much to look forward to.

The nation’s 105 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) — which produce most of the nation’s black doctors, lawyers and scientists — award about 36,000 undergraduate degrees each year. To help meet Obama’s goal, they’d need about 33 percent more students graduating each year.

But there’s a catch. “Many college freshmen at HBCUs are nowhere near college-ready when they arrive on campus,” Deputy Education Secretary Tony Miller said at an HBCU conference last year. “When incoming students have to spend their first year in remedial classes, it drives up HBCU dropout rates and burns up those students’ Pell grants.”

There’s something else: Just 8 percent of the nation’s public school teachers are African American, even though more than half of the students in the largest public school systems are black and Latino. Worse still, only 2 percent of the nation’s public school teachers are black men.

“We know that black teachers are more likely than their white peers to want to work in high-poverty, high-needs schools and are more likely to stay there than their white counterparts,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said at an HBCU conference in 2009. “Every day, African American teachers are doing absolutely invaluable work in helping to close the insidious achievement gap.”

So where are the men?

Little children, notice how we make you celebrate great black male educators during Black History Month: Benjamin Mays at Morehouse, Booker T. Washington at Tuskegee, Carter G. Woodson at Howard. But when it comes to putting a great black male educator in your classroom, suddenly it’s not that important after all.

The Obama administration is committed to reforming K-12 public school education, Miller said, and is “devoted to fixing the college pipeline, especially for disadvantaged students.” But at Sunday’s ceremony, Obama asked us to understand that “change does not come quick.”

Meanwhile, Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund, speaking earlier at the same ceremony, noted that the prison industrial complex has managed to set up a “cradle-to-prison pipeline” that’s been siphoning up young black men for years.

Little children, make no mistake about it: You have a tough row to hoe. Long after Occupy DC has decamped from the city and the protests over economic inequality have faded from memory, you’ll still have to occupy those classrooms and continue to struggle against educational inequity.

As an aside, you’ve probably noticed that it’s okay for adults to act out in the streets when we feel shortchanged but not for you to act up when cheated out of an education. March on anyway.

“I would say to you, don’t drop out of school,” King told students in his 1967 “Life’s Blueprint” speech. “I understand all of the sociological reasons, but I urge you that in spite of your economic plight, in spite of the situation that you are forced to live in — stay in school.”

Education might be the key to the Promised Land, but not every adult will help you get there. Just remember the brave youngsters who persevered in King’s day, little children, and don’t be afraid to march alone.


Bringing honesty back to the British exam system

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, was unsparing in his criticism of the status quo, which is seeing Britain sliding down the international league tables.

Thanks to decades of grade inflation, and an all-must-have-prizes mindset in too many of the country’s classrooms, we have a public examination system that is failing badly. Universities and employers find the process of sorting the wheat from the chaff increasingly difficult. Students are cheated because a system designed to sort by ability no longer does that honestly or fairly.

While exam grades have got better and better, our position in international league tables has become worse and worse. According to the OECD, we have “stagnated” while other countries forge ahead: at the age of 15, British pupils are roughly two years behind Shanghai’s. The long-term economic impact of this decline could be immense.

In an important speech yesterday to the exam regulator Ofqual, Michael Gove delivered a welcome blast of common sense. The Education Secretary was unsparing in his criticism of the status quo. He pointed out that an increasing number of universities are being forced to offer remedial courses for students who are unprepared for further study; that the Royal Society of Chemistry had noted a “catastrophic slippage” in school science standards; and that Sir Richard Sykes, the former rector of Imperial College London, has described GCSEs as offering “soundbite science” based on a “dumbed-down syllabus”.

The Secretary of State went on to question the validity of an exam system “that no longer allows us to distinguish the best candidates… we may soon have to invent a Milky Way of A double and triple stars simply to allow the top performers to stand out”.

Fortunately, Mr Gove’s proposals for ending this insidious drift towards mediocrity were equally trenchant. He suggested that the number of A*s awarded each year could be fixed, to set a genuine benchmark of excellence. Tougher marking might mean that some GCSE and A-level results actually dip – something that has not happened for almost 30 years. Yet as he rightly argued, it is better to be honest with our children and with ourselves by having an exam system that has integrity.

Mr Gove also floated an idea that could be truly revolutionary. He admires the system that has been introduced in Burlington Danes Academy in West London, in which every pupil knows where they have come in every subject, whether that is first or 101st. Parents have embraced the scheme, because it gives them information they have hitherto been denied. In turn, it allows teachers to be assessed on the basis of which of them add value, as shown by changes in the rankings. Of course, the teachers’ unions will loathe the idea – which is all the more reason to try it out.


Australia: A very different white flight

In the USA, whites seeking safety for their children move away from areas heavily populated by blacks. In Australia whites avoid schools heavily populated by East Asians -- because the Asians are smarter and the whites don't want their kids to feel discouraged

A "WHITE flight" from elite selective high schools is entrenching ethnic segregation in Australia's education system, according to a social researcher.

In a study of student language backgrounds in schools, Dr Christina Ho, of the University of Technology Sydney, found a clear pattern of cultural polarisation, with few Anglo-Australians in high-achieving selective entry government schools. Students from migrant families — mostly from Chinese, Indian and other Asian backgrounds — dominate the enrolments of the schools.

In Melbourne, 93 per cent of students at Mac.Robertson Girls High School and 88 per cent of pupils at Melbourne High School and Nossal High School are from language backgrounds other than English (LBOTE), a category that also includes those from non-Asian backgrounds.

In Sydney, nine out of the top 10 highest performing selective schools have similar high percentages of LBOTE pupils, mainly from Asian backgrounds.

People who speak an Asian language at home make up 8 per cent of Australia's population, according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Dr Ho said it was understandable why so many migrant families, put off by high fees in private secondary schools, flocked to public selective schools because of their outstanding academic results.

"Anglo-Australians' shunning of public selective schools is less explicable, particularly among those families with talented children who might achieve the required standard on the selective schools [entry] test," said Dr Ho, whose findings are published in the journal Australian Review of Public Affairs.

"The 'white flight' from these schools must partly reflect an unwillingness to send children to schools dominated by migrant-background children, which simply further entrenches this domination.

"If current trends continue, we risk creating highly unbalanced school communities that, rather than reflecting the full diversity of Australian society, instead constitute unhealthy and unnatural bubbles of segregation and isolation."

Dr Ho's study examined enrolment data given by all schools and education authorities to the My School website. The LBOTE data measures cultural diversity and, unlike birthplace, identifies second and subsequent migrant generations not born overseas but who are members of a cultural minority.

The principal of Melbourne High School, Jeremy Ludowyke, rejected suggestions that the school was not culturally diverse. "We don't see a white flight expressed in the pattern of applications to the school," Mr Ludowyke said.

About 60 per cent of his pupils have a parent born overseas. "Melbourne High and Mac.Rob have played a pivotal role in providing opportunities for newly arrived migrant communities. They're part of the success story of multiculturalism in Melbourne," he said.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Gross misuse of her position: College Professor at Northern Michigan University Offers Students Extra Credit for Attending Occupy Protest

As a sociology teacher I too set my students participant observation tasks but I avoided anything political -- JR

According to an email obtained by The Blaze, Professor Jeanne Lorentzen is offering students in her introductory sociology course 20 extra credit points if they attend an Occupy the Upper Peninsula demonstration with her on Saturday. Students who do not wish to attend the protest have the option of writing a 20-page term paper about a social movement to receive the same extra credit. Neither assignment is compulsory.

The email says students who choose to attend must make a protest sign that can say anything as long as it’s not “offensive, rude or divisive.” To qualify for the extra credit, students must sign an attendance sheet twice, at the beginning and end of the march.

Lorentzen did not return multiple phone call and email requests for comment to confirm the extra credit offer, but a Facebook profile for “Jeanne M. Lorentzen, prof @ NMU” is filled with pro-Occupy Wall Street articles, photos and postings. She “likes” both the pages for “Occupy the UP” and “Occupy the UP: NMU Students and Faculty.”

On Thursday, she posted a petition asking New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg not to evict the Occupy Wall Street protesters with the comment, “Please sign the petition!“ An earlier post notes ”Occupy Marquette is happening this Saturday.”

In order to earn 20 extra credit points students must participate in the march that is planned for Saturday, October 15th. The march starts at 10 a.m., but students who choose to do this assignment should meet me in Harlow Park, right next to Washington St., by at least 9:45 a.m. Students must make a protest sign (as long as it’s not offensive, rude or divisive you can write anything) and sign an attendance sheet twice, once at 9:45 a.m. and once after the march is over.

The organizers have been working with the Marquette Police, who were very supportive and helpful, in order to insure a safe and non-violent march. Those students who choose not to participate in the Occupy the U.P. march on Saturday may instead choose to write a 20 page term paper on a particular social movement and earn 20 extra credit points. You may choose to one or the other, but not both. You may also choose to do neither option.

University spokeswoman Kristi Evans said she had not heard about the assignment and though she couldn’t confirm it, saw no reason to think it would not be a real offer.

From the school’s perspective, Evans said there was nothing wrong with the assignment because students aren’t specifically required to attend, and have an alternative assignment they can do instead.

“The university doesn’t oversee what professors assign for extra credit,” she said, noting that as long as it doesn’t involve an “immoral or unethical” activity the school does not have reason to step in. NMU is a public university.

Dan Adamini, chair of the Marquette County Republican Party, said the assignment seemed very one-sided. He said he hoped that if extra credit is being given for attending Occupy U.P., students could get the same extra credit for attending a different demonstration they deemed “more sensible.”

“Whatever the topic is, I hope if you’re going to give extra credit for something like this, fairness would dictate you give extra credit for something on the other side,” he said.

Adamini disputed Lorentzen’s statement that “activities associated with social movements are limited in the Marquette area,” saying Marquette reguarly has marches and demonstrations for gay rights, abortion, union rights, the environment and the Tea Party movement. “She’s choosing this one versus something might be conservative in nature,” he said.

He also dismissed the offer of a 20-page term paper for students who didn’t want to demonstrate, saying, “I‘m not sure that’s the equivalent of taking a Saturday morning and taking a walk.”


Almost half of pupil allegations against British teachers are malicious and made up

Nearly half the allegations made against teachers are malicious, unsubstantiated or unfounded, according to a Government study.

The Department for Education survey shows that only three per cent of investigations resulted in a police caution or court conviction for the teacher.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said the research justified Government plans to allow teachers facing potentially career-wrecking allegations to remain anonymous while investigations took place.

But ChildLine founder Esther Rantzen sounded a note of caution yesterday, pointing out that it was often difficult for the ‘cumbersome’ criminal justice system to protect vulnerable children.

The survey looked at the number and nature of abuse allegations referred to 116 councils in England in the 12 months to April 2010. Of 12,086 claims, 2,827 – 23 per cent – were against teachers, and 1,709 were against school support staff. Forty-seven per cent of the allegations against teachers and 41 per cent of those against non-teaching employees were found to be baseless.

But nearly one fifth of teachers and one third of other staff members were suspended while the accusations were investigated.

Mr Gibb said: ‘Every allegation of abuse must be taken seriously but some children think they can make a false allegation without any thought to the consequences for the teacher concerned. ‘When these allegations are later found to be malicious or unfounded, the damage is already done.’

But Ms Rantzen said: ‘This means that half the allegations made by children require further action. ‘It is very difficult to provide corroboration for serious offences against children because they often happen in secret. So it is not surprising that only a small percentage result in a conviction.’

But she was in favour of the anonymity provision because of ‘terrible’ cases in which ‘good and committed’ teachers had been ‘to hell and back’ after false allegations were made against them.

‘There is no easy way to obtain justice for children. That is why organisations such as ChildLine are so important because we can move them to a place of safety without having to go through the cumbersome and often unfair legal process,’ Ms Rantzen said.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NAS/UWT teaching union, said the anonymity proposal was a ‘small step in the right direction’ but more needed to be done to protect school staff from malicious allegations.

She said that the Government had failed to address the issue of information being kept by police even after a teacher had been cleared of any wrongdoing.

The Government has already revised its guidance to local authorities and schools to speed up the investigation process when a staff member is accused of an offence. The aim is to insure that allegations are dealt with as quickly as possible.

Other measures in the Government’s Education Bill include preventing appeal panels from sending excluded children back to the school from which they were removed and withdrawing the requirement on schools to give parents 24 hours’ notice of detentions.


Warning over British children's 'appalling' handwriting skills

Children are struggling to write their own name because growing numbers of schools are shunning traditional handwriting lessons, academics have warned.

Education standards are at risk as pupils are increasingly allowed to submit essays digitally using email, memory sticks or even presenting PowerPoint displays, it was claimed.

Prof Carey Jewitt, from London University’s Institute of Education, said students' handwriting skills were “absolutely appalling”, adding that many failed to get the practice they needed at home or in the classroom.

Other academics warned that a failure to teach children to write may stunt their development and hold them back in the classroom.

It comes after the publication of primary school exam results this summer showed that pupils perform worse in writing than any other core subject. A quarter of 11-year-olds failed to reach the standards expected for their age in writing, compared with less than 20 per cent in reading and maths, figures showed.

Prof Jewitt, who has been leading research into the relationship between handwriting and technology for the last 10 years, said the amount of lesson time devoted to the skill had plummeted. “Little children may not be able to write their names but most can type them,” she told the Times Educational Supplement. “Even families on a very low income are using email, using Skype.

“Students’ handwriting we have seen is absolutely appalling because they are not getting any practice. They aren’t handwriting at home.” Observations of lessons in secondary schools suggest that handwriting has now all but disappeared from the classroom, she said.

Teachers increasingly prepare their lessons in digital form in a range of subjects, including English, before presenting them on high-tech white boards. Many children are also allowed to submit essays as computer print-outs, send them to teachers by email or hand in work using memory sticks.

Dr Karin James, from the department for psychological and brain sciences at Indiana University in the United States, told the TES that a failure to develop handwriting skills undermined children’s reading ability. “This is setting their brains up to be able to process letters and words,” she said. “That doesn’t happen with keyboarding or even with tracing the letters. “Creating the form, stroke by stroke, seems to be very important. They need to produce the letters in their minds, then create them on paper.”

One study from Warwick University in 2008 suggested that children who struggled to write fluently devoted more brain capacity to getting words onto a page during tests – interfering with their ability to generate ideas, select vocabulary or plan work properly.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “Handwriting is the most fundamental building block of being educated. "Every single parent expects their children to be taught how to properly write at school. The current National Curriculum stipulates this is an absolute central part of primary school lessons.

“This is a pretty esoteric debate. No one is saying that keyboard skills aren’t important – but if people like Bill Gates and the late Steve Jobs had to learn to write, then so can pupils in schools today. “