Saturday, November 26, 2011

In New York, Mexicans Lag in Education

In the past two decades, the Mexican population in New York City has grown more than fivefold, with immigrants settling across the five boroughs. Many adults have demonstrated remarkable success at finding work, filling restaurant kitchens and construction sites, and opening hundreds of businesses.

But their children, in one crucial respect, have fared far differently. About 41 percent of all Mexicans between ages 16 and 19 in the city have dropped out of school, according to census data.

No other major immigrant group has a dropout rate higher than 20 percent, and the overall rate for the city is less than 9 percent, the statistics show.

This crisis endures at the college level. Among Mexican immigrants 19 to 23 who do not have a college degree, only 6 percent are enrolled. That is a fraction of the rates among other major immigrant groups and the native-born population.

Moreover, these rates are significantly worse than those of the broader Mexican immigrant population in the United States.

The problem is especially unsettling because Mexicans are the fastest-growing major immigrant group in the city, officially numbering about 183,200, according to the Census Bureau, up from about 33,600 in 1990. Experts say the actual figure is far larger, given high levels of illegal immigration.

A small group of educators and advocates have begun various educational initiatives for Mexicans, and there is evidence of recent strides.

But the educators and advocates say that unless these efforts are sustained, and even intensified, the city may have a large Mexican underclass for generations. “We are stanching an educational hemorrhage, but only partially,” said Robert C. Smith, a sociology professor at the City University of New York who studies the local Mexican population. “The worst outcomes are still possible,” he added.

Experts say the crisis stems from many factors — or what Dr. Smith called “a perfect storm of educational disadvantage.”

Many Mexicans are poor and in the country illegally. Parents, many of them uneducated, often work in multiple jobs, leaving little time for involvement in their children’s education. Some are further isolated from their children’s school life because of language barriers or fear that contact with school officials may lead to deportation.

Unlike some other immigrant populations, like the Chinese, Mexicans have few programs for tutoring or mentoring. “We don’t have enough academic role models,” said Angelo Cabrera, 35, a Mexican immigrant who runs a nonprofit group that tutors Mexican and Mexican-American students in the basement of a church in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx.

Many young illegal immigrants in New York City say there is no point in staying in school because their lack of legal status limits their access to college scholarships and employment opportunities. Some drop out under the erroneous belief that they are not eligible to attend college. (Illegal immigrants who graduate from a high school in New York State or earn a G.E.D. are not only allowed to attend the state’s public university system, but are also eligible for in-state tuition.)

“They just give up,” said Karina Sosa, 22, a Mexican-American undergraduate at Baruch College and an education activist.

Educational achievement among Mexican immigrants is worse in New York than in the broader Mexican population around the country in part, experts say, because Mexicans in the city have shallower roots, less stable households and higher rates of illegal immigration.

Ivan Lucero, who emigrated illegally from Mexico with his mother when he was 6 and grew up in the Belmont area of the Bronx, said his parents urged him to stay in school and study. But his father was distracted by long work days, and his mother, who did not speak English, had no contact with the school.

Mr. Lucero said he began skipping classes to hang out with other young Mexicans who had formed a gang. Once heavily Italian, the neighborhood was experiencing an influx of Mexicans.

Mexican children were filling Belmont’s schools, Mexican workers were staffing restaurants in the Little Italy section around Arthur Avenue and Mexican-owned shops were popping up on every other block.

Many young Mexicans were compelled to get jobs to help their families. In high school, Mr. Lucero began working as a busboy, which further distracted him from school work, he said. He was forced to repeat 10th grade twice, though he would lie to his parents about how he was doing. “You don’t think of nothing else but having fun with your friends, meeting up with girls, having your boys with you,” Mr. Lucero said. “The last thing you think of is school.”

He was expelled when he was 18, while still in 10th grade. Most of his Mexican friends from high school also dropped out and entered the work force, and so did one of his younger brothers. “I don’t see many Mexican kids going to school,” said Mr. Lucero, now 28 and working as a waiter. “It’s horrible.”


Casual sex and 'bad touching': Guess what British eight-year-olds are learning at school these days

Official pornography

The camera pans to the bedroom. Soon, a computer-generated image of a naked man and woman appear on my screen. They begin to chase each other around the room; she tickles him flirtatiously with a feather; he responds by hitting her with a pillow. They start to kiss and caress. The next moment they leap onto the sheets and begin having sex in a variety of different sexual positions.

The voiceover informs us: ‘The man’s penis slides inside the woman’s vagina. It’s very exciting for both of them.’

A late night adult show on Channel 4, perhaps? An animated version of the Kama Sutra? Or a free CD that comes with a copy of Loaded or any number of other lad mags or soft porn publications?

Well, it is a Channel 4 production (they’re rather good at that kind of thing, after all). But shockingly, the target audience for this film is children as young as eight, and the film could soon be showing at a primary school near you.

The DVD also features information about masturbation, orgasms (including an animated sequence depicting ejaculation), casual sex and ‘good and bad touching’. The list of X-rated topics is almost endless.

In one section, a group of boys who look no more than ten are shown in a public toilet where there is a condom machine on the wall. ‘They have even got different flavours,’ one of the youngsters observes.

Not surprisingly, the film, entitled, Living And Growing, is causing concern among parents across the country. It is now being shown to youngsters at scores of primary schools.

Admittedly, the world is a very different place to the one many of us grew up in. But are we really to believe that explaining the ‘facts of life,’ in explicit detail, to youngsters, many of whom still believe in Father Christmas, could help solve the teenage pregnancy epidemic or reduce the rates of sexually transmitted diseases among adolescents?

Surely, even the most liberal-minded members of the last Labour government, which championed the controversial policy, would be left feeling a little queasy at some of the material now finding its way into primary school classrooms in the name of Sex And Relationship Education (SRE).

The examples we have highlighted are just a sample of the controversial subject matter now being peddled to our very youngest pupils; it’s not even the worst of it either.

Labour, of course, wanted to make SRE compulsory in all primaries, just as it is in all secondary schools, but it failed to win cross-party support and was forced to abandon the initiative. Instead, the decision on whether or not to introduce such lessons remained with governors.

Yet, nearly two years on, what seemed like a victory for common sense is proving to be quite the opposite. Under Department of Education guidelines, any primary school planning to introduce SRE has a duty to consult parents, to ensure they have an ‘input’ and their voice is heard. ‘It is essential that schools involve parents in developing and reviewing their sex education policy,’ the guidelines state.

‘Schools should ensure that pupils are protected from teaching materials that are inappropriate having regard to the age and the religious and cultural background of the pupils concerned.

‘Governors and headteachers should discuss with parents and take on board concerns raised, both on materials which are offered to schools and on sensitive material to be used in the classroom.’

But many schools have been accused, rightly or wrongly, of simply paying lip service to the consultation process; sending out letters which ‘play down’ the content of proposed classes and holding meetings at inconvenient times for mums and dads.

And, by the time such meetings are held, schools have already invested considerable time and money in choosing from a variety of SRE packages and can be reluctant to discard them.

Those parents who have complained say they have come under pressure to conform from headteachers or been forced to remove their sons or daughters from SRE lessons.

Perhaps this is part of the reason why such classes — driven by the powerful sex education lobby (including groups like fpa, formerly the Family Planning Clinic, and the Brook sexual health advice service) — are now being extended to more than a fifth of UK primaries. That’s at least 3,400 schools and nearly one million pupils.

Almost all of them will see, if they haven’t already, the Channel 4 DVD showing on my computer.

Entitled All About Us: Living And Growing, it was produced by Channel 4 in ‘response to requests from teachers and heads for a resource that promotes sex and relationship education as a developmental process, beginning in the early years at an appropriate level and progressing through childhood and adolescence.’

Childhood? Would any youngster aged between eight and 11, the intended audience, have much of a childhood left after watching it?

Children such as eight-year-old Jasmine Hague, who attends Grenoside Primary School in Sheffield, which was planning to use the film in sex education classes before her mother and other parents kicked up a fuss. ‘I’m not the sort of person who normally complains and I’m definitely not a prude,’ said her mother Luana, a single parent. ‘But I feel strongly about this. It’s just not appropriate.’

Up to 20 families are now said to be prepared to pull their children out of SRE classes if they are introduced at Grenoside. It is becoming a familiar story all over Britain.


British university admissions: best pupils 'losing out'

In part because of England's insane policy of basing admission offers on "expected" High School exam results, not actual ones

Teachers may be hurting pupils’ chances of getting into university by predicting high grades for them – because higher predictions can lead to higher offers. Some admissions chiefs like to get a range of abilities and skills on their courses and so make a range of offers.

Academically strong pupils with higher predicted grades may therefore have to get higher grades to secure a place, while those predicted lower grades may get lower offers if they can persuade admissions staff they have other qualities.

The problem is that the admissions systems vary considerably and are complicated, according to the report in the Times Educational Supplement.

A pupil predicted three top grades at A-level may be made an offer of AAA, whereas a candidate expected to achieve As and Bs may be offered AAB or ABB for the same course.

Roberta Georghiou, the head of Bury Grammar School for Girls in Greater Manchester and co-chairman of the Independent Schools’ Universities Committee, said: “The danger is that universities admit candidates who are unable to capitalise on the opportunity they have been offered, while others who meet the criteria are excluded.”

Pia Pollock, the admissions policy adviser at Manchester University, said: “Some of our academic schools use what we call a range of offers to ensure that they recruit and select the best students.” Lower offers were made to candidates unlikely to achieve the highest grades if they could convince staff that they had the potential to succeed, she added.

Details of the variation in admission systems were laid bare in a Freedom of Information Act request.

“Students and their teachers are being put in a difficult position by the complexity of the university admissions system and the lack of predictable patterns, with each university setting its own rules,” said Dr William Richardson, the general secretary of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference.


Friday, November 25, 2011

America's Founders Speak About Education

One of my hobbies is genealogy – the research of your family history. Once you start, it will capture your mind, heart and soul as you find out the different and interesting facts about your ancestors. To be able to trace back your family lines in the forming of this country, gives you a whole new outlook. This is what actually gave me the basis for the research I do today.

I wish I could take the credit for the research KrisAnne Hall did in her book, "Not A Living Breathing Document: Reclaiming Our Constitution”. In this book she went back to England researching our historical genealogy which actually laid the framework for the work our Founding Fathers did.

Immediately after the founding of our nation, literacy rates in America ranged from 70 percent to virtually 100 percent though most newly-minted citizens were grievously poor by today's standards. During a visit to America in the 1830's, the French political thinker DeTocqueville commented on American education stating,
“In New England every citizen receives the elementary notions of human knowledge; he is taught, moreover, the doctrines and the evidences of his religion, the history of his country and the leading features of the Constitution.”

The Founders of our country believed that the key to a free Republic was a public education for ALL children. Toward that end, free public grammar school should be supplied by every township containing 50 families or more to teach the fundamentals of reading, writing, ciphering, history, geography and Bible study, with control and oversight directed by local school boards.

The intention in the American colonies was to have all children taught the fundamentals so they could go on to become well-informed citizens through their own diligent self-study. No doubt this explains why all of the American Founders were so well read, and usually from the same books, even though a number of them had received a very limited formal education. The fundamentals were sufficient to get them started and thereafter they became remarkably well informed in a variety of areas through self-learning. This was a pattern followed by both Franklin and Washington.

The curriculum upon which students in every grammar school would be formally educated in the above standards comes directly from the dictates in Article 3 of the Northwest Ordinance:
"Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged."

These three tenets were agreed to be indispensable for one simple reason quoted by John Adams, "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."

The Founders understood well the words they penned in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that ALL men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…" They knew the rights of men were granted solely by their CREATOR and not a government necessarily composed of men that could take away one another's rights on a whim.

Our Founders’ understanding of European caste systems and their ability to grasp the underpinnings of the French Revolution in real time, allowed them to warn that the only way for the nation to prosper was to have equal protection of "rights", and not allow the government to get involved in trying to provide equal distribution of "things". Samuel Adamssaid they had done everything possible to make the ideas of socialism and communism unconstitutional. "The Utopian schemes of leveling (re-distribution of the wealth) and community of goods (central ownership of the means of production and distribution), are as visionary and impractical as those which vest all property in the Crown. These ideas are arbitrary, despotic, and, in our government, unconstitutional."

So why is American literacy so poor today that we find it necessary to rethink, restructure and reform our current public education system? Unfortunately, since the Federal government decided that it needs to “run” or “manage” the education of our children it has continually gone downhill with a hidden agenda of “controlling” how we think and feel. It wants to educate our children using an institutional format – it has failed!

This agenda did not happen overnight – but it did impress upon the minds of people who wished to control everyone that it could be done – done through the minds of the young.

Fortunately, the Founders’ influence on American education continued in force for nearly 150 years until the rise of Dr. John Dewey in the late nineteenth century.


CA: Santa Clara County friendliest to charter schools

Charter schools, once considered the experimental outliers of public education, are poised to go mainstream in Santa Clara County.

That's due in part to sheer numbers. Eight new charter schools opened this school year, taking in 1,600 students. Last week alone, five charter schools were approved to open next August in the county. But perhaps more important, key places in the county have seen a transformation in attitude, from hostility and suspicion to acceptance and collaboration.

The growing number of charters cements the county's reputation, along with the giant Los Angeles Unified district, as the most charter-friendly place in the state. In a month or so, the county school board will consider approving 20 more charters schools for Rocketship Education. The increase comes amid the widespread growth of charter schools in California. About 7 percent of the state's public school children attend a charter, which are public schools operating independently from local school boards and most of the state Education Code.

This month, two charter school operators whose first schools were rejected several years ago won easy approval from local school boards. Both focus on educating poor and struggling students. Rocketship Education, whose initial charter application was rejected by the San Jose Unified School District in 2006, received unanimous approval from the district to open an elementary charter school next August.

ACE Charter had to apply four times in 2006 and 2007 to get a middle school approved in East San Jose. But on one try, ACE won an OK from the East Side Union High School District to open a school, possibly in San Jose's Mayfair district, next year.

"I'm very appreciative," said Greg Lippman, executive director of ACE and co-founder of one of the first charter schools in the county, Downtown College Prep. "From the get-go, it was very clear the district was going to give us a thoughtful and fair review. They were really focused on the bottom line of student achievement."

In many counties, charter applications are routinely denied, both by local school boards and upon appeal by the county school board. Five years ago, after its denial by San Jose Unified, Rocketship won approval from the Santa Clara County Board of Education for its flagship Rocketship Mateo Sheedy school. This time, the charter operator encountered an entirely different reception to its petition to open what will be its ninth elementary school in the county.

"A lot has happened in five years," said San Jose Unified Assistant Superintendent Jason Willis. "Frankly, they have a track record of success with students we struggle to educate." Rocketship's speciality is low-income students who need a lot of support. Rocketship pointed to its high test scores. And, Willis said, the charter operator provided clearer specifics about its plans.

Rocketship's policy manager, Evan Kohn, said, "We're excited to put together this partnership."

Changes on many sides transformed the reception for Rocketship and ACE. In San Jose Unified, there is a different superintendent, Vincent Matthews, who is a former charter school principal. Its teachers association did not oppose the charter proposal, as unions often do.

In East Side Union, Lippman called his proposal's review "a really positive process." In contrast, when he applied to open ACE Charter middle school, the Alum Rock Union School District turned him down three times, citing an insufficient budget, unsound curriculum and lack of parental support. After ACE won approval upon appeal to the county board of education, the school went on to post the highest gain in test scores -- 127 points on the state's 200-to-1,000 Academic Performance Index -- of any school in the county in 2010.

Now with a changed administration and board in Alum Rock, ACE has collaborated with the district on building a $5.1 million permanent campus, aided with money from the San Jose Redevelopment Agency, on an undeveloped portion of Alum Rock's Cesar Chavez Elementary campus.

"They're allowing us to open a middle school three blocks from an existing middle school. That's leadership from the staff, board of trustees and the principal at Chavez," Lippman said. "They've been an incredibly good partner to ACE. In all areas, things are fundamentally different now in relations with Alum Rock."

And the East Side Union staff recommended approving ACE's high school, Superintendent Dan Moser said. While the district has OK'd six current charters, it hasn't always approved all the applications that have been presented.

As designed under California law, charter schools put local school districts into a conundrum. When judging a charter application, districts may consider the quality of the proposed education program and the financial viability of the school operator, but cannot consider its own financial interests.

Yet the state creates a financial disincentive to approve charter applications. That's because most school districts get state funding based on the number of children who attend, and lose money for every resident who enrolls in a charter. However, district costs don't decrease commensurately with the loss in revenue.

With the County Office of Education working on a "charter compact" between public school and charter operators, officials hope that cooperation and sharing of strategies and practices will increase.

Both ACE and Rocketship believe they can share their successes with districts. "There are lessons to be learned," Willis said, "in how to address student needs and in supporting their families."


Restore elitism to Britain's schools!

Minister takes on education establishment in passionate rallying cry for a return to traditional teaching values

Michael Gove promised an ‘unashamedly elitist’ approach in state schools last night as he vowed to give today’s children the same opportunities as those previously enjoyed by grammar school pupils.

In an extraordinary speech, the Education Secretary vowed to allow the next generation to ‘transcend the circumstances of their birth’ by turning free schools and academies into the latter-day equivalent of grammars.

He said parents were yearning for their children to learn ‘rigorous’ intellectual subjects, for ordered classrooms with strict discipline, and for teachers who are ‘guardians of knowledge and figures of authority’.

Mr Gove insisted that the Government would end Labour’s ‘crude equation’ of traditional subjects with ‘so-called equivalent qualifications’.

‘Countries which award soft qualifications to students, which are not comparable to those in the most rigorous jurisdictions, will suffer just as surely as a country which issues money too promiscuously to pay its debts,’ he warned.

Speaking at Cambridge University, Mr Gove made a broader attack on the coarsening of public debate. He highlighted Tony Blair’s support for Deirdre Rachid in Coronation Street when the character went to jail as an example of ‘patronising’ political classes seeking public approval.

He also suggested he wanted to return responsibility for higher education from Vince Cable’s Business Department to his own, saying Labour had made a mistake by ‘subordinating education to purely economic ends’ when it transferred powers for university policy from the Education Department.

But it is his impassioned celebration of elitism in education that will cause most controversy. For decades, senior politicians have shied away from such language when discussing state schools for fear of upsetting the Left-leaning educational establishment.

There are 164 grammar schools in England, and Mr Gove said there were now 1,400 academies and free schools – a 700 per cent increase on the number created under Labour – which have been freed from local authority control.

‘But 1,400 is not enough,’ he said. ‘And to take reform to the next stage I want to enlist more unashamedly elitist institutions in helping to entrench independence and extend excellence in our state sector.

‘I want universities like Cambridge, and more of our great public schools, to run state schools, free of any Government interference, free to hire whoever they want, pay them whatever they want, teach whatever they want, and demand yet higher standards.’

Mr Gove said that the state would provide the money and set expectations, but leave the delivery of education and the management of day-to-day learning to ‘genuinely independent schools and chains of schools’.

He hailed moves pioneered by some academies to rank every child, every term, based on their performance subject by subject, a process he wants extended nationwide. In decades gone by, many schools used such systems to encourage competition among their pupils.

Mr Gove is also suggesting a return to ‘norm referencing’, which was used between 1963 and 1987 and meant only a fixed percentage of pupils could be awarded top grades.

But he said further, radical steps would be necessary, admitting: ‘We are still not asking enough of our education system, we are not being nearly ambitious enough for our young people.

‘Yes, children are working harder than ever, and yes, I believe young teachers entering the profession are better than ever before. ‘But it is not enough to compare ourselves with the recent past and assume that incremental progress from where we once were is enough. That lack of ambition would have appalled our Victorian ancestors. And it’s certainly not apparent in other nations.’

Mr Gove said the Coalition was reforming the national curriculum so that it focuses on traditional subjects, and reforming GCSEs and A-levels so they can stand comparison with the most rigorous exams in other countries.

He argued that while not all could inherit ‘good looks or great houses’, all of us are ‘heir to the amazing intellectual achievements of our ancestors’. ‘We can all marvel at the genius of Pythagoras, or Wagner, share in the brilliance of Shakespeare or Newton, delve deeper into the mysteries of human nature through Balzac or Pinker,’ he said.

‘I believe that denying any child access to that amazing legacy, that treasure-house of wonder, delight, stimulation and enchantment by failing to educate them to the utmost of their abilities is as great a crime as raiding their parents’ bank accounts – you are stealing from their rightful inheritance, condemning them to a future poorer than they deserve.

‘And I am unapologetic in arguing that all children have a right to the best. Yes, I am romantic in one sense, I suppose. I believe man is born with a thirst for free inquiry and is nearly everywhere held back by chains of low expectation.’

Mr Gove was educated at a state school in Aberdeen, later attending the independent Robert Gordon’s College, to which he won a scholarship. He went on to read English at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Cash-strapped cities, schools say: 'Your Ad Here'

Seven vinyl banners draped this month along one of Chicago's most iconic bridges, advertisements some have dubbed "a visual crime" and "commercial graffiti," are reviving a debate about how governments raise money in tough economic times.

In the aftermath of the Great Recession, a public school district in Colorado is selling ads on report cards and Utah has a new law allowing ads on school buses. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration, straining to fill a $600 million budget hole, is looking to raise $25 million from ads on city property — including bridges, electrical storage boxes and garbage cans.

The effort kicked off this month with Bank of America ads on the 81-year-old Wabash Avenue Bridge, which crosses the Chicago River and has appeared in movies including "About Last Night" and "The Dark Knight."

"I think it's disgusting," Chicago resident Linda Rosenthal said recently, shaking her head as she surveyed the signs. "The architecture in Chicago is stunning. To see this awful advertisement angers me."

The white ads with blue lettering and Bank of America's logo are posted on limestone bridge tender houses, which hold the equipment used to raise the bridge when tall boats pass beneath. Bank of America paid $4,500 to put seven signs on the bridge for about a month, said city spokeswoman Kathleen Strand.

Strand promised the city's new campaign will have "policies to protect the integrity of Chicago's facade" and likened the initiative to the Chicago Transit Authority bringing in about $20 million annually from abundant ads on buses and elevated trains that don't seem to anger anybody.

"The municipal marketing strategy is really about pursuing innovative opportunities to avoid having to cut city services or increase the tax burden on Chicagoans," Strand said.

Still, some ask where the line will be drawn. Could the city's historic Water Tower be next? Or Grant Park's famed Buckingham Fountain?

The city's two major daily newspapers have faced off with opposing views. Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin called the bridge ads "a visual crime" and "a grotesque cheapening of the public realm." A Chicago Sun-Times editorial said the ads, while unappealing, "beat going bust."

Bank of America spokeswoman Diane Wagner said the company said yes when Chicago officials asked if the bank wanted to advertise on the bridge because it's a major employer and philanthropic supporter in the city. "We agreed to be the first company to display on the bridge because we want to help the city explore new revenue sources and we think this is an innovative way to generate new revenue," Wagner said.

Chicago advertising professionals doubt it was a smart move for either side. "I have made my living in advertising, but there has to be better ways to raise money," said Tim Terchek, executive creative director of the Drucker Group ad firm. What's more, the bridge ads could backfire if public disgust sticks to the bank, he said.

Leo Burnett Company's chief strategy officer Stephen Hahn-Griffiths, whose office overlooks the bridge ads, said they are a blight. "It's like commercial graffiti," Hahn-Griffiths said. "It makes no sense from a marketing perspective and I question the intent of doing this because it does not seem like a smart decision."

Former Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist, president and CEO of the Chicago-based Congress for the New Urbanism, suggested the city could instead rent out spaces like the City Hall lobby or library and cultural center theaters for weddings and other events. "Placing advertising on a city's architectural assets takes away from the public realm," Norquist said.

Some officials across the country, and the world, are turning to private money for public projects.

In Rome, an Italian shoe company founder has pledged to foot $34 million to restore the Colosseum — the ancient arena blackened by pollution — and its founder has said the gesture could launch more private sponsorship for public benefit in Italy. In Venice, Mayor Giorgio Orsoni defended the use of publicity on restoration of such projects as the famed Doges Palace, saying sponsors' contribution allowed the work to be accelerated.

But Venice also has strict rules on the use of advertisements. Only 10 percent of an exposed facade can be covered, and ads for cigarettes, alcohol and those featuring nudity are banned.

Back in the U.S., a suburban Salt Lake City school district plans to be Utah's first to plaster its buses with advertisements in an effort to generate additional revenue without raising taxes. While the ad revenue is expected to supplement the Jordan School District's budget, officials said it won't be enough to make up for the recent budget cuts.

It's a similar story in Golden, Colo., where Jefferson County Public Schools' report cards now feature ads for the CollegeInvest college savings program. The ads raise $30,000 a year. "Parents understand where we are at with the funding issues and most of the reaction has been positive," said school district spokeswoman Lorie Gillis.

Retiree Jim Phillips, who leads free tours of Chicago's bridges, challenged the city to channel public curiosity about the structures into money-making ventures, such as charging tourists to see the bridge houses' inner workings.

"If it gets to the point advertisements go on more of these historic structures, I don't think there's any way to stop them on others," Phillips said. "What if you put a NASCAR suit on the Picasso? What if you slapped a Google sign on one of the lions at the Art Institute?"


British boy who rebelled against stupid school rules gets award

A 13-year-old boy who wore a skirt to school in protest at a 'discriminatory' uniform ban on shorts was today given a prestigious human rights prize. Chris Whitehead made headlines in May when he turned up for class in his younger sister's black skirt.

He was taking stand against a rule at Impington Village College near Cambridge which allowed girls to change into skirts during hot weather, while boys had to swelter in long trousers.

The Year 9 student said wearing trousers in the heat affected concentration levels and an ability to study in class.

His campaign made it onto national television when ITV's Daybreak presenter Adrian Chiles showed his support by wearing a floral skirt live on air.

Now the teenager has become a runner-up in Liberty's human rights young person of the year competition held at the Southbank Centre in London today.

Chris, who is a member of the school's student executive, said: 'I didn't think it would be that influential, but I'm really happy. It was a good surprise to be nominated.'

He had decided to take advantage of a 'silly loophole’ in the school's uniform policy which meant boys could wear skirts because the school would be guilty of discrimination if it tried to stop them. He said at the time: ‘Wearing a skirt is just like wearing shorts with a gap in the middle. I don’t feel silly at all. I don’t embarrass easily.

‘I will be wearing the skirt at school all day in protest at the uniform policy and addressing the assembly with the school council.’

The 1,368-pupil school, which was classed as good in its last Ofsted inspection in 2006, imposed the ban two years ago after a consultation with parents and teachers. Its ‘Look Smart’ dress code stated students must wear ‘plain black tailored trousers or knee-length skirts without slits’ – but did not specify gender. The school later promised to review its decision.

Chris, of Histon, Cambridgeshire, was the youngest nominee on the Liberty awards shortlist which includes Cerie Bullivant, who fought against government control orders, journalist and activist Zin Derfoufi, and Abigail Stepnitz of the Poppy Project for women.


Australia: Professor expresses outrage at University of Queensland enrolment scandal

That corrupt university boss Greenfield refuses to stand down is a disgrace to him personally, to his Jewish community and to my alma mater. It's hardly unknown for such a highly paid man to be so amoral but it is certainly reprehensible. The university is undoubtedly not getting value for money

A LEADING doctor and University of Queensland academic said there was "great anger" within the institution over the enrolment scandal engulfing vice-chancellor Paul Greenfield.

Associate Professor David Colquhoun yesterday urged Prof Greenfield to step down immediately because the controversy involving one of the vice-chancellor's close family members was "eating away at the integrity and morale of the university".

He said some specialist doctors teaching at the university were openly talking about boycotting the university while the cover-up continued. "We are angry. If the vice-chancellor was ethical he would ... step down now immediately," said Dr Colquhoun, a cardiologist who has taught at the university since 1984. "There is anger, great anger. Quote me as saying that. "One doctor told me he will never teach anyone at the university again. "Students, doctors and academics are all talking about it freely."

Prof Greenfield and his deputy Prof Michael Keniger offered to stand down after an integrity probe found "irregularities" in the enrolment process. Later, it was admitted the student at the centre of the row was a "close family member" of Prof Greenfield's.

Prof Greenfield, who was paid $1,069,999 last year, claimed the incident arose as the result of a "misunderstanding" but failed to elaborate.

The university Senate, the governing body, has decided Prof Greenfield will stay until June next year after his 65th birthday while Prof Keniger will leave in December.

There was community disquiet when the university tried to cover up the scandal. The details of the case still remain a closely guarded secret, with the university Senate declining to release the report.

The cover-up was continuing yesterday, with the university refusing to answer questions or release any information about the enrolment process. No students were disadvantaged, the university claims. Academic staff have been warned not to speak to the media.

Dr Colquhoun said the situation was "objectionable" and unworthy of one of the country's leading universities. "They are public servants and as such have a duty to stand down while an investigation happens," he said. "Public servants and politicians stand down while they are being investigated. That is the proper course of action.

"The vice-chancellor is the chief administrator of the rules and ethics." He said Prof Greenfield's decision to stay was an "embarrassment" and a blow to the integrity of the institution. "It's time he left so the university can begin to restore its reputation," Dr Colquhoun said.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Law Schools: Incubators of Evil and Waste?‏

The New York Times had a disturbing article Sunday about how most law schools are utterly failing to teach their students the basics of how to be a lawyer, despite collecting tens of thousands of dollars in tuition. (I wrote about this previously in The New York Times and legal blogs, discussing how little I learned at Harvard Law School despite paying a fortune in tuition, and how students should no longer be required to attend law school before sitting for the bar exam.)

The Times describes three newly-hired corporate attorneys at a big-name law firm whose law-school educations were so worthless that they don’t know the basics, such as what a merger is, and how to draft the simplest legal forms needed for a merger. So their law firm has to teach these basic skills, even though they’ve already spent up to $150,000 on law school for a legal “education”:

But the three people taking notes are not students. They are associates at a law firm called Drinker Biddle & Reath, hired to handle corporate transactions. And they have each spent three years and as much as $150,000 for a legal degree. What they did not get, for all that time and money, was much practical training. Law schools have long emphasized the theoretical over the useful, with classes that are often overstuffed with antiquated distinctions, like the variety of property law in post-feudal England. Professors are rewarded for chin-stroking scholarship, like law review articles with titles like “A Future Foretold: Neo-Aristotelian Praise of Postmodern Legal Theory.”

As I noted earlier in the Times,

I learned about trendy ideological fads and feminist and Marxist legal theory while at Harvard Law School. But I did not learn many basic legal principles, such as in contract law and real estate law, until I took a commercial bar-exam preparation course after law school. Getting rid of the requirement that students attend law school before taking the bar exam would save many students a fortune in student loan debt. It would also force law schools to improve their courses to attract students who now have no choice but to attend.

All too many law schools care about ideological abstractions, not the real-world practice of law — as is illustrated by Tulane’s recent decision to give a convicted murderer a scholarship to attend its law school, even though he most likely can never be admitted to the Bar given his criminal record. (Another law school admitted a disgraced serial fabricator, who was predictably denied admission by the New York Bar.) Law schools falsely claim their graduates almost always find jobs as lawyers, but they often don’t: indeed, two law schools are being sued for fraudulent placement data in class-action lawsuits.

America’s law schools have increased tuition by nearly 1,000 percent since 1960 in real terms, while collecting ever-increasing government subsidies, and teaching students fewer practical skills than they used to. Law schools are able to get away with bad instruction partly because would-be lawyers are compelled to attend them due to government regulations: bar admission rules in most states require you to attend law school before you are allowed to sit for the bar exam, even though law school courses often fail to prepare students for the subjects tested on the bar exam. Many state-funded law-school clinics effectively sue state taxpayers, both by suing businesses in their home state (thus killing jobs), and by suing their state governments to demand increases in government spending on various programs – something discussed at length in Schools for Misrule, a recent book by the Cato Institute’s Walter Olson. Olson comments on the New York Times article here.


What Drunkorexia is Doing to College Students

At first, "drunkorexia" may sound like kind of a funny word, jokingly made up to describe a situation in which college students and others forgo food in order to be able to afford more alcohol and feel higher effects of alcohol on an empty stomach. But what some may brush off as crazy college-kid behavior is actually a serious problem that can have highly damaging consequences both in long- and short-term health. Of course, that hasn't stopped college students from engaging in this unhealthy trend, and a study at the University of Missouri-Columbia indicated that one in six students had practiced drunkorexia within the last year. Typically, drunkorexia is done by women; the study showed that three out of four drunkorexia respondents were female.

Students may not realize that drunkorexia is incredibly damaging to their health, but the fact remains that the practice puts them at risk for problems like sexually transmitted diseases, malnutrition, and even seizures and comas. Specifically, the University of Missouri study indicates that drunkorexia may lead to:

sexually transmitted diseases
drunk driving
alcohol poisoning
injury risk
perpetrating or being a victim of sexual assault
passing out
heart problems
cognitive disabilities
organ failure

All of the possible effects are disturbing, but perhaps the most worrisome are heart problems and cognitive disabilities that can stem from drunkorexia-induced malnutrition. STDs, injury, or sexual assault are without a doubt difficult to bounce back from, but malnutrition-induced heart problems and cognitive disabilities are something you just can't take back. Cognitive problems are especially disturbing for college students, as they can result in "difficulty concentrating, studying, and making decisions." These are long-term health issues brought on by drunkorexia that can follow a college student for the rest of her life. That is, assuming that the student survives past the possibility of seizures, comas, and organ failure.

So it seems that a practice that may be approached lightheartedly is in fact a very serious problem that doesn't just stop with fun (and possible weight loss) one night. Used as a regular practice, drunkorexia can scar you for life and even end in death. And although the long-term effects are certainly frightening, the short-term possibilities of drunkorexia aren't incredibly easy hurdles to get over, either. Just one night of drunkorexia can have serious consequences, with higher levels of intoxication and starvation putting students at risk for dangerous behavior. At high levels of intoxication, students lose the ability to make good decisions, which can lead to dangerous situations like having unprotected sex, or even being involved in a rape, driving drunk, and becoming injured as a result of stunts, fights, or simply an inability to function properly. In addition to these risks, just one night of intense drinking on an empty stomach can lead to blackouts, hospitalization, and death from alcohol poisoning. Clearly, drunkorexia has serious and lasting consequences, even for students who aren't repeat offenders.

Drunkorexia is a scary situation for any college student, but for women, the problem is compounded. Female students are not only more prone to engage in drunkorexia, but they are also at a higher risk of problems from its effects. Dr. Valerie Taylor, chief of psychiatry at Women's College Hospital in Toronto indicates that female college students are more likely to engage in drunkorexia due to social pressure to stay slim. Even worse, female students are more likely to experience higher effects (meaning: reach alcohol poisoning and organ damage faster) because women metabolize alcohol faster than men. These facts combined with a higher risk of sexual assault mean that girls in college are hit with an even scarier drunkorexia situation.

How did things get so bad? It's one thing to have an eating disorder, and another to have a substance abuse problem, but combined, they're an incredible problem to overcome. Dr. Bunnell, former president of the National Eating Disorders Association, says that college students often suffer from an obsession with being skinny, while at the same time noticing the social acceptance of alcohol and drug abuse. In a world where celebrities checking into rehab is a regular practice and can even be "downright chic," it's not hard to understand why college students, especially female students, might think that drunkorexia is OK. But on top of social pressures, psychologists share that eating disorders may also be rooted in deep emotional pain. Alcohol, binging, and purging can provide an outlet for mental anguish, including childhood traumas like sexual abuse and neglect.

Such deep problems don't often come with an easy cure, and in some cases, require hospitalization and rehab. Judy Van De Veen suffered from eating disorders for years, and also took up drinking in later years. Things got so bad, she had to join a 12-step program and spent two years in and out of rehab, which cost her $25,000 out of her own pocket. None of them helped, but after becoming pregnant and joining support groups to address her daughter's caloric needs, she found an "excuse to eat" and be happy about it. Although Van De Veen's case is an extreme one, it offers a cautionary tale for students who are engaging in drunkorexia. Without help, things can go too far, resulting in a problem that can haunt you for decades, cost thousands of dollars, and even put your future family at risk.

We hope it's clear by now that drunkorexia is not harmless and is actually quite dangerous to the lives and long-term health of college students. So what can you do to avoid it and stop the practice on campus? FastWeb points out that college is a great place to simply ask for help. There are resources on every college campus to deal with not only alcohol abuse, but also eating disorders. College counselors are there to help, and your student fees have already paid for the visits. If you or a friend are suffering from drunkorexia, don't hesitate to speak up and get help while you still can. Be supportive with friends who may have a drunkorexia problem, offering positive reinforcement as well as fun alternatives to drinking, like movies and going out to dinner. It's also a good idea to set a good example by making responsible decisions with alcohol or avoiding it completely.


Only 3% of British secondary teachers are rated outstanding as inspectorate blasts classroom performance

Only 3 per cent of secondary school teachers are deemed to be ‘outstanding’, Ofsted’s annual report has revealed. The figure for primaries is a mere 4 per cent, while teaching is substandard in close to half of all schools, according to inspectors.

They found that tens of thousands of teachers lacked knowledge of their subject, or did not know how to communicate with pupils.

Many did not plan lessons well, or at all, wasting time getting pupils to complete pointless tasks, such as copying text.

And their failure to control the classroom has allowed bad behaviour to become endemic.

The report coincided with results showing one in seven schools is stagnating – ‘stubbornly’ refusing to improve despite warnings.

Yet a week today, hundreds of thousands of teachers are to strike, closing almost every school in England. And those in the NASUWT union have voted to work-to-rule, rigidly sticking to 6.5-hour days and 32.5-hour weeks, for 194 days a year.

In a scathing attack, Miriam Rosen, Ofsted’s acting chief inspector, said there is ‘no excuse’ for incompetence. She pointed to the example set by a number of outstanding schools operating in the most deprived parts of London, but said she was ‘disappointed’ in the quality of teaching nationwide, which is still ‘too variable’.

She said a ‘relentless focus on the quality of teaching and learning’ was needed. Ofsted’s report, published yesterday, showed that teaching was substandard in 41 per cent of schools.

When additional measures, such as quality of curriculum, are taken into account 30 per cent of all schools are failing pupils. This means they are either ranked ‘inadequate’ or ‘satisfactory’ – Ofsted parlance for ‘not good enough’. And one in seven schools judged satisfactory last year – nearly 800 – have failed to improve.

The report also highlighted the growth of an education underclass. A fifth of schools serving the poorest pupils are four times more likely to be rated ‘inadequate’ than those in the richest areas, it revealed.

Nansi Ellis, of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, called the report irresponsible. She said: ‘Constantly telling schools and teachers that they’re bad doesn’t help anyone to improve.’

Sounds Right...Now What?

By Gary Baker

The Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, recently published a study on the home life of successful students. The results of the study were hardly surprising. Successful students tend to have more involved parents. They read to and with their children more often, encourage effort in classes, monitor homework, and generally participate well in school functions. What is more surprising is that NY Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman seems to believe that, based on these findings, teachers in the public school system should be granted some kind of dispensation with regards to their responsibilities.

As a person with a great respect for education and a good number of friends in the teaching profession, I’m not the type that likes to pile on teachers. Many are doing a fantastic job under difficult circumstances. At the same time, I recognize that there are many areas in public education where improvement is possible, and no purported reason or excuse should go unchallenged. While the study may be valid, it reveals nothing that is new to the world of education. As long as there have been children in school, there have been parents that were more and less supportive of their effort. Some fought tooth and nail to get public education for their children,and some fought just as hard against it. As with many policy matters, most people fall somewhere in between.

I suppose that it is possible that parents, on average, are less involved now than they were in the past. Parental involvement in school is not a direct function of available time, but some time is a necessity. With the growth of single parent families and dual income families, many aspects of family life have suffered. If the family meal is gone, it isn't likely that "Science Night" is going to get too much priority.

If the conclusions are valid, however, then what?Does this suggest solutions? Can the school system make “good” parents out of“bad” parents? Can the teachers and administrators manufacture the required time and interest? And if not, then what is the benefit of the study? When push comes to shove, the parents are still the ones paying the bills, both at home and at school. It's hard to believe that schools having such a difficult time directing students will be more successful directing parents.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once stated that "you go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time." I have no doubt that perfect parents would lead to great advances in student achievement, but we aren’t about to see the many time soon. Best to concentrate on what we can accomplish with the parents and students that we have right now. For teachers, that should mean focusing on class, not home.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Goodbye educrats, hello education

Who, beyond literate and well-educated individuals themselves, need and actively seek literate and well-educated individuals? Answer: the world of business.

It’s hard to run a bank without employees with math skills, or design air conditioners without employees with engineering skills, or even sell Lotto tickets without someone who can use a touch screen.

Texas Instruments, the North Dallas semiconductor giant, recently announced a $5 million commitment to help launch and develop the Plano Independent School District’s new academy that will focus on science, technology, engineering and math.

Across the Metroplex, Bell Helicopter announced they’re spending $235 million on new buildings at their Ft. Worth campus, contingent on getting property tax abatements from the city but not from the school district because they want to continue supporting education.

Libertarians like to ponder how schools would be funded in a free society with no government involvement. In this case, Bell could just donate to the school as TI did.

One objection, of course, is that they’re funding only science and technology education that relates directly to their specific needs. What about history and arts and language and all the rest that goes into a well-rounded education?

Government intervention still wouldn’t be needed. For example, there’s nothing preventing the Museum of Modern Art or the Kimbell or the Amon Carter in Fort Worth’s Cultural District from developing programs on their own dime and making them available to all schools everywhere. This is the electronic age where computers and iPads and Kindles are replacing expensive and inefficient book publishing.

And developing those programs creates great PR, and future visitors and sponsors and contributors, for those organizations.

There’s no end to the special interest institutions that would eagerly develop and distribute courseware for every school in the country, and in the world, if it meant making a profit or creating future customers or just producing positive publicity.

Don’t say it wouldn’t happen because it already has.

One example: back in the 1950s small town car dealerships made new cars available to high school drivers ed classes, figuring that those who learned on a Ford or Chevy or Plymouth would more likely become future Ford or Chevy or Plymouth buyers.

Millions of words have and can be written about the free market in education.

Getting government, and coercive government-created unions, permanently out of our schools would create an Education Renaissance in America.


British universities axe 5,000 'soft degree courses' as the funding cuts sink in

Universities have axed 5,000 degree courses in preparation for cuts in state funding and the trebling of tuition fees, due to take effect in 2012. Figures show there are 38,147 courses on offer through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service for entry in 2012, down a staggering 12 per cent, from 43,360.

Vice-chancellors have targeted their least popular non-academic courses – 'soft subjects' that offer poor employment prospects such as Caribbean Studies – because they are loss-making.

Some universities, such as London Metropolitan, have slashed more than 60 per cent of their courses, including philosophy, performing arts and history.

The University of East Anglia has announced the closure of its music school, which was opened in the 1960s with the help of Benjamin Britten. The figures, from Supporting Professionalism in Admissions, come as universities fear applications for so-called 'Mickey Mouse courses' will reduce to a trickle when students face the prospect of £9,000 a year fees.

Official Ucas figures released last month show overall applications are down 9 per cent on last year. The deadline for applications is January 15.

From 2012, the value-for-money of courses is to be put under the spotlight. Universities will have to publish a raft of statistics about each course they offer to ensure students, facing the prospect of huge debts, can make better informed decisions.

Business Secretary Vince Cable has warned that ailing universities will not be propped up and will be allowed to go bust. They all face losing about 10 per cent of state funding.

The University and College Union, said: 'This government reforms have been a complete mess. It’s particularly going to hit students planning to live at home to minimise expenses.

'It'll be a real tragedy if they suddenly find cuts at their local university mean they can no longer study the subject they have always wanted.'


Fire Britain's criminally negligent teachers

A teachers’ union official has claimed absurdly that the Government’s education reforms are a ‘crime against humanity’.

Patrick Roach, deputy general secretary of the NASUWT, attacked plans which allow parents to set up schools free of local government control.

Only a fanatic could equate freeing schools from political interference with genocide and torture.

But this is the type of deranged hyperbole we have come to expect from the Left-wing rabble which runs Britain’s teaching unions.

I’ll tell you what’s a crime against humanity. It’s teachers and education professionals like you, Trotsky, who have betrayed a generation of children, now leaving school semi-literate, innumerate and ill-disciplined, utterly unsuited for the adult world of work.

Trendy teaching methods and ‘child-centred’ learning are what lie behind the fact that more than one million young people in Britain are not only unemployed, many of them are unemployable.

It’s also a crime to shut every school in Britain by staging a politically-motivated, self-indulgent strike, which is what Wolfie Roach and his fellow ‘professionals’ intend to do next week.

The strike is going ahead, even though only a third of NASUWT members voted in favour.

It is to be hoped that the majority of staff who opposed industrial action will report for work as usual, even if that means crossing hostile picket lines.

Any teacher who walks out on November 30 should be sacked. Our children deserve better than this criminal neglect.


Monday, November 21, 2011

The Year of School Choice

We're used to hearing bad news from the education front: poor test scores, falling literacy, slipping standards. But the new academic year brings a welcome change: School-choice programs have expanded significantly in recent months. Indeed, the Wall Street Journal has already dubbed 2011 the Year of School Choice.

As of this month, 18 states and the District have policies that support private school choice. Public school choice options also are continuing to grow. On top of that, millions of children are participating in kindergarten-through-12th-grade courses online. Meanwhile, home schooling and charter schools are becoming more widespread.

There are many good public schools across this country, with dedicated teachers who deserve praise. Unfortunately, there also are many bad schools, especially in urban areas. When you consider the damage those institutions inflict, making it nearly impossible for students to learn and fulfill their potential, you realize it’s nothing short of a national crime. That’s why it’s so heartening to see the school-choice movement gaining ground.

It’s encouraging, too, to see this trend crossing the usual red-state-blue-state divide. School choice isn’t spreading in just one region. It’s surging nationwide.

Take Ohio. According to a new report from Heritage Foundation education experts Lindsey Burke and Rachel Sheffield, the Buckeye State has four private school choice programs, a national first.

Before now, Ohio’s Educational Choice Scholarship Program was capped at 14,000 students. Now it’s open to 30,000, and legislators have made it possible for more students to qualify. They’ve also added a program for special-needs students, one that provides up to 90 percent of their state education funding for the school their parents choose. Low-income children are being helped as well, thanks to the Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program.

Or look at Minnesota. Residents there can use the K-12 Education Credit program, which provides tax credits to help cover educational expenses at a school of their choosing, up to 75 percent of the amount spent. Thousands of families have been taking advantage of the program and ensuring a high-quality education for their children.

Arizona is another state that’s been helping parents. Gov. Jan Brewer recently signed legislation creating an Education Savings Account program for special-needs students. Under it, Arizona deposits 90 percent of the state per-pupil education funding into a savings account that parents control. They can use it for private school tuition, online education, home schooling, or to save for college. The funds that are unused in one year can be rolled over to the next. Up to 17,000 special-needs students are expected to be eligible for the program this year.

States also have been getting private businesses involved. Rhode Island, for example, has its Corporate Scholarship Tax Credit program. Businesses can get a tax credit worth 75 percent of whatever they contribute to a scholarship-granting organization. Pennsylvania has been doing something similar for the past decade, offering businesses a tax credit to encourage charitable donations that fund tuition scholarships.

Perhaps the most hopeful sign occurred here in our nation’s capital: Congress has reauthorized the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (DCOSP). Despite its popularity and success, the program was being phased out, and President Obama was doing nothing to save it. Now, however, thanks in large measure to House Speaker John A. Boehner, the program has been restored. In fact, its reauthorization is the only piece of legislation Mr. Boehner will sponsor this year; that’s how important the issue is to him.

The DCOSP budget went up, too, from $13.2 million to $20 million. Low-income students in elementary grades will receive scholarships worth $8,000. For high school students, it will be $12,000.

There’s still a long way to go, of course. School choice isn’t as widely available as it should be, and teachers unions continue to fight it at every step. And although the trend lines are moving in the right direction, we can’t rest until every child has access to the school that best meets his or her needs. Our nation’s future depends on it.


British Children 'dropping English literature in schools'

Children risk growing up with a poor understanding of literature and history as rising numbers of pupils ditch traditional academic disciplines at secondary school, it is claimed today.

A charity set up by the Prince of Wales warns that children’s knowledge base is being eroded as they drop basic subjects at the age of 14 in favour of easier alternatives.

A grasp of core academic subjects is essential to allow young people contribute to society and help solve some of “biggest problems of our age”, the charity says.

But according to figures, the number of pupils taking a GCSE in English literature has plummeted by 12 per cent in the last four years – dipping below 500,000 for the first time.

Geography entries have dropped by eight per cent over two years and the number of pupils studying history to a decent standard this year was lower than the total in 2009. In some schools history and geography are no longer taught as standalone subjects.

In a speech today, Bernice McCabe, director of the PTI and headmistress of North London Collegiate School, will say that too many pupils choose subjects that “do most to boost the league table points tally” - instead of those with the most educational benefit.

Addressing teachers at a conference in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, she says: “You have a challenge on your hands… to renew and reinforce your own convictions about the value of your subject; for instance, the ways in which literature and history help us to understand what it is to be human and to appreciate the diversity of human experience, while geography explains how we are placed in relation to our physical and social environment and thereby points us towards solutions of some of the biggest problems of our age.

“These are hardly unimportant matters. They are things that the children of the rising generation need to have a knowledge of if they are to make a success of managing their own lives, contributing to their communities, governing their country and husbanding their resources.”

The PTI was set up by the Prince a decade ago to help teachers rediscover their passion for subjects.

It stages a series of training courses across the country to give staff crash courses in academic disciplines, with the latest course focusing on English literature, history and geography. It has also covered science, mathematics and modern foreign languages.


Australia: Plan for schools to hire and fire

A small step in the right direction

PRINCIPALS could poach talented student teachers and hire "a percentage" of staff under State Government proposals released today.

The Government will today release a discussion paper, "Local Decisions: stronger school communities", which looks to give parents and state school communities more say on improving education outcomes for Queensland children.

The paper says principals may be able to make an "early offer" of placement to student teachers due to complete their final year of university.

Education Minister Cameron Dick said it was important to ensure student teachers had the chance to gain employment while completing placements.

"It's a positive way for schools to see potential teachers in the school environment upfront and then to give them the flexibility to employ them," he said.

Other proposals include allowing principals and school communities to recruit a percentage of teaching staff depending on school size and location, allowing greater community use of school facilities and giving principals more flexibility to secure funding through philanthropic arrangements.

It comes after the Federal Government said yesterday it would also give principals greater input into hiring staff under a national blueprint, with 179 Queensland schools involved in the reform from next year.

Mr Dick said the percentage of staff recruitment they were proposing would vary across the state from school to school and region to region.

The discussion paper was developed together with teachers, principals and Parents and Citizens' Associations.

Mr Dick said consultation with parents and state school communities on decision-making was beneficial for all parties involved.

"The most effective schools are the ones where the principal, school staff, parents and the school community work together to get the best outcomes for students," he said.

Meanwhile, state LNP leader Campbell Newman said yesterday every state special school would receive 20 iPads or tablets and state and non-government schools with special education units would receive 10 each.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Would you like to be a blogger?

I am looking for co-bloggers on this site. Education is such a huge topic with so many incidents and controversies to report that I am acutely aware that I only scratch the surface with this blog.

So if you are of conservative to libertarian views and would like to blog on education (you will probably have some teaching background at some level), email me on

Joining an existing blog is much easier than starting your own. Those who start their own often give up quickly for lack of readers. But this blog does have a small core of regular readers.

Florida 12-year-olds investigated for 'sex crime' after they kiss at school

Two 12-year-olds faced a police investigation for a sex crime after being caught kissing at school. Police were called to a Florida elementary school after an assistant principal was told the pair had exchanged a playground kiss.

But after officers responded to the emergency call they declined the take any action saying no offence had been committed. Now parents have accused the school of over-reacting and taking political correctness to a new level.

The incident took place at Orange River Elementary School in Fort Myers, Florida. According to local reports two girls who had a crush on a boy were talking about which of them liked him the most. One of the girls approached the boy and briefly kissed him.

A teacher on duty noticed the kiss and reported it to the assistant principal Margaret Ann Haring.

She said it was a 'possible sex crime' and called social workers at the Florida Department of Children and Families. They told her to report the matter to the Lee County Sheriff's office who responded by sending deputies to the school.

After talking with teachers no action was taken as no crime had been committed.

Haring told deputies there is an ongoing involvement with DCF. 'They went ahead and took a report and documented this because we don't know at this point whether or not there is bigger picture that somebody needs to be looking at,' said police spokesman Sgt Stephanie Eller. 'We had been called because one of the teachers observed what they thought was inappropriate behaviour."

Sgt Eller added that the kiss was not a sex crime. 'This incident is more of a simple assault, though by definition there would have to be a victim,' she said. It is not reported that the boy objected to being kissed.

The two children involved in the kissing were spoken to by the school principal Holly Bell. She said: 'Two girls were guessing who was each other's boyfriend.'

Parents at the school believe the principal overreacted by calling police. 'How I behaved when I was 12 and most of the kids that I knew, yes its exploratory,' said parent John McDaniel. 'A kiss between 12-year-olds, I would say is relatively harmless.'

Others writing in the local newspaper were outraged by the police getting involved. One wrote:'Whatever happened to common sense' while another commented: 'Principal Margaret Ann Haring needs to be fired immediately. 'It is pretty obvious she is out of touch and clueless. Two little kids kissing is a Sex Act? What an idiot.'


Maryland’s Governor Spends $553,000 on Pianos at Left-Wing Junk College

Maryland’s left-wing governor just lavished $553,000 in luxury spending on a left-wing, predominantly-black college where most students don’t have the brains or knowledge to deserve a high-school diploma, much less a college degree

by Hans Bader

Maryland’s governor just decided to shower money on Bowie State University, a school that is almost as bad as a diploma mill. When I applied to college, Bowie State’s median SAT score was 617 total — out of 1600. (My SAT score was 1520.) You could get nearly that score by leaving the entire test blank except for your name (you got a quarter of a point for each blank answer, to discourage random guessing.)

One of my high-school history teachers went there despite its bad quality because it was right near his house. He took courses like “arithmetic for college students,” and although he never fully mastered arithmetic, he was a genius compared to many of his classmates (who viewed him as a strangely studious egghead). Bowie State is a monotonously left-wing place, and one of its professors was famous for claiming that the U.S. government invented AIDS as a conspiracy to kill blacks.

Now, The Washington Examiner reports that “Maryland officials on Wednesday approved the purchase of 32 high-end pianos for Bowie State University, costing taxpayers more than a half million dollars amid a looming $1 billion shortfall. With a 2-to-1 vote, the Maryland Board of Public Works signed off on a $553,000 contract . . . Gov. Martin O’Malley and Treasurer Nancy Kopp . . . voted for the contract.”

States spend billions of dollars operating colleges that are little better than diploma mills in terms of academic rigor, yet manage to graduate few of their students — like Chicago State University, “which has just a 12.8 percent six-year graduation rate,” and UT El Paso, which graduated only “1 out of 25 students in a timely manner.”

As state send more and more mediocre students to college, students learn less and less. “Our colleges and universities are full to the brim with students who do not really belong there, who are unprepared for college and uninterested in breaking a mental sweat.” “Nearly half of the nation’s undergraduates show almost no gains in learning in their first two years of college, in large part because colleges don’t make academics a priority,” according to a widely-publicized January report from experts like New York University Professor Richard Arum. “36% showed little” gain after four years.

Although education spending has exploded in recent years, students “spent 50% less time studying compared with students a few decades ago, the research shows.” “32% never took a course in a typical semester where they read more than 40 pages per week.” As George Leef of the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy notes, “long-term average earnings for individuals with BA degrees have not risen much and in the the last few years have dipped. Also, degree holders seem to be learning less, as shown by the National Assessment of Adult Literacy.”


Generation betrayed by bogus promises: Britain's failing schools are 'forcing UK firms to choose foreign workers'

Britain has produced a lost generation of young people who lack essential literacy, numeracy and communication skills – and cannot be trusted to turn up to work on time, an influential report has warned.

It says failing schools have left employers no option but to hire foreign workers, who are punctual, work harder and have a more positive attitude.

‘It is not just lower skilled jobs – this is the perception right across the board,’ said report author Gerwyn Davies, of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

Mr Davies's warning came as unemployment among those aged 16 to 24 hit a record one million.

At the same time, demand for migrant workers has never been higher. Around 500 foreigners landed a job in Britain every day over the past year, while the number of British-born workers doing so has crashed by 850 a day.

Mr Davies said there was a belief among employers that the education system was not ‘fit for purpose’. ‘They argue that our education skills are too geared towards testing and written examinations,’ he said. ‘They believe many school-leavers don’t possess communication skills.’

In an interview with The Mail on Sunday, Mr Davies predicted that the unremittingly bleak picture painted by employers was likely to worsen.

Experts are growing increasingly worried by the scale of the crisis facing young people – more than one in five is unemployed – and warn of consequences such as debt, self-loathing and depression. ‘Youth unemployment is likely to increase further because there are more experienced people being made redundant who are perhaps more employable,’ said Mr Davies.

His quarterly Labour Market Outlook report, based on a survey of more than 1,000 public and private-sector employers, is regarded as the most authoritative indicator of employers’ recruitment intentions – and, crucially, lays bare how they perceive school-leavers.

Only 12 per cent of employers said they planned to hire school-leavers this year. And only a quarter would consider 17 to 18-year-olds.

When asked what skills the Government should focus on improving to encourage the recruitment of British school-leavers, more than half cited literacy. Forty-two per cent identified numeracy, while 40 per cent said communication and customer service skills.
'It is the employers’ perception that workers from Poland and Lithuania demonstrate a greater work ethic. This is particularly apparent in the hospitality sector but applies right across the board'

Foreign workers are also seen as more courteous and enthusiastic. Mr Davies said: ‘This is why we have seen more migrant workers in the hotel and restaurant sector. Employers were particularly enthusiastic about employing migrant workers for the customer-facing roles in hotels and restaurants.’

The survey sought the views of senior personnel staff in sectors such as public administration, healthcare and education. Largely overlooked when it was published in August, its significance has only just become apparent with the release of official jobless figures.

As well as being seen as lacking vital skills, many youngsters seem disinclined to take lower paid jobs. Malmaison, the upmarket hotel chain, says it is struggling to fill more than 100 vacancies.

Meanwhile, in just three months, the number of unemployed youngsters hunting for a job but failing to find one jumped by 67,000 to an all-time high of 1.02 million.

But last week one area – the Test Valley in Hampshire – was identified as one of the few places with more jobs than unemployed people. In all there are 1,287 vacancies against 1,058 looking for work.

Caroline Nokes, the Conservative MP for Romsey and Southampton North, said: ‘We are lucky because we have a lot of people willing to invest in creating vacancies. However, business owners have told me they have difficulty finding people with the necessary skills. ‘One recruitment manager said there are a lot of people who have the qualifications but do not present well in interviews or on their CVs.

‘And people who are well educated, those with degrees, are less inclined to take some of the more menial jobs on offer.’

Another CIPD report, published earlier this month, found that employers are having trouble finding highly skilled British workers such as doctors, engineers, accountants and finance professionals.

It said 42 per cent of employers ‘currently have vacancies that they are finding hard to fill. Manufacturing and healthcare are the sectors reporting greatest difficulty’.

Mr Davies, the CIPD’s public policy adviser, blamed the problem on the ‘legacy of the last Government, which failed to invest in skills’ and instead plugged the gap with foreign workers. ‘Labour that was sought in the middle of the last decade from countries such as Poland was seen as a useful stopgap to filling the skills shortage at a time when the economy was doing really well,’ he said. ‘The problem was hidden to a large degree. Now unemployment is at a much higher level and many of the migrant workers are still here.

‘It is a failure to invest. You cannot train doctors and engineers overnight – there is a long lead time.’

Mr Davies added: ‘It is not as though hiring non-EU migrant workers is an easy option for employers because it is bureaucratic and costly. ‘It’s a measure of how much of a necessity it is for a small number of employers. The value to the country of migrant workers is very powerful across all sectors. ‘Many of our members value very highly the skills and expertise that psychologists from Australia and doctors from South Africa bring.’

The CIPD, Europe’s largest human resources professional body with more than 135,000 members, is backing the Government’s welfare-to-work scheme that has promised help finding work for 2.4 million unemployed people over the next five years.

‘I think that the key to improving the situation lies with the work programme,’ said Mr Davies. ‘It is about giving them a helping hand, giving them professional, specialist advice that involves coaching and searching for work.

‘It is this support that has been relatively lacking in recent decades that could be the difference between us improving the prospects of young people over the next couple of years or not.’