Sunday, January 01, 2012

Romney's Book Showcases Education Record, Policy Ideas

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the current GOP presidential frontruner, wants to see schools tout the benefits of marriage and pay their beginning teachers more.

He also thinks the No Child Left Behind Act was a step in the right direction because "only the federal government had the clout to force testing through the barricade mounted by the national teachers' unions."
Campaign 2012

Those are just some of the views sketched out in Romney's book, "No Apology: The Case for American Greatness" , which was published back in March of 2010, in advance of Romney's White House bid. The book devotes a whole entire chapter to education, in which he emphasizes schools' role in preparing students for a changing workforce, and on education as a civil right.

And in the book, Romney talks about the relationship between social issues and education, in a way he hasn't yet on the campaign trail.

"I believe it's time for Americans to be honest with ourselves," Romney writes. "We will never be able to truly address the achievement grap until we eliminate the high rate of out-of-wedlock births in our country. It's not a coincidence that student achievement scores by ethnicity mirror the rates of out-of-wedlock births." He cautions that this isn't just a problem for minorities since "most out-of-wedlock children are born to white mothers." And he says that kids must be taught in school about "the advantages of marriage."

Romney adds: "Any discussion of out-of-wedlock births must exercise extreme care and compassion to make sure we in no way appear to judge or condemn these moms or their children. These moms are some of the best people we know."

Romney hits teacher quality hard. He suggests setting a high bar for education schools and opening up alternative pathways. More controversial is his pitch for an increase in salaries for beginning teachers—that's a bit unusual for a Republican. He also wants to see a movement away from a "lockstep seniority-based grid."

Romney has some ideas on social studies education, too, where he wades into some culture war issues. It bugs him that "progessives have de-emphasized the subjects that had previously been considered essential", such as the history of Western and American civilization. "They presented all the world's cultures to our children and insisted that none was superior to others," he wrote.

He also cites research showing that class size has no impact on student achievement (complete with charts and graphs). And he advocates for expanding school choice, particularly charter schools.

He's a testing fan. He rejects the claim that No Child Left Behind advocates "teaching to the test", which he attributes to teachers' unions.

"'Teaching to the test' can only mean teaching the fundamentals fo math, algebra, geometry, calculus, reading comprehension, and English composition. If giving these students these skills is 'teaching to the test' then I'm all for it."

And Romney likes the idea of using technology to make it easier to teach kids with different learning styles. Teachers' unions oppose a "good deal" of the new "computer learning revolution", he writes. He's a fan of homeschooling too. (He tips his hat to his sister in law, Becky Davies, who has homeschooled four of her children.)

Romney is not a fan of teachers' unions generally, calling them an "obstacle" to education reform. (He's hardly the first Republican—or policymaker—to take up that mantle.)

"Teachers' unions do their very best to secure...insulations from performance for their members, and the results are lack of accountability, rising pay as a simple function of years on the job, and near-absolute job security," he writes. "These have a deadening impact on student achievement. I don't blame teachers' unions...I blame administrators, school boards, and parents for saying yes, even when schools are manifestly failing their students."

And if Romney could "wave a wand over American education and get one result"? He'd want to see schools rededicate themselves to teaching writing.

Romney also showcases his record as Massachusetts governor. Here's what he defines as his "education sucesses" back in the Bay State:

* Creating a scholarship for the students who scored in the top 25 percent of their high school class on state graduation exams. The scholarship could be used at any state institution and was worth about $2,000 a year.

* Vetoing a bill that would have prohibited the creation of new charter schools.

* Implementing the state's high school exit exam program. Romney threatened to pull state funding from one district (New Bedford) when the mayor threatened to give a high school diploma to all students, regardless of whether or not they passed the test. The mayor relented.

—Championing "English-immersion" programs for English-language learners, rather than "bilingual education."

Romney also seems to have the biggest cadre of education advisers in the GOP field right now.

They include: Nina Rees, who served as assistant deputy secretary for innovation and improvement under President George W. Bush; Marty West, a Harvard professor, and F. Philip Handy, the former chairman of the Florida State Board of Education under former Gov. Jeb Bush. (Handy worked as an education adviser on Sen. John McCain of Arizona's campaign back in 2008.)


'We were fired for being white and Christian', claim principal and his wife dismissed from Dubai-backed 'multicultural' college in Scotland

A principal and his wife have been sacked from a college whose stated aim is to promote multiculturalism because they are white Christians, they claim. Professor Malory Nye, 47, says he was dismissed from the Al-Maktoum College of Higher Education in Dundee, Scotland, because his race and religion were seen by his superiors as a threat to its core Muslim values.

He says the college’s claims to pursuing multicultural values were a charade and that he was dismissed so he could be replaced by a Muslim.

His wife Isabel Campbell-Nye, 42, alleges she was forced from her position as head of the English language centre because she attracted too many students who were not Muslims or Arabs.

The independent college, whose patron is Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, the Deputy Ruler of Dubai, advertises itself as a research-led institution 'that promotes a greater understanding of different religions and cultures in a multicultural context, for the benefit of the wider community'.

The couple are taking the college to an employment tribunal claiming racial and religious discrimination, and unfair dismissal.

Mrs Campbell-Nye is also claiming sex discrimination after she was suspended and later dismissed apparently because she is married to Prof Nye.

The couple, from Perth, were marched off the college grounds in June and have not been allowed to return since. They claim they were given no reason for their suspensions and were dismissed in November despite no evidence of any wrongdoing.

The couple have also lodged grievances against the chancellor of the College Lord Elder – a Labour peer and close friend of former Prime Minister Gordon Brown - for his handling of what they describe as a ‘sham’ disciplinary process.

Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the deputy ruler of Dubai, is patron of the college

Prof Nye and his wife began working at the college eight and four years ago respectively, choosing to marry on the campus last year.

However, they believe their attempts at pushing it in a more cosmopolitan direction angered their superiors. Prof Nye said his suspension came just days after he changed the college’s name from the ‘Al-Maktoum Institute for Arabic and Islamic studies’.

The couple allege that Abubaker Abubaker, the director of operations, and Mirza al-Sayegh, chairman of its board of directors and private secretary to the Sheikh, decided to force them out because they were British, white and Christian.

Prof Nye told the Telegraph: 'It is clear to me that there is collusion between these two individuals that I should be removed from my position on the basis that I am not an Arab and not a Muslim and that the person who has the role of principal should be Arab and/or Muslim.

'Multiculturalism and respect for cultural and religious differences are, I had thought, core values of the college. 'However, I believe that such inclusive multiculturalism no longer fits the particular type of multicultural vision of certain managers and the chairman, that is accepting of different cultures, so long as the majority of students are Muslims and/or Arabs and the ethos is distinctly Islamic. 'My face and lack of Muslim faith no longer fit.'

Mrs Campbell-Nye says Mr Abubaker also wanted her removed from her position because she had attracted too many European and Asian students, who weren't Muslim, to her English course at the college, which receives no public funding.

She said: 'Some are from Arab and other Muslim backgrounds. However, a substantial number are from other parts of the world and other cultures. 'I believe Mr Abubaker does not feel happy with us recruiting students from these backgrounds as it does not fit the particular multicultural vision he has for English language.

'The only times Mr Abubaker has encouraged me to bring in students to English language are when they are Arabs or Muslims.

'I believe that Mr Abubaker’s discrimination against me, because I am not Muslim, I am not Arab, and I am also a woman – and because I have brought a number of non Muslim/non-Arab students to the college – is a significant reason for my suspension.'

Despite a waiting list for places on its English language courses, the college closed the department last month, leaving its two remaining tutors redundant at Christmas.

The college, which operates as a charity in partnership with the University of Aberdeen, advertises in its prospectus that 'multiculturalism is at the centre of our vision and structure'. 'Our multicultural ethos is visibly translated and implemented in our day-to-day operation. Our staff and students come from diverse national, cultural and religious backgrounds including Muslims and non-Muslims,' it says.

A spokesman for the college said: 'We can confirm that we have been notified that Employment Tribunal proceedings have been raised in the name of Professor Malory Nye and his wife, Isabel Campbell-Nye.

'The College, an independent, not-for-profit charity, places diversity, religious pluralism and multiculturalism firmly at the core of its Higher Education programmes – and its day-to-day activities,' the spokesman said. 'The Al-Maktoum College will vigorously defend its reputation as a centre of excellence within the higher dducation sector and the good name it has won over the last ten years here in Dundee, nationally and internationally.

'Professor Nye was dismissed from his post as Principal at the College following a period of suspension on full pay and an inquiry conducted by the College Chancellor. 'Contingency plans were put in place to ensure the continued smooth running of the College. 'We are in consultation with our team of legal advisers and, as a result, we are not in a position to discuss the matter further at this stage.'


Australian private school fees rising

Overall, 39% of Australian parents send their children to non-government High Schools (versus a sad 7% in Britain). The figures given below for South Australia would seem to be in line with that average

Fees at Adelaide's elite schools will top $500 a week in 2012 as they are forced to cover rising costs. Since 2007, yearly fees at many of the state's top schools have risen by between $5000 and $6000, or 30 to 40 per cent, with at least five now charging more than $20,000 for Year 12.

About one in five SA students attended one of the state's 94 independent schools, many of which are in outer metropolitan and country areas and which charge low to moderate fees.

About the same number of students attended Catholic schools. Mercedes College and Rostrevor College were among the highest-charging schools in that sector.

Association of Independent Schools of SA executive director Garry Le Duff said the average fee rise was between 5.5 and 6.5 per cent.

He said the increases differed across year levels and at each school depending on their level of growth. "It's not in the interest of schools to set excessive fee rises but schools have a responsibility to remain viable," Mr Duff said. The fee rises ensured improvements that met parents' expectations and attracting the best teachers, he said.

Mr Le Duff said the latest Education Resources Index revealed costs had risen by 6.7 per cent for pre- and primary schools and 7.3 per cent for secondary schools.

He said the drivers included updating IT, teacher salaries especially with the roll-out of the national curriculum and the new SACE. "The cost of utilities - electricity, water and insurance - are imposing increasing burdens on schools," he said.

At Prince Alfred College the average fee increase was 5.5 per cent, but differed across year levels. Headmaster Kevin Tutt said the school worked to cut staff to deliver extra classroom resources.

"The fee structure next year reflects the increases in our operational costs and the rising cost of salaries and tuition expenses," he said.

St Peter's Girls principal Fiona Godfrey listed teacher salaries, technology upgrades and the school's preparation to implement the International Baccalaureate Diploma from 2013 as key reasons for the fee rise.

Private schools generally offer discounts for siblings.


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