Friday, May 11, 2012

"Head Start" an Abysmal Failure for Kids, a Spectacular Success for Teachers

As all the studies have shown, Head Start has done nothing towards achieving its underlying aim:  Improve black educational achievement.  But look how lush it is for its employees!

For more than four decades, Miami-Dade County officials have managed Head Start, the storied preschool program for children from low-income families.  But the county now wants out — and “generous” salaries are partly to blame.

On average, Miami-Dade paid its Head Start teachers $76,860 in salary and fringe benefits in 2011, county records show. That’s about 90 percent higher than the second highest-paying Head Start provider in the county, Catholic Charities, which paid its teachers an average of $40,418 in salary and benefits.

On the administrative side, 17 county Head Start staffers made more than $100,000 in salary and benefits.

Last week, the county submitted paperwork to offload much of the Head Start program to three local agencies: the Miami-Dade school system, Easter Seals of South Florida and the YWCA of Greater Miami-Dade.

Having new agencies run the centers would provide an opportunity to rein in costs — and could save the county more than $3 million annually, said Lisa Martinez, a senior advisor to Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

Head Start was created in 1964 as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society campaign. The program provides free, full-day preschool and social services for low-income children.  In Miami-Dade, Head Start and Early Head Start centers serve about 6,700 children.

The programs are funded in large part by a $53 million grant from the federal government. County officials manage the grant and operate about one-third of all Head Start centers in Miami-Dade. The rest are run by nonprofit organizations and private childcare companies that receive a share of the grant money.

Head Start has been a consistent money-loser for the county, in part because Miami-Dade pays its Head Start employees much higher salaries and better benefits than any other local providers, records show.

Last year, the average Head Start teacher on the county payroll made more than triple the $19,441 in salary and benefits given to Head Start teachers at Paradise Christian, Miami-Dade’s lowest-paying Head Start provider.

Another way of looking at it: The average county-employed Head Start teacher made about $8,000 more in salary and benefits than the average public schoolteacher in the Miami-Dade school district.  The county’s highest paid Head Start employee was director Jane McQueen, who received $188,624 in salary and benefits.


Israel's Reaction to Anti-Semitism on Campus

At long last an attempt is being made to curtail blatant anti-Semitic commentary at American universities. The Israel Law Center warns that universities "may be liable for massive damage" if they fail to prevent anti-Semitism on campus.

The center sent hundreds of letters to university presidents drawing a line in the sand. This Israel civil rights center is carrying out this campaign in response to an alarming number of incidents against Jewish and Israeli students at U.S. universities.

A center's lawyer, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner said, "Anti-Israel rallies and events frequently exceed legitimate criticism of Israel and cross the line into blatant anti-Semitism, resulting in hateful attacks against Jews." A student at Rutgers, to cite, one example, said he was called "a racist Zionist pig" in a public Facebook posting. That comment was made when the student questioned a Student Assembly decision to donate money to the Palestine Children's Relief Fund, a nonprofit organization with ties to the Holy Land Foundation, a foundation that has funded Hamas - a recognized terrorist organization.

University officials noted that free speech provisions militate against disciplinary action; clearly a case can and should be made for the free and open exchange of ideas on campus. In fact, every provision should be made to foster free speech. However, intimidation is another matter. Using methods to stifle free speech is the overarching issue. As George Santayana noted, "The first duty of the tolerant person is to be intolerant to intolerance."

Ms. Leitner contends that "perpetrators of hate" are exploiting academic freedom and First Amendment provisions to create an environment of intimidation, one that prevents Jews from exercising their free speech. 

Presumably the warning distributed by the center will prompt U.S. colleges and universities to take appropriate action against the growing problem of campus hate.

A former Brandeis student Hershel Hartz maintains that universities have a double standard in which anti-Semitism is protected as free speech while other designated ethnicities are scrupulously protected from discriminatory acts.

The center letter also points to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project which held it illegal to provide support to a terrorist organization, even for supposed humanitarian purposes (a clear reference to the Rutgers program).
The center's notice sets the stage for a responsible reaction to the rash of anti-Semitic actions on American campuses. As I see it, it is about time.


Ban cellphones from schools: Chief British schools inspector gets tough over classroom discipline

Pupils face a ban on mobile phones in school as part of a new Ofsted crackdown on classroom discipline.  Schools will be penalised for failing to tackle persistent low-level disruption in lessons under a tough new inspection regime being introduced next term.

This could force teachers to forbid mobile phone use by pupils – including texting, taking calls and surfing the web – to avoid being marked down by inspectors.

It will also cover other forms of disruption, including back-chatting and calling out, which damage education for well-behaved classmates.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector of schools, said that apart from the distracting effect of a mobile going off in a lesson, handsets can be used for cyber-bullying and accessing online pornography at school.

In an interview with the Mail, Sir Michael told how, as a headmaster, he banned his pupils from bringing phones to school.

Recalling his experience as head of Mossbourne Academy in Hackney, east London, he said: ‘It certainly cut out all that nonsense that you have in schools of these things being brought in and then a mobile phone going off in a lesson.

‘The outrageous behaviour that you occasionally see in all schools is serious, but I think the bigger issue is that low-level disruption which takes place which stops children learning effectively. Teachers and head teachers have got to stamp that out.’

Sir Michael added that bullying via phones and the internet could be ‘disruptive and pernicious’ and he treated the menace as seriously as a fight in the playground.

He will use a keynote speech today to pledge to push ahead with an overhaul of the school inspection regime despite a revolt by head teachers and claims of ‘bully  boy tactics’.

Under his reforms, 6,000 schools currently deemed ‘satisfactory’ will be rebadged in the next academic year as ‘requiring improvement’.

‘I know this is a tough message but I think in a few years’ time it will be seen as a right one,’ he said.  ‘I’m not a bully and never have been. We are raising the game. We are saying that all children deserve a good education and nothing less.’

Ofsted’s sharper focus on standards of behaviour is expected to lead to schools taking a tougher line on mobiles.  New laws brought in last month give teachers powers to search pupils for handsets if they are banned under school rules.  Staff may also search pupils for phones if they suspect they are being used to view pornography.

Few schools currently impose an outright ban on bringing handsets to school. Many allow them as long as they are kept switched off and stowed away.

But teachers warn that once mobiles are in school, they face a battle to make sure they are switched off all day.

Teachers who contributed to an online forum said: ‘Officially, we do not allow phones and will confiscate if seen. In reality, kids wander round using them as they like.’

Another warned: ‘I’ve had the situation where I’ve demanded the phone from, say, a Year 10 boy (I’m female) and they just shove the phone inside their boxers and say “You want it, you get it!”’

Sir Michael went on to reveal that heads will be expected to deal more effectively with teachers who cannot control their classes.

They will be marked down if they fail to manage the performance of struggling teachers, for example by waving through unjustified pay rises.

‘If the culture of the school is good and somebody is consistently under-performing because they are not teaching effectively, leading to that low-level disruption, that’s got to be picked up,’ said Sir Michael.

‘Where head teachers find that teachers are consistently underperforming, where there is that low-level disruption in every lesson, no matter what the professional development taking place in the school, then action needs to be taken.’

Sir Michael plans to extend Ofsted’s reach to the new chains springing up to run academies, which operate outside local authority influence but are state-funded.

At a conference today at Brighton College, he will say he has not been deterred from pressing ahead with toughening up the system, and that a consultation on the proposals attracted wide support, including from parents.

Richard Cairns, headmaster of Brighton College, will tell the conference that heads who fail to sack incompetent teachers should have their pay docked.  ‘No head teacher should ever tolerate bad teaching. Yet up and down the land, that is precisely what is going on.

‘Too many head teachers are prepared to take their relatively generous salaries yet duck the issue of the bad teacher in the staff room.’

A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘Parents should take responsibility for whether or not their children have phones in the first place. It is up to individual head teachers to decide if and when mobile phones should be used by pupils in school.’


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