Sunday, June 24, 2012

Compulsory education humiliation

Compulsory education today involves public school students being forced to attend classes so that they may be routinely humiliated, bullied and violated as part of their state dictated learning process.

My last post detailed the aftermath of a so-called “catastrophe award” presented by the teacher in front of the class to a little third-grader for not finishing her homework; a ninth-grader slapped in the face repeatedly by her teacher in front of her classmates because she forgot to bring her homework; and an eight-year-old boy stripped naked and washed by two female school officials because they thought he needed a bath.

Clearly, far too many public school officials in America nowadays have it in their statist minds that the children and young adults under their domination have no constitutional rights, in fact, no rights at all. They think that they can get away with treating human beings like so many domesticated animals in cages.
Today the news is about ten-year-old Justin Cox, a third grader at Union Elementary School in Clinton North Carolina who was strip-searched by a female assistant principal after another student accused him wrongly of theft.

A little girl classmate dropped a $20 bill. Justin picked it up off the floor and returned it to her. Evidently she lost it again and this time accused the boy of stealing it.

Female assistant principal, Teresa Holmes, in total disregard of the student’s rights, specifically his Sixth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures without a warrant based upon probable cause, took it upon herself to order a strip search.
Justin was ordered to strip to his T-shirt and boxer shorts in front of her. Then "she came up to him and rubbed her fingers around inside of his underwear," reports his mother. "If that isn't excessively intrusive, I don't know what is."

The strip search yielded no money, no evidence – nothing. So the assailant hugged the boy and apologized to him. Later someone found the $20 bill underneath a lunchroom table.

His mother said that, with or without an apology, her son was violated.  But a Sampson County Schools spokeswoman, while admitting that mother should have been informed prior to any search, insisted that the assistant principal had done nothing wrong because a male janitor was present. "The assistant principal was within her legal authority, her legal right, to do the search," Warren said. "She may have been overzealous in her actions."

Legal authority! What legal authority?

Since when does an assistant principal at an elementary school have the authority to suspend the mandate of the United States Constitution Bill of Rights?

Since when does a female elementary school assistant principal have the authority to order a male student to strip in front of her so she can feel around beneath his underpants?

Can school administrators strip students now as long as a janitor is present?

The arrogance of these school house tyrants boggles my mind.
And some of them even want their hapless little captives to pledge allegiance to them regularly just like they are coerced into pledging allegiance to the United States government and its statist flag.

For the past decade, every Monday of the school year at Asher Holmes Elementary School in Morganville, N.J., has started with students reciting a pledge written by a fourth-grade teacher honoring the Marlboro Township School District and its teachers, who “help [students] learn” all they need to “know for the future.”

"I pledge allegiance to Asher Holmes and the Marlboro Township School District and to the teachers who help us learn all that we need to know for the future," the pledge states. "We promise to respect ourselves and others, to try our best and always be proud of our schools."

This unbelievable violation of rights would still be going on today had a parent who found out about it from her kid not complained.

So the school board voted to nix the pledge and opted instead to rewrite it as a school song instead. "Over the summer, a school spirit song will be created to replace the pledge, and will be put into effect for the 2012-13 school year," said the Marlboro Board of Education in a news release.

Compulsory education by humiliation: It never ends.


Race to open Britain's first new grammar (selective) school in 50 years

A race has opened up to establish England's first new grammar school in 50 years.

Two local authorities are competing to be the first to use a "back door" route to get around a legal ban on the creation of entirely new selective schools.

Croydon, in south London, which currently has no selective schools, is planning to open a 600-pupil grammar on a site it has identified.

The move follows a vote in Kent to open a similar-sized grammar school in Sevenoaks.

In each case, the school would open as an "annex" of an existing grammar elsewhere – a tactic sanctioned by Michael Gove, the Education Secretary.

Experts said the plans were likely to open the floodgates for other councils to set up grammars where there currently are none.

Mr Gove's proposal to scrap GCSEs and return to traditional O-levels, revealed last week, is also likely to fuel demand for the academic rigour grammar schools provide.

It comes as a number of comprehensive schools attempt to attract parents by introducing their own "grammar streams" for their brightest pupils, chosen through 11-plus-style ability tests.

Conservative-led Croydon council has committed nearly £15 million for a new 120-pupil secondary school in South Norwood, to be run as an annex of an existing school. Grammar schools in neighbouring authorities have been invited to take it on.

Bids will also be considered from non-selective schools, but Tim Pollard, Croydon's cabinet member for education, said he supported the reintroduction of pupil selection.

"We need more academically high-performing schools in the borough," he said. "If that means we have a partner whose admissions criteria includes selection tests to identify pupils with the highest level of aptitude, this would simply add a new dimension to the range of options available in the borough.

"Many parents move mountains to get their children into a selective school in neighbouring boroughs. Having a selective school would provide the extra choice locally which parents want."

Mr Pollard said at least one selective school was already looking at the proposal. Grammars in the neighbouring boroughs of Sutton and Bromley are popular with parents in Croydon.

Tory-controlled Kent county council gave its backing in March to a satellite campus for around 600 pupils in the town of Sevenoaks.

Children in the town currently travel about nine miles to attend the nearest grammars in Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells.

Discussions with potential "host" grammar schools were ongoing, said a Kent County Council spokesman. No site for the school has been agreed.

Only 164 grammar schools remain in England following the expansion of comprehensive education in the 60s and 70s.  It was revealed last year that as many as half of pupils who pass the 11-plus entrance exam fail to get a place in grammar school because of the sheer competition for places.

Since a change of law under Labour in the late 1990s, the construction of entirely new grammar schools has been banned.  But Coalition reforms now allow existing schools – including grammars – to expand where there is demand, even if this means opening an annex many miles away.

The Kent and Croydon proposals have been condemned by opponents of selective education who claim they will undermine local comprehensive schools and harm children who fail to win places. Supporters of selection expect a legal challenge to be mounted.

Some comprehensives are responding by creating "grammar streams" for high-ability pupils.  Knoll Academy, in Sevenoaks, has incorporated a "grammar stream" for the top 25 per cent ability range of students, with priority given to those who passed Kent's 11+ exam.

The academy also announced that it would offer the three separate sciences at GCSE rather than just the double science syllabus.

Stockwell Park High, in south London, has also brought in a "grammar school pathway" for the top set of pupils. Teenagers sit a test in English, maths and science to determine whether they are eligible.

Crown Woods College, in Eltham, moved into a new building last year and split pupils into three schools or houses. Higher-ability children, selected by a combination of test results and primary school assessments, are in Delamere house.

The other two houses, Ashwood and Sherwood, are mixed ability. Children from each "school" wear different-coloured ties and have separate lessons, teachers and lunch breaks.  For the first time this year, the school is oversubscribed with 900 applications for 270 places.

Michael Murphy, the head teacher, said his school was competing for its intake with other popular schools including grammars.

He said: "The aim is that every child of every ability makes excellent progress. And we do that by offering a tailored curriculum to each child, whether it be academic, or vocational or a mix of the two."

Nick Seaton, secretary of the Campaign for Real Education, said: "Parents everywhere will welcome these developments.  "Most existing grammars schools are vastly oversubscribed and parents should have the choice of a grammar school place if their child is eligible."


Will the great morass of British education defeat attempts to upgrade it?

The Education Secretary’s latest plans, including the return of O-levels, confirm the scale of his ambition for our schools. But the task he has set himself defeated his predecessors

In the lobby of the Department for Education there is a long line of photographs of former secretaries of state, 30 of them in total since the war. Very few made any difference at all. Michael Gove must wonder whether he will make a bigger impression.

He has certainly been hyperactive, and has become the darling of the Conservative party as a result. His leaked plan to bring back the O-level, and ditch GCSEs, is the latest in a long line of announcements that have earned the Education Secretary full marks from Tory activists.

But what does saying there will be a “new O-Level” actually mean in practice? And will Mr Gove’s school reforms really raise standards?

In all the countries with the best schools, teaching is a much higher-status profession than in Britain. With this in mind, Mr Gove has set more demanding standards for entry into the teaching profession: they must now have at least a 2:2 degree and the bar could be raised further in future. He has encouraged the growth of Teach First, which encourages high-fliers to try their hand at teaching. And he has reformed teacher training, so that more training is on the job, rather than based on academic theory or fashionable dogma.

To make their jobs easier and less stressful, teachers have been given new powers over discipline, and rules that undermined their authority in the classroom have been pruned back.

What about the quality of management? How do we make sure that the best teachers get rewarded and keep teaching, while those who are not up to the job are either turned around or moved on? A problem with state-run services is that in the absence of market forces, managers don’t have the same incentives to weed out underperformers.

Labour had been turning around some of the worst schools by making them into so-called “academies”. This meant that the failing management would be replaced, a rich sponsor would provide some extra money, and the new academy would have greater freedom to fire bad teachers and set its own curriculum.

There is good evidence that this programme worked, and standards in the academies rose faster than in their predecessor schools. But, although it started in 2002, the academy programme had only reached about 200 schools by the end of Labour’s time in government, less than one per cent of all schools in England.

Mr Gove has continued this programme, but also hugely expanded it in a number of different ways. He has allowed good schools to turn themselves voluntarily into academies, which means they get greater freedoms over hiring, firing and the curriculum. Primary schools can now also be turned into academies. As well as trying to turn around the very worst schools, he wants to change the much larger number of “coasting” schools – the schools that are not terrible, but not good enough either. He is raising the “floor standard” – the level of performance below which schools can be handed over to new management.

The long-term goal of the academy programme is to emulate the competitive forces of the private sector within state education. Schools that are badly run will be taken over by new and better managers. The process is just beginning, but already academy schools are forming into chains.

In the past we often saw brilliant head teachers turn around individual schools. But they could not take over other schools. Now groups with a proven track record of turning around poor schools are able to replicate their successful methods on a bigger scale. Already, more than one in 10 secondary schools is part of a chain. Federations such as ARK and Harris are raising standards in large numbers of schools.

Where does the proposal for a new O-level fit into all this? It fits with Mr Gove’s determination to raise standards, and stop politicians kidding the public about how well schools are doing. Last summer, 23 per cent more youngsters had good GCSE pass rates than in 1995-96. In part, this reflects real progress but it also reflects the fact that exams have been made easier.

For years there has been a race to the bottom between different competing exam boards. To attract schools to sit their exams, boards have lowered standards. A recent Daily Telegraph investigation uncovered the full extent of the problem, with secretly shot footage of chief examiners advising teachers on future test questions and the exact wording that pupils should use to obtain higher marks.

Research by Durham University found that between 1996 and 2007, the average grade achieved by GCSE maths candidates of the same “general ability” rose by a whole grade. As part of the O-level proposal, Mr Gove is suggesting having a single exam board in England, as they already do in Scotland, which will remove one of the main causes of grade inflation.

Although Mr Gove has yet to explain his proposals for the new version, the O-levels of old were more “norm referenced” than GCSEs. In simple terms this meant that a certain proportion of pupils each year would get As, a certain proportion Bs, and so on. But GCSEs are not really anchored in this way, which has allowed politicians to say that grades are going up, even as international comparisons suggest we may be falling behind other countries.

Mr Gove is also concerned that targets set by politicians can have perverse effects. That’s why as part of the O-level proposal he plans to end the Government’s obsessive focus on the number of children getting five GCSE grades at C or better.

This measure, which formed the basis for league tables under the last government, has distorted teachers’ priorities, because getting a child from D to C helps in the league tables, but bumping up a pupil from a B to an A doesn’t.

As one teaching manual – “Boost your borderline students” – helpfully explains: “Students who achieve a GCSE grade C or above in mathematics help to boost the school’s statistics for the Department… and so show the school in a better light for Ofsted and for league tables… D/C borderline students are now an important focus for all teachers.”

The effect of this focus in recent years is clearly visible in GCSE results for English and maths. Comparing 2010 with 2002, 5 per cent more students got a C in maths, and 5 per cent fewer got a D or an E. But the numbers getting A* to B were unchanged. In other words, instead of increasing standards across the board, schools have been forced to play the league table system. In practice this means that bright children and the less able are being neglected because of government targets.

Yesterday there was a furore because of newspaper reports that the O-levels proposal could also mean a return to a two-tier system, whereby most children would study for O-levels but less academic children would study for a more basic Certificate of Secondary Education (CSE).

This looks unlikely to happen, and Deputy PM Nick Clegg was quick to rule out the idea, putting him on a collision course with Mr Gove. Yet while a simple return to the old CSE would be a mistake, something is needed in its place and the proposal raised a hugely important issue: how to cater for less academic children?

Governments of Left and Right have been right to try to get more children to go down the academic route and increase the numbers going to university. In the 21st century, there is more demand than ever for higher skills; globalisation and technological change are relentlessly pushing down the wages of the unskilled, and pushing up the premium that graduates earn.

But there will always be some pupils who are not suited to the academic route. By the age of 14, lots of my classmates were wondering why on earth they were struggling to learn quadratic equations, which they knew they would never use again in their lives. As a result they were bored, felt second rate, and were disengaged from school. We waste the talents of millions of children in this way.

Despite the success of small projects such as Young Apprenticeships, where 14 year-olds spend three days a week at school and two days in work, politicians have shown little interest in the subject. Perhaps that’s because the political class is full of people like me, with dangerously similar backgrounds (PPE, Oxford) who think that academia is the only way to go.

In Finland, which is often held up as a model by the Left, more than 40 per cent of pupils go to vocational schools from age 15. Last year, former Labour education secretary Estelle Morris suggested that children in Britain could choose to go down a vocational or academic route at age 14. This is an attractive idea in principle, but we would need to guard against the vocational track becoming a second-class, second-rate option.

Mr Gove is thinking big, and ruffling a lot of feathers along the way. His O-level proposals are another example of his radicalism, but their messy leaking also shows that the schools revolution is still a work in progress. He wants to tell us the truth about our schools, not kid us about how well we are doing.

His energy is impressive, and he is attacking the problems of educational failure from every angle. But when he contemplates the grainy colour photos of all those failed former education secretaries, he must realise that he has a mountain to climb.


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