Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Parents defend Boston teacher's 'you're not special' speech

A HIGH school teacher's blunt graduation address, in which he told students they were not "anything special" is being defended by some parents.

"It's a speech people are going to remember because he said things that everyone knows, but no one dares say," said Cynthia Ballantyne, whose son Ian was among the graduates at Wellesley High School, near Boston. "Our kids have lived rather charmed lives."

Mr McCullough, who teaches English at the school, told students they had been "fawned over and called 'sweetie pie'" during their "helmeted, bubble-wrapped" existences.  "If everyone is special, then no one is," he continued. "If everyone gets a trophy, trophies become meaningless."

Another parent, Paul Rolincik, said that his initial reaction to Mr McCullough's address was "Where are you going with this?" He realised, he said, that the teacher "was just giving kids a reality check".

The speech "got people thinking", his wife Anne said.

Wellesley Superintendent Bella Wong said no parents have complained to the school district about Mr McCullough's address.


Number of British schools judged to be failing increases by 50% as inspectors get tougher

The number of failing schools has leapt 50 per cent under a back-to-basics inspection regime.  One secondary school in seven has been branded ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted because of poor teaching and under-achievement by pupils.

Nearly one primary in ten has also been given the watchdog’s lowest rating.

The schools were inspected under a tough regime introduced in January to stop weak head teachers bumping up ratings by concentrating on ‘peripheral’ areas such as pupil well-being, spiritual development and community cohesion.

After Coalition reforms, schools are now judged on just four key areas – teaching, pupil results, behaviour and leadership.

Figures on 1,964 inspections in the first three months of the year show more than half of secondaries – 53 per cent – missed out on a ‘good’ rating.  Thirty-nine per cent were merely ‘satisfactory’ – and considered to need improvement – and 14 per cent were ‘inadequate’.

Nearly half the inadequate schools were put into immediate ‘special measures’, forcing them to take action to improve or face closure. The rest were given ‘notice to improve’, requiring them to agree a schedule for significant progress to avoid a ‘special measures’ verdict.

The picture contrasts with inspections during the last three months of the old regime, when 9 per cent of secondaries and 6 per cent of primaries were judged inadequate.

Just 6 per cent of secondaries and 5 per cent of primaries inspected since January were given the highest rating of ‘outstanding’, with 41 per cent of secondaries and 51 per cent of primaries judged ‘good’.  Thirty-four per cent of primaries were rated satisfactory.

The latest results are partly down to more frequent visits to under-performing schools.

But Ofsted said inspectors were also paying closer attention to the core work of schools, ‘spending more time in classrooms observing the quality of teaching and looking in detail at the difference schools are making for pupils’.

Previously, schools were judged against an array of more than 20 politically correct targets, such as ‘the extent to which pupils adopt healthy lifestyles’.

Heads were required to rate themselves against the targets by filling in a ‘self-evaluation’ form.

Pressure on schools will intensify in September with further reforms to inspections being ushered in by Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw.

The satisfactory grading will be rebadged as ‘requiring improvement’ and outstanding judgments will be harder to achieve.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: ‘We are now in our sixth inspection regime, with a seventh due this September .  ‘Every change introduces new mistakes as inadequately trained and ill-prepared inspectors make hasty judgments.’

Nick Gibb, the schools minister, said: ‘All schools should be providing an outstanding education.’


Australia:  Education review leader Professor Brian Caldwell claims teacher quality remains key to improving student outcomes

And because there aren't enough good teachers to go around,  larger class sizes are needed.  That's heresy but decades of evidence support it

EDUCATORS have warned teacher quality remains the key to improving student outcomes amid concerns about the basic literacy and numeracy knowledge of aspiring primary school teachers.

The Courier-Mail revealed yesterday about 40 per cent of higher education students who sat a trial Pre-Registration Test for Aspiring Primary Teachers failed one of three components of the exam.

The exam tested basic literacy, numeracy, science content and teaching strategy knowledge in the three areas required for a primary school level.

Third and final-year teaching students from around Queensland sat the trial, although the test was designed for graduates.

However, it is understood there was a high failure rate on some basic questions primary school students would be expected to know.

The LNP has postponed the pre-registration test over cost concerns despite saying the trial results were "concerning".

Professor Geoff Masters, who recommended the former Bligh government run a pre-registration test and whose organisation helped developed the exam, said the trial results were the reason a test was needed.

"It just underlines the importance of moving ahead and using this in practice to see what percentage of the entire graduating cohort is not meeting the standards that the QCT (Queensland College of Teachers) is setting," Prof Masters said.

Professor Brian Caldwell, who co-led a review of teacher education in Queensland, said teacher quality remained the key to improving student outcomes.

"If one was looking for a single factor that would make an impact on outcomes for students and closing the gap between higher and low-performing students, we would be doing everything we can to raise the academic standard of those entering the teaching profession," he said.

"Around the country we are accepting many students of low academic ability and then teacher education faculties proceed to pass more than 90 per cent of them.

"And that is not the kind of profession teaching is now - it is a highly sophisticated profession that calls for a high capability to analyse complex data about students and diagnose the kind of teaching support that they need."

Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek said he would work with universities and higher education to ensure quality teachers entered the classroom.


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