Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Massachusetts school district launches student condom policy

A Massachusetts school district will be contacting parents in the next two weeks to detail a new program allowing students ages 12 and older to have access to condoms.

The Springfield Republican reports that officials with Springfield's School Department will emphasize that parents and guardians have the right to opt out if they do not want their children to get condoms.

The access to condoms by school nurses is part of a "comprehensive reproductive health policy" that was approved in a 4-to-3 vote by the School Committee in April. The intent is to reduce teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted illnesses.

Letters and opt-out forms will be mailed before school starts, targeting families of middle- and high-school students ages 12 and older. Parents also will be contacted by phone.


Working-class pupils lose out because they are 'too polite'

What a load of bollocks!  Lack of confidence or not knowing the answers I can believe but "polite" is just a politically correct gloss

Middle-class children are more likely to put their hands up in the classroom and ask questions than peers from working class homes, research suggests.

Pupils from wealthier households have more natural confidence at school after being taught by mothers and fathers to engage with authority figures, it was claimed.

The study found that children with working-class parents were more polite and courteous in lessons but often shunned teachers and attempted to solve problems alone – hampering their long-term academic development.

It was feared that the differences in classroom behaviour by the two groups may have knock-on effects in later life as poorer children slip further behind richer classmates.

The disclosure – in research published in the United States – comes amid continuing concerns over link between social class and educational achievement.

One British study earlier this year found that the highest-performing pupils from disadvantaged families lagged around two-and-a-half years behind bright children brought up in wealthy homes by the age of 15.

Despite an extensive Labour drive to boost access to higher education, it also emerged that the richest schoolchildren were around six times more likely to go on to a top Russell Group universities than the poorest fifth.

Jessica Calarco, assistant professor of sociology at Indiana University, assessed the classroom behaviour of primary-age pupils as part of the latest research.  She said: "Even very shy middle-class children learned to feel comfortable approaching teachers with questions, and recognised the benefits of doing so.

"Working-class children instead worried about making teachers mad or angry if they asked for help at the wrong time or in the wrong way, and also felt that others would judge them as incompetent or not smart if they asked for help.

"These differences, in turn, seem to stem not from differences in how teachers responded to students – when working-class students did ask questions, teachers welcomed and readily addressed these requests – but from differences in the skills, strategies and orientations that children learn from their parents at home."

The study was based on observations of a class of state school children aged nine to 11 over a two year period. Children were assessed twice a week and then interviewed with their parents over the summer holidays.

Research revealed that pushy parents from all kinds of social backgrounds attempted to teach their children how to behave at school and work hard.

But a clear class divide in their methods emerged.  Working class parents were more likely to emphasise the role of politeness and courtesy and being deferential to authority, it was revealed. They would also tackle assignments or projects but on their own without asking for help.

In contrast, middle class children were encouraged to raise their hand, ask questions and not be afraid to ask for help when needed.

These children are then more likely to be noticed by teachers who tend to reward such behaviour, said the study. It meant that they became more outgoing as they get older, which could help as they get jobs or have to deal with authority in other ways, it emerged.


Australia: Federal aid to private schools still an issue for some on the Left

It's just gone 50 years since what is now called the Goulburn Schools Strike. On Friday July 13, 1962, six Catholic schools in the Goulburn diocese closed and instructed their pupils to enrol the following Monday in the government school system. Some 2000 Catholic pupils applied for entry into the public school system, which had only 640 vacancies.

The immediate cause of the protest was the refusal of NSW health authorities to install additional toilet facilities at Our Lady of Mercy Preparatory School in Goulburn. It was driven by members of the Catholic laity who were frustrated that they received no government support for the funding of the Catholic school system, which had been formed at the end of the 19th century.

The story of the Goulburn School Strike is documented in Michael Hogan's book The Catholic Campaign for State Aid (1978) and in the Commonwealth Education Department's publication entitled A History of State Aid (2006). The incident attracted widescale national media attention. Yet it was not successful, and within a couple of weeks, the Catholic school children returned to their original schools.

In her speech to the Independent Schools National Forum yesterday, the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, referred to that "first, famous Menzies science laboratories program which gave so many independent schools a historic boost". Correct. The reference was to the decision of Robert Menzies's Coalition government, on the eve of the 1963 federal election, to commit the Commonwealth to provide financial aid for the establishment of science blocks in both government and non-government schools.

This did not happen by chance. The Menzies government had achieved only a narrow victory in the 1961 election. It was saved by a strong first preference flow from the Democratic Labor Party, which had been formed as a consequence of the Labor Split of the mid-1950s. B.A. Santamaria (the president of the Catholic lay organisation the National Civic Council) and others convinced the Coalition of the need to make a gesture to the largely Catholic DLP voters.

The tactic worked in 1963. So much so that it was tried again four years later. In 1967, the Victorian Liberal Party premier Henry Bolte was worried that he might lose seats to the Country Party. This time Santamaria, working with the DLP, sent a message to Bolte that the DLP could well preference the Country Party ahead of the Liberals if the Liberals did not make a gesture to DLP supporters.

Bolte got the message. In 1967 the Liberal Party announced that, if re-elected, it would provide a form of per capita payments to children attending non-government primary schools. By the end of the 1960s, the principle of government assistance to non-government schools and students had been firmly established. Soon after, Labor, which had long opposed assisting non-government schools, came on board.

From time to time, sections of the left have tried to change the policy. Before she became Labor premier of Victoria, Joan Kirner was active in the Defence of Government Schools (DOGS) organisation - which was really an attack dog aimed at non-government schools.

Appearing on Jonathan Green's Sunday Extra on Radio National last weekend, Ben Eltham declared that the $6.5 billion annually needed to fund the Gonski Report "would easily be found if private schools, the elite private schools in particular, were not receiving any funding at all".

Apparently Eltham is unaware of the message of Goulburn half a century ago. If government funding to non-government schools ceased or was significantly reduced, there would be a movement of students from the private to the public sector. This would amount to a significant cost to the Commonwealth and state budgets.

Then there is the politics. Many families in the suburbs and regional centres - where most of the marginal seats are located - want their children to attend moderate-fee, non-government schools. Mainstream Labor understands this, even if many inner-city leftists do not.

The hostility of the education unions to private schools turns on the fact that some non-government schools challenge the public sector model. Quite a few private schools have larger class sizes than their public school counterparts. Moreover, all give principals the right to hire and fire teachers and to terminate poor performers. The teachers unions, on the other hand, frequently defend the incompetent and the lazy among their members.

In the United States, Britain and now Western Australia, governments are establishing "charter" or "free" schools, which are publicly funded but operate independently from the education bureaucracy. The Coalition, led by Christopher Pyne on this issue, is beginning to embrace this initiative.

Prime Minister Gillard has performed well in standing up to the education unions and introducing such initiatives as the My School website. Her support for independent schools is in this tradition.

The real test, however, will turn on funding. Her speech yesterday did not resolve this issue.


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