Monday, September 03, 2012

Gallup: Americans Rate Public Schools the Worst Place to Educate Children

A new Gallup poll released today indicates that Americans rate public schools the worst place to educate children.

In the national survey conducted Aug. 9-12, private independent schools, parochial and church-related schools, charter schools and home-schooling all rated higher than public schools.

Gallup interviewers asked respondents: "I'm going to read a list of ways in which children are educated in the U.S. today. As I read each one, please indicate--based on what you know or have read and heard--how good an education each provides children--excellent, good, only fair, or poor. How about: public schools, parochial or church-related schools, independent private schools, charter schools, or home-schooling?"

Only 5 percent said they believe public schools give children an excellent eduction.

Another 32 percent said they believe public schools give children a good education. But this combined 37 percent who said public schools give children an excellent or good education was the lowest among the different types of schools Gallup included in its survey.

Americans ranked independent private schools highest, with 31 percent saying they provide an excellent education and 47 percent saying they provide a good education--for a combined 78 percent who say they provide an excellent or good education.

Parochial and church-related schools ranked second, with 21 percent saying they provide an excellent education and 48 percent saying they provide a good education--for a combined 69 percent who say they provide an excellent or good education.


The coming qualifications revolution

Comment from Britain

A new generation of qualifications has recently emerged in the global IT sector, which operate very differently from our traditional GCSE’s and A Levels.  For example, Microsoft Learning is now a global leader in IT qualifications and they offer a wide range of Microsoft Certifications which provide individuals with technical expertise and prove their ability to design and build innovative solutions across multiple technologies.  Due to the rapid rate of change in this sector, new Microsoft qualifications are continuously being introduced and existing qualifications revised.  Some certifications are retired when Microsoft ends its support for the related technology and others must be updated every three years by taking a refresh exam.  This generates additional income for the company, enables students to keep up to date on the latest developments in the field and ensures that potential employers have confidence that someone who holds a Microsoft Certification is current and engaged with Microsoft technologies.  In short the value and the relevance of the qualification are maintained over time.

The branding of these new qualifications is also significant because the quality and reputation of the qualification is now inextricably linked with the quality and reputation of the parent company.  Therefore any criticism of the Microsoft Certification will have a negative impact on the corporate image of Microsoft itself, which places pressure on the company to continuously maintain and improve the quality of its qualifications by investing in research and development and experimenting with new and better ways of delivery.  Further pressure comes from existing and any future competitors from around the world which may introduce a superior alternative at any time.  Again, all of these pressures help to maintain the value and the relevance of the qualification.

Because the government uses examination results as a key measure of a schools performance, schools respond by teaching to the test and by choosing the exam board which has the highest pass rate, i.e the easiest exams.  You therefore end up with a race to the bottom with each private exam company competing to provide the easiest exams. Children continue to get better exam results, schools continue to climb the league table and the government can boast of helping to improve standards across the board.  And when people begin to highlight the blatantly obvious, that despite increasing grades, children appear to be less educated than half a century ago, the private companies which provide the curriculum and the exams can simply hide behind the cover of the government and its generic GCSE qualification, which now attract most of the criticism.  As a result the branding of the company remains intact, while the value of the GCSE continues to decline, until it becomes worthless.

Thankfully, a new generation of specialist qualifications may soon begin to appear in more traditional subjects across the curriculum, as a variety of world class companies and organisations begin to offer their own branded certificates, in the subject areas in which they specialise.   For example, Pfizer could provide qualifications in the sciences, Khan Academy on maths, Pearson on English, Adobe on web design, Virgin on entrepreneurship, Google on utilising the internet, National Geographic on geography, the British Museum on history, the Economist on economics, Fitness First on sport, Jamie Oliver on home economics, Office Angels on how to get a job, Marks and Spencer on customer service and Greenpeace on the environment.  The list is endless.

This unbundling of the school into different subject areas helps to redefine the school as a mechanism that provides students with an assortment of services instead of delivering an indivisible package of education.  We can then start to disentangle the components of that package and customise them to fit specific student needs and abilities.  Choice, variety and specialisation will therefore begin to increase within each school, and each school will now be in a position to offer their students a variety of different courses and qualifications.  With the use of online technology this increasing variety and customisation of children’s education is now much more affordable and this will also encourage a new blended style of learning that combines the classroom with an online experience.

This unbundling of the school will certainly appeal to those parents who live in areas where there is a lack of alternative schools to choose from or who may not want to disrupt their children’s education by transferring them to a different school.  Instead, if they are not satisfied with their child’s progress in a particular subject then they will now have the opportunity to choose between a variety of different educational programmes and qualifications within the same school.  Therefore the goal for customised, unbundled school reform is not to develop a new model of what a good school should look like but to create a flexible system that enables schools and a variety of specialist content providers to meet a variety of needs in increasingly effective and targeted ways.

The end result is that children would not simply graduate after 11 years of schooling with a single certificate which lists the subjects studied and the corresponding A-F grade.  Instead they would graduate with a portfolio of branded qualifications which have real meaning in the outside world and which provide useful information concerning the knowledge and skills acquired by each student.   However, unlike traditional qualifications these branded qualifications will not hold their value for ever but will expire after a certain period of time unless a refresh exam is taken.  This is the only way to guarantee that the qualification holds its value and remains relevant over time, thereby protecting the brand image of both the qualification and the parent company.


Bad teachers 'blight children’s futures',  warns British education boss

Under-performing teachers are to be weeded out under new powers given to inspectors to scrutinise them and heads to have them sacked.

The powers, which come into force this week were described as “zero tolerance” by Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, and now put teachers under an unprecedented level of scrutiny.

Under new rules which come into force from tomorrow (MONDAY), Ofsted, the school inspectors, will toughen up its regime significantly.

Head teachers will get less than 24 hours notice of an Ofsted visit, while inspection teams will observe more classes, listen to pupils read, monitor behaviour and check payrolls to ensure the salaries of weak teachers reflects their performance.

There is concern that performance bonuses are being given to undeserving teachers.

At the same time as the new Ofsted regime comes into force, Government rules designed to tackle substandard teachers take effect.

Heads and governors will be able to sack the worst-performing staff in just a term – rather than a year - under new “capability” procedures.

Teachers have far greater rights to keep their jobs than most other workers, and unions have zealously defended procedures which mean just a handful have ever been sacked for incompetence.

A three hour a year limit on the amount of time head teachers could spend observing a teacher’s lessons has also been scrapped, allowing them to go in to classrooms as often as they like to root out low quality teaching.

Mr Gove promised “zero tolerance” of poor teachers.

“We’ve got a great generation of young teachers but every hour a child spends with a bad teacher blights their future,” he said.

“No parent would willingly tolerate bad teaching for their child and this government believes in zero tolerance for classroom failure. That is why we are changing the rules to give heads the power to ensure every child gets a fair chance.”

Out of the 5,000 schools inspected last year, 36 per cent of primary schools and 34 per cent of secondaries were deemed “satisfactory” or below. The quality of teaching was not good enough in 38 per cent and poor in 3 per cent.

In one of the biggest changes to the Ofsted regime, children of all ages in primary school will read to inspectors.

The measure is an attempt to stop pupils arriving at secondary school unable to learn because their reading is not good enough.

It follows concerns from parents that primary teachers are failing to listen to their children read one-to-one and instead depend on teaching assistants and group reading.

Guidance for inspectors in synthetic phonics, the method to teach reading favoured by the Government which breaks down words in to their constituent sounds, reveals that they will even assess how well teachers “articulate and mouth” the sounds of letters.

Teachers will be marked down if children answer questions by a general “hands up”, rather than being picked out for an individual response, or if phonics lessons are too slow.

Schools with mediocre teaching, previously rated “satisfactory”, will no longer be able to coast. Any schools judged to be below a good standard will be told to improve and reinspected within two years.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector of schools, said: “From this week, school inspections will further challenge schools to ensure a good education is provided for all our children.

"I make no apology for introducing an inspection framework that raises expectations and focuses on the importance of teaching. The new short-notice inspections allow inspectors to see schools as they really are.

“I believe all children, regardless of where they live or what their parents can afford for them, have the right to a good education and that belief is at the heart of our work at Ofsted.”

Teachers pay arrangements will also be checked. Inspectors will look for a “strong link” between a teacher’s appraisal and where they are on the salary scale, suggesting that poorly rated teachers should be paid less than their stronger colleagues.

Earlier this year, Sir Michael said heads needed to be tough enough to warn teachers whose performance was not up to scratch that they would be subjected to a pay freeze.

“There is nothing more infuriating than a really good teacher who goes the extra mile seeing somebody else getting the same pay rise as him for no effort,” he told a conference.

Teachers have accused Mr Gove and Sir Michael of creating a climate of fear in schools. They have also criticised the competence of inspectors.

Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “No other profession would accept this level of scrutiny and mistrust.

“As professionals, teachers should obviously be accountable but new proposals on appraisal and capability procedures alongside new rules on teacher observation have little to do with raising standards.

"They will simply de-motivate teachers and risk them leaving the profession.”


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