Thursday, September 27, 2012

Studies: Kids lack basic skills for college

More than half of 2012 high school graduates who took a college entrance exam did not have all of the skills they will need to succeed in college or a career, a pair of recent reports conclude.

Findings released by the non-profit College Board show that 57 percent of 2012 graduating seniors who took the SAT, which it owns, earned a combined score below what it says is necessary to demonstrate that students can earn a B-minus or better in the first year of study at a four-year college.

A report released last month by the Iowa City-based ACT found that at least 60 percent of 2012 high school graduates who took its test are similarly at risk of not succeeding in college.

The tests measure different skills, but colleges that require standardized admissions tests generally accept scores from either test. Among details:

SAT: Average critical reading and writing scores have declined since 2008, to 496 and 488, respectively, while average math scores have remained stable at 514. Just 4 percent of test takers achieved a score above 2100. The highest possible score is 2400. The College Board, which owns the SAT, says students must earn at least a 1550 to succeed in college.

ACT: Reading and English scores have dipped slightly since 2008, to 21.3 and 20.5, respectively, while math and science have increased, to 21.1 and 20.9, respectively. The average composite score is 21.1 out of a possible 36.


Schools for Contraception

In NYC, girls as young as 14 can get morning-after pills — without parental notification.

New York City’s public schools do a poor job educating kids. In fairness, though, that’s not their expertise. What they excel at is giving out contraceptives.

If there were international comparisons of contraception access at schools, instead of math and reading scores, Singapore would have to look in envy at the achievements of New York City and wonder: What can we do to catch up? Task forces and commissions would be established to study the runaway success of schools in America’s greatest city.

New York’s schools are outdoing themselves with their latest pedagogical initiative, the Orwellian-named CATCH program, for Connecting Adolescents to Comprehensive Health. “Comprehensive health,” of course, means only one particular kind of health, the equally euphemistic “reproductive health.”
The schools are giving children the morning-after pill without notifying their parents, let alone getting their express approval. Think in loco parentis—if the parent were the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

The schools already provide free condoms. Soon enough, the mere distribution of condoms will seem the hallmark of a bygone, more innocent era, like something from the plot of a Happy Days episode.

The program to give out morning-after pills — and other oral and injected contraceptives — is now up and running in 13 schools. It is an extension from last year’s start in five schools, when more than 550 students received emergency contraception. Parents have to explicitly choose to “opt out” of the program, which, as any behavioral economist will tell you, strongly tips the balance toward its passive acceptance.

The morning-after pill, or Plan B, is a contraceptive, but it is possible — although disputed —  that it acts like an abortifacient as well. Its distribution is another step down the slippery slope toward the provision of abortion in the schools. If that sounds outlandish, just wait. Ten years ago, free morning-after pills with no parental notification would have seemed the stuff of dystopian social-conservative fantasy.

There can be no doubt about the direction that the Big Apple’s latitudinarian educrats want to go. According to Greg Pfundstein, of the pro-life Chiaroscuro Foundation, one of the “homework” exercises in a proposed New York City sex-education curriculum that became controversial last year included a visit or a call to a “clinic” to find out its hours, what services it provides, and its confidentiality policy.

It can be harder to get an aspirin in some schools around the country than it is now to get Plan B in New York. The schools can give a synthetic female hormone to a girl as young as 14 without so much as a text message to her mom. If the children were given 24-ounce Mountain Dews, Mayor Michael Bloomberg would immediately cashier his schools chancellor. Such is the perverse value system of New York’s nanny state that the program ran with no notice to the public — ho-hum — until the New York Post broke the story the other day.

Surely, many parents of the kids in the affected schools aren’t involved enough in their children’s lives. But that doesn’t mean schools should keep from them that their daughters are having unprotected sex and might be pregnant.

If easy, widespread access to contraception were the answer to teenage pregnancy, the New York schools would have solved the problem long ago. More access to the latest contraceptive technology isn’t going to make a difference. It is true that the schools can’t substitute for the discipline and values that kids aren’t getting at home. But they shouldn’t be the friend and enabler of the sexually active teenager, either.

The schools should do everything they can to create an environment of rigor, with an overwhelming emphasis on future-oriented behavior. Instead, the New York City schools operate on the same mores as a Planned Parenthood clinic does. Parents are a nuisance. No questions are asked. And teenage sex, which is inherently casual sex, is implicitly encouraged.

But don’t worry. It will only get worse.


British deputy PM  reveals £50m for 'catch-up’ tuition

Good if it happens but a disgrace that it is needed.  Getting duffers to summer camps is a bit of a laugh

Children starting secondary school without acceptable levels of English and maths will be sent to specialist summer camps or receive intensive one-to-one tuition under a scheme to be announced by Nick Clegg.

More than 100,000 pupils are to receive “catch up” teaching to ensure that those who fall behind at primary school are not disadvantaged permanently.

Schools will be given £500 to pay for intensive tutoring for any child who fails to reach level four in the Key Stage Two exams taken when leaving primary education at 11. The first money will be paid out in January to allow children starting secondary school this month to receive the extra tutoring.

In his speech to the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton today, the deputy Prime Minister will say that the scheme will help prepare children for the new, tougher exams to be introduced to replace GCSEs.

“If you’re a parent whose child has fallen behind; who fears they might get lost in that daunting leap from primary to secondary school and who is worried by talk about making exams tougher, let me reassure you: we will do whatever it takes to make sure your child is not left behind,” he will say. “A place in a summer school; catch-up classes; one-to-one tuition; we are providing the help they need. So yes, we’re raising the bar. But we’re ensuring every child can clear it too.”

It is understood that the funding for catch-up classes was agreed as part of the negotiations between Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, and Mr Clegg that will allow GCSEs to be replaced with the more challenging exams from 2017. Mr Clegg is expected to stress in his speech that improving social mobility by improving the education system is his central aim in government.

“We will only fulfil our collective economic potential if we fulfil our individual human potential,” he will say.  “Yet the legacy of educational inequality in Britain is an economy operating at half power, with far too many young people never getting the qualifications they could get, never doing the jobs they could do, never earning the wages they could earn.

“The true cost of this cannot be counted in pounds and pence. Yes, it’s a huge drag on our economy, but more than that, it is an affront to natural justice and to everything we Liberal Democrats stand for.” Evidence shows that pupils who are behind in English and maths when they start secondary school will struggle at GCSEs.

Only 30 per cent of those not achieving Level 4 in reading at the end of primary school go on to get at least five top grades in their end of school exams.

Senior Lib Dem sources said the scheme was important even if likely to prove unpopular with some children, who may feel stigmatised in front of their new secondary school classmates. “Education policy can’t be dictated by the tactics of playground bullies,” said one.


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