Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Segregation is back

Florida Passes Plan For Racially-Based Academic Goals

The Florida State Board of Education passed a plan that sets goals for students in math and reading based upon their race.

On Tuesday, the board passed a revised strategic plan that says that by 2018, it wants 90 percent of Asian students, 88 percent of white students, 81 percent of Hispanics and 74 percent of black students to be reading at or above grade level. For math, the goals are 92 percent of Asian kids to be proficient, whites at 86 percent, Hispanics at 80 percent and blacks at 74 percent. It also measures by other groupings, such as poverty and disabilities, reported the Palm Beach Post.

The plan has infuriated many community activists in Palm Beach County and across the state.

“To expect less from one demographic and more from another is just a little off-base,” Juan Lopez, magnet coordinator at John F. Kennedy Middle School in Riviera Beach, told the Palm Beach Post.

JFK Middle has a black student population of about 88 percent.

“Our kids, although they come from different socioeconomic backgrounds, they still have the ability to learn,” Lopez said. “To dumb down the expectations for one group, that seems a little unfair.”

Others in the community agreed with Lopez’s assessment. But the Florida Department of Education said the goals recognize that not every group is starting from the same point and are meant to be ambitious but realistic.

As an example, the percentage of white students scoring at or above grade level (as measured by whether they scored a 3 or higher on the reading FCAT) was 69 percent in 2011-2012, according to the state. For black students, it was 38 percent, and for Hispanics, it was 53 percent.

In addition, State Board of Education Chairwoman Kathleen Shanahan said that setting goals for different subgroups was needed to comply with terms of a waiver that Florida and 32 other states have from some provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. These waivers were used to make the states independent from some federal regulations.

“We have set a very high goal for all students to reach in Florida,” Shanahan said.

But Palm Beach County School Board vice-chairwoman Debra Robinson isn’t buying the rationale.

“I’m somewhere between complete and utter disgust and anger and disappointment with humanity,” Robinson told the Post. She said she has been receiving complaints from upset black and Hispanic parents since the state board took its action this week.

Robinson called the state board’s actions essentially “proclaiming racism” and said she wants Palm Beach County to continue to educate every child with the same expectations, regardless of race.


Pupils to learn about 200 key British figures from Anglo-Saxons to Winston Churchill as 'politically correct' national curriculum in history is scrapped

History lessons will be rewritten to include 200 key figures, such as Winston Churchill, and events which shaped Britain under a new national curriculum drawn up by education secretary Michael Gove.

The current syllabus, previously attacked for being too politically correct, will be scrapped with the intention of giving children a deeper understanding of history.

Under new plans school children will learn a narrative about British history and key international developments, including the fall of the Roman Empire, the union that created Britain and the decline of its power.

Winston Churchill and Anglo-Saxon monarchs Alfred and Athelstan will also be put on the list of leaders that children will study.

Gove’s blueprint rejects learning by rote, but emphasises that acquiring a detailed knowledge of history will enable children to understand the reasons behind human failures and achievements, The Sunday Times reported.

Secondary school children aged between 11 and 14 will move on to 50 wider topics about the modern world, including Soviet-U.S. relations and how they shaped the world, as well as the influence of immigration on British society.

The national curriculum review was launched in January 2011 but only drafts in primary school maths, English and science have been released.

Headmistress of North London Collegiate school Bernice McCabe, co-director of the Prince’s Teaching Institute and member of the committee advising on the curriculum review, told The Sunday Times: ‘It is not a backward-looking curriculum but very forward-looking.

‘Teachers from the Prince’s Institute have said over the years that there has been a move too much towards skills without sufficient emphasis on the knowledge that you need to use them.

‘In history, for example, we do not see how you can have a good foundation of knowledge without understanding the chronology of events.’

The current version of citizenship, which includes topics such as identities and diversity and how to negotiate, plan and take action has been cut back from 29 pages to one for 11 to 14-year-olds.

The new syllabus will focus on the British monarchy and parliamentary democracy as well as theories on liberty and rights.

In geography, primary children will study physical features, the nature of rocks, rivers and mountains, the names of countries and the characteristics of countries as well as how glaciers shape landscapes.

Later on in secondary school the topics will become more specific, including aspects of human geography, like the industrial expansion of Asia.

Alan Kinder, chief executive of the Geographical Association, advising on the review, told The Sunday Times: ‘ There is concern that pupils…don’t seem to be acquiring the world knowledge that we would expect them to have and most people in the geography subject community feel there needs to be something of a rebalancing.’

It follows criticisms of the current curriculum for failing to ensure children learn about human and physical processed which shape geography.

The PE curriculum is now expected to emphasise the need for physical exertion, amid concerns the current programme requires too little fitness.

The education department refused to comment on the drafts but said they will be made public 'in due course'.


Australia:  Leftist haters want to abolish private schools

Since 40% of Australian teens to private, this hasn't got a snowflake's in real-world politics

Jennifer Buckingham

A few weeks ago I was a panellist at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas. The title of the session was ‘Abolish Private Schools.’ It became apparent within the first few minutes that a large number of people in attendance at the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall that day held that sentiment as their personal motto. As a defender of non-government education, I was not just the devil’s advocate, I was the devil incarnate.

Pasi Sahlberg, the English-speaking world’s oracle on Finnish education, gave the introductory address. He argued that Finland’s high average and high equity in scores in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is due to universal comprehensive public education and the status and calibre of school teachers. With Sahlberg as the protagonist, the premise of the session was this: Finland has very few private schools, and they are not publicly funded. So, if Australia had no private schools, couldn’t we too achieve these things?

The first question posed to the panel was what would Australia’s education system be like without private schools and school choice? My response was that it would be pretty boring. I like the variety in Australia’s schools, and highly value the freedom parents have to be able to choose their child’s school. It’s fair to say I wasn’t a crowd-pleaser.

Most of Australia’s students in both public and non-governments schools do well by international standards. What we have, unfortunately, is a group of students whose performance is well below that of their peers. These students are typically from low socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds and attend schools with similarly disadvantaged students. These struggling students need and deserve better, but abolishing private schools would do nothing to further this cause.

The different levels of socioeconomic inequity in Australian and Finnish schools reflect the different socioeconomic inequities in our societies. If all non-government schools became public schools overnight, there would be very little transfer of high-SES students into low SES schools. And, here’s the clincher – the public school system would become even more cash strapped. Instead of subsidising students to attend non-government schools at an average of $6,500 per student, each of those students would be entitled to the full public education rate – more than $11,000 per student at last count. Voluntary private investment in education would be replaced with scarce public money.

If you were trying to increase the impost on taxpayers with absolutely no educational benefit, it’s hard to think of a better way than this. A dangerous idea, indeed.

At least I can cross ‘be heckled at the Sydney Opera House’ off my to-do list.


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