Friday, November 09, 2012

Indiana GOP firm despite education coup

Top Republican officials, including the current and future governor, argued vehemently Wednesday that their education reform mandate is intact despite the defeat of Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett.

“The consensus and the momentum for reform and change in Indiana is rock solid,” Gov. Mitch Daniels said.  “Every other factor that matters is aligned in this state in the direction of progress and change and reform, of teacher accountability, of more choices for families, more ability for school leadership to lead.”

Gov.-elect Mike Pence said his election on an agenda of education change, as well as the House’s picking up a supermajority of members, points to Hoosiers supporting continued progress in the area.  “We have a strong affirmation on the progress of education reform in this state,” he said, noting he hopes to work with Democrats in a bipartisan fashion next year.

But the new superintendent of public instruction, career teacher Glenda Ritz, takes issue with the Republicans’ assessment of the election.  “(Bennett’s defeat) was a direct message on the education policies of the last four years. It was a referendum going forward,” she said.

Ritz and others noted that she received more votes than even Pence – 1.3 million in all – and said the Republican leadership of the state can’t ignore her role in the process.

Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said any reasonable person can see that ousting the superintendent of public instruction is a direct comment on recent changes.

Bennett, 51, clashed with teachers around the state when pushing a pile of reforms, including taxpayer-financed vouchers for private school, more charter schools, reduction in power to collectively bargain for teachers and tying teacher pay to student scores.

The Indiana Department of Education also took over several failing schools and loosened teacher licensing requirements to allow more professionals in the classroom.

Ritz said Bennett had a 10-1 fundraising edge over her, including loads of help from national education advocacy groups, but her grassroots effort prevailed in the end.

Only GOP House Speaker Brian Bosma said clearly that Bennett’s loss was about him – not his policies.

He first noted that many of the education changes were pushed by the legislature – not Bennett – and that House Republicans were largely re-elected while picking up nine seats in all.

“This is not an indictment in any way of reforms,” Bosma said. “Some of the education reform controversy deals with the tone and presentation of the reforms and how it’s explained. Occasionally the discussion moved into arenas that teachers found offensive.”

Daniels even raised the prospect of making the position appointed by the governor – something he ran on in 2004 but never actively put on his legislative agenda during his eight-year term. Pence said he has not formed an opinion on that matter.

“Oh, isn’t that something?” said Nate Schnellenberger, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association. “The election didn’t work out the way they wanted, so they’ll change the rules. Can you imagine the backlash of undoing an election? That would be asinine.”

Schnellenberger said he hoped Republicans would see the defeat as a chance to take a step back and consider that they might not be right all the time.

Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, is at least willing to listen.  “The voters are sending a message,” he said. “I’ll be very attentive to what seemed to drive her to victory.”

Kruse believes Bennett’s tendency to move forward without consulting educators offended people.  “It was an anti-Tony Bennett vote more than a pro-Glenda Ritz vote,” Kruse said.

But he acknowledged working closely with Ritz on various bills in 2011 and said he looks forward to maintaining that positive relationship.


The young British children who do worse educationally also do worse physically

The "explanation" offered for the findings is hardly an explanation at all.  The findings are however well explained by IQ being one aspect of general biological fitness

Tens of thousands of children are being held back at school because their sedentary lifestyles have left them lacking basic physical skills. A study of four and five-year-olds shows nearly a third struggle with tasks such as balancing on one leg and crawling.

Researchers say children increasingly spend their early years sitting in front of screens and being ferried around in prams and car seats, with fewer opportunities to roll, climb, crawl and enjoy rough-and-tumble play.

The study found those who struggle with basic physical exercises are significantly more likely to fall behind academically.

Sixty children in reception classes at a school in the West Midlands were given 14 short tests, including asking them to balance on one leg for three seconds and crawl a short distance.

The study found 30 per cent of pupils showed signs of physical immaturity and a further 42 per cent some signs of delays in development.

Some children even appeared not to have lost primitive baby reflexes, such as their arms and head extending when their head moves to the side.

The study, carried out by former primary headmaster Pete Griffin in conjunction with the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology in Chester, found that of pupils in the bottom half of the group for physical maturity, 77 per cent were in the lowest two groups for academic ability.

Mr Griffin said: ‘The main issue is that children don’t have the same kind of physical challenge and upbringing they might have had 40 or 50 years ago.’  ‘Children are strapped into travel systems and are not physically picked up as much.  ‘I don’t see family members throwing their babies up into the air as much. We do less of that.’

Babies also spend less time on the floor learning to roll and crawl, he said.  ‘There’s less opportunity to climb, to roll, to jump.’  In these safety-conscious times, parents will stop their children walking along a wall in case they fall, he added.

The rise of screen-based entertainment was likely to be having a ‘dramatic effect’, both because it led to sedentary lifestyles and stunted concentration.  ‘There’s less creativity involved in playing on the screen or watching TV,’ he said.

‘TV comes in very small bites so children are not used to concentrating for long periods, video games move from one stimulus to another very rapidly.’

This was likely to have an effect on children’s ability to concentrate in the classroom, he warned.

Mr Griffin added that the pressures of today’s exam-focused schooling meant that children with immature physical skills were less likely to catch up.  ‘There is less of a place for a late developer in the education system,’ he said.


Is it still worth going to university? Earning power of a degree in Britain falls 22% in a decade

The higher salary that graduates traditionally gain from having a university degree has been slashed by a fifth during the past decade.

A study has found that the rise in numbers attending university and increased competition for jobs has drastically driven down the earning power enjoyed by previous generations of graduates.

Researchers from Warwick University followed 17,000 students from 2006 to their graduation into one of the worst recessions in history, and compared it to graduates who finished their studies in 1999.

The recent graduates are, on average, earning 22 per cent less than those who started at university a decade earlier.

They are also struggling to find jobs that justify the debts they have built up in getting their degrees, with four in ten failing to get work that requires their qualifications, while one in ten have spent at least six months on the dole.

The researchers concluded that a degree continues to deliver a 'significant earnings advantage', although the size of it varies widely according to the subject studied.

Medicine and law graduates suffer the least, losing about 16 per cent and 9 per cent respectively, while arts graduates saw the sharpest slump in earning power, losing 32.9 per cent.

Students who began their studies in 2006 were the first to pay tuition fees of £3,000-a-year and emerged from university owing a record amount. Almost half reported debts of £20,000 or more.  Despite this, the researchers found that 96 per cent of graduates would do a degree again if they had the chance.

They also concluded that a degree continues to deliver a 'significant earnings advantage', although the size of it varies widely according to the subject studied.

While medicine and dentistry graduates were earning on average £32,447, those who studied the creative arts and design were bringing in just £18,514.

While the average decline in earnings since 2003 was estimated at 21.9 per cent - about two per cent a year - the slump for arts graduates was 32.9 per cent.

For medicine and related subjects, it was 16 per cent. Law held up particularly well, with graduates in this subject seeing an earnings decline of just nine per cent.

With a further hike in tuition fees to a maximum of £9,000-a-year, the study concludes that the boom in the numbers going to university seen in recent decades is over.  It claims the number of graduates will now plateau at 250,000 per year.

The 'Futuretrack' research, conducted by Warwick University with funding from the Higher Education Careers Services Unit, followed 17,000 students from the time they applied for courses in 2006 to their graduation into one of the worst recessions in history and experiences on the job market.

The researchers had previously carried out research among graduates who finished their studies in 1999.  'Compared with the experiences of graduates some ten years earlier, Futuretrack graduates faced a tough labour market,' the report said.

'The greater number of graduates seeking employment, coupled with harsh economic conditions, have combined to create higher levels of graduate unemployment, a higher proportion of graduates in non-graduate employment and a lower rate of progression for graduates than was the situation ten years earlier.'

The Government has claimed that a degree can add more than £200,000 to a male graduate's salary over a lifetime compared with those who decided against university.  But the research found the claim 'does not reflect the evidence revealed here'.

It said the 'relative earnings advantage associated with a degree appears to have been declining slowly over the past decade, possibly by as much as two per cent per annum relative to average earnings in the economy'.

The report went on to warn that the decline in the earnings premium was not simply due to the recession, and was unlikely to bounce back up as the economy improves.

In further findings, students who got involved in teams, societies and clubs at university were more likely to have landed good jobs. The researchers found that employers are increasingly looking at extra-curricular activities when seeking to differentiate between a field brandishing mainly 2.1s.

Graduates with first-class degrees and those who attended high-ranking universities were also better off.

One of the most 'disturbing' findings, the researchers, said was that the pay gap between men and women was showing no sign of narrowing. Men earn about £2,000 more per year on average.


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