Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Texas School District Will Let Teachers Carry Guns

A tiny Texas school district may be the first in the nation to pass a law specifically allowing teachers and staff to pack heat when classes begin later this month.

Trustees at the Harrold Independent School District approved a district policy change last October so employees can carry concealed firearms to deter and protect against school shootings, provided the gun-toting teachers follow certain requirements.

Superintendent David Thweatt told FOXNews.com the policy was initiated because of safety concerns.  "We have had employees assaulted before by people in the last several years," Thweatt said. "I think that safety is big concern. We are seeing a lot of anger in society."  He wouldn't comment further on the nature of the assaults.

The Texas superintendent linked gun-free zones with the uprising of school shootings in recent years.  "When you make schools gun-free zones, it's like inviting people to come in and take advantage," Thweatt told FOXNews.com.

In order for teachers and staff to carry a pistol, they must have a Texas license to carry a concealed handgun; must be authorized to carry by the district; must receive training in crisis management and hostile situations and must use ammunition that is designed to minimize the risk of ricochet in school halls.

Thweatt said the small community is a 30-minute drive from the sheriff's office, leaving students and teachers without protection. He said the district's lone campus sits 500 feet from heavily trafficked U.S. 287, which could make it a target. The kindergarten through 12th grade school district is home to 110 students.

Thweatt said officials researched the policy and considered other options for about a year before approving the policy change. He said the district also has various other security measures in place to prevent a school shooting.

"The naysayers think [a shooting] won't happen here," Thweatt said. "If something were to happen here, I'd much rather be calling a parent to tell them that their child is OK because we were able to protect them."

He told FOXNews.com he doesn't think students will think twice about the new policy.  "I hope they forget all about it," he said. "We want them to pay attention [to their school work]."

Texas law outlaws firearms on school campuses "unless pursuant to the written regulations or written authorization of the institution."

While the district's plan shot them into the national spotlight, carrying guns to school is nothing new some states. In Utah, the law allows anyone with a permit to carry a gun in public schools and state institutions of higher education.

It was unclear how many of the 50 or so teachers and staff members will be armed this fall because Thweatt did not disclose that information, to keep it from students or potential attackers.


The End of the University as We Know It (Maybe)

In fifty years, if not much sooner, half of the roughly 4,500 colleges and universities now operating in the United States will have ceased to exist. The technology driving this change is already at work, and nothing can stop it. The future looks like this: Access to college-level education will be free for everyone; the residential college campus will become largely obsolete; tens of thousands of professors will lose their jobs; the bachelor’s degree will become increasingly irrelevant; and ten years from now Harvard will enroll ten million students.

We’ve all heard plenty about the “college bubble” in recent years. Student loan debt is at an all-time high—an average of more than $23,000 per graduate by some counts—and tuition costs continue to rise at a rate far outpacing inflation, as they have for decades. Credential inflation is devaluing the college degree, making graduate degrees, and the greater debt required to pay for them, increasingly necessary for many people to maintain the standard of living they experienced growing up in their parents’ homes. Students are defaulting on their loans at an unprecedented rate, too, partly a function of an economy short on entry-level professional positions. Yet, as with all bubbles, there’s a persistent public belief in the value of something, and that faith in the college degree has kept demand high.

The figures are alarming, the anecdotes downright depressing. But the real story of the American higher-education bubble has little to do with individual students and their debts or employment problems. The most important part of the college bubble story—the one we will soon be hearing much more about—concerns the impending financial collapse of numerous private colleges and universities and the likely shrinkage of many public ones. And when that bubble bursts, it will end a system of higher education that, for all of its history, has been steeped in a culture of exclusivity. Then we’ll see the birth of something entirely new as we accept one central and unavoidable fact: The college classroom is about to go virtual.

We are all aware that the IT revolution is having an impact on education, but we tend to appreciate the changes in isolation, and at the margins. Very few have been able to exercise their imaginations to the point that they can perceive the systemic and structural changes ahead, and what they portend for the business models and social scripts that sustain the status quo. That is partly because the changes are threatening to many vested interests, but also partly because the human mind resists surrender to upheaval and the anxiety that tends to go with it. But resist or not, major change is coming. The live lecture will be replaced by streaming video. The administration of exams and exchange of coursework over the internet will become the norm. The push and pull of academic exchange will take place mainly in interactive online spaces, occupied by a new generation of tablet-toting, hyper-connected youth who already spend much of their lives online. Universities will extend their reach to students around the world, unbounded by geography or even by time zones. All of this will be on offer, too, at a fraction of the cost of a traditional college education.

How do I know this will happen? Because recent history shows us that the internet is a great destroyer of any traditional business that relies on the sale of information. The internet destroyed the livelihoods of traditional stock brokers and bonds salesmen by throwing open to everyone access to the proprietary information they used to sell. The same technology enabled bankers and financiers to develop new products and methods, but, as it turned out, the experience necessary to manage it all did not keep up. Prior to the Wall Street meltdown, it seemed absurd to think that storied financial institutions like Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers could disappear seemingly overnight. Until it happened, almost no one believed such a thing was possible. Well, get ready to see the same thing happen to a university near you, and not for entirely dissimilar reasons.

The higher-ed business is in for a lot of pain as a new era of creative destruction produces a merciless shakeout of those institutions that adapt and prosper from those that stall and die. Meanwhile, students themselves are in for a golden age, characterized by near-universal access to the highest quality teaching and scholarship at a minimal cost. The changes ahead will ultimately bring about the most beneficial, most efficient and most equitable access to education that the world has ever seen. There is much to be gained. We may lose the gothic arches, the bespectacled lecturers, dusty books lining the walls of labyrinthine libraries—wonderful images from higher education’s past. But nostalgia won’t stop the unsentimental beast of progress from wreaking havoc on old ways of doing things. If a faster, cheaper way of sharing information emerges, history shows us that it will quickly supplant what came before. People will not continue to pay tens of thousands of dollars for what technology allows them to get for free.

Technology will also bring future students an array of new choices about how to build and customize their educations. Power is shifting away from selective university admissions officers into the hands of educational consumers, who will soon have their choice of attending virtually any university in the world online. This will dramatically increase competition among universities. Prestigious institutions, especially those few extremely well-endowed ones with money to buffer and finance change, will be in a position to dominate this virtual, global educational marketplace. The bottom feeders—the for-profit colleges and low-level public and non-profit colleges—will disappear or turn into the equivalent of vocational training institutes. Universities of all ranks below the very top will engage each other in an all-out war of survival. In this war, big-budget universities carrying large transactional costs stand to lose the most. Smaller, more nimble institutions with sound leadership will do best.

This past spring, Harvard and MIT got the attention of everyone in the higher ed business when they announced a new online education venture called edX. The new venture will make online versions of the universities’ courses available to a virtually unlimited number of enrollees around the world. Think of the ramifications: Now anyone in the world with an internet connection can access the kind of high-level teaching and scholarship previously available only to a select group of the best and most privileged students. It’s all part of a new breed of online courses known as “massive open online courses” (MOOCs), which are poised to forever change the way students learn and universities teach.


Faith schools account for six out of 10 top-scoring grade schools in England

This year religious schools accounted for six out of 10 primaries where every pupil reached the expected standard for English and maths at the age of 11.

They also maintained their dominance at the very top of the annual national league tables for results in these tests even though they make up only about a third of schools across the country.

Critics of faith-based schools argue that they attract more middle-class children, who are likely to do well academically because of their backgrounds, at the expense of youngsters from poorer families.

However, the schools say their success is based on their strong traditional values and the high standards they encourage all pupils to meet.

Department for Education statistics show that 896 primaries scored 100 per cent in the measure of how many of their 11-year-olds reached Level 4, the standard expected for their age group, in both English and maths this year.

Of these 552 were faith schools, nearly 62 per cent of the total, up from 60 per cent last year.

They included 406 Church of England primaries, 131 Roman Catholic, six Jewish, four Methodist, one Greek Orthodox and one Sikh. The other three simply described themselves as Christian schools.

All three of the top primaries in England were Church of England schools, based on the proportion of 11-year-old pupils who achieved the more difficult Level 5 in both English and maths.


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