Saturday, January 28, 2012

How my child went from home school to Harvard and yours can, too

America is in shambles from sea to shining sea. Unemployment is nearly at Great Depression levels. The real estate is still week and near collapse. And, of course, our U.S. Triple A credit rating is gone for the first time in history.

But this is National School Choice Week and all of that terrible economic news is child’s play (excuse the pun) compared to our failing government-run education system.

The accelerating and dramatic decline of our public school system is the shame of this once great country. I call our public school system "Every Child Left Behind."

The failure of our public school system condemns millions of young Americans to a future with no hope, no advancement, no good jobs, perhaps no jobs at all.

The American Dream of automatically doing better than the past generation has been relegated to the dust-bin of history because of our education crisis. This is our national disgrace.

Nationally SAT scores in critical reading reached their lowest levels ever in 2011. “Ever” as in the history of America. Combined math and reading SAT scores were the lowest since 1995. This despite our country spending the most money ever.

When President Bush took office in 2000 Education Department spending was $30 billion. Today it is over $70 billion annually, plus another $175 billion extra in education spending from Obama’s stimulus program. Add up the numbers. We’ve gone from $30 billion annually to almost $200 billion in just over a decade. That’s about a 7-times increase in total education spending. Does anyone think education is 7 times better? Actually it’s more likely 7 times worse.

It’s no surprise that President Obama and Education Secretary Arnie Duncan are in panic mode. They are now offering waivers to all 50 states to opt out of “No Child Left Behind” because so many children are failing the tests. Amazingly their response to the dumbing-down-of- America is to reduce the standards even further, so that even more children are left behind by the system.

Locally, Las Vegas is in even worse shape than the rest of America. Drop out rates now exceed 60% in Las Vegas public schools, even higher among boys. And the 40% that do manage to graduate often achieve that feat as a result of social promotion and grade inflation. Proof? Freshman at UNLV require “remedial reading and math” to begin their college careers. Do the words fraud and national disgrace come to mind?

Yet through all this gloom and doom, there is a ray of hope. A story of remarkable educational success. A story I call “Homeschool to Harvard.” My daughter Dakota Root was home-schooled by her small businessman dad and devoted Christian homemaker mom right here in Las Vegas. And the results are nothing short of amazing. Dakota scored perfect SAT scores of 800 in reading and writing. She was a National Merit Scholar and Presidential Scholar nominee.

She was accepted by many of this nation’s finest universities including Harvard, Stanford, Duke, Columbia, Penn, Brown, Chicago, Virginia, and Cal-Berkeley -- the list goes on and on.

She actually had the confidence to turn down an offer from the Yale fencing coach before she had gotten any of her other acceptances. The kid turned down Yale!

You can watch Dakota on Fox News Channel after finding out she was accepted by Harvard

Today she is a sophomore at Harvard University. She is a straight A student and earned Second Team All Ivy League honors in Fencing for the elite Harvard team.

Dakota Root is one of this country’s finest scholar/athletes. She is among the best and brightest ever produced by the great state of Nevada. Well, okay, I'm being modest, but after all, I am her dad.

By the way, she is also beautiful (like her mother) and nice. She is actually respectful to her parents and appreciative of all we've sacrificed for her. She represents what all of us hope and pray for our children.

Yet Dakota spent her formative years being educated in the same place- Las Vegas- that produces some of the worst education results in America. So how did it happen? What was in the water at the Root household? Can others learn from Dakota’s story? Can others replicate her remarkable Homeschool to Harvard story? YES they can!

The key is the same as achieving success in all other areas of life: being relentless, taking action, and taking charge. Taking back the power from government.

Dakota Root’s story is a testament to the power of the individual. Understanding that when it comes to educating our children, government is too big to succeed.


Betrayal of bright pupils: Two thirds of British pupils who shine at age of 11 are steered into soft subjects at High School

Two thirds of bright teenagers are missing out on key academic GCSEs, school league tables reveal. More than 111,000 of the 177,000 children who shone in tests at the age of 11 have gone on to study the softer subjects often shunned by employers.

While all pupils must study English, maths and science, the tables suggest schools are steering youngsters toward drama, sociology and vocational qualifications – which are seen as easier to do well in – for their remaining subjects.
Students sitting their GCSE examinations

Less than four in ten pupils across the state sector sit a GCSE in foreign languages, while just under half opt for geography or history.

The Coalition has introduced a new measure to check how many pupils score grades A* to C in English, maths and science, as well as a language and a humanities subject such as history or geography.

Before the introduction of this ‘English Baccalaureate’, the measure was five good grades in maths and English and in any three other subjects.

The tables published yesterday show the success rate for thousands of state schools plunged when the EBacc was taken into account. One school scored 92 per cent on the old measure but just 6 per cent on the new. The tables also revealed how low, medium and high achievers performed in their GCSEs last year.

Among the pupils who had surpassed expectations in national curriculum tests at 11, 62.8 per cent – 111,437 – failed to achieve the EBacc. Less than half of this 177,447-strong cohort had been entered for all the EBacc subjects in the first place.

In 285 schools, not a single high achiever gained the award.

Thousands of bright pupils are also effectively going backward in English and maths at secondary school. Some 22,713 – 12.8 per cent – are not making the progress expected of them in English and 26,262 – 14.8 per cent – are not improving sufficiently in maths.

Chris McGovern, a former headmaster and chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said bright children were ‘clearly being failed’. He added: ‘This is a betrayal of a generation of children who are not being prepared for the 21st century and they’re not being prepared to help sustain this country with the economic challenges it faces.

‘It’s failing children and damaging the country. The consequences will be found out in five, ten years’ time when we’re not producing the engineers and the scientists but we are producing the media studies students.’

Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, said: ‘The emphasis in recent years has been getting as many children as possible up to the floor targets and we haven’t been giving enough attention to our brightest pupils.

‘It’s important that young people study the core subjects because that keeps their options open. ‘Within our system, where schools have been judged in terms of GCSE points, it’s been too easy and too tempting for young people to drift away from the subjects that would be in their best interests.’

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said: ‘Children only have one chance at education. These tables show which schools are letting children down. Heads should be striving to make improvements year on year, and we will not let schools coast with mediocre performance. ‘We are driving up standards right across the board.’

The figures showed that 45.6 per cent of ‘medium’ achievers – almost 120,000 – who reached the standard expected of their age in national curriculum tests aged 11 failed to get five good grades in subjects including English and maths. More than 2,800 of the nation’s 3,000 schools had fewer than half their pupils gaining the EBacc standard as well.

Teenagers at selective schools were almost five times as likely to achieve the EBacc than pupils in comprehensives. The figures were 68.1 per cent and 13.7 per cent respectively, according to data released by the Department for Education.


The private sector is ushering in a university revolution in Britain

Delays to the Higher Education Bill will not stop the rise of privately-funded universities.

For the higher education sector, these are interesting times. This September, fees will rise by more than 200 per cent at most universities; a new loan scheme will be in place; the quota system for allocating places will be relaxed to enable greater competition; and an auction process for 20,000 places will be introduced. This is hardly a Government that can be accused of ducking the difficult issues.

At the same time, however, ministers have not had it all their own way. Earlier this week, it was reported that David Willetts’s plans for private universities had been put on hold. Certainly, the Government’s Higher Education Bill – which was expected to introduce a host of reforms that would enable the expansion of provision by private institutions, as outlined in the Coalition’s White Paper – has been delayed. It is unlikely to be published before 2015, for lack of parliamentary time, although the Government insists that nothing has yet been decided.

On the surface, this might seem strange. If ministers encourage new “free schools” to increase competition and offer greater choice and diversity, surely it makes sense to do the same with universities? Across the world, private higher education is growing, since governments cannot afford to continue to fund the old system, under which only a tiny elite of the population attended university.

Critics of such institutions, who have an interest in maintaining the status quo, point to the situation in America, and warn that the same might happen here. But the US has some of the world’s best private universities: Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, MIT. Embracing a private model does not mean that standards have to be compromised.

In 2004, Labour “modernised the criteria for the granting of degree-awarding powers in the UK”. Since then, some of Britain’s most prestigious private providers in specialist fields have earned the right to issue their own degrees: Ashridge Business School, the College of Law, IFS School of Finance, and BPP University College, where I am principal. The route to obtaining this power is an exacting one. It rightly requires us to demonstrate the very highest standards over time, with our efforts reviewed by our public-sector peers. Because such standards are expected, it has not damaged the reputation of Britain as a higher education community.

At BPP University College, we work with employers to offer degree programmes in business, law, accounting and finance that are closely tailored to the needs of those professions. We operate in 14 cities, training almost a third of new entrants to the legal profession and two thirds of all accountants at some point in their careers.

One of the advantages of private provision – which could be emulated by traditional institutions – is that we offer students choice. Undergraduates can study through the long summer holidays, completing a degree in two years and avoiding the costs of a third year out of the workforce. Alternatively, they can opt for the traditional schedule. We employ a full-time faculty who have been practitioners of their discipline: lawyers and accountants who understand the latest developments, and are not just confined to academic research. This model does not suit everyone, but the CBI’s survey of employers last year indicated that private providers are best at meeting the needs of employers.

The Higher Education Bill was expected to make it easier to set up more institutions such as ours, and to integrate them more closely into the university system. It would also have given students greater access to information about universities and courses, empowering them to make informed choices in a more competitive environment.

There is no doubt that higher education in Britain is in need of modernisation – and there is room for a high-quality private sector that challenges the educational status quo. Delaying the Higher Education Bill will not stop it from developing.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Who is involved in your child’s education?

Our nation's youth is our nation future. Our current education system has been failing our children. Who is at fault for your child?

What do parents say they want for their children? A decent education is at the top of the list for most parents. It only seems natural that one would want their child to do well in life and, as most do, that comes through education. How can one help what kind of education their child receives? After all the parents are not in the classroom. Plus, there are so many factors that are involved in the quality of education our children receive. Parents play a huge role in our nation’s youth and their development but, teachers, administrators, school boards, and even politicians play a role in our children’s future. That is a lot of people who have their hand in our children’s education. So before we go writing the youth off as being “lazy” and “stupid”, allow us to remember one thing…stupid is, as stupid does.

As parents many of us have become a custom to allowing the DOE (Dept. of Education) to raise our children. Who better to guide our nation’s youth, correct? Plus, who could not use a free babysitter during the day? Well, as it turns out, the daytime babysitter has a much higher cost then most of us are aware. For starters, the babysitter is not free by any means. School and property taxes pay for that babysitter and most people have no idea what they pay for these services. I know times are harder now, than almost any other time, in most of our lives. Part of being a parent is to make sure our children are secure and develop into responsible adults. We accomplish much of this through the child’s education so, why would we not put forth an effort to secure their education? There are many factors that go into the public school systems and plenty of faults to go around but, parents are the foundation of which our youth builds from.

The first thing anyone can do to be proactive in their child’s educational development is stop expecting the schools to parent or raise your children. Although, many resort to calling teachers, babysitters, they are not. They are supposed to be getting paid (by you through tax dollars) to teach and educate your children. You could do our school teachers a favor by teaching your children manners, respect, and, at least, basic social skills. You are the parent and your children are your responsibility so, please be proactive in your child’s development. Our children have a natural desire to follow the path of someone…who will that someone be? It should be you…the parent. I think it goes without saying, what the other options they could follow are. It is time for American mommy and daddy’s to be parents and get involved with their children and do their part in the educational development.

As everyone expected, the teacher has their hand in the fault jar of cookies too. I deem it to be obvious teachers have an impact, if not the largest of all, on our children’s education. This is the first place many parents place the blame. I do not know that “blaming” the teacher first is fair but, certainly an investigation into your child’s education, starts with the one’s in charge of delivering the education. If you think there is an issue with your child’s teachers do not, attack them in the blame game. You should give teachers benefit of doubt (after all, they are the adult in the situation) and then if there becomes a pattern, research this teacher. You may find that this teacher is doing nothing incorrect at all and your time to be a parent is calling again. You might also look into to this teacher's test scores and find that they have not been getting results out of the students.

Now before I get a bunch of emails saying the test scores do not mean anything from teachers; allow me to touch on that for a moment. I will be the first to say we must change, reform, or get rid of the current system in which we evaluate teachers but, almost every time I mention test score results, I hear, “those test scores do not mean anything, you do not understand how tough teachers have it”. To that I ask, what about the teachers with average or even above average scores? Perhaps there are some (as we have seen in the news) that “fudge” the numbers in their favor but, are all of them liars and cheats? I doubt it, just as I doubt every teacher with poor test scores, is a bad teacher.

There are however, many teachers who do view themselves as babysitters and come to work just to collect a check (perhaps their parents forgot to teach them about integrity). These teachers we need to weed out of our education systems (public and private). Most of these kinds of teachers tend to, not take a personal interest in educating our youth but, use the system as a secure income once they have been tenured. This is a disgrace to our nation. We want our nation to prosper but, we need people to make it prosper, and we have teachers not helping our children develop a prosperous education. So now our children may have a solid foundation starting with the parents but, the first floor is not stable and cannot with stand the pressures from the floors above.

We need the people to understand just how important these teachers are to our children and our nation’s future. We must separate federal government from our public school systems because, aimlessly throwing money around, will not fix a problem they created and they cannot find. This also means changing the evaluation system for teachers. The first thing we should do is honor those who have and continue to excel in educating our youth by, recognizing them for their excellence. Now, if we pay attention to the good teacher’s we have to take notice to the bad teachers. I know this argument differs with school district to district but, pay teachers what they deserve like any other profession. Effective teachers are worth more to those who pay their salaries than ineffective teachers. Those who are just working in the profession to collect a paycheck will be replaced with teachers that truly are passionate about educating our youth. The evaluation of teachers would have to be accurate and precise so, administrators would be required to be more proactive with the teachers not, just a school spokesperson. This would work toward building a more productive school environment for our children and our nation’s future.

Our next involvement in the education of our children, the administration, tends to control the educational climate of your school district in more than just one way. As one can imagine the evaluation process of administrators must be adjusted, as the teacher would be. Principals need to be more concerned about the integrity and level of education being provided to the students of their school and less concerned about making “friends” with the superintendent. Morale has a trickle down affect on people. If the principal has a negative attitude about school dealings it will in return be passed on to the staff and then, you guessed it, to the children. If the children and teachers, generally, have a negative attitude, just how many positive results can one school produce in that atmosphere? Well, let us not forget, it is a trickle down system. Superintendents have much to do with the actions of the school principals (most bosses do). As the saying goes… the cycle continues. Morale and pressures from the school board transcends on the superintendent. Perhaps the superintendent accepted their position and holds it with integrity and accepts nothing less from their administration. Now imagine if the superintendent either was personal friends with board members or sought out interest of board members and not the best interest of the children. This could be dangerous, if the superintendent felt overly safe in their position, due to a relationship, they may not put forth the extra effort to create the best possible learning atmosphere. Likewise, if the superintendents felt their job was in jeopardy with the board perhaps, they would lean more towards sufficing a board members interest over the best interest of the students. Administrations are like little governments, some of them will abuse the system if we allow them the opportunity. Administrators too, play a part in building on the infrastructure of our children.

School board and politicians I will address together as they are one in the same anyway. In order for one to be able to detect if your local board members are doing the best possible job in the best interest of the students, is to go to board meetings. Different boards will have different kinds of members, some great, some corrupt, some with their own motives, some because they have kids and care. It normally does not take long, once sitting in a board meeting, to figure out whose vote other board members will follow. It is even easier when they have relatives on the board with them. Not only do we need people who care about the children we need people who are competent enough to put plans into action and continue to be responsible for and with the finances and personnel duties. If the board is reckless or does not care, so will the administration, as will the teachers, and result in the children representing that exact kind of learning environment. Trickle…trickles…

Now this is where you as a parent, have the opportunity to help, mold a better learning environment for your children. School board members are elected by the people of the school district (that would be you) and therefore have to listen to you. They do not always truly listen or follow through with what they tell you but, in return you and the people of your community can vote them out of these positions when their seats become available. It may be a trickle down system but, inside a circle sometimes the trickle comes all the way back around to land on you. Anyone on any level of this system who is not being productive has the opportunity to be struck down by there own doing. The education system should be one area where we exhibit integrity, and now is the time to see to it. So with that in mind keep a watch on what is taking place with your local school boards. Watch the money they spend, salaries they approve, furloughs they hand out, curriculums they adopt or create, and most of all, make sure they have the interest of the children first and foremost. We all play a part in educating our future.

So, who is involved in your child’s education?


Public education has outlived its usefulness

During the last decade, those advocating for school choice have made real inroads into breaking the government’s stranglehold on education.

In 1999, 349,000 children attended the nation’s 1,542 charter schools. Today, that figure has ballooned to 2.05 million. Additionally, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools reports that the waiting list to get into one of the nation’s 5,637 charter schools could fill almost 5,000 more schools.

Nearly 200,000 children are attending private schools as a result of 34 school voucher and other similar private school choice programs in 19 states. According to the Friedman Foundation of Educational Choice, 130 private school choice bills were introduced in statehouses across the country last year.

Home schooling has also doubled in the last 10 years with about 1.5 million families nationwide choosing to educate their own children compared to 850,000 in 1999, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Unfortunately, there is still a long road to travel. That is why this week has been named National School Choice Week.

Government school officials across the country claim they want school choice but then they challenge it and complain about it every chance they get.

The fact remains, most private schools outperform most government schools and for less money.

I have heard all the arguments why this is true, i.e., private schools get to choose their students, parents who send their children to private schools are often more involved, etc.

In reality, it is a whole host of reasons, including federal and state regulations that hamper the efficient education of children.

When school officials are confronted with this, their only argument, which is silly even on its face, is that the private schools should have to suffer under the same restrictions as the government schools.

In other words, let’s bring all schools down to the lowest common denominator.

What this shows is that most of these government school officials don’t really care about education; they only care about government education.

Government education is a 19th century innovation that has outlived its usefulness, if it had any.

If we are going to have a government education system, then it should be a school of last resort. The real goal of all professional educators should be to get the government out of the business of education.

Still, if we are going to have compulsory education and we want the government to pay for it, there is probably a better way than building these education camps — which are more like prisons in some urban districts — where the Constitution prevents the government from properly controlling and educating the children sent there.

Historian Robert Wright postulated that it would have been cheaper if the federal government had purchased and freed all the slaves than fight the Civil War.

I suspect a similar idea would be true in the education arena. That is, it would be cheaper if the government paid to send children to private schools rather than run its own school systems.

A few seconds with a calculator seems to bear this out. There are 55.5 million school-age children in the United States. A $5,000 voucher for each child, which would cover tuition at the vast majority of private schools in the United States, would cost $277.5 billion. There are other factors that would come into play, of course, but you get the picture.

In fact, we could double that voucher to $10,000 and still spend less than we are today.

In the 2008-09 school year, as a nation we spent $604.86 billion on primary and secondary government education, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Of that amount, $311.89 billion went to the salaries and benefits of the government schools’ union workers. We obviously cannot afford that. At the end of the 2009 fiscal year, government school systems had a combined debt of $399.12 billion.

The fact remains that the United States spends more per pupil than any other nation in the world, with the possible exception of Switzerland. Yet, our students are routinely surpassed by children in nations that spend less.

Clearly, something is wrong. For more than 150 years we have let the government educate our children. Now it is time to try something new.


One in three top British companies can't fill graduate vacancies: Too many leave university without the right skills, say bosses

One in three top companies left graduate jobs unfilled last year amid complaints about the quality of recruits, a report warns today. Rising numbers of employers failed to meet recruitment targets, citing university-leavers’ skills as a problem.

The shortfall comes despite rising unemployment and the fact that it is estimated there are at least 48 applications per graduate vacancy. One graduate in six now obtains a first – double the figure from a decade ago – while almost half get a respectable 2:1.

But a study by the Association of Graduate Recruiters turns the spotlight on the quality of graduates entering the job market.

One accountancy employer has already been forced to downgrade some graduate positions to target school-leavers because they are deemed ‘stronger’.

With graduate vacancies predicted to fall by 1.2 per cent in 2011-12, the AGR yesterday warned students they would need more than just a good degree to land plum jobs.

Chief executive Carl Gilleard said they needed ‘transferable skills’ such as the ability to work in teams and communicate well, and urged them to spend more time on their applications, covering basics such as spell-checking letters.

The association surveyed more than 200 members – including Marks & Spencer, Ernst & Young, GCHQ, John Lewis, the Bank of England, Grant Thornton and Procter & Gamble – about graduate recruitment last November.

Graduate vacancies increased by 1.7 per cent in 2010-11 but some companies still had problems recruiting due to a ‘lack of applicants or poor-quality applications’. Similar problems are anticipated for 2011-12.

Around 32.2 per cent of employers failed to fill all graduate vacancies in the 2010-11, a 6.2 percentage point increase on 2009-10.

Two-fifths (40.6 per cent) could not fill up to five per cent of their vacancies. A ‘lack of the right applicants’ was one of the reasons, with employers ‘highlighting that applicants’ skill levels often did not meet their requirements’.

An employer from the public sector said: ‘When we’ve got a starting point of around 1,000 applications I’d be really surprised if I couldn’t fill six vacancies, whereas if I was looking for 30 I might struggle a bit.’

The AGR report says: ‘This was more problematic for an employer from an engineering and industrial company who reported that they were struggling to recruit skilled engineering graduates.

‘They explained that whilst they receive good international applications, they experience difficulties achieving security clearance at the right level to employ them and so there is an urgent need for more skilled British engineering graduates to remedy this situation.’

An accountancy employer added: ‘Graduates are perhaps spending less time on their applications.

‘If I had one key message to get across it would be yes, there’s competition, but just make sure that every single application they submit is the best they can possibly do.’

Another employer pointed out that some ‘school-leavers were stronger than graduates’ so it had converted a number of positions.

The report said some industries were beginning to suffer ‘in light of the inflexibility of the work-life balance’, with a number of companies failing to meet recruitment targets because graduates wanted a job that ‘allows them to have a life’.

The report comes as official figures yesterday raised fears that Britain could be facing a double-dip recession. Growth figures slowed by 0.2 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2011. Unemployment recently rose to a 17-year high of 2.68million.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Schools of education

By Walter E. Williams

Larry Sand's article "No Wonder Johnny (Still) Can't Read" -- written for The John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, based in Raleigh, N.C. -- blames schools of education for the decline in America's education.

Education professors drum into students that they should not "drill and kill" or be the "sage on the stage" but instead be the "guide on the side" who "facilitates student discovery." This kind of harebrained thinking, coupled with multicultural nonsense, explains today's education. During his teacher education, Sand says, "teachers-to-be were forced to learn about this ethnic group, that impoverished group, this sexually anomalous group, that under-represented group, etc. -- all under the rubric of 'Culturally Responsive Education.'"

Education majors are woefully lacking in academic skills. Here are some sample test questions for you to answer. Question 1: Which of the following is equal to a quarter-million? a) 40,000, b) 250,000, c) 2,500,000, d) 1/4,000,000 or e) 4/1,000,000. Question 2: Martin Luther King Jr. (insert the correct choice) for the poor of all races. a) spoke out passionately, b) spoke out passionate, c) did spoke out passionately, d) has spoke out passionately or e) had spoken out passionate. Question 3: What would you do if your student sprained an ankle? a) Put a Band-Aid on it, b) Ice it or c) Rinse it with water.

Guess whether these questions were on a sixth-grade, ninth-grade or 12th-grade test. I bet the average reader would guess that it's a sixth-grade test. Wrong. How about ninth-grade? Wrong again. You say, "OK, Williams, so they're 12th-grade test questions!" Still wrong. According to a Heartland Institute-published School Reform News (September 2001) article titled "Who Tells Teachers They Can Teach?", those test questions came from prospective teacher tests.

The first two questions are samples from the Praxis I test for teachers, and the third is from the 1999 teacher certification test in Illinois. According to the Chicago Sun-Times (9/6/01), 5,243 Illinois teachers failed their teacher certification tests. The Chicago Sun-Times also reported, "One teacher failed 24 of 25 teacher tests -- including 11 of 12 Basic Skills tests and all 12 tests on teaching learning-disabled children." Yet that teacher was assigned to teach learning-disabled children in Chicago. Departments of education have solved the problem of teacher test failure. According to a New York Post story (11/14/11) titled "City teacher tests turn into E-ZPass," more than 99 percent of teachers pass.

Textbooks used in schools of education advocate sheer nonsense. A passage in Enid Lee et al.'s "Beyond Heroes and Holidays" reads: "We cannot afford to become so bogged down in grammar and spelling that we forget the whole story. ... The onslaught of antihuman practices that this nation and other nations are facing today: racism, and sexism, and the greed for money and human labor that disguises itself as 'globalization.'"

Marilyn Burns' text "About Teaching Mathematics" reads, "There is no place for requiring students to practice tedious calculations that are more efficiently and accurately done by using calculators."

"New Designs for Teaching and Learning," by Dennis Adams and Mary Hamm, says: "Content knowledge is not seen to be as important as possessing teaching skills and knowledge about the students being taught. ... Successful teachers understand the outside context of community, personal abilities, and feelings, while they establish an inside context or environment conducive to learning."

That means it's no problem if a teacher can't figure out that a quarter-million is the same as 250,000. Harvey Daniels and Marilyn Bizar's text "Methods that Matter" reads, "Students can no longer be viewed as cognitive living rooms into which the furniture of knowledge is moved in and arranged by teachers, and teachers cannot invariably act as subject-matter experts." The authors add, "The main use of standardized tests in America is to justify the distribution of certain goodies to certain people."

Schools of education represent the academic slums of most any college. American education can benefit from slum removal.


Law Schools Teach Junk, Exaggerate Their Students' Job Prospects

Propped up by government subsidies and regulations requiring students to attend law school before taking the bar exam, law schools waste their students’ time teaching irrelevant legal theories and ideologies, even as they paint a deceptively rosy picture of the job prospects that await their students upon graduation. As I noted in The Wall Street Journal this weekend,
At Harvard Law School I learned about trendy ideological fads and feminist and Marxist legal theory. But I did not learn the basics of real-estate and family law until I took a commercial bar-exam preparation course after graduating from law school. I learned more practical law in one summer of studying for the bar exam than I did in three years of law school. Students should not have to attend law school before taking the bar exam.

As Charlotte Allen notes at Minding the Campus, law schools are “fudging the facts” regarding their students’ job prospects in order to attract students and justify skyrocketing tuitions:
law schools, along with the universities to which they are attached, crave their students’ tuition dollars (law schools, where expensive labs are nonexistent and large lecture courses are the rule, tend to be cash cows for their host campuses) . . . One way to do this is to boast a high percentage [to U.S. News & World Report of] “graduates known to be employed within nine months after graduation.”

The “known” in the phrase “known to be employed” is the operative word. Law schools send their recent graduates surveys . . . The graduates then self-report their employment, if any, and the school calculates the percentage of those who responded who say they have jobs and submits it to U.S. News. Graduates who fail to respond to the survey or who can’t be located don’t count.

Furthermore, any kind of job counts as “employment,” even a job that requires no legal training. In a Jan. 8 story for the New York Times, reporter David Segal wrote: “Waiting tables at Applebee’s? You’re employed. Stocking aisles at Home Depot? You’re working, too.” . . . Segal reported that Georgetown University’s law school, safely in the top tier . . . last year sent an e-mail to its graduates who were “still seeking employment” offering them $20-and-hour temporary jobs in the admissions office for the six weeks encompassing Feb. 15, the cut-off date under U.S. News’s nine-month rule. . .As might be easily predicted from these loosey-goosey controls on survey accuracy, even the lowest-tiered law schools report astonishingly high levels of employment for their graduates. . .Last year that number had jumped to 93 percent, with some schools reporting 99 percent and 100 percent employment.

Furthermore, many law schools report starting salaries for their graduates that seem unrealistically high, given the current dismal market. In a July 16, 2011 story for the New York Times Segal noted that New York Law School (NYLS), a third-tier institution in lower Manhattan with a U.S. News ranking of No. 134, told the magazine that the median annual salary nine months after its Class of 2009 graduated was $160,000–the same figure cited by Yale and Harvard, which ranked No. 1 and No. 2 for that year. Only the largest and most prestigious law firms pay three-figure salaries to brand-new lawyers, and they hire most of them from top-tier, not third-tier law schools. . .

Since it’s estimated that a law graduate needs to earn $65,000 at a bare minimum in order to pay down a student-loan debt in the $100,000 range, there’s quite a bit of anger among unemployed and under-employed young lawyers burdened with staggering loans that, like other federal student loans, can’t be discharged in bankruptcy. Class-action lawsuits alleging fraud and misrepresentation have been filed by graduates of NYLS and the Thomas M. Cooley Law School . . . the lawyers who launched the NYLS and Cooley suits plan to sue fifteen more law schools that have reported post-graduate employment rates ranging from 88 percent to 100 percent–rates that the lawyers say amount to misrepresentation.

As I have previously explained, there is no reason to require people to attend law school before sitting for the bar exam. As law professor Paul Campos notes, legal education is a rip-off, since the typical law professor “knows nothing about being a lawyer. Hence, he must bullshit,” and thus, “talks without knowing what he is talking about,” when explaining the practical workings of the legal system or how to be a lawyer. But since most states require people to attend law school before sitting for the bar exam, law schools have been able to increase tuition by nearly 1,000 percent since 1960 in real terms.


No punishment for kids who bullied redhead

There is serious prejudice against redheads in England. If he had been a Muslim there would have been a huge uproar

A 12-year-old boy who was relentlessly bullied for having ginger hair was offered lessons in a class for 'vulnerable' pupils. Teachers suggested Tyler Walsh be taught in isolation to escape merciless taunts about his red hair, it has been claimed.

His furious mother Emma has pulled her son out of Year 8 and is tutoring him herself at home. She accused staff of failing to punish the gang responsible after just a single one-day suspension was handed out to the ringleader, it was alleged.

However the school - Yate International Academy - denied he would be taught in isolation and claimed his mother had misunderstood.

Ms Walsh, 33, says Tyler has been subjected to an 18-month campaign of bullying over the colour of his hair. She said: 'It is not fair that Tyler should be bullied out of school. He wants to learn and has been getting excellent grades and earning points for his guild (house). 'He was going to after-school science club and would like to become a scientist or science teacher. 'He wants to go to school but not to that school.

'I don’t feel my son will be safe at school so I am keeping him at home until he can start at another school next week. I will be tutoring him at home.'

Ms Walsh, from Yate, Bristol, sent Tyler to Yate International Academy 18-months ago, where he began his secondary education. But his mum claims bullies began picking on him straight away because of his brightly-coloured hair and willingness to learn.

He was bullied in Year 7 and then attacked in the street before Christmas last year. The latest incident, where a gang chased him into a toilet cubicle - forcing him to be rescued by a Year 11 student - was the final straw, she has claimed.

Ms Walsh, a full-time mother, said her son had been extremely distressed by the incident, which she had been told happened after the main perpetrator 'had a bad day'. He was given just a one-day suspension, it was claimed. Ms Walsh said: 'Yate International Academy has punished one boy, when a whole group were involved. 'A day off school is hardly a punishment for what my child has had to endure. I think it is absolutely disgusting.'

According to Ms Walsh, she decided to take Tyler out of school and tutor him herself after staff suggested Tyler attend its 'pupil inclusion unit' for vulnerable students.

However the school said it managed the issue 'in accordance' with its policies and protocols. Roger Gilbert, headteacher of Yate International Academy, claimed Ms Walsh had misunderstood the situation. He said the 'inclusion unit' was simply a place where Tyler could go a receive support and tell staff how he was feeling [Big deal!], but that he will still be taught with his peers.

Mr Gilbert also claimed that Ms Walsh went to the media with her grievance instead of speaking to the school first. He added: 'The unit does not teach children - it just helps them talk about what happened.

'Tyler would be taught with his normal class and would not be separated. This situation is not as it has been reported. I was only aware of Emma's complaints after I was contacted by the press about it. 'As far as I was aware Tyler was a happy boy - I speak to him most days. I am fully satisfied that everything we have done has been done in accordance with our practices and procedures.'

Ms Walsh is also upset that the academy refused to send work for Tyler to do at home until he was able to start at a new school - claiming they are 'punishing him'. She said the academy told her it would not send work home for Tyler because it was felt that this would be condoning his absence.

Ms Walsh, who also has a 15-year-old son and an 11-year-old daughter, called for the school’s anti-bullying policies to be toughened up.

She said she had complained to education watchdog Ofsted about the matter.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Self-Esteem Fad Harms Students and Education System

Two politically-correct beliefs have inflicted enormous harm on our education system: the belief that inflated, unearned self-esteem is a good thing, and the belief that money without accountability will improve our schools. The Washington Post reports on the failure of self-esteem to improve educational achievement: “For decades, the prevailing wisdom in education was that high self-esteem would lead to high achievement. The theory led to a avalanche of daily affirmations, awards ceremonies and attendance certificates — but few, if any academic gains.”

Indeed, students’ self-esteem outstripped their achievement, which fell compared to their international peers. U.S. eighth-graders did worse in math than their peers in countries like Singapore and South Korea, but felt better about themselves and their ability in math. “‘We used to think we could hand children self-esteem on a platter,’ Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck said. ‘That has backfired.’”

So now, teachers in some school systems are belatedly “tempering praise to push students” to achieve more rather than just feel good about themselves. But in other school systems, there are “self-esteem” teachers, who continue to teach students to feel great despite their own mediocrity, and to feel “bullied” when their exaggerated ego is affronted by behaviors like “eye-rolling” or critical comments from peers, which some self-esteem teachers claim is a form of “bullying,” even though it is often constitutionally-protected speech.

While visiting my mother in Washington State, I heard a bossy “self-esteem” teacher talking to then-Governor Lowry on a talk radio show. Her first words were, ”Governor Lowry, I teach self-esteem,” which she growled, in a deep, harsh voice that made her sound like a 300-pound bully. My cousin Gigi, who teaches special-education in the state, says that self-esteem teachers are some of the angriest people around. Yet millions of tax dollars have been spent hiring such academically useless people.

The belief that dumping more money on the education system will automatically improve it is also now being questioned by education experts like Richard Vedder, high-tech innovators like Peter Thiel, and even writers at the liberal New York Times. Increasing education spending has often benefited politically-correct bureaucrats rather than teachers. There are now more college administrators than faculty at California State University, and colleges are creating new positions for liberal bureaucrats even as they raise student tuition to record levels:
The University of California at San Diego, for example, is creating a new full-time “vice chancellor for equity, diversity, and inclusion.” This position would augment UC San Diego’s already massive diversity apparatus, which includes the Chancellor’s Diversity Office, the associate vice chancellor for faculty equity, the assistant vice chancellor for diversity, the faculty equity advisors, the graduate diversity coordinators, the staff diversity liaison, the undergraduate student diversity liaison, the graduate student diversity liaison, the chief diversity officer, the director of development for diversity initiatives, the Office of Academic Diversity and Equal Opportunity, the Committee on Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Issues, the Committee on the Status of Women, the Campus Council on Climate, Culture and Inclusion, the Diversity Council, and the directors of the Cross-Cultural Center, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center, and the Women’s Center.

Other colleges raised spending on administrators as much as 600 percent in recent years. Flush with cash, colleges have also spent millions of dollars on “diversity training,” even though some “diversity training” is racist, spawns lawsuits, or contains bad legal advice that blows up in the face of the institution paying for it. For example, Glenn Singleton, a wealthy “diversity” trainer, promotes racial stereotypes, such as teaching that “white talk” is “impersonal, intellectual, verbal” and “task-oriented,” while “color commentary” is “emotional.” California Superintendent Jack O’Connell, a white liberal, was recently embarrassed, and called racist, after he foolishly repeated a notion peddled by Glenn Singleton: that black people are loud. Singleton’s racially-charged “diversity” teachings embarrassed the Seattle Schools in a landmark Supreme Court case that the school system lost in 2007.

States spend hundreds of millions of dollars operating colleges that have extremely low standards, yet manage to graduate almost no one — like Chicago State, “which has just a 12.8 percent six-year graduation rate.” Bush increased federal education spending 58 percent faster than inflation, while Obama seeks to double it. Spending has exploded at the K-12 level: per-pupil spending in the U.S. is among the highest in the world.


A quarter of British children aged 10 to 12 can’t do basic addition and one in five don’t know the difference between ‘there’, ‘their’ and ‘they’re’

Young children are leaving primary school unable to spell, add up or do their times tables because their parents are too busy to help them practise, a survey revealed today.

Half of children aged between 10 and 12 do not know what a noun is or cannot identify an adverb - while almost a third, 31 per cent, cannot use apostrophes correctly.

More than one in five - 22 per cent - could not use the correct version of 'they're', 'there' and 'their' in a sentence and more than four in 10 couldn't spell the word 'secretaries' correctly.

Maths didn't fare much better in the survey by online tutor, mytutor, with more than a quarter of children being unable to add two small sums of money without using a calculator as they can't do division and basic algebra.

Twenty-seven per cent of children surveyed could not add £2.36 and £1.49 to get £3.85. In addition, more than a third, 36 per cent, could not divide 415 by five and a quarter did not know the answer to seven multiplied by six.

Nick Smith, head of online tuition at mytutor, said: 'Maths and English are key skills for children as they enter secondary school, yet our study shows that many are already slipping behind their peers and could be lacking confidence.'

The survey of 1,000 children aged between 10 and 12 found that one in four did not know their times tables, a quarter could not use decimal points and two in five could not spell simple plurals.

But the survey also discovered that most parents who are struggling to find a work-life balance spend less than 10 minutes a day helping their children with their learning because they are too busy.

Almost half of parents surveyed, 48 per cent, said they thought their child was worse at maths than they were at the same age and more than a third, 36 per cent, felt their child’s English was worse than theirs was at the same age.

Almost four in 10 parents - 39 per cent - said they spent less time learning with their children than their parents did with them a generation ago.

Only 30 per cent claimed to spend more time helping their child with their learning than their parents did.

And nearly six out of 10 parents - 59 per cent - spent less than an hour a week learning with their children - amounting to just eight-and-a-half minutes a day.

One in five parents spent less than 30 minutes a week learning with their offspring.

Mr Smith continued: 'Despite half of parents thinking their children aren’t as good as they were at the same age, most parents only manage to spend fewer than 10 minutes a day reading with them, helping them with homework or doing educational activities at home.

'Addressing these shortcomings early can make an enormous difference to a child’s school career, with tutored children generally making more than a year’s worth of progress with just 20 hours of tuition.

'Hectic modern lifestyles are leaving parents with less and less time to spend learning with their children - whether that is helping with homework or other educational activities.

'Many think that their child’s learning is suffering as a result, yet fewer than one in 10 of the parents we asked had used private tuition to give their children a boost to their learning - with many citing travelling time and a lack of suitable local tutors as reasons.'

Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg added: 'Clearly, as this reports demonstrates, there is still much to be done to ensure children leave primary school with a grip of the basics.

'But the Tory-led Government is ignoring the warning signals in this report.

'Instead of focusing on the 3Rs, they are cutting funding for programmes which provide one-to-one support for reading and writing. This means 9,000 more children will be at risk of falling behind this year alone.'

A Department for Education spokesman said: 'Getting the basics right at primary school is vital. 'That’s why we are placing such emphasis on improving pupils’ reading ability early on, using the proven method of synthetic phonics to teach children to read. 'We are committed to improving standards in maths - bringing more specialist maths teachers into the classroom and focusing on basic arithmetic.'

The survey results come as a government maths education advisor has urged that maths be compulsory for the majority of students, no matter what they are studying, up until the age of 18.

Government education adviser Professor Steve Sparks argues that all students who continue with further education after 16 should also take a new maths qualification alongside their other subjects.

He claims that teaching post-16 students basic maths and statistics is vital for them to be able to compete in the modern world.


Australia: Inflexible public system renews faith in religious schools

In recent decades, the easy habits of local public comprehensive schools, considered for so long to be intrinsic for social democracy, are being replaced by anxious aspirations to private schooling. And, when we say private schooling in this country, we mean religious schooling.

Indeed, when it comes to Australian schooling, reports of the death of religion have been greatly exaggerated. About 30 per cent of students are enrolled in a religious school and for secondary education the number is much greater. The tide has turned on Matthew Arnold's old prediction of a "long melancholy withdrawing roar of the sea of faith", with an incoming swell that has not retreated for 20 years.

There are many implications of this trend but, like new wine into old wineskins, the antiquated language of public and private, secular and religious, four legs good, two legs bad can no longer contain them.

It is no longer sufficient to depict this great change as just a negative "white flight" or "suburban middle class fantasy" that might subside if David Gonski's report into education funding threw more money at public schools. Education is much more than economics, and this great sea change needs much more nuanced analysis and a new language.

One curious example is the issue of text censorship in schools. The old lore would have it that religious schooling is more repressive than its secular cousin but, in the case of film censorship, NSW state schools are now proving more restrictive.

According to the Department of Education and Training, "Material classified M should only be considered for students who are 15 years and over … Decisions about whether the use of M classified materials in the school will be approved must be made by the principal." This is despite the Federal Office of Classification recommendation that "School students under 15 may legally access this material because it is an advisory category".

As a result, no NSW public year 9 students (typically 14-15) can be shown an M-rated film (whether they are 15 or not), and since the approval process is laborious, teachers are also unlikely to screen one for year 10 students (typically 15-16). That means no Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet, Roman Polanski's Macbeth or Oliver Parker's Othello; no blockbusters such as The Lord of the Rings (teaching fantasy), Master and Commander (teaching history of exploration), The Day After Tomorrow (environment/ sustainability), Malcolm X and Mississippi Burning (history of civil rights) and no screening of many significant documentaries on WWI and WWII.

I observed how irritating this was for NSW state teachers last year in my role as a commercial teacher-trainer for the new Australian Curriculum. At seven events for about 200 secondary teachers, state school teachers complained that they were unable to screen recommended texts for years 9 and 10 because they were M-rated. Religious school teachers, however, said they did screen M-rated videos for years 8-10 students, providing parental permission notes, and discussing challenging moral and spiritual issues with their classes. They rarely consulted their principals.

This surprising trend had already been observed in my Macquarie University study of religious school English teachers: a paradox of rich educational plurality, operating within schools based on intellectually exclusivist religions.

Justifiably, teachers thought that the ban created unfair gaps between public and private. The hyper-aware moralities of religious schools actually enabled their teachers to walk a fine text-selection line between education quality and moral risk and to walk their students along the same path. This was in stark contrast to what teachers perceived as a bureaucratic, risk-averse mentality for state education.

So, as we unwrap our back-to-school box this year, we find new luminous oddities that the old colour scheme of public and private can no longer name. Thousands will be donning new and strange religious school uniforms for the first time, with all of the profound changes for Australia that this entails.

Text censorship is but one issue that belies the dogma that the shift is necessarily negative but confirms it is intricately complex and changing, deserving a more research-based, nuanced vocabulary.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Acknowledging South Carolina’s deteriorating academic performance and the need to inject some real market-based accountability into the system, one of the nation’s largest, most influential advocacy groups is joining the push for expanded parental choice.

FreedomWorks – a national group of conservative activists with more than 20,000 Palmetto State members – has made South Carolina’s school choice legislation one of their top national priorities in 2012.

And not a minute too soon, based on the latest data …
According to the organization, South Carolina’s parental choice bill “would help empower parents with greater opportunity to choose their child’s school through education tax credits.”

“It would further enable children to escape failing schools and take meaningful steps towards curbing waste, fraud, and abuse that the state’s educational bureaucracy has perpetrated for so many years,” the organization’s call to action states.

The new legislation – sponsored by S.C. Rep. Eric Bedingfield (R-Greenville) – includes the same tax credit and scholarship provisions as previous parental choice bills – as well as an additional scholarship program for students of all income levels with learning disabilities. It also includes a $200 tax credit for public school teachers who are forced to purchase their own school supplies thanks to the rampant inefficiency of the state-run system.

There are now six states with parental tax credits for school choice, eight states with scholarships funded through tax credits and seven states with programs for special needs kids. These programs are all widely-popular with the only constituency whose opinions really matter as far as we’re concerned: parents.

The programs also save taxpayer money and raise student achievement, even among the kids who don’t participate.
Parental choice legislation – which failed by one vote in the S.C. House of Representatives a year ago – couldn’t be passed soon enough.

Last month, it was revealed that 76 percent of South Carolina public schools (831 out of 1,037) failed to make adequate yearly progress during the 2010-11 academic year (compared to 48 percent nationally). This abysmal performance is consistent with South Carolina’s plummeting SAT scores and atrocious graduation rate.

While the state’s educrat establishment blames so-called “budget cuts” for the deteriorating performance, taxpayers are actually shelling out a record $11,754 per child on public “education” during the current fiscal year – not counting income from local bond revenue, investments, and transfers between funds and government agencies.

This mountain of new money comes on top of back-to-back years of record education funding (click here and here for those totals).

Not only that, school districts are ripping off even more money from local businesses thanks to an ill-advised 2006 “tax swap …” even as they’ve squirreled away more than $760 million into their “reserve” accounts.

FreedomWorks – founded by Former US House Majority Leader Dick Armey– has one of the nation’s largest and most aggressive networks of activists and supporters. The group has spent years building contacts and relationships with local party chairs, precinct managers, Tea Party activists, college Republicans, grassroots regulars, and so on. This aggressive activist push has been complemented by an equally aggressive online and social media effort.

The fact that a group FreedomWorks has chosen to weigh in so aggressively in South Carolina is clearly due to the narrow defeat of last year’s legislation.


Oxford finalists are little better than High School, claim tutors

About a quarter of Freshers at Harvard are sent off to remedial English and mathematics classes so the blight of High Schools not preparing students well is not unique to Britain

They are supposed to be the brightest in Britain. But some Oxford University students show a “distressing” grasp of their subjects and the answers to their final exams are often little better than A-level standard, according to their tutors.

Some are unable to spell words such as ‘erupt’ or ‘across’ correctly and give answers that show a “worrying degree of inaccuracy,” according to examiners’ reports seen by the Daily Telegraph.

Academics said a culture of box-ticking at A-level had left students with poor general knowledge and unable to think for themselves.

One English examiner wrote: “We encountered a distinct sense of undeveloped critical thought, first year level work, or at the lower end of the run, A-level-style responses: information dumped but not tackled.”

A tutor marking Cold War history papers said: “The clotted residuum of A-level work was noticeable in a clutch of questions.

“Candidates would do well to abandon the assumption that they can use their schoolwork without significant addition to their reading and analysis. “The intellectual thinness and out-datedness on topics such as the Soviet Union was embarrassing.”

Examiners were delighted by some candidates, whose work was good enough to be published in academic journals. But they were scathing about large numbers whose answers were “dull” – or worse.

English papers carried “haphazard and random generalisations”, they wrote. Only seven candidates in a class of 80 studying Irish poetry could say which country the city of Derry is in, and "very few" could explain the significance of 1916, the year of the Easter Rising.

In answers on Jane Austen, tutors wrote: “There was too much simply bad writing, which was poorly thought out and critically inattentive”. Students’ knowledge of scholarship on Dickens was “plainly deficient”, they said.

Answers on Cicero were “tending towards the dreadfully banal” while Alexander the Great fell victim to “manifest guesswork”.

In answers on Old English, “names were badly mangled and often forgotten – the tendency was, if in doubt, to call everyone Aelfric.”

Modern languages tutors were no kinder. In German, some scripts were “depressingly poor”. Spanish words, including the names of authors and their works, were “consistently misspelled”. French translation was often “appalling”. Italian candidates were “undeniably of a mediocre level” and the worst Russian oral candidates were “embarrassingly weak”.

Tutors in many subjects complained that students had failed to revise properly, and instead memorised old class essays and regurgitated them regardless of the question asked.

Other candidates, meanwhile, were almost too clever for their own good. “Some tyro de-constructivists perversely feigned not to understand the simplest phrases and tortured their texts into contradiction and unintelligibility,” the examiner of a paper on modern poetry wrote.

But it was students’ “startling” abuse of English that shocked dons the most. Some could not spell ‘illuminate’ ‘bizarre’ ‘blur’ ‘buries’ or ‘possess’ correctly, with tutors blaming a dependence on computer spellcheckers.

Handwriting was so poor that “scripts from dyslexic candidates proved a welcome relief because they were typed,” one added.

“Examiners were once again concerned that students graduating from Oxford having studied foreign languages should have such a precarious command of their own,” one Spanish tutor wrote.

More than a quarter of Oxford students received a first class degree in 2010, with 63 per cent receiving an upper second and just 1 per cent getting a third. No candidates failed their degree.

David Palfreyman, Bursar of New College and director of the Oxford Centre for Higher Education Policy Studies, said: “Kids are so constrained by being brought up thinking 'I only do for the exams at GCSE or A-level what the mark scheme says I should do, I never think out of the box because I don't get rewarded if I do'. What's missing is the cultural heritage.

"You can't assume that if you say to a kid 'this is a kind of Micawber personality' that the kid understands what that means because the historian may not have ever encountered somebody called Dickens at school.”

Professor Peter Oppenheimer, an emeritus professor at Christ Church college, said: "Any Oxford tutor will tell you that the standards nowadays forthcoming from schools are appallingly low, and certainly much lower than a generation ago.

"In modern languages part of the problem is they aren't taught English grammar, so how should they learn the grammar of foreign languages?”

A university spokesman declined to comment.


Australia: Insane NSW education bureaucracy

Teaching standards in the various Australian States are quite similar so moving from Victoria to the adjoining State of NSW should be no big deal. But it is ....

CROSSING the Murray felt significant. It was sunny and, after years, we were coming home to good ol' Newsouth, where it is always sunny and always Saturday morning, and the unimpeachable joys of childhood dwell in a never-to-be-disturbed bliss. The real significance hit later.

If I were a plumber, accountant or massage therapist, it would have been irrelevant: one could live in Melbourne one week then move to Sydney the next and simply front up to an employer and say: "Yep, I'm fully qualified, vastly experienced and I've just moved interstate." If the paperwork was up to scratch and they fitted the job description, it'd be: "No worries. Start on Monday."

Teachers, however, are different. We are what you might call the professional equivalent of refugees, fleeing the presumed disastrous condition of education of other Australian states.

Of course, before you can set foot inside a school, you're whipped off to the Institute of Teachers, where sniffer dogs investigate your deodorant status. That done, you front up to a corpse-like quasi KGB agent with perfect dentures and an interest in your credentials bordering on the pathological.

Don't get me wrong, I understand the need for caution; I'm cool with the fact that they need to see every piece of documentation I've received since I was 18, potentially even shopping dockets and bus tickets. This is standard bureaucratic fare.

After the interview, I go home and wait. And wait. Five weeks on, there's a letter: "Further documentation required." Nothing wrong with being thorough.

"Mother's birth certificate." Could be tricky. I google "Irish Embassy". Another six weeks and the necessaries are in the mail, with a note confessing how hard it is to feed a family without a job and could they maybe speed the process up a tad?

Ninety-seven days exactly after that fateful river crossing, I receive permission to teach in the state of NSW. My wife and children are too weak with hunger to join in the celebration. I ring the Institute and thank them warmly, but I still have one query concerning the 40 per cent cut in my rate of pay.

"A New Scheme teacher," the officer explains, "is a graduate teacher, or equivalent."

"Then there must be some mistake, because I've been a teacher for 20 …"

"Or equivalent," she repeats. "You haven't taught in NSW for the past five years." "Yes but," I begin. "In New South Wales."

And the articulation of that name is nothing less than the passing of a sentence. I break down and beg forgiveness. She's not sure what the policy is on that, but she'll get back to me.


Monday, January 23, 2012

The Higher-Education Bubble

When President Obama gives his state of the union address next week, you can count on his making a big pitch for education. No president in recent memory has failed to tout expanded educational opportunity as the panacea for all that ails us -- and Obama has been the most passionate of pitchmen on the issue. In last year's speech, he said, "Cutting the deficit by gutting our investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine."

But the fact is that dumping billions more in education will have little payoff and has arguably created more problems than it has solved.

The most recent issue of Academic Questions, the journal of the National Association of Scholars, addresses one aspect of the problem: the higher-education bubble. With the mounting cost of higher education -- driven in part by the infusion of government subsidies -- many new graduates are finding that the degree they've earned is not worth the investment. At one time, a college degree was a virtual guarantor of secure, well-paying employment. Now, most college grads leave school with large debts -- more than $27,000 on average. It's money they will struggle to pay back if they're lucky enough to get a job in this weak economy.

A college degree no longer signifies that the recipient is either well-educated in the traditional sense or that he has acquired specific skills suited to the labor market. As the former president of St. John's College in Santa Fe, John Agresto, argues in his essay, "The Liberal Arts Bubble," were it not for the continued infusion of government subsidies and the influx of foreign students, the bubble might already have burst. Agresto points out that the liberal arts, once the backbone of the higher education system, has fallen into a precipitous decline.

"What was once normative -- that Jake or Suzie would go off to college and study some history, some literature, learn a second language, and perhaps major in philosophy or classics -- has not been the case for years," Agresto writes. By 2008, the number of bachelor's degrees had risen to 1.5 million Americans, but few of these degrees were in the traditional liberal arts. Barely 2 percent of BAs were awarded in history and only 3.5 percent in English literature. Agresto points out that more than a third of undergraduate degress are now earned in business, health professions and education. Colleges have become trade schools by another name -- but far more expensive ones than their for-profit counterparts.

It's no wonder that students have fled the liberal arts. For centuries, the liberal arts passed on what was best in Western civilization. Agresto explains that what kept Americans from forsaking the liberal arts in favor of the purely utilitarian, despite our practical bent, was that our youth should be encouraged "to pursue inquiry into serious and perennial questions."

But he also notes that the humanities in particular were considered the "Keepers of the Culture" at a time when we actually believed we had a culture worth keeping and passing on to another generation. Since the 1960s, however, our culture has been under attack, our history rewritten as one of unmitigated oppression and the values our Founders and subsequent generations held dear reviled. Humanities courses in liberal arts colleges across the country have replaced the canon of Western civilization with course offerings in gay scholarship, feminism, race studies and the like -- all aimed to show our benighted past and to condition us to a more tolerant future. That is, tolerant of every group except for white, heterosexual males.

Students have fled such course offerings in droves to pursue technical or professional skills in colleges that now award most of their degrees outside the liberal arts. Meanwhile, their parents -- and increasingly the students themselves, through student loans -- are left footing the bill for degrees that neither pay off in the marketplace nor enrich the intellectual lives of those on whom they are conferred.

Not even President Obama's billions will keep this bubble from bursting because it contains nothing but ever-expanding hot air.


AZ: School voucher push is revived

As he has before, Rep. Jack Harper proposed a bill this month that would let voters decide whether to change the Arizona Constitution to permit the use of school vouchers.

The bill would allow many parents to get state vouchers for per-pupil K-12 funding and use them to pay for their children to attend private schools, including religious ones.

Harper doesn't expect it to pass. But the West Valley Republican's proposal -- made as an "ideological" statement, he says -- represents the efforts of some conservative leaders to advance school-choice measures that steer public education money to private schools.

Harper's bill is unlikely to get support, even from GOP leaders, he says, because the ballot measure has no financial backing and similar ones have been rejected by voters in other states, including Utah and California.

But other bills designed to steer more state funds to private schools do have leaders' support.

Two proposed Senate bills would double the amount residents could save on their state income-tax bills, via credits, by donating to private-school scholarship funds. The bills also would expand the number of students eligible for the scholarships. The bills were passed by the Senate Finance Committee last week.

A third school-choice proposal, in a bill being drafted, would give parents the power to fire a failing district school's principal, shut the district school down or replace it with a charter school. The trend of empowering parents began in Los Angeles and is spreading.

"We see that these bills will be opening up opportunities to ensure as many children as possible can attend the school of their parents' choosing," said Deborah Sheasby, an attorney and lobbyist for the Center for Arizona Policy, which advocates for conservative causes, including school choice. "These bills are winners all around for Arizona families."

The groups and people pushing these bills were among those that helped bring to Arizona privately operated public schools, called charters, as well as creation of the tax-credit scholarships.

Their latest victory, which began this school year, is a law that created a statewide program giving parents of disabled students most of the money the state would spend educating their child. Parents can spend that money on private-school tuition and other education services, such as tutoring and even college-savings plans. The program is up and running at the same time its constitutionality is being challenged in court.

Opponents say school-choice measures can end up weakening district schools and argue that channeling state money to private schools violates state constitutional bans on spending state funds on religion or on private or religious schools. The opponents, which include district school boards, teachers unions and advocacy groups, argue the state has a constitutional obligation to use public money to improve cash-strapped public schools, not give it to private and religious schools. Instead, the state has cut funds to public schools for three consecutive years while passing laws that provide more state money for private schools, they say.

Arizona parents already have more school choice than many other states, they say. They can send their child to any school within their district or another district. Many districts offer special programs for advanced students and in vocational training, science, math, the arts and languages. If parents can't find something they like in a district, there are also 510 charter schools.

"It's (the school-choice push is) extremely frustrating because there is no Arizona student trapped in a public school," said Janice Palmer, lobbyist for the Arizona School Boards Association. Parents don't need more choices, Palmer said; schools need more parents to take an active interest in education.

Groups such as Palmer's have fewer allies in the Legislature, but voters often come down on the side of public schools. The most recent was the approval of a temporary sales-tax hike to help schools make it through the recession.

More here

Named and shamed: Failing British High Schools that play the system to be exposed

Secondary schools that try to manipulate league tables will be exposed next week when previously undisclosed information is made public, the schools minister said today.

MP Nick Gibb today claimed weak schools that play the system by only focusing on pupils who will affect their rankings will be revealed in a new league table figures to be published for the first time next week.

Mr Gibb said that since 1997 there has been a significant increase in the proportion of C grades awarded because weaker schools had been given incentives to focus on them. He said this meant students who might have been capable of getting As and Bs, or E students who might be able to get Ds, had been neglected.

In the reformed league tables, parents will be able to compare schools based on the amount of progress made by the top pupils between 11 and 16.

Mr Gibb said: 'The way school league tables have evolved over the past two decades can encourage a degree of 'gaming' by some weaker schools, desperate to keep above the standard that would trigger intervention by Ofsted or the Department for Education.

'But the purpose of performance tables must be to incentivise schools to raise standards and to enable parents to make informed decisions when choosing a school.

'We are determined to stamp out any incentives to 'game' the system whereby some schools focus just on those pupils who will affect their league table position. It is vital that all schools give every pupil the best chance to maximise their potential.

'We intend to make available data formerly kept secret in the Department for Education. 'For example, we want to show how well secondary schools educate those children who left primary school still struggling in the 3Rs. 'The new tables will have a column showing the proportion of such children who went on to achieve five or more GCSEs at grades A* to C. 'We can then compare schools to see which are better at helping children who started from this low base.'

The figures will also highlight how well a secondary school educates pupils who joined them as high achievers and will show how well schools transform the chances of children from poorer backgrounds, Mr Gibb said.

He added: 'A key objective of the Government is to close the attainment gap between those from poorer and wealthier backgrounds. 'We are giving those schools with more challenging intakes significant extra funding through the Pupil Premium - £600 for every child eligible for free school meals, from April.

'In return, schools must deliver the same level of achievement for all children regardless of background.' [In your dreams!]

The data will also show how each school performs in the EBacc, the core academic subjects, and only the highest quality non-GCSE and vocational courses will be included in performance tables to remove any incentive for schools to put students on to courses which do little to help them progress, Mr Gibb said.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

‘Unconstitutional’: Critics Slam FL Bill Allowing Prayer at School Events

Florida State Senator Gary Siplin, a Democrat representing Orlando, is on a mission to bring prayer back to public schools. The lawmaker has proposed a bill that would make it legal for students to lead prayer. Yes, in public schools.

The proposal would enable school districts to decide if they want to allow the religions practice at school events. Currently, students are permitted to pray on an individual basis, though the group-led prayer being proposed is obviously quite different. Siplin, likely realizing the controversial nature of the bill, has explained that no student would be mandated to participate.

“It is completely voluntary,” he said. “But we do not want any influence from the principal, the counselor, the dean, the coach or parents.”

The proposal would change the current dynamic, which does not allow student-led prayer at school-sponsored events, by “allowing the use of an inspirational message, including prayers of invocation or benediction, at secondary school commencement exercises or any other noncompulsory student assembly.”

To the surprise of some atheists and groups that espouse an intense adherence to the separation of church and state, the developments are troubling. Already, the bill has attracted bi-partisan support in committee. Within its text there are restrictions laid out to determine what, exactly, the prayer should look like — restrictions that aren’t enough to curb criticism, though.

According to the bill’s text, it “…is not intended to advance or endorse any religion or religious belief.” provides the proposal’s parameters for the prayer. It must be:

* Directed by the student government of the school.

* Led by students, with no direction by school personnel.

* “Non-sectarian and non-proselytizing in nature.”

Florida Bill Would Allow Prayer at School Events | Senator Gary SiplinThe American Civil Liberties Union has come out strong against the proposal, writing the following in a letter posted its web site:
The bill they are considering, Senate Bill 98, would let school districts overrule the objections of religious minorities and organize school-sponsored prayer under the banner of student government. Under the bill, school officials would be able to skirt the Constitutional protections of religious liberty by letting students actually vote on what kind of prayers the school will allow and conduct.

Religious expression is an individual liberty and shouldn’t be put to a vote like a Prom King or Homecoming Court. SB98 would give schools free reign to make students feel like outsiders in the classroom, alienated from their peers, or compelled by peer pressure to engage in religious practices that go against their own beliefs.

The Anti-Defamation League has mirrored these statements, calling the bill ”unnecessary, divisive and unconstitutional.” ADL attorney David Barkey, who has testified against the bill, said, “It is setting schools up for costly litigation.”

An identical bill has been introduced in the Florida State House by Rep. Charles Van Zant, a Republican from Keystone Heights.

While Siplin is confident about the bill’s chances, it seems critics are prepared to enter into legislative and court battles, if needed. This story comes on the heels of a prayer mural dispute in Rhode Island and a New York City ban on public schools for worship use by churches.


Utah school district gets rid of cougar mascot because it's offensive to women

Students in Utah may have voted to urge on their sports teams with the battle cry ‘Go Cougars!’ But the school district has overruled the popular choice because it claims it would be insensitive to women.

The students were asked what they wanted to be the mascot for the new Corner Canyon High School, which is scheduled to open in Draper, Utah, next year.

While cougars – the large mountain cats - are prevalent in Utah, the principal Mary Bailey worried people would also be reminded of the popular culture use of the word to describe sexually aggressive middle-aged women who attract younger men.

Some parents and patrons emailed and called board members, saying they were uncomfortable with the idea that their daughters on the drill team and as cheerleading squad would be called Cougars.

The Canyons Board of Education, which consisted of six men and one woman, agreed with the principal and decided to impose the name ‘Charger’ for the mascot. Although ‘Charger’ was on the ballot, it didn’t get close to as many votes as ‘Cougars.’

Ballots were sent out to 4,300 kindergarten through eighth grade students in Draper communities that will feed into the school. Two hundred seventy-three wanted Cougars, 180 wanted Diamondback, 171 wanted Falcons and 141 wanted Raptors.

The decision came even though Brigham Young University, considered one of the country’s most straight-laced colleges, uses the cougar for its mascot.

Ms. Bailey said the name ‘Charger’ gave the school an opportunity to have a unique mascot in Utah. ‘The board said this is a brand new school and we want to unite the community. And if there's something out there that could divide it, let's not go there,’ said district spokeswoman Jennifer Toomer-Cook to

While student input was taken into consideration and appreciated, she added that it was always the board's intent to make the final decision


How 500,000 British pupils dodge core High School subjects as schools sign them up for softer options

Almost 500,000 state school pupils are failing to achieve good GCSEs in core subjects because they are signed up to softer options by their schools.

Instead of studying English, maths, history or geography, science and languages – the bedrock of a good education – many are taking easier but less useful subjects such as media studies or sociology.

In addition, league tables being published on Thursday will reveal for the first time how low, medium and high achievers do in their GCSEs in relation to the results of assessments made when they were 11.

Primary league tables from December showed that tens of thousands of 11-year-olds who had top grades at seven then went downhill after being left to coast in maths and English.

Educational reformers are keeping a close eye on GCSE results in core subjects.

More than twice as many public school children as state-educated pupils achieve the Coalition’s new English Baccalaureate.

According to the Department for Education, 35.7 per cent of public school pupils passed last year. That compares to just 15.2 per cent in state education, leaving 84.8 per cent who didn’t make the grade – or 481,000 pupils.

The award is not a qualification, but a measure of how well schools teach core subjects. To pass it, a GCSE student must score between A* and C in English, maths, science, a language and history or geography.

Schools with low numbers achieving the ‘EBacc’ will plunge down league tables.

Alan Smithers, of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, said: ‘The EBacc is the Government’s attempt to nudge schools into encouraging pupils to take core subjects.’

Because it was only introduced in September 2010 to include that year’s exam results, it is too soon for it to have had an impact on Thursday’s secondary school league tables.

Professor Smithers said these results would be taken as a ‘baseline’ by which subsequent progress would be measured, adding: ‘For the exams taken this year we will be able to see what the impact has really been.’