Friday, June 15, 2012
Teachers Union Rides First Class on Philadelphia Schools’ Gravy Train
Every pay period, the Philadelphia school district puts $155 per union member into a special fund that helps educators pay their personal legal bills, which includes everything from routine legal advice to estate planning.
That single perk, nestled deep within the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers’ union contract, cost taxpayers $2.6 million during the 2010-11 school year. It also contributed to the district’s financial woes, which led to 2,200 teachers being laid off last year.
The “PFT Legal Services Fund” is just one example of Philadelphia public schools’ extravagant spending practices, which are the focus of EAGnews.org’s latest investigative report, “Sucking the Life Out of America’s Public Schools: The Expense of Teachers Union Contracts.”
Using figures from the 2010-11 school year, EAG’s report details how the local teachers union –the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers – has larded up the district’s budget with expenditures that benefit the adult employees, but have no demonstrative impact on student learning.
For example, Philadelphia taxpayers spent $165 million on health insurance for PFT members; union employees contributed less than 1 percent toward their insurance costs, according to documents obtained via open records laws.
But low-cost health insurance is just the beginning of the goodies given to PFT members. The Philadelphia school district also contributed $66 million to the union-controlled “Health and Welfare Fund,” which provides PFT members with dental, vision and prescription benefits.
Despite such generous health benefits, PFT members were absent a lot during the 2010-11 school year. Approximately 11,850 teachers took a combined 137,104 sick or personal days, which averages to 11.5 days per teacher in a 188-day work year.
The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers has roughly 16,000 members (not all of them classify as teachers), and during the 2010-11 school year they took a combined 236,863 days off – including 36,830 days for “wage continuation,” 3,122 days for “jury duty,” 1,419 days for “unauthorized leave without pay,” and 9 days for “religious mourning.”
The “wage continuation” benefit protects employees against “wage loss in the case of an illness, non-work related injury or other short-term disability which extends beyond an individual’s available sick leave,” according to PFT’s teacher contract. This extra layer of cushion cost taxpayers $7.1 million during the previous school year.
Retiring PFT members were allowed to cash out their unused sick days and leave time, costing the district $15.3 million in “severance pay.”
All told, EAGnews.org found a total $135 million in questionable expenditures, money that could have prevented many of the 2,200 teacher layoffs.
The remaining PFT members are still enjoying a smooth ride on the public education gravy train, but it’s about to run out of track. If they refuse to make contract concessions, their train is going to derail, and the first class cabin may bear the brunt of the impact.
British Children go back to basics in maths
Children will be introduced to times tables, mental arithmetic and fractions in the first two years of school as part of a back-to-basics overhaul of the National Curriculum.
Ministers will this week announce key tasks pupils are expected to master at each age under wide-ranging plans to counter more than a decade of dumbing down in schools.
A draft mathematics curriculum suggests that five and six year-olds will be expected to count up to 100, recognise basic fractions and memorise the results of simple sums by the end of the first year of compulsory education.
In the second year, they will be required to know the two, five and 10 times tables, add and subtract two-digit numbers in their head and begin to use graphs.
The proposals are intended to ensure that children are given a proper grounding in the basics at a young age to prepare them for the demands of secondary education and beyond.
It represents a dramatic toughening up of standards demanded in English state schools in a move designed to benchmark lessons against those found in the world’s most advanced education systems, such as Singapore, Hong Kong and parts of the United States.
At the age of nine, pupils should know all their times tables up to 12x12 and confidently work with numbers up to 10 million by the end of primary school, the Government said.
Currently, children only need to know up to 10x10 and familiarise themselves with numbers below 1,000 by the age of 11.
The disclosure is made as part of a sweeping overhaul of core subjects in primary schools, with the new curriculum expected to be introduced by 2014.
Under the proposals:
– Science lessons will place a greater emphasis on early physics and ensure children learn about the solar system and galaxies. They will also be expected to cover the biographies of scientists such as Charles Darwin and promote more practical experimentation, with pupils weighing and comparing objects at seven and wiring basic circuits by the age of nine.
– In English, pupils will be expected to spell a list of almost 240 advanced words by the end of primary school, master grammar and punctuation and read more novels and poems, with children reciting simple poetry in front of classmates at the age of five.
– Foreign languages will be made compulsory from the age of seven – instead of 11 at the moment – with schools given the freedom to teach French, German, Spanish and Mandarin, or ancient languages such as Latin.
The planned overhaul of primary subjects will be put out to a public consultation to be launched this week. Proposals to reform other primary subjects – as well as lessons in secondary schools – will be outlined later this year.
The move is expected to be criticised by teachers who fear that the proposals give them less freedom to dictate the content of their own lessons.
Repeated revisions of the National Curriculum introduced by Labour stripped out swathes of lesson content, including a controversial move to remove Winston Churchill from secondary history lessons.
Last night, a government source said: “Labour and the unions devalued the curriculum and exam system and pointed to rising results to make themselves look good.
“In reality it was a lie that damaged children’s lives and saw us fall behind other countries. The new curriculum will raise standards for all and equip children better to do advanced work at secondary school.”
The changes come amid fears that rising numbers of pupils are leaving school unfit for the demands of the workplace.
A study published today by the Confederation of British Industry discloses that four in 10 companies were forced to offer young employees remedial lessons in English, maths or computing because of poor levels of basic skills.
Simon Walker, the director-general of the Institute of Directors, backed the new curriculum, saying: “International comparisons with high-performing countries have made it manifestly clear that we need to raise the bar.
“We must be more ambitious about the level of achievement we expect from young people, particularly in the core subjects of English, mathematics and science.”
The National Curriculum is compulsory in most English state schools. Academy schools — independent state institutions run free of council control — can ditch the curriculum, although research shows the vast majority follow it.
In the draft document, some of the toughest demands are placed on pupils in maths lessons.
In the first year, pupils are expected to count to 100 using multiples of one, two, five and 10, recognise even and odd numbers and write simple fractions such as a half and a quarter.
In the final two years, pupils will also be introduced to prime numbers, percentages, ratios, long division and probability.
They will also be expected to add, subtract, multiply and divide fractions — a task currently left to secondary school.
Greater autonomy for schools leads to better academic results
Bt Kevin Donnelly, writing from Australia
The NSW Teachers Federation and public school advocates such as Trevor Cobbold argue that there is little, if any, evidence to support the benefits of increased school autonomy.
If true, their claims undermine the argument that choice and diversity in education, represented by autonomous government and non-government schools, is a good thing and suggest that moves around Australia to empower schools at the local level are misdirected.
But there is increasing international evidence that freeing schools from centralised and bureaucratic control is beneficial.
A 2007 paper commissioned by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development analysing the characteristics of stronger performing education systems argues that school autonomy is an important factor.
The paper's authors say: "Various forms of school accountability, autonomy and choice policies combine to lift student achievement to substantially higher levels."
They clearly argue autonomy is beneficial when they say: "Students perform significantly better in schools that have autonomy in process and personnel decisions."
The 2007 OECD paper also puts the lie to claims that autonomy exacerbates disadvantage, concluding that "there is not a single case where a policy designed to introduce accountability, autonomy, or choice in schooling benefits high-SES students to the detriment of low-SES students, ie, where the former gain but the latter suffer". (SES refers to a student's socioeconomic status.)
A second paper, written by Eric Hanushek and Ludger Woessmann and commissioned by the US National Bureau of Economic Research, also argues that autonomy helps to strengthen education. "Students perform significantly better in schools that have autonomy," the authors write.
A third paper, involving researchers at Britain's University of Buckingham and published in 2008, also argues that one of the reasons non-government schools achieve such strong results is because decisions are made at a local level. The authors argue non-government schools generally outperform government schools because such schools enjoy "more autonomy than do those in state schools".
Such is the growing consensus that school autonomy leads to stronger results that a 2008 Australian budget paper, Statement 4, Boosting Australia's Productive Capacity: the Role of Infrastructure and Skills, argues school autonomy is "likely to have significant positive impacts on student performance".
The benefits of freeing schools from centralised control are also endorsed in Britain's The Importance of Teaching: The Schools White Paper 2010. "Across the world," it argues, "the case for the benefits of school autonomy has been established beyond doubt."
While not directly addressing the impact of autonomy, Gary Marks from the Australian Council for Educational Research has also argued that non-government schools consistently outperform government schools in literacy and numeracy tests and year 12 results - even after adjusting for a student's socioeconomic status.
Implied in this is that school autonomy is beneficial since Catholic and independent schools, unlike government schools, have greater freedom over areas such as staffing, curriculum focus and academic environment.
It is true that some studies are equivocal about the benefits of school autonomy, as Cobbold noted in the Herald this week. A 2010 paper titled Markets in Education notes that while there are some positive effects related to a more market driven approach to education, they "are very modest in size".
But what Cobbold fails to acknowledge is that the same paper suggests one of the reasons the evidence is less than clear is because schools, as a result of government micromanagement, are not truly autonomous.
"Complicating the ability to give a clear answer is the fact that many policies attempting to introduce market mechanisms in education do so simultaneously with increased accountability," it says.
Australian schools are being micromanaged in this way and all roads lead to Canberra - best illustrated by the Rudd/Gillard education revolution, where schools are forced to follow government dictates in national curriculum, national testing and teacher standards, even though the rhetoric is about autonomy.
Positive student outcomes are not just related to test results. Pioneering work in the US by James Coleman argues that empowering schools at a local level leads to increased social cohesion and stability too.
In the Catholic school system, it is known as subsidiarity - where decisions are made at the level of those most affected by them. Subsidiarity strengthens community ties and values such as reciprocity and a commitment to the common good.
Posted by jonjayray at 8:07 PM
Thursday, June 14, 2012
Schools: What kind of reform?
Now that Governor Scott Walker has won the recall election, Wisconsin is pushing through the education reforms that were part of his 2010 legislative agenda. Like most education reform initiatives, Wisconsin’s contains some form of merit-based teacher pay and a voucher system. Indiana has proposed similar reforms, and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie have made national headlines with education reform plans that in some ways resemble Wisconsin’s.
The proposals are pushed by Republicans who tout them as free-market solutions to the education problem in their respective states. But what they don’t say, or perhaps don’t see, about their proposals may make the system worse than the one we have.
Teachers object to having their pay tied to student performance. But this is what happens all across the private sector. If a manager’s employees are not doing what the company demands, the manager will be replaced. Likewise, if a high school coach’s team doesn’t win enough games, the coach will be replaced. Teachers must be held accountable if their students are not learning, and be rewarded if they are. It is time they were held to the same standard as everyone else.
The practical problem isn’t whether teachers should be assessed, but how they should be assessed. Yet that means there’s still a problem.
Standardized tests are the primary measure by which we judge a student’s level of achievement, and changing our measure of achievement must be among the first reforms enacted. Standardized testing prohibits experiential learning and diminishes the value of differentiated instruction. As an educator, I have found that certain topics are more attractive to students than other subjects, and those topics change from year to year and class to class. For instance, in 2001 my ninth-grade world history class we dedicated significantly more time to world religions, particularly Islam, than had originally been planned — because of what happened on 9/11. Had there been a standardized history exam I would never have been able to capitalize on the students’ interest, and we all would have missed out on a teachable moment.
So whatever measure states use to evaluate teachers must not limit their flexibility or autonomy. This goal is doubly difficult to achieve, however, when government enters the picture, even in the form of a school voucher system.
Supporters of school choice ground their argument in free-market principles. Opponents object that tax dollars will be siphoned away from already cash-strapped schools. The reply is: “If you want the money, you must earn it.” Where there is a monopoly, providers become inefficient and weak. Where there is competition, we see innovation and greater progress. A school voucher program works to break the monopoly to allow free market mechanisms to enter the education system. Ironically, however, it is the government that is seeking to instill this aspect of the free market.
We should be wary of that. If the government begins, indirectly, to fund private schools through vouchers, the schools will not have to be as competitive when trying to secure funding either from student tuition or from donors.
Any time government takes action there are unintended consequences, and there are at least two educational consequences that we can see looming on the horizon already. The first is an undermining of free market principles. The second is the opportunity for government to regulate private schools, with vouchers being construed as funded mandates. If private schools begin to depend on indirect government funding, then the government can gain leverage over what these schools teach and how they teach it.
There is no easy solution to our education problems. Problems with education have been documented for more than two millennia. No reform or policy will be the final solution, for education is a process, and improving it should be seen in the same way. Which is why, in the end, we should advocate reforms that promote the greatest amount of flexibility and accountability.
British government declares war on inept Leftist teacher-training colleges
Graduate teachers will be offered an extra £5,000 to train in schools under reforms aimed at reducing the ‘damaging’ influence of teacher training colleges.
Education Secretary Michael Gove will today unveil a training ‘revolution’ designed to decrease the influence of Left-wing courses and give schools a bigger say in how teachers learn their craft.
More than half of student teachers will be trained by schools within three years, as under-performing colleges are denied funding and shut down.
Graduates who go directly to the toughest schools will be eligible for tax-free awards of up to £25,000. By comparison, bursaries for graduates who train on traditional courses will be capped at £20,000.
The move will sideline training colleges, which have expounded fashionable teaching theories – particularly in reading – instead of giving students a rigorous grounding in classroom practices.
In a speech today, Mr Gove will say: ‘The idea is a simple one: take the very best schools, and put them in charge of teacher training and professional development for the whole system.’
From September, more than 900 teacher training places will be available on a new ‘school direct’ scheme, in which schools themselves choose the trainees they want to train. This route will be dramatically expanded over the next few years, Mr Gove will tell the annual conference of the National College for School Leadership in Birmingham.
There are currently about 30,000 training places for teachers, mostly at colleges. Mr Gove will say his ‘revolutionary’ proposals will lead to ‘well over half’ of these places being moved to schools by the end of this Parliament.
A Government source said: ‘For too long, Left-wing training colleges have imbued teachers with useless teaching theories that don’t work and actively damage children’s education. The unions should back more training in schools – by teachers, for teachers.’
Those with a first-class degree in key subjects who train in schools where more than 25 per cent of pupils are eligible for free school meals will receive a bursary of £25,000. Smaller sums will be available for those with lesser degrees or who wish to teach in primary schools or non-priority subjects.
In addition, training colleges that are deemed to ‘require improvement’ by Ofsted in two consecutive inspections will be shut, while a new paid scheme for those switching careers to be a teacher will offer 5,000 places from next year.
Professor Alan Smithers, an expert in teacher training at Buckingham University, said: ‘School-led training has a lot to recommend it because schools will be recruiting the people they want and who they have to live with. They are likely to apply more stringent criteria than universities, who have to fill their places.’
He added that ‘we train about twice as many teachers as we need’ – but thousands survive only a short time in the [chaotic] classrooms before dropping out. ‘If we can drive up the quality of training, the process will become less wasteful and our children will benefit but also the taxpayer will benefit.’
Thousands of British teachers go back to school to learn basic maths and grammar so they can deliver tough new lessons
Tough? I learned all that stuff in primary school -- as did others in my class
Tens of thousands of teachers will be forced back to the classroom to study grammar and maths because they lack the knowledge to deliver tough new primary school lessons.
Ministers yesterday unveiled an overhaul of England’s ‘substandard’ primary curriculum in an attempt to reverse more than a decade of dumbing down. English lessons will contain tougher grammar and spelling, while maths classes will put greater emphasis on times tables, fractions, mental arithmetic and long division.
But experts warn many teachers will need intensive retraining to deliver the new lessons.
A requirement on schools to teach a foreign language to all seven to 11-year-olds will entail even more extra lessons.
Under a proposed new curriculum for English, pupils as young as seven will be introduced to conjunctions, prepositions, adverbs and subordinate clauses. Eight-year-olds will study ‘fronted adverbials’ – clauses at the start of a sentence that modify a verb, for example: ‘Later that day, I heard the bad news.’
Nine-year-olds will learn about relative clauses and modal verbs such as can, could, shall and should, and ten-year-olds will cover the use of the subjunctive, the active and passive voice, as well as subject and object.
Ian McNeilly, director of the National Association for the Teaching of English, said: ‘The focus and emphasis on grammar in primary schools will mean that potentially a whole generation of teachers will need some quite intensive training. ‘It’s a big move from what some teachers have been used to.’
Many teachers may not have been taught grammar at school, having been educated in the 1970s and 1980s. They will need tuition in grammar as well as how to teach it by 2014, when the new curriculum is intended to be introduced.
Mr McNeilly said: ‘Unless there’s a change in Government policy, they are not going to be paying for it. It’s going to be individual schools and maybe teachers that are going to have to pay.’
Similar problems are expected to arise in maths as several concepts taught at secondary school are being moved to primary level, such as adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing fractions.
And some schools are ill-equipped to meet the demand to make study of a foreign language compulsory for seven-year-olds.
Kate Board, head of languages strategy at the education charity CfBT, said: ‘There’s quite a job to be done both increasing the confidence of teachers to teach languages but also to improve their linguistic competence.’
Details of changes to other primary subjects – and proposals for reform at secondary level – will follow later in the year.
As part of the reforms, the system of national curriculum levels – the eight-point scale that has been used to measure children’s progress since 1988 – will be scrapped, Education Secretary Michael Gove confirmed.
A new grading system will be drawn up for national curriculum tests at age 11, which is expected to mark out more clearly which pupils are falling behind.
In a letter outlining the reforms, Mr Gove said: ‘We will work closely with the teaching profession.... to determine exactly how the new National Curriculum will be enhanced and assessed.’
Posted by jonjayray at 9:36 PM
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Parents defend Boston teacher's 'you're not special' speech
A HIGH school teacher's blunt graduation address, in which he told students they were not "anything special" is being defended by some parents.
"It's a speech people are going to remember because he said things that everyone knows, but no one dares say," said Cynthia Ballantyne, whose son Ian was among the graduates at Wellesley High School, near Boston. "Our kids have lived rather charmed lives."
Mr McCullough, who teaches English at the school, told students they had been "fawned over and called 'sweetie pie'" during their "helmeted, bubble-wrapped" existences. "If everyone is special, then no one is," he continued. "If everyone gets a trophy, trophies become meaningless."
Another parent, Paul Rolincik, said that his initial reaction to Mr McCullough's address was "Where are you going with this?" He realised, he said, that the teacher "was just giving kids a reality check".
The speech "got people thinking", his wife Anne said.
Wellesley Superintendent Bella Wong said no parents have complained to the school district about Mr McCullough's address.
Number of British schools judged to be failing increases by 50% as inspectors get tougher
The number of failing schools has leapt 50 per cent under a back-to-basics inspection regime. One secondary school in seven has been branded ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted because of poor teaching and under-achievement by pupils.
Nearly one primary in ten has also been given the watchdog’s lowest rating.
The schools were inspected under a tough regime introduced in January to stop weak head teachers bumping up ratings by concentrating on ‘peripheral’ areas such as pupil well-being, spiritual development and community cohesion.
After Coalition reforms, schools are now judged on just four key areas – teaching, pupil results, behaviour and leadership.
Figures on 1,964 inspections in the first three months of the year show more than half of secondaries – 53 per cent – missed out on a ‘good’ rating. Thirty-nine per cent were merely ‘satisfactory’ – and considered to need improvement – and 14 per cent were ‘inadequate’.
Nearly half the inadequate schools were put into immediate ‘special measures’, forcing them to take action to improve or face closure. The rest were given ‘notice to improve’, requiring them to agree a schedule for significant progress to avoid a ‘special measures’ verdict.
The picture contrasts with inspections during the last three months of the old regime, when 9 per cent of secondaries and 6 per cent of primaries were judged inadequate.
Just 6 per cent of secondaries and 5 per cent of primaries inspected since January were given the highest rating of ‘outstanding’, with 41 per cent of secondaries and 51 per cent of primaries judged ‘good’. Thirty-four per cent of primaries were rated satisfactory.
The latest results are partly down to more frequent visits to under-performing schools.
But Ofsted said inspectors were also paying closer attention to the core work of schools, ‘spending more time in classrooms observing the quality of teaching and looking in detail at the difference schools are making for pupils’.
Previously, schools were judged against an array of more than 20 politically correct targets, such as ‘the extent to which pupils adopt healthy lifestyles’.
Heads were required to rate themselves against the targets by filling in a ‘self-evaluation’ form.
Pressure on schools will intensify in September with further reforms to inspections being ushered in by Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw.
The satisfactory grading will be rebadged as ‘requiring improvement’ and outstanding judgments will be harder to achieve.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: ‘We are now in our sixth inspection regime, with a seventh due this September . ‘Every change introduces new mistakes as inadequately trained and ill-prepared inspectors make hasty judgments.’
Nick Gibb, the schools minister, said: ‘All schools should be providing an outstanding education.’
Australia: Education review leader Professor Brian Caldwell claims teacher quality remains key to improving student outcomes
And because there aren't enough good teachers to go around, larger class sizes are needed. That's heresy but decades of evidence support it
EDUCATORS have warned teacher quality remains the key to improving student outcomes amid concerns about the basic literacy and numeracy knowledge of aspiring primary school teachers.
The Courier-Mail revealed yesterday about 40 per cent of higher education students who sat a trial Pre-Registration Test for Aspiring Primary Teachers failed one of three components of the exam.
The exam tested basic literacy, numeracy, science content and teaching strategy knowledge in the three areas required for a primary school level.
Third and final-year teaching students from around Queensland sat the trial, although the test was designed for graduates.
However, it is understood there was a high failure rate on some basic questions primary school students would be expected to know.
The LNP has postponed the pre-registration test over cost concerns despite saying the trial results were "concerning".
Professor Geoff Masters, who recommended the former Bligh government run a pre-registration test and whose organisation helped developed the exam, said the trial results were the reason a test was needed.
"It just underlines the importance of moving ahead and using this in practice to see what percentage of the entire graduating cohort is not meeting the standards that the QCT (Queensland College of Teachers) is setting," Prof Masters said.
Professor Brian Caldwell, who co-led a review of teacher education in Queensland, said teacher quality remained the key to improving student outcomes.
"If one was looking for a single factor that would make an impact on outcomes for students and closing the gap between higher and low-performing students, we would be doing everything we can to raise the academic standard of those entering the teaching profession," he said.
"Around the country we are accepting many students of low academic ability and then teacher education faculties proceed to pass more than 90 per cent of them.
"And that is not the kind of profession teaching is now - it is a highly sophisticated profession that calls for a high capability to analyse complex data about students and diagnose the kind of teaching support that they need."
Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek said he would work with universities and higher education to ensure quality teachers entered the classroom.
Posted by jonjayray at 10:30 PM
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
As student loan debt hits $1 trillion mark, many struggle with payments
When Patrick Dungan finished law school at the University of South Carolina in 2011 he was married with a baby and owed more than $166,000 in student loan debts.
“I kept telling myself ‘it will all be worth it, you can pay it off,'” said the 30-year-old Dungan, a practicing attorney in Fairhope who is still paying off student loans. “I never thought it would be that much.”
Dungan is among thousands of recent college graduates in the U.S. who are grappling with the realities of life after college -- overwhelming student debt and a weak economy that makes it difficult to find high-paying jobs. Overall, student loan debt has surpassed the $1 trillion mark nationally, and student loan debt exceeds credit card debt in U.S. households. A heated battle is under way between Republicans ad Democrats over student loan interest rates.
For Dungan and his wife, the couple lives “from paycheck-to-paycheck.” He pays $430 a month on his student loan, which is only one-fourth of the total debt. The couple is also paying about $200 monthly on his wife’s loan, which was around $20,000.
Dungan said he has multiple outstanding loans covering the $166,000, including federal and private. “I was a little older, already married and living on two salaries when I decided to go to law school,” said Dungan. He said they couldn’t survive off his wife’s salary alone, so he got a job waiting tables part time while attending law school.
In February 2012, he found a job as an attorney, but still struggles to pay off his student debt. “Really, the only way we could live comfortably with this debt is if my income was somewhere around $120,000, which seems impossible to me now with the current status of the legal job market,” said Dungan.
Roughly 93 percent, or $111 billion, of the student loans projected to be made for the 2011-12 academic year are federal student loans, according to the Consumer Bankers Association.
Less than 7 percent -- approximately $7 billion to $8 billion -- of the total is private student loans, the association reported.
“Those federal loans are made without regard to creditworthiness,” said Wade Peterson, vice president of Wells Fargo Education Finance. “Almost anyone can get one.”
Education loans come in three major categories: student loans, Stafford and Perkins loans; parent loans, or PLUS loans; and private student loans, also called alternative student loans, according to FinAid.com, a website that provides information on financial aid.
Peterson said that up until 2010, banks were making federal loans as well as private loans. But a couple of years ago, lenders “were taken out of the picture and the Department of Education started making all federal loans.”
“With regard to private loans we offer, we believe private loans are a vital part of the future student loan market,” said Peterson.
“They offer a choice and option to shop competitively and based on circumstances.”
Peterson said that student loan debt is a “fairly serious” problem in the U.S.
In 2007, Congress cut the student loan interest rates in half, from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent.
Now, there’s a heated battle between Republicans and Democrats over whether to raise the rate back to 6.8.
“Based on the family’s income level, some lower- and middle-income students currently pay 3.4 percent for federal student loans, while students from families with higher incomes pay 6.8 percent,” said University of South Alabama spokesman Keith Ayers.
“The pending change would move all undergraduate federal Stafford loans to the 6.8 percent rate, which would increase the total payback cost for families who previously benefited from the interest rate reduction subsidized by the government.”
If Congress doesn’t act by July 1, the interest rates on student loans will double to 6.8 percent for more than 7 million undergraduates, records show.
“We all recognize that a dramatic increase in interest rates on new student loans would be devastating to millions of young Americans just entering the work force,” said U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Mobile.
Bonner said that on April 27, the House passed the Interest Rate Reduction Act to prevent interest rates on new federally subsidized Stafford Loans from increasing next month.
He said that under the House bill, the nearly $6 billion in costs associated with the one-year extension of the student loan rate would come from unused money in the Prevention and Public Health Fund.
“Unfortunately, President Obama has threatened to veto our student loan rate extension because he would rather score political points than solve this pressing problem,” said Bonner.
The White House maintains that “Senate Republicans still have not proven that they’re serious about resolving this problem.”
“For the second time this month (May), they voted to ask millions of students to pay an average of $1,000 each rather than close a loophole that allows the very wealthy to avoid paying their fair share,” according to a statement last week from the White House press secretary’s office. “Now is not the time to re-fight old political battles, and certainly not the time to cut preventive health care measures.”
Ayers said the important message to students and parents “is that federal student loans remain readily available for students who desire to attend college but don’t have the resources.”
“The best advice we can offer is for students and parents to research the loan options available to them during school and the payback options available after graduation to make the very best decision for their personal circumstance,” said the USA spokesman.
Matt Mathis, who works for an insurance company, has been out of college a decade, and says he “can’t even make a dent into paying” his loan debt.
“It was way too easy to get the student loan and as an 18-year-old I had no idea the amount of stress these loans would cause me,” said Mathis, who is 33. He graduated from the University of Alabama in 2004 and is still paying on the loan, which now amounts to $22,434.
Even when Mathis went to take out a loan to buy a house and a car, he said his student loan debt was an issue. “It affects everything,” said Mathis.
More pseudo-universities for Britain
Look forward to the University of Basket Weaving
Small specialist colleges will be given new powers to become universities in the biggest expansion of higher education in 20 years, it was revealed today.
Institutions with just 1,000 students – including 750 taking degree courses – will be able to win the right to full university status under new plans, the Government announced.
Previously, colleges could only apply for the title if they had at least 4,000 students, with 3,000 taking degrees.
The move – outlined by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills – is expected to lead to the biggest expansion of the sector since the early 90s when the Conservatives converted dozens of polytechnics into full universities.
But the reforms prompted fears that ministers may be diluting the university brand.
Prof Michael Farthing, vice-chancellor of Sussex University and chairman of the 1994 Group, which represents research universities, said: “There should of course be scope for new and emerging institutions to gain the title of university, but we should resist moves to devalue the title through indiscriminate use.
“Not only would this let down institutions that work hard to develop the research and teaching traditionally associated with university status, it could damage the global reputation of UK higher education as a whole. “
The plans were confirmed in the Government’s formal response to the Higher Education White Paper, which was published last summer.
Ministers insisted that tight controls would be imposed to ensure that the new title only applied to specialist institutions with a strong track record of good teaching.
It is believed the university name would only apply to a small number of colleges, some of which specialise in areas such as agriculture, teacher training and the arts.
Institutions given new powers to apply include Norwich University College of the Arts, the Arts University College Bournemouth, University College Falmouth, Newman University College in Birmingham, Harper Adams University College in Shropshire and the Royal Agricultural College in Gloucestershire.
The move comes just months before tuition fees are due to almost triple to a maximum of £9,000 a year.
Ministers are keen to create a more diverse higher education sector to coincide with the change – giving more people access to institutions with the full university title.
David Willetts, Universities Minister, said: "It is right to remove the red tape stopping good quality, smaller higher education providers calling themselves a university."
Andy Westwood, chief executive of GuildHE, which represents a number of smaller specialist institutions said: "The Government's reduction in the qualifying threshold for university title represents the correction of a long-held anomaly.
"Smaller institutions have long offered greater agility, smaller classes, stronger graduate employment and better retention rates.”
The document also confirms that plans for further education colleges and private institutions to be subject to tight controls on the number of students – funded through Government-backed loans – that each one can recruit.
Australia: Not much multiculturalism in Sydney's elite schools
FEW children of recent migrants are entering Sydney's high-fee private schools, which remain the preserve of Australians from English-speaking backgrounds.
At many of the city's high-fee independent schools less than 10 per cent of students have a parent who speaks a language other than English. Trinity, MLC and Meriden - all in the inner west - are the only high-fee privates where more than half the student body comes from non-English-speaking backgrounds.
Nearly half the private high schools in Sydney enrol more than 80 per cent of their students from English-speaking backgrounds, according to an analysis of figures published on the federal government's My School website.
Monte Sant' Angelo, Wenona, Kambala, St Ignatius, Queenwood, Redlands and Ravenswood are among those schools where fewer than 10 per cent of students state that they or their parents speak a language other than English.
A number of private schools, catering for specific religious, ethnic or cultural groups, are almost exclusively attended by students from language backgrounds other than English.
In stark contrast to the elite private schools, public selective high schools are dominated by children of recent migrants. James Ruse, regarded as the highest-achieving school in Australia, draws 96 per cent of enrolments from other language backgrounds [mostly Chinese]. Only Auburn Girls, with 98 per cent, attracts more students from other language groups.
The map of school ethnic diversity parallels much of Sydney's cultural complexion. Although government high schools educate far more of the students from other cultures, public schools on the city's fringes, the north shore and southern suburbs also enrol few students from non-English speaking backgrounds.
Helen Proctor, a lecturer in the faculty of education and social work at the University of Sydney, said it was not clear whether the ethnic mix of private schools was the result of enrolment policies, geography or parental choice.
"Parents are broadly in favour of multiculturalism but alarmed about any concentrations of ethnicity, other than Anglo ethnicity, in a school," said Dr Proctor, a co-author of a book on school choice.
Schools such as Monte give direct preference to children of former students, while other private schools require students to be enrolled within the year of their birth to guarantee entry.
But Vicki Steer, the principal of Ravenswood, which has 9 per cent of students from other language backgrounds, acknowledged independent schools faced a challenge to win favour from migrant communities, most particularly those from Asia.
"For many families, having a child accepted at a school such as James Ruse is something they would perceive as a higher honour than an academic scholarship to Ravenswood," she said. Ravenswood has introduced Chinese into its language offerings in part to make the school more attractive to Chinese Australians.
"We are committed to a multicultural society and promoting an understanding of other cultures and ways of life," Ms Steer said. "We are very conscious of the fact that our girls live on the upper north shore, that for many of them their experiences can be limited and we have to try and create experiences for them."
Dr Paul Burgis, the principal of PLC Sydney, where 34 per cent of students are from other cultural backgrounds, said there was a huge level of exposure to, and acceptance of, other cultures at the school.
"It would almost be offensive if I, as a principal, was to talk about it: 'Why do you have to raise it as an issue? We're past that now, we're just friends'," he said. "At a school like PLC it's almost an invisible question."
Posted by jonjayray at 8:52 PM
Monday, June 11, 2012
'Schindler's List' Producer Claims Graduation Speech Censorship by bigoted school principal
Who has now "moved on"
Gerald Molen won a best picture Oscar for co-producing Schindler’s List with Steven Spielberg and has produced such Hollywood blockbusters as the first two Jurassic Park films and Twister. He’s a former U.S. Marine and is a sought-after motivational speaker. So he’s not accustomed to being shunned.
Such was the case, though, when he was invited to speak to the graduating class at a Montana high school. But upon arriving, was told by the principal he would not be allowed to deliver the speech he had prepared. The reason, he believes, is politics.
Molen is one of those rare conservatives in Hollywood (he’s even making a documentary called 2016, based on the Dinesh D’Souza book The Roots of Obama’s Rage) and because of that, he says, Ronan High School principal Tom Stack decided to disinvite him -- and he didn’t tell him so until after Molen made the 90-minute drive from his home in Bigfork, Mont.
Unlike Hollywood, Ronan isn’t exactly a hotbed of liberalism (its state representative is a Republican), still, Molen says that Stack told him straight up that he wouldn’t be allowed to address the students because he was “a right-wing conservative.” “He said some callers didn’t want the kids exposed to that, despite not knowing what my message would be,” Molen told The Hollywood Reporter.
Stack did not return several calls seeking comment, nor did representatives from the Ronan School District.
Molen has spoken at dozens of schools and never accepts a fee. When one is offered, he asks that it be donated to the Shoah Foundation, the nonprofit organization founded by Spielberg and dedicated to the remembrance of the Holocaust.
When speaking to students, Molen’s presentations usually invoke Oskar Schindler, who is credited with saving 1,100 Jews during the Holocaust and is the subject of the Oscar-winning 1993 film that Molen co-produced with Spielberg and Branko Lustig.
For the Ronan students, Molen planned to use Schindler as an example of what courageous individuals could accomplish, and he also planned to ask them to “imagine your future is a movie. Forty years from now, you’re writing a script about your accomplishments. What would that script look like?” "It was a totally apolitical speech," Molen said.
Molen wrote about being disinvited, and his story was published in the Montana newspaper, The Daily Inter Lake. Now, several Ronan citizens are demanding details. “It’s shocking,” said Colleen Adler, a resident with three children in the school district who has been trying, unsuccessfully so far, to get an official explanation for the cancellation. “It’s very frustrating.”
“I’m pissed off,” said Chuck Lewis, an occasional volunteer at the school. “Why would a school dishonor a man who served his country?”
Lewis, also a former Marine, posted Molen’s story on his two Facebook pages and asked his 3,000 “friends” to contact the school board to demand it apologize to Molen and invite him to speak to next year’s Ronan High School graduating class. “They should have never censored him like that,” said Lewis.
It’s unknown how many phone calls have been placed, but one e-mail to the school board that was made public read: “I would like to know the process and people who canceled Gerald R. Molen’s talk to the Ronan Senior Class. I would like to also have a list of other speakers who have addressed the high school in the past five years.”
UPDATE: The incident as described by Molen "did, in fact, occur," superintendent of schools for the Ronan district Andy Holmlund told The Hollywood Reporter on Friday.
"It is my understanding that the high-school principal made the decision based on his point of view. It is not the view of the district. That's not the expectations that the district maintains. That principal will not be serving in this school district for the upcoming school year."
Holmlund said Stack has accepted a position with a school in Clinton, Mont., though he refused to say when or why that decision had been made. Residents say it was likely unrelated to Stack's decision to disinvite Molen. Asked why Stack had not responded to several phone calls, Holmlund said: "I can't speak to the fact that Mr. Stack isn't talking."
Asked about the public's response to the sudden, nationwide pubicity to the controversy, Holmlund said: "Oh, it's on fire, sir. Justifiably so. We don't expect people to be treated poorly."
British employers forced to take the role of schoolteacher
More than four in 10 employers are being forced to provide remedial training in English, maths and IT because school-leavers and college students lack basic skills when they start earning a living, it is shown in research published today.
Companies say they have little option but to set up classrooms to teach core subjects and equip young people with the basic knowledge to help them function in the workplace.
Almost two-thirds of the 542 companies surveyed by the CBI and Pearson Education complained that too many school-leavers were failing to develop vital skills such as self-management and timekeeping at school.
They struggled to write to the necessary standard, employ basic numeracy or use a computer properly.
The shortcomings identified in the report will add to growing concerns that the education system is failing to equip children for the demands of university and the work place. The findings show that the level of dissatisfaction among employers remains at around a third, the same level as a decade ago.
More employers are now trying to adopt a hands-on approach by forging closer links with schools to help students and teachers understand what skills are needed for working life. Almost 60pc now have ties with secondary schools and further education colleges.
Employers are also anticipating a drop in the intake of graduates because of the increase in tuition fees. More than a third expect to expand their recruitment of school-leavers with A-levels to provide an alternative to graduate-level training.
John Cridland, CBI director-general, said: “The UK’s growth will depend on developing a wider and deeper pool of skills so that our economy can prosper in the face of fierce international competition for business.”
The report suggests the current discontent among employers is likely to increase as companies look to increase workforce skills. In the next three to five years, employers expect they will need more people with leadership and management skills and fewer lower skilled.
Many employers believe primary schools should focus on the basics – reading, writing and maths – while secondary schools should prioritise developing the skills pupils will need for the world of work, as well as advanced literacy, numeracy and technology.
They also feel the none of the current education qualifications addresses the combination of literacy, numeracy and employability effectively and they want to see more emphasis on vocational subjects because of their importance in the workplace.
The CBI also wants a higher priority given to teaching foreign languages, one of the issues being addressed by Michael Gove, Education Secretary, in planned changes to the school curriculum. The UK is bottom of the foreign language proficiency league in Europe.
Australia: Student teachers fail primary school-level tests
Another indication of how low educational standards have sunk
ALMOST half of aspiring primary school teachers failed parts of a landmark test featuring literacy and numeracy questions that Year 7 students should be able to answer.
The results have reignited concerns about the quality of teaching graduates entering Queensland classrooms.
The Courier-Mail last week revealed that about 12 per cent - almost one in eight - high-school leavers who began a teaching course this year had an Overall Position of 17 or worse.
Figures released by the Queensland College of Teachers reveal about 40 per cent of third or fourth-year teaching students who sat the trial Pre-Registration for Aspiring Primary Teachers Test failed the literacy, numeracy or science component.
Educators defended the results saying the test was aimed at graduates and some students may not yet have been exposed to some of the test material.
However, The Courier-Mail understands there were high failure rates on some basic content questions.
The test was introduced by the former Bligh government after principals raised concerns that some graduate teachers lacked basic literacy and numeracy skills.
It contained questions on teaching strategies and basic primary school level content which they will have to teach.
Professor Geoff Masters, who recommended the teacher test, said the results gave weight to principals' concerns. "Some of the questions are fairly straightforward tests of literacy and numeracy," Prof Masters said. "It does raise a question about whether some students who are getting through their initial teacher education programs have the levels of personal literacy and numeracy and the knowledge of how to teach literacy and numeracy that we require in our schools."
The test, which has cost more than $2 million to develop, has been shelved under cost-savings measures.
The Queensland College of Teachers, which conducted field trials in Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Toowoomba and Cairns in March last year, said 483 students took part.
"The outcomes of the trials indicated 72 per cent of the participants would have met the benchmarks set for the literacy instrument, 82 per cent for numeracy and 81 per cent for science respectively," a QCT statement said.
"If the test proceeds, candidates will be required to meet the benchmarks set in all three areas. Approximately 40 per cent would have been required to re-take at least one of the instruments. The results of the trial should be considered as indicative."
Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek said the results were concerning. "The trial test was conducted on less than 10 per cent of the entire cohort of third and fourth-year teaching students to assess the validity of the possible test questions and the logistics of implementing the test itself, rather than the quality of teaching graduates," Mr Langbroek said. "However, the results are still concerning which is why I plan to work with universities to ensure that they are producing quality graduates to teach Queensland children."
Queensland Deans of Education Forum chair Professor Wendy Patton agreed that the results were cause for concern.
But she said variables had to be taken into account, including the fact that third-year students had been given "graduate" tests, and it was still unknown what the trial test questions were.
She said individual students were not provided with their marks, with an assurance those wouldn't be published. "We have to acknowledge that these were not students at the end of their program," she said, adding that she hoped they would be able to answer the questions by the end of their course.
Under QCT guidelines, higher-education institutions are required to provide extra tuition to any student who needs support in literacy or numeracy. Prof Patton said that was being done.
Posted by jonjayray at 9:52 PM
Sunday, June 10, 2012
How one family avoided the College Tuition Bubble
Investments get to be bubbles partly because investors widely believe there is no alternative on which to spend their money. Dotcoms were seen as the only real growth play, so shareholders hung in there even after it had become clear that the pricing was uncomfortably high. Housing possessed a supposed unique level of riskless-ness as did the loans used to finance it. Many investors have figured out that U.S. treasuries are deep into bubble territory, but, they ask ‘What other haven asset is there?’
It’s the same with the college tuition bubble. Look at the comment section of any of the articles I’ve written about this topic during the past three years and you’ll see something like this: “Yes, most diplomas are from second rate schools in second rate disciplines and they are nearly worthless. And tuitions are sky high. But what alternative do we have? How do you get an education without it? More importantly, how do you get a job?”
It’s a legitimate question, one that I’ve been wrestling with for quite some time. You see, I’ve been writing about the college bubble hypothesis for three years, but I’ve been living it for ten.
My oldest son, Christopher, was not college material. You probably have the wrong idea: it’s not that Chris isn’t smart. Chris is brilliant. But brilliance is not enough to make you college material. Something else is needed: at least an average level of compliance. Pliable personalities find it much easier to sit through the lectures, take the exams, write the papers, amass the pre-formulated proportions of certain credit hours in certain prescribed order, and fill out an enormous volume of paperwork for the privilege of entry into all of the above.
Some people find all of that to be easy; in fact, many like being told what to do. It gives them a sense of security. Other people find it all difficult, but do it anyway. The latter often seek release from the sense of institutional claustrophobia by embracing a life style of sexual and chemical anarchy in those enclaves of rebellion known as fraternities.
Chris just couldn’t do it. He couldn’t contort his mind into the arbitrary exercise known as SAT Prep. It was not that he didn’t want to learn. On the contrary, he was a voracious reader. It’s not that he didn’t want to work. On the contrary, he had not only worked for various family businesses from radio production to economic analysis and publishing since he was about 9 years old, but had also started a few micro-businesses of his own; web sites which he was able to sell at a nice little profit.
I understand Chris; I’m the same way. I barely graduated from high school. I would routinely skip class so I could go to the library and read my way through Mortimer Adler’s Great Books collection. College was similar. After an initial two semesters of compliant Dean’s list performance. I started blowing off classes which I didn’t like, dropping out of them, often after the drop out date. But while all that was going on, I was working my rear end off busing tables in the cafeteria, mopping floors, and scrubbing pots…and sitting in the library reading voraciously. A few professors took the trouble to let me learn my way. Mostly, they didn’t get me, and I didn’t get them.
Eventually, I gritted my teeth, switched to a business school, Robert Morris, focused like mad, got good grades and graduated two years later with a degree in accounting. I hated every moment of it. My hair went grey. I got a good corporate job with a solid salary. I hated that too.
After some dues paying I got funding to start an economic think tank. It worked: the foundation rapidly grew in influence and 9 years after graduation, I was invited back to Robert Morris not as a student, but as its commencement speaker. My career since then has been anything but normal and my work and learning style has been anything but compliant.
There are a lot of guys like that out there, and young women too. Christopher was one of them, and he was permitted to go his own way. Only two things were required of him: character and productivity. College, not being essential for either of those, was optional. And he agonized over the options. Lots of people told him that he absolutely must go to college. His mother, my ex-wife, was mortified by the idea that he would not go. But then again, Chris noticed that she had dropped out of a prestigious school half way through and nevertheless had a successful career as a professional proofreader/editor who was so much in demand that she was turning clients away.
Chris talked to lots of people about this, but the clincher for him was the advice he got from Ron Morris. Ron is a highly successful serial entrepreneur whose latest venture is an entrepreneurial talk radio network. Having sold his business for a tidy pile of cash, Ron was constantly receiving pitches from entrepreneurs looking for start-up investments. Many of those came from kids who had just graduated from prestigious universities. He told Chris that if he had a choice between betting on a 23-year old who had just graduated from a top school, or betting on a 23-year old who had worked for a small business, all other things being equal, he would choose the latter. Better still if the 23-year old had founded a small business—even if the business failed. Chris had his answer.
Now, this isn’t fairy tale stuff. He didn’t throw away his SAT prep materials, found Facebook and become a billionaire. He simply did his work for the family business which is largely producing this television program. He also owns and maintains a few websites which generate modest revenue streams (like this), and builds on a sub-contracting basis some sites owned by other people like this. He’s a frequent guest on Ron’s radio show and an occasional guest on Cornerstone Television Network.
He got a lot of flak from friends and acquaintances for his non-college decision, chiefly because he and his brother, Jeremy, during their college-aged years moved in a social circle of college students from Chatham University. They just couldn’t fathom it.
A couple of years ago, Chris married a Chatham girl, and a lot of their friends are her school friends. This provides a lot of helpful data about the school vs. school of hard knocks decision.
At age 27, Chris has no consumer debt, no school debt (obviously), no car debt and only a small mortgage. He has a small retirement account which he started with the proceeds from a web site he built in his teen years. He and his wife are homeowners. While some of their college friends are apartment dwellers, many are boomerang kids who have returned home to live with their parents. Almost none of the ones who are employed are employed in their chosen field of study. Income-wise, Chris is at about the same level as the subset of his college-grad friends who are employed. Asset/liability wise he is well ahead of the pack.
He has enormous personal freedom, which he loves. He is a man of good character, and he is productive. That’s all that is required. Everything else is optional – including college.
The Trap of Minority Studies Programs
Posted by John Ellis
When Naomi Schaefer Riley was fired by the Chronicle of Higher Education for her trenchant remarks on Black Studies programs, most of those who criticized the firing saw in it a display of the campus left's intolerance. Fair enough, but this episode also has a much broader meaning.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, large populations of poor immigrants arrived in the U.S.--Irish, Italians, and Jews from Russia and Poland. Their extreme poverty placed them at the bottom of the social ladder, and they were often treated with contempt. Yet just a few generations later they were assimilated, and their rapid upward social mobility had produced mayors, senators, judges, and even Presidents from among their ranks. None of this could have happened without first-rate public education.
To be sure, they worked hard to get ahead, but they were not obstructed by something that afflicts the have-nots of today: as they walked through the school gates they were not met by people intent on luring them into Irish or Italian Studies programs whose purpose was to keep them in a state of permanent resentment over past wrongs at the hands of either Europeans or establishment America. Instead, they could give their full attention to learning. They took courses that informed them about their new land's folkways and history, which gave them both the ability and the confidence needed to grasp the opportunities it offered them.
When we compare this story with what is happening to minority students today, we see a tragedy. Just as Pinocchio went off to school with high hopes, only to be waylaid by J. Worthington Foulfellow, minority students are met on the way to campus by hard-left radicals who claim to have the interests of the newcomers at heart but in reality prey on them to advance their own selfish interests. Of course, what black students need is the same solid traditional education that had raised Irish, Italians, and Jews to full equality. But that would not serve the campus radicals' purpose. Disaffected radicals wanted to swell the ranks of the disaffected, not the ranks of the cheerfully upward mobile. Genuine progress for minority students would mean their joining and thus strengthening the mainstream of American society--the mainstream that campus radicals loathe.
Faculty radicals worked hard to put the kind of coursework that had served others so well out of the reach of minority students. They stigmatized those courses as Eurocentric, oppressive, and dominant-class oriented, and they worked successfully to remove them from curricular requirements. The very idea of upward mobility was made to appear a capitulation to the corrupt value system of the dominant class.
As thinkers, campus radicals are poor role models for students. Their ideas are simple and rigid, and they rely heavily on conspiracy thinking that infers far too much from too little. They are powered by emotional commitments that are highly resistant to the lessons of experience. As a result, their cherished ideas are now virtually obsolete, and strike any reasonably well-informed observer as downright silly. The minority students that they attract into their orbit are dragged down to this low intellectual level.
This background is the key to the fury that Naomi Schaefer Riley¹s criticisms of Black Studies dissertations unleashed. Radical leftists have achieved considerable influence on campus in part because they were able to add substantial numbers of incoming minorities to their numbers. They need those students in self-destructive Black Studies courses that keep them resentful and under-educated. But that is only possible if they can maintain the illusion that they help and support black students, rather than exploiting them. Ms Schaefer Riley was a threat to that illusion, and that is why she was attacked so vehemently.
Black Studies does have one thing right: black students are indeed oppressed. What they have wrong is who is doing the oppressing. People of good-will on both sides of the political aisle should join together to insist that black students be given the same chance that other groups got to join the mainstream. This latest version of the plantation ought to be abolished.
Personality testing to screen out British teachers who lack social skills or cannot cope under pressure
Such tests are not very reliable but may be better than nothing
Trainee teachers face personality tests to weed out those who lack social skills or cannot cope under pressure. Students will be asked to fill in questionnaires before they can begin training courses in a drive to boost the calibre of staff.
The tests are designed to gauge applicants’ abilities to manage their time, relate to pupils and handle pressure and criticism.
The new checks – introduced from September – are part of an overhaul of teacher training with the aim of raising standards in state education.
An estimated £68million is spent each year by the Government on training teachers who quickly move on to other jobs.
Officials said ‘easily measurable competencies’ are already assessed during recruitment to teacher training courses. But the ‘more difficult competencies’ which are ‘also deemed essential to becoming a successful teacher’ are not covered.
From September, training providers will be supplied with an approved list of ‘non-cognitive assessments’ to use during the recruitment process. The tests will be used to ‘complement’ existing procedures such as interviews and group exercises.
Tests used in trials assessed criteria such as interpersonal skills, time management and emotional resilience, including the ability to ‘perform when under pressure’, ‘keep emotions in check’ and ‘handle criticism and learn from it’.
Sample questions included ‘Which of the following best describes you?’, with candidates asked to tick one of six boxes on a spectrum between ‘methodical’ and ‘flexible’.
About 35,000 students are accepted on to teacher training courses each year, but around one-third drop out of teaching soon afterwards. While some quit for personal reasons, many are simply ill-suited to the job.
Earlier this year, the Department for Education demanded ‘better testing of candidates’ interpersonal skills’ before teacher training. Following trials, the Government this week announced that screening tests will be available to all recruiters for training courses.
While the personality tests will not be compulsory, most course leaders are expected to insist their candidates take them.
Ofsted will for the first time be inspecting teacher training providers for the quality of their selection processes.
Further measures already announced by Education Secretary Michael Gove include a toughening up of literacy and numeracy tests for trainee teachers.
Ministers are concerned that existing tests are too easy and allow trainees with a poor mastery of English and maths to slip through.
A spokesman for the Government’s Teaching Agency said: ‘By screening applicants for a range of attributes and behavioural competencies that are considered essential to good teaching, we will reinforce what is already a rigorous selection process.’ He added that the testing would ‘help select and recruit the most suitable, high-quality trainee teachers’.
Posted by jonjayray at 9:56 PM