Friday, August 17, 2012

School at home or homeschooling?

Over the past several years an educational phenomenon has been exploding across America. Fed up with the homogenized, secular indoctrination; embrace of dysfunctional and sexualized behavior; and tolerance for rebellious and unruly children that largely define public education in the United States, an increasing number of parents are pulling their kids out of the local schools and opting instead for a home education plan.

According to Dr. Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), as of 2010 there were, by best estimates, over two million homeschooled students ages five to 18 in the United States, with the population of home educated students growing by up to six percent every year. While the reasons parents choose to teach their kids at home may vary, what is clear is that homeschooled kids outshine their public-schooled counterparts on just about every level.

Home-educated students typically score 15 to 30 points above public-school students on standardized achievement tests – and they do so regardless of their parents’ level of formal education. These taught-at-home students also typically score above the average on the SAT and ACT tests colleges use for admission – which means that most universities love having them, and in many cases actively recruit them. And while opponents warn that homeschooled students miss out on crucial opportunities for socialization provided in a public-school setting, the truth is that children educated at home typically score above average in tests of social, emotional, and psychological development.

Dr. Ray told The New American that increasingly parents throughout the United States are turning toward home-based education because “they want solid academics for their children, values and worldview that they choose rather than what the state chooses, stronger family relationships, and individualized education rather than a one-size-fits-all system.” He added that many concerned parents are fed up with the lax behavioral standards prevalent in most public schools.

Over the past 30 years, the traditional homeschool model has earned a reputation for providing the foundation many parents want for their children. With the help of private, free-market homeschool curriculums like A Beka, Bob Jones, A.C.E., and Alpha Omega – all with Christian foundations – tens of thousands of families raised a generation of Americans with solid academics, along with crucial scriptural training and the principles of Americanism that are essential to the nation’s future.

As homeschooling gained widespread popularity throughout the 1990s, the public-education establishment found it increasingly difficult to stop the exodus of families seeking something better for their children. But with the introduction of online learning in the late 1990s, a core of education “entrepreneurs” suggested that, using the charter-school concept, public schools might just offer their own version of homeschooling that would allow students to fulfill all the requirements set by a district – but instead of going to a classroom they could use an online curriculum.

One of those entrepreneurs was former U.S. Education Secretary William Bennett, who in 1999 helped found a company called K12, which has gone on to be a leading player in what has become known as the “Virtual Academy.” Companies like K12 contract with school districts to provide curriculum and education consultants, in return reaping part of the local, state, and federal tax money that the district gets for each student. The families that sign on to these public-school virtual academies get “free homeschooling” for their kids – which typically includes “free” computers and other perks – while the school district retains the per-student monies it would have lost had those families gone with another homeschool option. It all sounds like a win-win scenario, right?

Wrong! Companies like K12 and Connections Academy have exerted great effort to convince the public that they are providing a quality homeschool option through public schools.

But homeschool experts point out that these public-school virtual academies have little in common with traditional homeschooling. Dr. Ray noted that while traditional homeschooling has always been privately funded and privately pursued, public-school virtual academies are tax-funded, state-run, and state-controlled. Ray emphasized that in the virtual academy model, “the state chooses and controls the curriculum – that which is used to teach, train, and indoctrinate the student.”

By contrast, he said, “in home-based education and private schools, parents and private organizations get to decide what is used to teach, train, and indoctrinate children. The center of power and control with a virtual academy is the state; in private education, it is parents, family, and freely-chosen private associations.”

While K12 boasts that online public school offers “powerful choices for parents,” and other virtual academies insist that their curricula give parents and students flexibility, a majority of those “choices” and flexibility are lost when it comes to one important element that has always been essential to a majority of homeschool parents: Christian instruction. Israel Wayne, a noted education expert, author, and publisher of the Home School Digest, explained that when parents contract with a state-run virtual academy to teach their kids, they are essentially surrendering their right to teach biblical concepts to their children in their homes (or elsewhere) during the scheduled school day.


Making college affordable

In late June Congress froze the interest rate on federally subsidized student loans at 3.4 percent for another year. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus claimed the extension would "make a high-quality education affordable for millions of students across the country."

President Obama was more dramatic. "If Congress does not get this done," he warned as Congress considered the rate freeze, "the average student with federal student loans will rack up an additional $1,000 in debt over the coming year . more than 7 million students will suddenly be hit with the equivalent of a $1,000 tax hike."

White House press secretary Jay Carney equated the extension with "offering hardworking students a fair shot at an affordable education."

In reality, extending the 3.4 percent interest rate for an additional year will save students with federal loans approximately $7 to $10 per month: enough for a couple of burgers with fries. But it will cost taxpayers $6 billion and do virtually nothing to make college more affordable.

That's because federal aid has not made college more affordable. There is ample evidence, in fact, that federal "aid" has helped drive up college costs and extending the lower interest rate just kicks the can down the road.

The College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 implemented a five-year, incremental reduction in federal student loan rates, with interest rates ranging from 6.8 percent during the 2007-08 academic year to 6.0 percent in 2008-09, 5.6 percent in 2009-10, 4.5 percent in 2010-11, and 3.4 percent in 2011-12.

If Congress had failed to freeze the rate at 3.4 percent, none of the existing loans would have been affected. Instead, it would have meant only that future loans - those taken out after July 1 of this year - would have closed at 6.8 percent, the rate that existed in 2007.

Some 6 million to 7 million out of approximately 19.7 million college students would have been affected.

College tuition has been increasing at about twice the general inflation rate for decades. The American Institute for Economic Research has calculated the increase from 2000 to 2011 at 112 percent.

Much of the increase in college costs has been due to administrative bloat, overbuilding, the proliferation of special-interest centers on campus, and light faculty teaching loads.

One recent analysis by Jay Greene, a professor of education reform at the University of Arkansas, found that the number of college and university administrators had increased more than twice as much as the number of instructors over a 15-year period. This is significant since dozens of mid-level and senior-level administrative positions command six-figure salaries, compared to the relative handful of faculty positions in that range.

Meanwhile, the percentage of students at public universities receiving their degrees within six years of enrolling as freshmen has remained just below 55 percent for a decade. The percentage graduating in four years has been stuck around 30 percent.

Federal subsidies have encouraged this situation. The reason is simple: Colleges are eligible to receive federal funds regardless of their productivity.

College students - and the taxpayers who often help support them - deserve real change, not spare change.  Rather than tinkering with loan interest rates, policymakers should focus on key basics.

Legislators should demand that taxpayer-subsidized institutions provide accurate information, including details about their graduates' success in the job market. We study everything else; why not this? Then students could make better-informed decisions about the costs of their degrees and their future job prospects.

Policymakers also should require postsecondary institutions to earn their subsidies by implementing "outcomes-based" reforms that provide federal assistance based on course and degree completion rates, instead of enrollment.

And they should encourage alternatives to the traditional four-year college, such as online courses. This would foster meaningful competition for students and introduce powerful pressure on existing institutions to be more efficient.

Such innovative reforms would do far more than a one-time, one-year interest rate freeze to make - and keep - college affordable.


Anger as distinguished British primary school teacher, 63, is tried for giving ‘worst pupil in 40 years’ a clip round the ear after he had attacked ten pupils

A dedicated teacher was subjected to a five month court ordeal after he was accused of assaulting an 'uncontrollable' pupil who had hit 10 classmates.

Roy Cope had to restrain a pupil at St Bartholomew's Church of England Primary School in Great Harwood, Lancashire, who displayed the 'worst behaviour' he had seen in his 41 years in the job.

The 63-year-old deputy head was accused of holding the boy by the wrists and slapping him on the side of the head after the youngster went berserk and flew into an 'incandescent rage.'

This child, not named for legal reasons, had lashed out at other pupils with his satchel, pinned one to the wall by the throat and shouted at a teacher.

Mr Cope was asked to intervene when the boy was ordered out of class and was spotted in a corridor shouting at another member of staff.

Blackburn Magistrates Court heard that the case, which cost taxpayers thousands, and if Mr Cope was convicted could have faced up to six months jail, but to huge cheers from the public gallery he was acquitted.

He claimed all along the boy slammed his head against his hand while violently swaying and rocking in a bid to run away.

Chairman of the bench Graham Parr said: 'We accept that there were aggravating facts presented to us in that the boy was behaving in an unruly manner. We really have doubts over whether the contact constituted an assault.'

After the case was thrown out Mr Cope’s son Robin, speaking on his behalf, said: 'The family have had overwhelming support over my father’s case but it should never have come to court in the first place.

'The fact is there is an issue today with unruly children and it has come to this where dedicated teachers are repeatedly appearing before the courts on their say-so.  'It caused a lot of distress and all because of one child where there were not enough measures in place to deal with him.'

A retired detective inspector and a parent gave evidence at the hearing praising Mr Cope as a dedicated and professional teacher of the 'highest standards.'

James Oldcorn, a parent, PTA member, governor at the school and former senior police officer, said: 'I always found Mr Cope a very enthusiastic teacher.  'He continued the very idea of a Christian School, where every child mattered.'

Wendy Litherland, the mother of a pupil at St Bartholomew's, said: 'Mr Cope is an absolutely outstanding teacher, he has dedicated his life to St Bartholomew's and all the parents are 100 per cent behind him.  'This is because of one child. There are not enough measures to deal with this.'

The court heard how the incident occurred last March while Mr Cope, from Accrington, was involved in a rehearsal for a forthcoming school production of Wind In The Willows.

The boy had become 'hysterical and out of control' in a class and one teacher, Thomas Lowe, said the pupil was in such a rage he grabbed railings to stop him being taken to Mr Cope’s office, continuously shouting ‘get off me, get off me’.

He said he saw Mr Cope hit the child and threaten to do it again if he did not calm down.  He told magistrates: 'Mr Cope was not using a technique I knew, but he seemed in charge. He was being forceful but fair.

'The child’s arms were flailing and he kept on shouting, getting more and more hysterical. Mr Cope released or lost control of the boy’s left arm and then he struck him across the face.'

Mr Neil White prosecuting said: 'Mr Cope has a long and distinguished teaching career with many decades behind him. He is a well-respected and well liked deputy head at the school.  'But the prosecution say that you cannot slap a boy across the face.'

Speaking in court Roy Cope responded: 'As a teacher with over 40 years’ experience this allegation has come as a great shock to me and caused me and my family great distress.

'Since the boy started school he was a disruptive and aggressive pupil and frequently disrupted the school. He is probably the worst of the pupils I have ever taught in 40 years of teaching and on occasions he is uncontrollable.  'He worked himself into an incandescent rage, I knew it was all bluster and knew he would eventually calm down. I had to be calm but firm with him.'

Another teacher went to Mr Cope’s aid as the tried to restrain the boy and calm him down.

But Mr Cope said: 'Because he had just been restrained he was more agitated than he had been and was trying to break free from his arms.  'I was trying to get him to stop wobbling round because he was getting more agitated and he slammed himself into my hand. He just kept rolling and rocking and trying to get rid of the restraint. All the time I was speaking in a calm quiet voice saying ‘calm down’ but once I had let go of his hands I may have said, ‘do you want me to do it again’ to stop his hands from moving.  'But I do not believe a slap across the face is a method of controlling children.'

Graham Boyes, a former headteacher at the school said: “Roy has worked to the highest of standards. He was an example to other members of staff.  'I have to say, over a long period of time the school functioned well and a lot of that was down to Roy’s work in the school.'

Mr Cope’s lawyer Simon Farnsworth said: 'The boy was an unruly pupil and has been since he started nursery. In Mr Cope’s experience the worst in over 40 years’ teaching.

'Mr Cope had been forceful but fair and went to assist as the boy’s arms were flaring. He is someone who deals with unruly pupils and he has dealt with these for many years.  'He is not the kind of man who would deliberately strike a young boy like this. This matter has got out of hand.'


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Ratio Christi

 Mike Adams
In one week, it starts all over again. Thousands of young people will enroll in classes in the sixteen-campus University of North Carolina system. Before the first day of class is over, the professors and administrators will begin the assault on students and their Judeo-Christian values. Parents will have spent their entire lives saving money that will ultimately be used to turn their children against them. Students will unlearn everything they were taught about the foundations of liberty, the basis of morality, and will even begin questioning the very existence of truth. Before long, many parents will realize they have risked bankruptcy funding a legacy of intellectual and moral impoverishment.

I realized the situation was bad when a military officer wrote me a few years ago. While he was off serving his country, his twin teenaged girls were enrolling at Rice University. During “O” week, Rice orientation week, their orientation leader told them it was time to “experiment with their sexual liberty” now that they were off at college and away from their parents. The military officer was outraged over the incident – as he should have been. More parents would be outraged if only they were paying attention.

Later that same semester, I sat through an excruciating graduation speech by a feminist sociologist. She smugly told the parents of graduating seniors that she hoped their children were leaving college with a “different perspective” than the one they brought with them. She said nothing about knowledge during her speech. She spoke only of “perspective” – smugly asserting that hers was better than the one held by the parents who were paying her salary.

If I sound a little edgy when I broach this topic there is good reason for that. I abandoned my faith as an 18 year old college freshman – a mere two months into my first semester of college. It is true that I carried some anger into my freshman year, which fueled that abandonment. But it is also true that I took my first psychology class from an atheist professor who used the classroom to evangelize students.

There may have been a legitimate reason for my psychology professor’s decision to discuss Sigmund Freud’s theory of how man created God, not vice versa. But when he talked about how B.F. Skinner’s theory of operant conditioning “explained away” religion it bordered on obsession. The psychology professor who feels compelled to rid students of their faith is no less perverted than the orientation leader who feels compelled to rid students of their chastity.

I eventually made my way back. And reading apologetics played a huge role in my spiritual transformation. For years after that transformation, I wondered why there was no national organization dedicated to bringing resident apologists to campuses in order to establish Christian apologetics groups that would challenge campus atheists.

Then it finally happened. After hearing a speech I gave at Summit Ministries ( in Colorado, Professor Lonnie Welch of Ohio University invited me to speak at the national conference of Ratio Christi ( in October of 2011. I did not even know that my friends John Stonestreet of Summit Ministries and ADF attorney Casey Mattox were on the Ratio Christi board.

While I was there to speak, I was also there to learn. And what I learned was that Ratio Christi is the ideal campus Christian organization. There may be scores of Christian organizations already. But none prior to Ratio Christi were focusing on apologetics training. Such training is desperately needed to keep kids from falling away during college. How can students remain firm in their faith if they are not hearing both sides of the story? And how can they remain grounded if they were never grounded in the first place?


British independent school adopts  the International Baccalaureate high school exam

King Edward's school, the first school in Britain to scrap A-levels in one go in favour of the International Baccalaureate, has had some stunning results

This year’s A-level results will be announced tomorrow but King Edward’s School in Edgbaston, Birmingham, already knows how well it has performed – because not one of its pupils took the exam. Two academic years ago, Chief Master John Claughton decided that the school would become the first in Britain to ditch A-levels in one go in favour of the International Baccalaureate, an examination system as unfamiliar to the teachers as to their pupils.

For a school (founded 1552, fees £11,000 a year) whose alumni include Enoch Powell, Bill Oddie, Field Marshal Slim and JRR Tolkien, it was a sizeable risk. “We did a lot of research, spoke to a lot of people, had a lot of meetings with parents, and yet I still couldn’t quite free myself from the anxious feeling that I might be blowing the reputation of the entire school,” says Claughton, himself a King Edward’s Old Boy. “All the time, I was aware that there were plenty of schools out there, waiting like jackals and all too happy to feed on our failure.”

He needn’t have worried. When the IB results were announced last month, the King Edward’s boys had achieved scores every bit as high as at A-level – if not higher, if you accept the notion that the Baccalaureate is more bruising, both in terms of workload and intellectual demands.

Not only had 37 out of 113 boys scored more than 40 points (held to be the equivalent of four A* A-levels), but three had notched the maximum score of 45, achieved by only 109 pupils worldwide, out of a total 119,000 IB entrants. Overall, too, marginally more King Edward’s boys had won university places than their most recent A-level predecessors, with 17 getting into Oxbridge and 16 into medical school.

But what had made the Chief Master decide to set a new course through such stormy seas? “It was a feeling that the school was no longer the intellectual and academic powerhouse it had once been,” he replies. “Over the years, the intellectual life of the school had been diminished by the way the A-level course had been divided up into compartmentalised modules, and by the way in which pupils were required to sit AS-levels in the first year of sixth form. Teachers had lost a lot of the freedom they had enjoyed, when it came to teaching bright kids the things they wanted to teach, in the way they wanted to teach them. As a result, a certain sterility had crept in. On top of which, there was also a growing disenchantment with A-levels, both with the way the content had been dumbed down and with the massive grade inflation at results time.”

So much so that when the moment came, the school decided not to opt for a “dual economy” (running IB alongside A-levels) but to go for the Big Bang, and become fully IB-operational from the first day of the autumn term 2010.

During his days at King Edward’s, the young John Claughton had been able to get away with studying just three subjects at A-level (Latin, Greek and Ancient History), whereas his pupils are now having to do six IB subjects, including English, mathematics, one science subject and one foreign language – as well as a community-service project, a 4,000-word Extended Essay (on the subject of their choice) and a philosophical-type course, Theory of Knowledge.

This meant teachers were being presented with the challenge of not just keen young men who had chosen their subject out of interest, but a fair number who were having to do certain subjects in order to fulfil IB requirements. The Baccalaureate regulations specify that you can take three subjects at Higher Level (harder) and three at Standard Level (easier), plus Maths Studies (even easier). There are seven maximum points per subject (42 in total), with the remaining three points allocated for the Extended Essay and Theory of Knowledge.

The downside, therefore, is that the IB is harder work for everyone. The upside, however, is that a good score enables pupils to outshine their A-level rivals in university applications.

This is the bit that interested 18-year-old Jimi Oluwole (who scored the maximum 45 points, and is off to study engineering at Cambridge). “I was attracted by the fact that the Higher Mathematics would be more rigorous,” he says. “I felt that would be recognised by Cambridge. I also enjoyed writing my Extended Essay, which looked at how temperature affects a can of soup rolling down an incline. That gave me a lot of things to discuss with the professors at my interview, who were very interested in the whole idea.”

The pleasure of being stretched and tested is a theme echoed by Oluwole’s contemporaries. “I really enjoy a challenge; that’s what keeps me going,” says 18-year-old Ihsaan Faisal, who scored 43 points and is to read Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford. “I’m the kind of person who frets if they’re not busy, and the good thing about the IB is that there’s no time to put your feet up.”

But what about being forced to carry on with subjects that you’re not so good at? “My best subjects are science and maths, so at first, I wasn’t too keen on having to do English and French,” says 18-year-old Ravin Jain, another 45-pointer, who’s off to read physics at Oxford. “Gradually, though, I found myself enjoying those subjects, too. I even watched a whole Shakespeare season on the television, which was something new for me.”

The view from the common room, meanwhile, is that the boys will be far better equipped for life than their A-level counterparts. “Firstly, having done the IB, there’s no way they will have their socks knocked off by the pressure of work in their first and second years at university,” says Paul Golightly, head of history.

“Career-wise, too, no matter what road they go down, it will be an advantage to have a good command of a foreign language, and to be able to call upon their English language skills when writing reports.”

At the same time, the staff all say that the course has reinvigorated them. “With the IB, we have enjoyed far greater freedom, not least because we haven’t been confined to reading texts written in the English language,” says Tom Hosty, head of English. “Instead of plodding through a familiar old A-level text, we can study Greek tragedy, Ibsen plays, Russian novels, you name it.”

And there is similar breathing room in history. “In the normal A-level module exploring the one-party state, you’d typically look at Hitler and Stalin,” says Paul Golightly. “On our course, we also took in figures like Castro and Peron.”

The more unexpected spin-off is that it turned teaching from a one-way into a two-way street. “We are having conversations we never had when we were teaching A-level,” says Tom Hosty. “I remember engaging in the most fascinating half-hour debate with one of the school’s star mathematicians, over why Euripides was a better dramatist than Sophocles.

“There’s no question about it: doing the IB, pupils get drawn into the topics they are studying, and the intellectual life of the school has improved immeasurably.”

Which counts as quite a result for the Chief Master. “It has all worked out very well, and we are delighted with the points our boys have scored,” says Claughton, whose son James was among the pioneering IB cohort. “Yes, there were two or three boys who only got scores in the 20s, but by and large, they were the ones who would only have got a couple of Cs at A-level.

“The reason the new system has worked is because we introduced it for genuine, philosophical reasons, as a means of helping boys think and work in a less compartmentalised way, and not just as a more effective way of getting our boys into university. That said, there were some dark, nerve-racking times along the way, both for staff, students, and for the silly head who had the idea in the first place.”


Australia: School has to be cool

TASMANIANS must change attitudes about education, demographer Bernard Salt said yesterday.  Unskilled jobs were evaporating from Australia and skills training was imperative.  "It needs to be cool to stay on and uncool to leave school at 15," he said.

"Every Tasmanian must send the right message to kids, that the expectation is to get some form of training.

"Ten years of focus on this could change the shape of the state." Without a cultural shift, the Tasmania of the future could be a dangerous place, he said, with social discontent increasing as large numbers of people fell into welfare and became disconnected from the rest of society.

"The best thing you can do is make sure kids have some education," he said.

Mr Salt was visiting Hobart yesterday to outline the changing patterns of work and life in Australia to a national workshop of motoring clubs, organised by the Australian Automobile Association and the RACT. "Australia is not a great, bland amorphous place," he told the workshop. "It is a patchwork."

He pointed to fundamental shifts in Australian life, which threw up many challenges. One was the geographic shift of people from country to coast and city.

Within urban areas, two kinds of cities were emerging, with a growing clash of cultures between the inner-city elite and the outer suburban culture of "middle Australia".

The ethnic make-up of large parts of Australia was changing too, with the arrival of aspirational Indian and East Asian students and migrants.

One of the biggest changes was the mass retirement of the baby boomers. Here he saw opportunities for Tasmania.

"The lifestyle and value for money here is appealing to many baby boomers in Melbourne and Sydney," he said.

"Hobart is grooving up. It is becoming quite a metropolitan, cosmopolitan and fashionable city."


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Animation Teacher Faces Termination For Refusing To Sell His Students Unnecessary Books

The standard of being a good teacher tends to be the same at most schools. It involves sharing one’s experiences and knowledge, pushing students to develop their existing talents and inspiring them to discover new ones, and preparing students to succeed in their chosen field. Animation artist Mike Tracy claims that his school, the Art Institute of California—Orange County, judges teachers by another criteria: how many e-textbooks each teacher sells to their students.

Tracy, who has taught drawing and digital painting for eleven years at AIC—Orange County, felt that his class didn’t require the textbooks he was suddenly being asked to sell and told the school that he would prefer to teach without them. Tracy’s reward for working in the best interest of his cash-strapped, loan-burdened students was a termination notice from the school.   Tracy explained the story and posted a preemptive farewell on his Facebook page:
As many of you know, I have been in a dispute with our school, the Art Institutes, for some months now, over their policy of mandatory e-textbooks in classes where their inclusion seems arbitrary, inappropriate and completely motivated by profit. In July I asked the US Department of Education, the California Bureau of Private Postsecondary Education and WASC (our accrediting agency) to look into my concerns. Since that time, the school and its parent company EDMC have escalated the pressure on me to select a book for a class I teach that I don’t think requires one.

Today, the President of the school, Greg Marick, presented me with an ultimatum; either choose a book by Tuesday, Aug 14th or the company will terminate my employment for insubordination. My response, of course, is that I will not change my mind on this issue and that I’m determined to resist the policy however I can. I think this means that, as of this week, I will no longer be teaching at AI.

I want you, my students and colleagues to know that it has been my great honor and privilege to have worked with you over the last 11 years, and that I will miss the opportunity to work for you and with you. I have enjoyed my time as a teacher very much, but it appears as though it is now time to move on. Furthermore, you can count on me to continue the struggle that I have instigated on this issue, if only from the outside. Although it aint over till it’s over, it looks like a 99.5% deal, barring an 11th hour change of heart by the corporation, which would surprise me.

In his letter, Tracy mentions the school’s parent company EDMC—otherwise known as Education Management Corporation, a for-profit corporation that is 41 percent owned by Goldman Sachs and that operates over one hundred individual schools. The college giant gained notoriety last fall when it was sued by the United States Department of Justice and four U. S. states as part of a multi-billion dollar fraud suit. The case is still winding its way through the legal system.

The biggest losers in this story are the students at Art Institute of California—Orange County because Tracy is, by most accounts, regarded as one of the school’s finest teachers. As a show of support, his students—past and present—have launched THIS PETITION urging the school to “not force a teacher’s resignation, over unnecessary e-textbooks.” In just one day, the petition has been signed by over 500 supporters. The dozens of passionate comments in the petition portray Tracy as a solid and caring teacher, but spare few kind words for the school’s overall operation.

Tracy appears to have plenty of teaching experience at other southern California art institutions, and if he’s dismissed from the Art Institute, he’ll land on his feet at another school that will value his teaching over salesmanship skills. The bigger story though is the Art Institute of California’s alleged shakedown of its student body—if there is any truth to Tracy’s allegations, it may only be a matter of time before the school’s unethical behavior is exposed.


Credit Agency Blames Chicago Teachers Union for District Downgrade

Fitch became the second credit rating agency in as many months to downgrade Chicago Public Schools’ outlook from “stable” to “negative.”

Fitch, in its assessment, put the blame squarely on the Chicago Teachers Union.

“The Chicago Teachers' Union (CTU) has filed a number of suits against the board and has voted to authorize a strike over what it considers unsatisfactory terms of a proposed new multi-year contract.

“Fitch believes continued litigation and the strike threat indicate an increase in the already high level of discord between the CTU and CPS, which will make the competing goals of managing expenses and improving educational standards difficult to achieve.”

The district’s increasingly bleak pension picture also contributed to the downgrade.

“Pension funded ratios have dropped significantly in the last several years due to a combination of lower-than-expected investment returns and payment deferrals for the CTU plan in fiscal years 2011-2013. As of June 30, 2011 the plan was 59.9% funded, or 51.4% using a 7% return rate, compared to 79.7% and 68.4%, respectively, in fiscal 2008. District non-teachers participate in even more poorly funded city of Chicago plans.”

With this disturbing yet unvarnished analysis, the moment has arrived for the board of education to get serious about completely reforming the school district. It has continued to attempt to operate in the outdated model of collective bargaining, a strategy which is obviously working to the district’s detriment.

Collective bargaining – that is, setting policy and spending in stone for several years at a time, based on unaffordable agreements with the union – is what got the school district into this financial mess. Does the board of education have the backbone to do anything about it?


British universities accused of social engineering after drawing up plans to favour pupils from poorer backgrounds

Universities have been accused of social engineering after drawing up admissions schemes that favour applicants from poorer backgrounds.  Instead of selecting students solely on merit, four institutions – Edinburgh, Leeds, Bristol and Birmingham – have devised systems which boost the grades of children from low-income homes.

In some cases, this can see a disadvantaged child with three Bs at A-level winning a place over a privately-educated child with three A*s.

Critics said the system could discriminate against middle class children whose parents have sacrificed a lot to give them a good education.

Ministers have previously urged universities to consider backgrounds – or ‘the contextual data’ – when deciding whether to offer a place, and most do this on a case-by-case basis.  But the latest plans are different – and more controversial – because they give each applicant a numerical score based partly on social background.

Freedom of Information requests reveal the points awarded by Edinburgh for going to a very low-performing school boost the score of a child with three Bs beyond that of one with three A*s from a better school.

At Leeds, the system allowed medicine applicants to be given so many points for coming from a poor area that three B grades effectively became three A*s. It was suspended earlier this year.

Bristol is implementing a points system where pupils from poor schools ‘will be given an automatic weighting to their total academic score’, while Birmingham has drawn up a similar policy but is not yet using it.

Tim Hands, headmaster of the independent Magdalen College School in Oxford, said admissions which scored contextual data could be ‘bordering on generic discrimination’.  ‘Students deserve transparency and accuracy, not hasty measures which risk appearing subservient demonstrations of political correctness.’

But Rebecca Gaukroger, head of admissions at Edinburgh, said: ‘We don’t accept that the scoring of academic grades or contextual data undermines the holistic assessment of applications.’


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Teachers unions defend institutional incompetence

No good deed goes unpunished.

Take Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s brave decision to lay off 3,600 employees — including teachers and principals — of 24 of New York City’s worst-performing schools, all with an eye toward rebooting them with new staff, management plans, and curricula. The outgoing staff were told they could reapply, but would have to compete with thousands of new applicants. The goal: Turn around the schools by turning them inside out.

Naturally, the teachers’ unions pitched a fit, and have done everything they can to thwart the Mayor’s plan.

The irony is that, as is so often the case, unions brought this pain on themselves. Bloomberg’s original plan was to institute a comprehensive instructor evaluation plan in order to, as The Wall Street Journal editorial board put it, “smoke out the lowest performing educators.” But New York’s powerful United Federation of Teachers (UFT) strongly objected to this effort to locate incompetent instructors, forcing Bloomberg into his plan B — mass layoffs at the two dozen worst-performing schools.

To no one’s surprise, this, too, was unacceptable to the UFT, which claimed the city’s actions violated the teacher’s collective bargaining agreement. And so off the case went to arbitration, where the Mayor got his hat handed to him: sole arbitrator Scott Burchheit scrapped the planned reboot of the failing schools because, he found, “a wish to avoid undesirable teachers was the primary, if not exclusive reason” for the closings.

In other news, mice like cheese.

The Mayor’s office appealed the decision, but suffered another defeat on July 24 when State Supreme Court Judge Joan Lobis sided with the arbitrator, who had sided with the unions, all of whom sided against the kids languishing in NYC’s educational hell.

Explained Lobis of her decision: “Since I find that the staffing questions are covered by provisions in both the collective bargaining agreements, I believe the arbitrator was within his authority to determine this grievance.” The judge seemed especially swayed by the union’s argument that the firings violated so-called “first-in, last-out” seniority rules that make it almost impossible to fire long-ensconced teachers. “The issue of staffing is intertwined with the questions of seniority, excessing and discipline of teachers and supervisors, all of which are specifically covered by the collective bargaining agreements,” noted the Judge.

What will happen in the wake of these union victories? UFT attorney Adam Ross made union demands clear, boasting that the Mayor and his allies have, “now lost at arbitration level, they’ve lost at Supreme Court,” and that the union “would like to get to the business of staffing these schools and getting ready for the opening of schools in September.”

Bloomberg’s crew is putting up a brave front. “The mayor and chancellor will not allow failing schools to deprive our students of the high-quality education they deserve,” said the city’s chief council Michael A. Cardozo after Lobis’ decision. “Although we will of course comply with the judge’s ruling, we strongly disagree with it — and we will be appealing.”

But with the state appellate courts out of session, and the new school year rapidly approaching, the fired employees of the 24 schools — all of which have a graduation rate under 60 percent, and some as low 39 percent — will now likely be unfired, and thousands of children will be subjected once again to the indifference and incompetence of teachers shielded from accountability by the UFT protection racket.

According to the New York State Education Department, only 60.9 percent of New York high school students graduate within four years, even as unions consistently block any attempt to impose teacher accountability.

Maybe it’s time Gotham students formed a union of their own.


Rid schools of anti-risk culture, says British PM

Bringing back competitive sports for primary pupils will help rid schools of their “bureaucratic and anti-risk” culture, David Cameron has said.

Speaking on the last day of the Olympic Games, Mr Cameron said the entire ethos of British schools must change to show pupils that “winning and losing is an important part of growing up”.

Earlier this week, Mr Cameron promised to put competitive sports such as netball and football into the national curriculum for primary school children.

His pledge came after he backed the Daily Telegraph’s Keep the Flame Alive campaign to revive competitive games in schools and get more people volunteering.

Yesterday, Mr Cameron revealed that two of his own children attend a state school without any green space to play on and called on schools to recognise the value of competing.

“We are saying out with the bureaucratic, anti-risk culture which has led to a death of competitive sport in too many schools and in with the belief that competition is healthy, that winning and losing is an important part of growing up,” he said.

The Prime Minister is now under pressure to make competitive sport compulsory in every school, as free schools and academies do not have to stick to the national curriculum He yesterday insisted that greater competition to attract pupils and their parents will mean these exempt schools will voluntarily want to offer as much sport as possible.

“Competition, choice and diversity will help to drive up provision, but at the heart of the national curriculum should be a few simple ideas about what we mean when we talk about sport in our schools,” he said.

Mr Cameron is now supporting a new push to get more volunteers for local sports clubs, which starts this weekend with the national Join In campaign Sports enthusiasts, including Olympic volunteers will be encourage to sign up to help out at local sports facilities for good. Mr Cameron said local clubs are the most important place for children to develop their sporting prowess, as he unveiled plans to make sure Britain builds on its best haul of Olympic medals for more than a century.

He promised to keep funding for sports at its current level for at least four years and said there is “no expectation” this will change for the rest of the decade.

British athletes will get at least £125 million per year to help repeat the rush of Olympic medals won by Team GB.

Politicians are also trying to harness the positive national mood created by the games to help dispel criticism that Britain is “down and out” during the recession.

Speaking from Downing Street, Mr Cameron said the games showed the “best of Britain” and proved that its “time has come”.

“Over the last couple of weeks we have looked in the mirror and we like what we have seen as a country,” he added, saying the public had proved itself “the greatest member of Team GB”.

Businesses can take heart from the fact that “Britain delivered”, he said. The Prime Minister even claimed the hard work of athletes could show people how to get the economy out of recession.

“We do face a very tough economic situation and I do not belittle that at all,” he said.

“But in a way, what these Games show is that if you work hard enough at something, if you plan something, if you are passionate enough about something, you can turn things around.”

His words echoed those of Sir Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank of England, who said bankers should learn from Olympic athletes that “motivation is more than mere money”.


Australia: Top schools ban homework on weekends and holidays

Probably a reasonable balance

AT least two of WA's top private schools have banned homework for younger children at weekends and during school holidays "to allow kids to just be kids".

The policies are in line with international expert Phil Beadle, author, trainer, speaker and a former UK Teacher of the Year, who says the traditional form of homework is akin to abuse for primary school children.

Presbyterian Ladies' College has ruled out homework at those times for Years 7 and 8, and Methodist Ladies' College does not advocate "traditional" homework for primary pupils.

Mr Beadle, who is in Australia as a teacher-in-residence at Sydney's Knox Grammar School, told The Sunday Times this week: "We blithely accept homework as an intrinsic part of schooling, despite the fact that everyone (teachers and students) hates it.

"No educator is in receipt of hard, incontrovertible evidence that homework is entirely necessary. However, any parent will tell you that at certain ages it has an enormously destructive effect on family life."

PLC principal Beth Blackwood said homework remains "an area for debate".

"For every piece of research that says homework is beneficial, there's another piece that says it's not," she said. "I think there are other benefits of homework not just achievement orientated.

"It's about developing good study habits and skills, developing self-direction, organisational skills, independent problem-solving, and it's also about parents getting involved in the schooling process.

"With that research in mind, we did look at our homework policy for the middle school. We were trying to strike a balance between the benefits of homework and having some homework but also allowing the girls to just be girls, and to have down time, and family time and time for recreation."

Ms Blackwood said she expected Year 12 students to complete at least 18 hours of homework and study each week, but expectations on younger students were not so high.

"It is not that effective in primary school and yet parents will judge schools by the amount of homework that is given," she said. "I think the most important thing is getting that balance." At MLC, based on research indicating that traditional homework does not work in younger years, primary school students are encouraged to read every day and engage in 30 minutes of nature play or outdoor activities.

"Our main objective is to move away from the negative connotations of home learning and celebrate true learning," the school said. "The second objective is to challenge today's technocentric society and move children away from spending too much time watching TV, playing computer games or surfing the internet.

"We want students to learn because it's enjoyable, stimulating and worthwhile. We have designed a new approach towards home learning that encompasses our philosophy of nurturing academically able and emotionally confident young women."

For students in Years 7 to 9, MLC recommends one, 1 1/2 and two hours of study each weeknight respectively, but homework is not set over long weekends or holidays, and a 24-hour deadline is usually avoided.

Mr Beadle said homework for primary school children should be illegal. He believes children would benefit more from "developing a love of reading and writing for fun", than homework.

"I think all children have a right to leisure and joy," he said. "Making their after-school life one in which they are compelled to obey the dictate to slave for something that is almost entirely intangible could be argued to be abusive.

"Yes, after a certain age, you will be unable to complete the essay in class time. Yes, after a certain age you will need to broaden your knowledge at home but really the most important thing you can receive at home is love and care and perhaps a love of reading.

"Spending your home life, constantly engaged, at the age of seven, in compulsory acts of negligible benefit should be illegal."

Education Department statewide services acting executive director Martin Clery said every public school set its own homework policy and there was no "blanket rule".

Many schools encouraged younger students to read every night with their parents to boost literacy and develop a joy for reading, but it was not technically considered homework. However, the department expected homework, when set, to relate directly to school work and "increase accordingly" throughout the year groups.

Education Minister Peter Collier said "primary school aged children don't need to be doing hours of homework each night" but it should be balanced with family time and revision of school work.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Academic merit denied

The Coalition of the Silence (a local minority advocacy group) plus the NAACP have filed a 16 page long complaint with the US Department of Education alleging that the highly selective Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, VA discriminates against black, Latino and disabled students. In particular, Fairfax County (which administers the high school) fails to identify these minority students sufficiently early and thereby shuts them out in an admission process heavy on past academic accomplishment and test scores.

The admission percentages are unambiguous-blacks and Hispanics comprise 32% of the Country's population but only 2.16% of those admitted (only three African American students in a student body of 476). Forty six percent are Asian; 43% are white (Asians are 20% of the school district, whites 44%).

Fairfax educators have attempted to help black and Hispanics (the Young Scholars Program), but according to the lawsuit, efforts are insufficient. The suit demands a total overhaul of the school systems, commencing in kindergarten: more money to help minorities, programs to identify gifted black and Hispanic students early on plus enrolling more minority students in academically oriented middle schools.  

To condense a long story, leveling will fail, many whites and Asians will leave these schools if the lawsuit is successful but rest assured, implementing a panacea will cost taxpayers a fortune while undermining public education in Fairfax County and elsewhere. What school district can afford the legal costs in today's economy?

Rather than dwell on past failures, let me instead outline the radical egalitarian playbook. These are quite alluring, sometimes seemingly harmless ideas disguised by lofty rhetoric. It will be a "controversial" tour but better to risk the unPC label than watch our schools go down the toilet.

Radical egalitarians always begin by asserting that all racial/ethnic groups are identical in academic ability so only wicked discrimination explains unequal representation in elite schools. Martina Hone, head of the Coalition of the Silence states this boldly: "Look at any study of giftedness. It is equally distributed across humanity. God did not change that rule when he got to Fairfax County." Now, I can't dispute God's power, but nearly all scientists reject Ms. Hone's assertion and this evidence is overwhelming. Experts only disagree on the source of these differences. There is no other way to put it: Ms. Hone and other egalitarians are either ignorant or lie.

Even if all groups were equal in innate intellectual ability, differences in culture and work habits can explain unequal admission. Asians (among others) venerate education; other groups favor entering the workforce early or playing sports versus hitting the books. Nor can group differences be explained by unequal school funding. Again, the research here is unequivocal and even massive infusion of funds to minority dominated schools has not produced equal outcomes. Moreover, fiscal equality has existed for decades and to give one contrary example, in 2009 Washington DC's schools spend an average of $29,409 per pupil compared to the national average of $12,500 and had dismal test scores and graduation rates. As before, egalitarians seem oblivious to facts.

What might Ms. Hone and the NAACP suggest to cure this inequality? After all, nearly a half century of programs and billions has failed, so what's their major bullet? More Head Start? Compulsory Sesame Street? Better nutrition?  More after-school tutoring? More black and Hispanic teachers and principals? Everything, absolutely everything has failed, so what's next? 

The next step in this playbook is to assert that any gap in achievement is a "problem requiring a solution" and that the newly identified problem requires government intervention. That group differences are ubiquitous, often rooted in biology impervious to government tinkering never seems to cross the minds of these egalitarians. What about group differences in sports, perhaps the most merit-driven institution in American?   

The egalitarian argument then shifts to defining "gifted" so that even those who cannot academically compete with whites and Asians should be admitted to Thomas Jefferson since, it is claimed, they too are "gifted" though their talent has nothing to do with academics.  The "hero" in this re-definition of "gifted" is the Harvard education professor Howard Gardner. For Gardner, being academically gifted is just one form of "gifted." Gardner posits eight "multiple intelligences"-linguistic, visuospatial, logical-mathematical, musical, interpersonal, intra-personal and bodily-kinesthetic (this list grows as Gardner discovers additional "intelligences"). Everything, moreover, it anchored in a particular culture so among the Navajo, a talented basket weaver is considered "intelligent."

Such linguistic gymnastics easily opens the door to admission by race/ethnic quotas. After all, everybody is gifted, not just Asians skilled at math, so the only way to be fair is to imposed strict proportionality. Yes, Asians will continue to excel at math, but blacks will now excel at bodily-kinesthetic activities like dancing and sports. Jefferson will thus remain an elite institution and one that, happily, mirrors the population of Fairfax Country but not in science and math.

This hardly exhausts the war on intellectual talent. Ironically, a major culprit here was President George W. Bush and his ill-fated No Child Left Behind. Under NCLB schools all across America were pressured into uplifting the bottom and attempted to "solve" the problem by abolishing (or sharply reducing funding) all gifted programs to release funds into de facto remedial education. Surveys of teachers reported that many re-directed their efforts away from smart kids to help strugglers since focusing on smart kids offered no professional benefits. Meanwhile, the federal Javits program that originally targeted helping bright kids was redirected to discover exceptional ability among blacks and Hispanics who otherwise lagged behind academically.   

Our brief account only skims the surface but it should make clear that the attack on Thomas Jefferson HS is not an isolated event. Its aim is destroy merit and level America into intellectual mediocrity. Claims of fairness, inclusiveness and all the rest are just battle slogans.

That said, what can be done? Let me be unfashionably blunt: in today's politically correct climate, any opposition to any proposal to help blacks and Hispanics that draw their ire will be condemned as racists, if not hateful. But on the other hand, giving Martina Hone and her ilk a free pass undermines American education and, ultimately, America itself.

Fortunately, there is an escape from being tarred as a racist: just demand hard, scientific evidence. Where are the studies showing that early intervention can close racial/ ethnic gaps in academic achievement? What data demonstrate that all groups are equally academically bright versus just have various "talents" having zero to do with school?  What makes a gap in professional sports acceptable while graduating with degrees in molecular biology in an unacceptable gap?

In other words, put the burden of proof on radical egalitarianism. How is asking for evidence "racist"? Admit that yes, it would be lovely to have an elite academic high school that perfectly mirrored Fairfax County, but absent eliminating all academic standards, how, exactly is this to be accomplished? Demanding proof from closed-minded ideologues may not be easy, but consider the alternative-a dumbed down nation where education only serves to inflate underserved self-esteem.


'Creationism' in Britain's free schools: the whiff of a witch-hunt

The British Humanist Association is trying to whip up anxiety about "Creationist" free schools scheduled to open in 2012 and 2013. This is from a BHA press release:

    "Grindon Hall Christian School in Sunderland, currently a private all-through school but approved last October by the Department for Education to open as a Free School from this September, has a "Creation Policy" on its website in which they "affirm that to believe in God’s creation of the world is an entirely respectable position scientifically and rationally" and state they will "teach creation as a scientific theory"; while Sevenoaks Christian School, a secondary school in Kent approved to open from 2013, sets out the creationist beliefs of the school’s founders, and explains that creationism will be taught in Religious Education (RE)."

Needless to say, the Guardian is on the case:  "The education secretary, Michael Gove, has approved three free schools run by groups with creationist views, including one with a document on its website declaring that it teaches "creation as a scientific theory"."

But, reading the BHA's fulminations, I can't help wondering if it isn't indulging in a little intelligent design of its own.

Don't get me wrong: I don't believe we should permit hardline Creationist schools to operate in this country. Why? Because they would teach children pseudoscience. Evolution is not merely one "theory" among many. The evidence for evolution by natural selection – and that includes the evolution of homo sapiens from its predecessors – is overwhelming. Nothing in biology makes sense without Darwin's insights.

But none of these free schools will be allowed to teach "scientific" Creationism, with its brazen manipulation of the fossil record to "fit" the Book of Genesis, in science classes. Nor can they teach the marginally more sophisticated intelligent design, once nicely summed up as "creationism in a cheap tuxedo".

Will these free schools merely shift Creationism's fake science from biology to RE lessons? Michael Gove says they won't be allowed to. Clearly, the situation needs to be monitored – in Islamic schools as well as Christian ones. (Islam is far and away the most important disseminator of Creationism in the modern world, a point rarely stressed by the BBC/Guardian.)

Actually, I'm not clear that these new schools are Creationist. The evangelical Christians who run them may privately reject evolution, in which case it's the Government's job to make sure that they don't undermine the discoveries of scientists in any lessons. But Grindon Hall says the following: "[We do] not share the rigid creationist’s insistence on a literalistic interpretation of the first chapters of Genesis … We are therefore very happy to believe that God could have created the world in six days. But we do not feel that it is helpful to affirm it as an unarguable fact." That's what I regard as a traditional Christian viewpoint rather than anything an American fundamentalist would recognise as Creationism.

The nearest any of these schools get to "scientific" Creationism are the following statements from Grindon Hall:

*    We vigorously challenge the unscientific certainty often claimed by scientists surrounding the so-called “Big Bang” and origins generally.

*    We will teach evolution as an established scientific principle, as far as it goes.

*    We will teach creation as a scientific theory and we will always affirm very clearly our position as Christians, i.e. that Christians believe that God’s creation of the world is not just a theory but a fact with eternal consequences for our planet and for every person who has ever lived on it.

These sentences are too loosely phrased for us to be clear what, exactly, the school means by creation – or science, for that matter. Attempts to reconcile belief in God-as-creator and empirical data often produce evasive statements, not least in unthreatening mainstream denominations. As I say, if there's a hidden agenda, then it's the Government's job to make sure it isn't implemented.

The key challenge is distinguishing between religious cosmology and false empirical claims – not easy, but it has to be done. There is a difference between saying that God's creation of the world doesn't conflict with science and is therefore in some way "scientific", and extracting  bogus science from the Bible or Koran. There's also a difference between saying that evolution doesn't explain everything (which is true) and claiming that there are significant holes in the theory (which there aren't).

The reason I've used the word "witch-hunt" in the headline is that I suspect the real target of the BHA/Guardian campaign is not the teaching of pseudoscience in classrooms, but Christianity in general (this poisonous piece by Hadley Freeman captures the ultra-secularist mindset perfectly). Plus, of course, the institution of free schools, the success of which has infuriated the Left.

It poses the question: what do "humanists" fear more – the teaching of bad science, or the freedom of parents to run their own schools?


The great PE revolution: Every school child in Britain to play competitive sports

Every pupil in Britain will be expected to play competitive team sports under plans to be outlined by David Cameron tomorrow.

The Prime Minister is to reveal the primary school National Curriculum will be rewritten this autumn to ensure all pupils play proper sports.  The move will end the culture of ‘prizes for all’ which has afflicted some schools since the educational establishment decreed no one must fail in the 1960s.

It will also see trendy exercise classes in schools, such as ‘Indian dancing’, replaced by sports.

Mr Cameron will make compulsory competitive sport a centrepiece of his plans to secure a sporting legacy for Britain after the success of the Olympics.

Senior Government sources have told the Mail that the National Curriculum for secondary schools, which is expected to be revised next year, will also be changed to ensure those aged 11 to 18 engage in competitive sport.

At present, the curriculum covering PE is a jargon-filled eight-page document. This will be torn up and replaced by a one-page document, including a requirement for all primary school children to take part in competitive team sports.

Mr Cameron yesterday attacked the substitution of exercise activities for competitive sport at some schools which are simply trying to fill the two hours of sport a week required under Labour.  The Government has scrapped the two-hour rule to encourage schools to do more.

He said: ‘I see it with my own children. The two hours that is laid down is often met through sort of Indian dancing classes.  ‘Now, I’ve got nothing against Indian dancing classes but that’s not really sport.’

The new guidance will also teach older children to compare their performances so they can keep improving their personal best.

A commitment to teach all children to swim will remain in place.

Education Secretary Michael Gove will publish the new primary school rules in the autumn.

A senior Government source said: ‘There will be similar moves to boost competitive sport to be contained in the forthcoming secondary curriculum as well.’

Data from the Government’s PE and Sport Survey in 2009/10 showed that only 40 per cent of pupils did competitive sport regularly within their own school.

When he makes the formal announcement, Mr Cameron will say: ‘I want to use the example of competitive sport at the Olympics to lead a revival of competitive sport in primary schools. We need to end the “all must have prizes” culture and get children playing and enjoying competitive sports from a young age, linking them up with sports clubs so they can pursue their dreams.’

The Prime Minister yesterday said that in future schools will be expected to ‘have a proper sports day where we hand out medals’.

They will also be urged to ‘get athletes and Olympians’ into their schools to encourage pupils and link up with local sports clubs.

Ministers will stop short of telling schools how many hours a week they should dedicate to sport.  But Mr Cameron claimed yesterday that the two-hours-a-week target had led many schools to ‘think they’ve done their bit’ by meeting it when it wasn’t enough.

He also made clear that he would maintain funding for elite athletes, which has driven the success of Team GB at the London Games.  He said: ‘We will absolutely learn the lessons of the Australian experience,’ – referring to the fact that the country has slumped down the medal table since the Sydney Games of 2000 after funding cuts.

The Government has already committed to maintain funding until 2014. The Prime Minister is expected to signal tomorrow that that will be extended to cover the Rio games of 2016.

It is already pouring an extra £500million into sport via the National Lottery and has committed to spending £1billion over four years on school sports.

But Mr Cameron came under pressure from Labour leader Ed Miliband, who called for a ten-year cross-party plan for sport.  ‘It’s no good blaming the teachers, or blaming everybody else, for what’s happening in our schools,’ he said.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Triumph for a British selective school

 Alistair Brownlee, Britain’s gold medal-winning triathlete, has backed The Daily Telegraph’s Keep the Flame Alive campaign and revealed the critical role that was played by his former school, Bradford Grammar, in his journey to Olympic glory.

As the London Olympics approach their final weekend, the campaign aims to further increase the number of volunteers in sport and ensure that competitive sport is accessible to children in all schools.

Brownlee, whose brother Jonny also won bronze, doubts that he would have made it to the top of the podium at these Olympics were it not for the extracurricular, and largely voluntary, input of his teachers.

“So much comes down to chance,” said Brownlee. “I think one of the biggest things about legacy is that it’s not about money. It’s about the attitude. It’s about inspiring teachers at schools to go that little bit further to help their kids learn a sport. It’s about inspiring the kids themselves to try sport. It’s about inspiring parents to take their kids to the local club.

“It’s about giving people that attitude to give it a go, to enjoy doing it and wanting to compete. If anything comes out of the Olympics, legacy-wise, that is the most important thing.

"I wholeheartedly back the Telegraph’s 'Keep the Flame Alive' initiative. For a 'legacy' to be fulfilled we need the basic infrastructure in place to help achieve it and big components in making that a reality are attracting more volunteers in sport and to ensure schools include sport as a vital part of the curriculum.”

Brownlee, 24, feels fortunate that he and his brother had the opportunity to develop their rare athletic talent from a young age at Bradford Grammar. "I was lucky enough to go to a school which gave flexibility around education and sport," he said.

"We had a 1hr 30min lunch break and were able to train during this time. My school career was absolutely crucial to me. As an endurance athlete, some of the most important years are maybe when you are 16, 17, and 18. For me getting that right was very important and my school allowed me to do that.

“It was actually a French teacher who was really into running and he took groups of lads out running of a lunch-time. It created a culture where you could go running every lunch-time in the school. If that hadn’t have happened, I probably wouldn't have got into running that much and then never done that well at triathlon.

“It was also the attitude of the school – the fact that a teacher was willing to give up his lunchtimes and weekends to take groups of boys running.”

Brownlee added: “Schools are really, really important. It gives you access to every kid in the country. It gives you a massive pool of people to see who might be talented at different sports. It allows kids to try sports. Kids can be inspired all they want but if they can’t go out and try a sport then it’s no good. And the school should be the avenue to try those sports.

“In the same way as you have to inspire the parents and teachers of the next generation, you also have to inspire the officials and the coaches, the people who give up their spare time. One of the fantastic things about sport in this country is that you can go to local running clubs and find people who give up their spare time to coach children and adults.

“Everywhere I have been involved all through sport there has been hundreds of volunteers involved – people who give up their spare time for the love of the sport. But, to inspire more kids, you need to inspire more volunteers to help them.”

Kevin Riley, the head of Bradford Grammar, said that the school had tried to give equal encouragement to pupils, regardless of whether their sport was traditionally a mainstream activity.

“The school has always had this sense that if you are good at something, we will develop it,” he said. “The Brownlees, as good as they are athletically, you would have thought the school might have said, ‘never mind all this running around and swimming lark, you need to play rugby and cricket’. But it didn’t, the school developed their individual talent because it was very obvious from an early age and the school really encouraged that.”


Obama Administration Hunts Phantom Classroom Racism
 In March 2010, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that his department was “going to reinvigorate civil rights enforcement” in the nation’s schools. What was the pervasive racial injustice that led Mr. Duncan to redouble such efforts? Black elementary and high school students are three and a half times more likely to get suspended or expelled than their white peers, according to federal data.

And so the Departments of Education and Justice have launched a campaign against disproportionate minority discipline rates, which show up in virtually every school district with significant numbers of black and Hispanic students. The possibility that students’ behavior drives those rates lies outside the Obama administration’s conceptual universe. The theory behind this school discipline push is what Obama officials and civil rights advocates call the “school-to-prison pipeline.” According to this conceit, harsh discipline practices—above all, suspensions— strip minority students of classroom time, causing them to learn less, drop out of school, and eventually land in prison.

The feds have reached their conclusions, however, without answering the obvious question: Are black students suspended more often because they misbehave more? Arne Duncan, of all people, should be aware of inner-city students’ self-discipline problems, having headed the Chicago school system before becoming secretary of education. Chicago’s minority youth murder one another with abandon. Since 2008, more than 530 people under the age of 21 have been killed in the city, mostly by their peers, according to the Chicago Reporter; virtually all the perpetrators were black or Hispanic.

Nationally, the picture is no better. The homicide rate among males between the ages of 14 and 17 is nearly ten times higher for blacks than for whites and Hispanics combined. Such data make no impact on the Obama administration and its orbiting advocates, who apparently believe that the lack of self-control and socialization that results in this disproportionate criminal violence does not manifest itself in classroom comportment as well.

Like school districts across the county, the St. Paul, Minnesota, public school system has been on a mission to lower the black suspension rate, following complaints by local activists and black parents. The district has sent its staff to $350,000 worth of “cultural-proficiency” training, where they learned to “examine the presence and role of Whiteness.” The system spent another $2 million or so to implement an anti-suspension behavioral-modification program embraced by the Obama administration.

Aaron Benner, a fifth-grade teacher in St. Paul, scoffs at the notion that minority students are being unfairly targeted for discipline. “Anyone in his right mind knows that these [disciplined] students are extremely disruptive,” he says. He overheard a fifth-grade boy use extremely foul language to threaten a girl. (“I wanted to throw him against the locker,” Mr. Benner recalls.) The boy’s teacher told him that she felt powerless to punish the misbehavior.

“This will be one of my black men who ends up in prison after raping a woman,” he observes. Racist? Many would so characterize the comment. But Mr. Benner is black himself—and fed up with the excuses for black misbehavior. “They’re trying to pull one over on us. Black folks are drinking the Kool-Aid; this ‘let-them-clown’ philosophy could have been devised by the KKK.”

The research base for the Obama administration’s claim that minority students receive harsher punishment than whites for “the same or similar infractions” is laughably weak. None of the studies alleging disproportionate discipline actually observed students’ behavior or examined students’ full disciplinary histories, including classroom interactions and warnings, teacher and counselor observations, and efforts at informal resolution that preceded more formal measures. A principal might have had two dozen conversations with a student before deciding to suspend him; none of those conversations would have been included in the researchers’ models.

Disproportionate rates of minority discipline were already ending school officials’ careers before the feds stepped in. Now that Washington has entered the fray, the pressure to bring those rates into alignment has grown even more intense. In Christina, Delaware, one of the districts under Education Department investigation, a six-year-old white boy faced expulsion in 2009 for bringing to school a Cub Scout tool (“a combination of folding fork, knife, and spoon,” reported a local TV station) with which to eat his pudding. After public outcry, the district removed kindergarten and first-grade students from its zero-tolerance policy for weapons.

Also in 2009, however, the Christina school district expelled an 11-year-old black girl after a box-cutter fell out of her jacket pocket. The girl said that she had no idea how the box cutter had got there, according to Wilmington’s News Journal. The U.S. Department of Education presumably chose Christina to investigate because it agrees with the girl’s mother, who brought a complaint to the Delaware Human Relations Commission, that only racism can explain why a school would distinguish a six-year-old’s possession of an improvised pudding spoon from an 11-year-old’s possession of a box cutter.

Might the school officials know something that federal bureaucrats do not regarding the girl’s previous run-ins with authority and the likelihood that she had no knowledge of the box cutter? Not in the eyes of a Washington paper-pusher, who takes his own omniscience as a given.

“Teachers are petrified to discipline students,” says a high school science teacher in Queens, New York, who blogs under the name “Chaz.” Students will tell a teacher to shut up or curse him when asked to open their notebooks, but the teacher’s supervisors will look the other way. The amount of insubordination now tolerated in New York schools is destroying them, says a former head of discipline for the city’s school system. Yet in June of this year, the schools chancellor proposed to officially ban suspensions for all but the most extreme infractions. Teachers would no longer be allowed to remove from class students who disrupted their fellow students’ ability to learn, engaged in obscene behavior, or were insubordinate. Advocates and the city council speaker, who is the leading mayoral candidate, complained that the changes did not go far enough.

The clear losers in all of this are children. Protecting well-behaved students’ ability to learn is a school’s highest obligation, and it is violated when teachers lose the option of removing chronically disruptive students from class. Nor does keeping those unruly students in class do them any favors. School is the last chance to socialize a student who repeatedly curses his teacher, say, since his parent is obviously failing at the job. Eliminate serious consequences for bad behavior, and you are sending a child into the world who has learned precisely the opposite of what he needs to know about life.

Though Barack Obama broached the taboo topic of personal responsibility on the 2008 campaign trail, now that he’s in the White House, he and his underlings have maintained a resolute silence on the behavioral components of inequality. Mr. Duncan’s public pronouncements have avoided any mention of what students and parents can do for themselves, such as paying attention in class, respecting your teacher, and studying, or monitoring your child’s attendance, homework, and comportment. Such an exclusive emphasis on victimhood plays well with Mr. Obama’s base, but it seriously distorts reality.


Obama Administration Aggravates The Minority Achievement Gap, Increases Risk Of School Violence

The attempt to generate inter-group disharmony is of course pure Marxism.  It's deliberate, not foolish

If you want to fix the achievement gap between black and white students, you must first fix the behaviors that contribute to it, like the disorder and violence in inner-city classrooms that make it hard to teach or learn in such schools, and disproportionately affect the black students in such schools.

But the Obama administration is doing just the opposite, discouraging school districts from imposing meaningful discipline on violent or disruptive black students if they have already disciplined “too many” black students, as Heather MacDonald notes in the current issue of City Journal. Since more black kids come from high-crime areas, it is only natural that infraction rates are higher among black kids than, say, Asian kids (Asians have much lower infraction rates than whites, who in turn have much lower infraction rates than blacks, notes MacDonald).

So it is entirely foreseeable, and not the product of racism by a school, that more black kids than white kids get disciplined for misconduct in many schools. The Obama administration argues that higher minority suspension rates presumptively violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act by constituting “disparate impact,” even though the Supreme Court ruled in Alexander v. Sandoval (2001) that such “disparate impact” doesn’t violate Title VI.

Such discipline is not racism, or something that is harmful to minorities in the long run; instead, discipline is a valuable form of instruction that both teaches students how to interact properly with others (a skill that a kid will need both to maximize his own learning, and to handle a job when he reaches adulthood) and also teaches them essential moral values.

Depriving disruptive or violent minority students of such discipline based on their race is itself a form of racial discrimination, since it deprives them of “equal access” to an essential educational “benefit,” namely, moral instruction and instruction in how to get along with others. See Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, 526 U.S. 629, 650 (1999)(civil rights laws forbid denying students access to an educational “benefit” based on their sex or race). Employers require their employees to follow rules and get along with co-workers, and expect them to have “soft people skills,” all traits that are instilled through discipline in school and in the home.

But the Obama administration can’t see this, since it is wearing ideological blinders. Contrary to what it seems to think, it does not help a black kid if a school official is prevented from disciplining another kid for beating him up just because the kid who beat him up is also black. (Violence is usually committed against other members of the perpetrator’s own race.) Doing so is an example of the “soft bigotry of low expectations” that undermines educational achievement among African-Americans.

The State of Maryland plans to do something even more extreme, proposing a rule  that would mandate racial quotas in school discipline. As I previously noted, quotas in school discipline clash with a federal appeals court ruling that schools cannot use racial proportionality rules for school discipline, since that violates the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. See People Who Care v. Rockford Board of Education, 111 F.3d 528, 534 (7th Cir. 1997). That court ruling also said that a school cannot use race in student discipline to offset racial disparities not rooted in school officials’ racism (known as “disparate impact”).

Racial “disparities” in student discipline rates are not the product of racism by school officials, but rather reflect higher rates of violence and other disruptive conduct among African-American students. (The Supreme Court’s Armstrong decision emphasized that crime rates are not the same for different races, and that racial disparities in crime rates and conviction rates are not proof of racial discrimination.) Stopping school officials from disciplining black students who violate school rules just because they previously disciplined more black than white students is as crazy as ordering police to stop arresting black criminals just because they previously arrested more blacks than whites.

As the Manhattan Institute’s MacDonald notes,
Since 2008, more than 530 people under the age of 21 have been killed in the city [of Chicago], mostly by their peers, according to the Chicago Reporter; virtually all the perpetrators were black or Hispanic. In 2009, the widely publicized beating death of 16-year-old Derrion Albert by his fellow students sent Duncan hurrying back to the Windy City, accompanied by Attorney General Eric Holder, to try to contain the fallout in advance of Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Olympics (see “Chicago’s Real Crime Story,” Winter 2010).

Between September 2011 and February 2012, 25 times more black Chicago students than white ones were arrested at school, mostly for battery; black students outnumbered whites by four to one. (In response to the inevitable outcry over the arrest data, a Chicago teacher commented: “I feel bad for kids being arrested, . . . but I feel worse seeing a kid get his head smashed on the floor and almost die. Or a teacher being threatened with his life.”). . .

Nationally, the picture is no better. The homicide rate among males between the ages of 14 and 17 is nearly ten times higher for blacks than for whites and Hispanics combined. Such data make no impact on the Obama administration and its orbiting advocates, who apparently believe that the lack of self-control and socialization that results in this disproportionate criminal violence does not manifest itself in classroom comportment as well. . .

Aaron Benner, a fifth-grade teacher in St. Paul, Minnesota, scoffs at the notion that minority students are being unfairly targeted for discipline. “Anyone in his right mind knows that these [disciplined] students are extremely disruptive,” he says. Like districts across the county, the St. Paul public school system has been on a mission to lower the black suspension rate, following complaints by local activists and black parents. A highly regarded principal lost his job because his school had “too many” suspensions of black second- and fourth-graders. The school system has sent its staff to $350,000 worth of “cultural-proficiency” training, where they learned to “examine the presence and role of ‘Whiteness.’ ” The district spent another $2 million or so to implement an anti-suspension behavioral-modification program embraced by the Obama administration.

Benner sees the consequences of this anti-discipline push nearly every day in the worsening behavior of students. He overheard a fifth-grade boy tell a girl: “Bitch, I’ll fuck you and suck you.” (“I wanted to throw him against the locker,” Benner recalls.) The boy’s teacher told Benner that she felt powerless to punish the misbehavior. “This will be one of my black men who ends up in prison after raping a woman,” observes Benner.

Racist? Many would so characterize the comment. But Benner is black himself—and fed up with the excuses for black misbehavior. He attended one of the district’s cultural-proficiency sessions, where an Asian teacher asked: “How do I help the student who blurts out answers and disrupts the class?” The black facilitator reminded her: “That’s what black culture is”—an answer that echoes the Obama administration’s admonitions to teachers. “I should have said: ‘How many of you shouted out in college?’ ” Benner remarks.

“They’re trying to pull one over on us. Black folks are drinking the Kool-Aid; this ‘let-them-clown’ philosophy could have been devised by the KKK.” . .school systems are jettisoning whole swaths of their discipline practices in order to avoid disparate impact. . .According to a recent hire, a Baltimore high school now asks prospective teachers: “How do you respond to being mistreated? What do you do if someone cusses you out?” The proper answer is: “Nothing.”

Predictably, disorder has arisen. A 34-year veteran of the school had to be taken from the premises in an ambulance after a student shattered the glass in a classroom display case.

At a widely-read education blog, a teacher describes the violence and disorder that occurred when her school adopted racial quotas in school discipline:
I was the homeroom teacher in an incident in a school that tried to implement just this criteria for discipline. One kid (scrawny 7th grader) had the {bleep} beaten out of him by a 6-foot, fully-muscled 7th grader – two different races. The little kid was suspended before his copious blood had been cleaned up off the floor. The big kid never did have ANY punishment – that particular ethnic group had been disciplined too many times.

Need I mention that it was a tough month, as word quickly spread that violence against the “under-disciplined” ethnic group was treated as a freebie?