Friday, September 07, 2012

The Machine: The Truth Behind Teachers Unions

America's public education system is failing. We're spending more money on education but not getting better results for our children.

That's because the machine that runs the K-12 education system isn't designed to produce better schools. It's designed to produce more money for unions and more donations for politicians.

For decades, teachers' unions have been among our nation's largest political donors. As Reason Foundation's Lisa Snell has noted, the National Education Association (NEA) alone spent $40 million on the 2010 election cycle. As the country's largest teachers union, the NEA is only one cog in the infernal machine that robs parents of their tax dollars and students of their futures.

Students, teachers, parents, and hardworking Americans are all victims of this political machine--a system that takes money out of taxpayers' wallets and gives it to union bosses, who put it in the pockets of politicians.

Our kids deserve better.

"The Machine" is 4:17 minutes.


Texas inventories children

Officials at Northside Independent School District in San Antonio, Texas, apparently view George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four as an instruction manual rather than a cautionary tale.

Over 6,000 students will be required to carry microchipped ID so that the district can track their movements in school and on school buses. Radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips will be embedded in student IDs. Doors within the two affected schools are presumably now fitted with sensors that track students as they move from class to class, from the cafeteria to the bathroom. The district’s administration is determined to increase student attendance.

The reason? The Texas legislature cut state education funds, and Northside lost $61.4 million in tax dollars last year. Local TV station KENS5 explains the connection between attendance and funding:
The district loses $175,000 a day in state funding because of tardy or absent kids.… The district bean-counters expect to gain more than $250,000 in attendance revenue from the state, and $1.2 million from Medicaid, because the district will be tracking special-needs kids, too.

The $15 replacement fee for lost cards will almost certainly be profitable as well, since children predictably lose things.

The RFID system is a tested revenue raiser, with two other Texas school districts enjoying hundreds of thousands of dollars in increased funding after tagging children. So Northside is willing to spend $525,065 in start-up costs and $136,005 a year for administration in order to keep children from escaping its grasp. If the technology trial is successful, the district will expand the program to all of its 112 schools.

Many parents object. Protests have been held at each of the schools, with Facebook pages and YouTube videos being used to organize the dissent.

Safety concerns

Parents express concern about their children’s privacy and safety. Originally designed to track inventory and animals, RFID technology allows information to be read from a distance by radio waves without the bearer’s knowledge. Since each chip contains a unique ID number, anyone who reads the chip will know the exact location of a specific child. Parents are quite reasonably concerned about the possibility of ill-intentioned people monitoring their children’s every movement. It is notoriously easy to “eavesdrop” on RFID transmissions.

In conjunction with the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, the consumer privacy group Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering (CASPIAN) issued a report entitled “Position Paper on the Use of RFID in Schools” (August 21, 2012). The paper warns,
    a student’s location could be monitored from a distance by a jealous girlfriend or boyfriend, stalker, or pedophile. Individuals run this tracking risk any place they carry or wear a school-issued RFID tagged item — even miles from the campus. (PDF)

Depending on the information being collected, a tagged individual may also run an increased risk of identity theft.

Ironically, proponents of chipping children argue for the safety benefits of doing so; in case of a fire, teachers would be able to locate every child. Proponents also counter the privacy concerns of parents, maintaining that the ID contains no personal information, such as a home address. They insist that most RFID systems can operate only over the distance of a few meters. As long as the ID is not worn elsewhere, the monitoring will be limited to school grounds. The operational range of RFID chips, however, depends on a variety of factors, with some chips being readable at 100 meters.

For example, if the ID were to contain an active tag with a battery as opposed to a passive tag (as it reportedly does) the range would be dramatically increased. Moreover, the technology is constantly improving.

Parents must rely on the official account of what information the ID contains and the official promises that no abuse of information will occur. Even if the current assurances are sincere, however, it is not possible to predict what next year’s school bureaucrats will decide to do. The RFID cards establish a framework for abuse.

More here

Proposed charity watchdog chief defends Britain's non-government schools

The Conservatives didn't appoint a  Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO) to the job without knowing what they were doing!

Independent schools should not feel under threat over their charitable status, the man set to take over the charity watchdog signalled yesterday.

William Shawcross, the biographer and journalist, defended the work of public schools such as Eton, where he was educated, insisting they provided “considerable public benefit”.

During questioning from MPs, he brushed aside calls for private schools to be stripped of their special status – which brings millions of pounds of tax breaks – insisting that education should in itself be considered a “charitable purpose” as much as the relief of poverty or the promotion of religion.

He also signalled that so-called “chuggers” could face new regulations and insisted that charity law should not be used unfairly against churches.

Mr Shawcross, who has been named as the preferred candidate as chairman of the Charity Commission, was being questioned about his plans for the £50,000-a-year post during a hearing before the Commons Public Administration Select Committee.

Under the leadership of Commission’s previous chair Dame Suzi Leather, private schools fought a sustained campaign to retain their charitable status.

It followed new legislation introduced by Labour saying that organisations must demonstrate “public benefit” to justify their position as charities.

Following a legal challenge, the Commission recently drew up new guidelines saying only that they could retain the privileged position as long as they provided some services to poorer pupils.

During the hearing the Labour MP Paul Flynn told Mr Shawcross it was a “nonsense” that public schools whose fees preclude poorer children from attending provided the necessary public benefit.

But he replied: “Education has always been a charitable purpose.”

He accepted that he had a privileged upbringing but said he was “very lucky” to have gone to Eton.


Thursday, September 06, 2012

The Left's Education Divide

At the Democratic convention, a choice between children and teachers unions

There are plenty of canyons running between the Democrats at this week's convention. The left is angry at President Obama for selling them out on a raft of issues. The Blue Dogs (what's left of them) are glancing uneasily toward the election calendar. And of course that tattered emblem of Democrat disunity, Bill Clinton, is on the speakers' list.

But there's something else threatening to disrupt the Democrat hive mind. As Jon Ward reported at the Huffington Post, convention-goers were treated to a special screening of the movie Won't Back Down. The film, which stars Maggie Gyllenhall and Viola Davis, is about a single mother who tries to reform her daughter's dismal public school. The villain is the obstructionist teachers union. It promotes "parent triggers," which allow parents to vote to overhaul schools.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, fired off a letter calling the film "divisive" and saying it doesn't focus on "real parent empowerment." (And if anyone knows "real parent empowerment," it's the stridently anti-school-choice Weingarten.)

But her letter ignores the elephant in the rubber room: Won't Back Down director Daniel Barnz is a Democrat. For that matter, so is reform hero Michelle Rhee and Davis Guggenheim of Waiting for Superman fame. All three have issued a call to arms over education that transcends party lines. The reality of America's public schools is finally cracking through the liberal eggshell.

At the state level, Democrat governors and mayors, wrangling with drained budgets, are battling the education establishment. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick backed a law that tied teacher layoffs primarily to performance rather than seniority. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also took on the unions over evaluations and declared, "It's this simple: It's not about the adults; it is about the children." And Mayor Rahm Emanuel cranked up his famous pugnacity after the Chicago Teachers Union refused to budge on compensation and benefits issues.

That might seem like small comfort to school reformers. And it should. Most of the clashes between unions and Democrat state officials have been waged out of necessity. Governors and mayors must balance their budgets; organized labor won't give an inch.

But given the Democratic Party's fundraising, it's a miracle to see party leaders taking on the teachers unions at all. The third-largest contributor to Democrats in 2010, and the fifth-largest contributor overall, was the National Education Association (NEA), which spent $40 million to push back the Republican tide. Add in contributions by AFSCME and the SEIU and the three titans of organized labor spent $171.5 million in 2010, more than the dreaded U.S. Chamber of Commerce and American Crossroads combined.

The Democrats owe the NEA. If not for it, the Republican sweep might have been even wider.

And yet many Democrats turned around and fought back against Big Education's intransigence. It's created an uneasy imbalance and it's sowing discord among the union rank-and-file. The party's apple-polishers at the NEA voted to endorse Barack Obama last year. But the vote count was 72% in favor; a step down from 2008 when 80% of delegates endorsed Obama, and the vote twelve years ago when 90% supported Al Gore.

This is the same Barack Obama who made the heinous decision to shut down the Washington, D.C. school voucher program. But even he's committed apostasies that irked the unions.

So why are some progressives changing their tune? Well, it's not as if the unions have anywhere else to go. Mitt Romney's education plan requires states to offer school choice and many Republicans want to eliminate the bureaucratic wreck that is the Department of Education. Democrats must wager that they can nip at the NEA without losing its support.

But more importantly, the problem with public schools has become impossible to ignore. Interest-group liberalism requires the left to support the teachers unions. But more and more, that's put Democrats in conflict with inner-city students who need vouchers for a shot at even a passable education. Confronted with the evidence, some progressives are finally siding with the students.

Eventually education may become one of those issues, like the Second Amendment, on which Republicans extract an all-out surrender. At this year's Republican National Convention, Condoleezza Rice declared that education is the civil rights movement of our era. Progressives pride themselves on being civil rights geniuses. Do they really want to be on the wrong side of history here?

Until they answer that question, there's still plenty of hysteria to go around. A smattering of protesters showed up when Won't Back Down was shown at the Democratic Convention. Confirming that the progressive bestiary is running out of monsters, one left-wing blogger tried to tie the movie to Bain Capital. Randi Weingarten is still doing an elaborate dance, talking up reforms while simultaneously making sure nothing meaningful gets done.

But it's becoming clear that unions have overplayed their hand. Mitt Romney should press the advantage when he gets into office. Perhaps then we can finally energize our classrooms and empty the rubber rooms.


New School Year, New Teacher Movement

In light of the daily public finger-pointing and the debate over who or what is most to blame for America’s slipping status in international educational progress reports, teachers across the country feel unjustly singled out. As evidenced by a March poll, educator job satisfaction is at the lowest it's been in more than two decades.

Furthermore, according to reports, the nation’s largest teacher labor union, the National Education Association, has reported a decline of 150,000 members in the past two years with a projection that they will lose an additional 200,000 members by 2014. Based on the data, teachers are fleeing the unions and seeking alternative organizations in record numbers.

It is this rapidly changing climate that is fostering a new direction for American educators. Teachers are calling for new leadership. As the preeminent national non-union educator organization, the Association of American Educators (AAE) is answering that call. We work with teachers everyday who are concerned with the massive transformation occurring in public education. Whether it is frustration with static teacher union representation or the vast changes implemented in schools across the country, teachers rightly feel that they aren’t being heard.

We believe that teachers deserve to be treated as professionals, and that their ideas and experiences should be brought to the policy table. To create and implement meaningful and commonsense education reform, the authentic voices of American teachers must be heard over the outdated, overreaching, politically-charged mantras of the teacher union bosses.

Recent surveys indicate that Americans overwhelmingly support teachers but not teacher unions. This growing statistic clearly illustrates the fundamental disconnect between teachers and labor unions, particularly in states experiencing broad education reforms. Teachers are not blue-collar laborers; they are academic professionals like lawyers, scientists, and engineers. Industrial-style union representation does not garner the respect that educators deserve.

Strikes, work stoppages, and union-style collective bargaining do little to advance the professionalism of teachers. Teachers in a modern workforce do not necessarily need one-size-fits-all salary and benefits packages that do little to recognize teachers who go above and beyond in their schools. Moving forward, AAE envisions a modern approach to teacher representation that promotes professionalism, collaboration, and excellence without a partisan agenda.

We often hear about the necessary reforms needed in American classrooms, but what we do not hear is that we need to overhaul the way our teacher workforce is represented. AAE is the change we need. By embracing a non-union professional movement for educators, we can work together to empower our academic professionals through a positive, new voice for the profession.


Cotton wool culture is damaging our children says British Health and Safety Executive

But didn’t their rules and regulations create problem in the first place?

A ‘Cotton wool culture’ has eroded children’s freedom to play outdoors, health and safety watchdogs admitted yesterday.  They say a blizzard of regulations is being used as an excuse to deny children scope for fun.

The statement, by the Play Safety Forum and the Health and Safety Executive, was condemned as ironic, as HSE rules and regulations are blamed by many for creating the culture in the first place.

But critics said they hoped it marked a turning point and the start of a more commonsense approach to what constitutes danger. Warning that play had become ‘sterile’, they insisted children must be allowed to learn about risk.

The HSE said health and safety laws were being ‘wrongly cited’ as a reason to deny children play opportunities.

The statement cited ‘shocking’ ICM research that half of children aged seven to 12 are not allowed to climb a tree without an adult present and that one in five children in the same age group have been banned from playing conkers.

It said children should be exposed to a degree of risk to help prepare them for the ‘realities’ of daily life, where ‘risk is ever-present’.

Councils, schools, charities and other providers should use ‘sensible adult judgments’ instead of allowing misplaced fears of prosecution to rid play spaces of fun and challenge.

‘When planning and providing play opportunities, the goal is not to eliminate risk, but to weigh up the risks and benefits,’ it says.

‘No child will learn about risk if they are wrapped in cotton wool.’ The approach accepts that the possibility of ‘serious or life-threatening injuries cannot be eliminated’  – only managed.

While some risks are unacceptable, such as poor maintenance of equipment, a degree of controlled risk allows children to ‘reap the benefits of play’. It is wrong to believe that ‘mistakes and accidents will not happen’.

The HSE’s admission follows numerous examples over the years of the absurd lengths officials have gone to to avoid litigation. They include bans on conker games in case they cause nut allergies or requiring children to wear protective goggles while playing.

Over-zealous safety clampdowns have seen climbing frames, see-saws, swings, roundabouts and slides ripped out of playgrounds.

Officials have also been accused of scrapping equipment altogether when only minor modifications were needed. The welter of rules mean many childhoods are more sheltered than a generation ago.

‘Accidents and mistakes happen during play – but fear of litigation and prosecution has been blown out of proportion,’ the statement says. ‘In the case of the most serious failures of duty, prosecution rightly remains a possibility, and cannot be entirely ruled out.

‘However, this possibility does not mean play providers should eliminate even the most trivial of risks.

‘Provided sensible and proportionate steps have been taken, it is highly unlikely there would be any breach of health and safety law involved, or that it would be in the public interest to bring a prosecution.’

Robin Sutcliffe of the Play Safety Forum, an umbrella group for organisations involved in children’s play, said: ‘This will be a landmark statement, helping councils, schools, charities and others to give children and young people greater freedom to experience challenging and adventurous play and leisure opportunities.

‘The implications for society will be far reaching and my thanks go to the HSE for embracing this concept and working with PSF so positively.’

HSE chairman Judith Hackitt said: ‘Health and safety laws are often wrongly cited as a reason to deny children opportunities, contributing to a cotton wool culture.’


Wednesday, September 05, 2012

'Distinguished’ Denver Teachers Encourage Students to Diss American Culture

What happens when progressives run government schools? They judge teachers based upon their own socio-political values.

They don’t care if Billy or Suzie can read or write very well. But they want to make sure the kids are aware of all the social injustice plaguing the United States of America.

That’s the only possible explanation for Denver Public Schools’ new teacher evaluation system .

The system will rate teachers as “distinguished” – the highest rating – when they (among other things):
    Encourage students to “challenge and question the dominant culture.”

    Encourage students to take social action to change/ improve society or work for social justice.

    Use Visuals and artifacts to represent various cultures/world groups.

“What exactly does this language mean?” said Pam Benigno, director of the Independence Institute’s Education Policy Center, in a news release “Will 4th graders be taking field trips to Occupy Denver for extra credit?”

Perhaps not “extra credit.” That may be their main assignment for the semester.

This is not the first time such an ideological litmus test has been placed on government school teachers.

The University of Minnesota College of Education took a lot of heat a few years ago, when it was revealed that students had to demonstrate they had “cultural competence” in order to receive their teaching degree.

That meant prospective teachers were required to “accept theories of white privilege, hegemonic masculinity, heteronormativity, and internalized oppression’ develop a positive sense of racial/cultural identity, and recognize that schools are socially constructed systems that are susceptible to racism … but are also critical sites for social and cultural transformation.”

And what do these types of policies lead to? Check out the following story from

“A month or so ago, Sarah Skahan let herself get knocked off her game by a 10-year-old boy.

“The boy, who is African-American, spends time with Skahan, the speech language pathologist at Westview Elementary in Apple Valley, to get support for his learning disability.

“On this particular day he was shading in parts of a map, finishing a geography assignment.

“’Man, I’m never going there,” he snorted as he started coloring Florida.

“Skahan stopped what she was doing and asked him what he knew about Trayvon Martin. Quite a lot, as it turned out. The shooting was a topic of frequent conversation in the boy’s home.

“The two spent time every day for the rest of the week working on a letter to Florida’s attorney general, urging him to prosecute Martin’s killer. When George Zimmerman was taken into custody, the student came to tell Skahan.”

Never mind that Florida’s attorney general is a woman. How does this language pathologist have the right to suggest to a student that a defendant in a criminal case is innocent or guilty? Shouldn’t an educator encourage an interested student to look closely at the case and carefully form an intelligent opinion, instead of clinging to a heated, kneejerk response?

But of course most extreme leftists convicted Zimmerman in their minds within minutes of the shooting, purely based on racial considerations. An alarming number of government school teachers are quite liberal, and they’re becoming a lot less shy about sharing their views with students.

But why should they be shy, when they are encouraged by their employers (and official evaluation systems) to push their views on students?

Who’s willing to bet that Skahan has been evaluated and determined to be a “distinguished” educator?


California community colleges stop offering federal loans

Another good example of "unintended" effects of meddlesome legislation.  The sanctions that have the Community Colleges worried were crafted to hit "for profit" schools

A small but growing number of California community colleges have stopped participating in the federal loan program, cutting off these borrowing options for students out of fear that rising student loan default rates could lead to sanctions.

Some 16 colleges have stopped disbursing the loans, and at least one more school – Bakersfield College – is considering ending its participation in the program. That makes California home to more students without access to federal loans than any other state, according to data collected by the Institute for College Access and Success, an Oakland-based nonprofit.

College officials say they stopped participating in federal loans because they were worried that an increase in student loan defaults would jeopardize their ability to offer federal grants. Colleges where students default on federal loans at high rates for several years in a row stand to lose eligibility for federal grants under sanctions issued by the U.S. Department of Education.

But some advocacy groups and student loan experts say the colleges are exaggerating the risk of sanctions and are unnecessarily pushing students toward more expensive and riskier borrowing options. They say colleges should work to improve their default rates rather than cut off federal loans for students.

“The community colleges in California are at virtually no risk to losing access to Pell grants due to default rates,” said Debbie Cochrane, research director for the Institute for College Access and Success. “Colleges often overstate the risk of being sanctioned due to default rates because they don’t understand that there are protections to avoid those sanctions.”

Sandy Baum, senior fellow at the Graduate School of Education and Human Development at George Washington University, said students who can’t borrow federal loans will use their credit cards or go to private loan markets, where interest rates are higher and the consequences of default are more severe.

“If their default rates are too high, they should figure out why and do something about that, but depriving students of access to those loans is not the best solution,” said Baum, who is also an independent higher education policy analyst.

Two of the three colleges in the Kern Community College District in the southern Central Valley – Porterville College and Cerro Coso Community College – already have pulled out of the federal loan program. The district's board of trustees is considering the same move at its third campus, Bakersfield College.

Of the 1,200 students who borrowed using federal loans at Bakersfield College and started repaying them in 2009, some 28 percent defaulted on those loans within three years, according to district spokeswoman Amber Chiang.

That figure concerned trustees because colleges could lose access to federal grants and loans if that rate hits 30 percent for three years in a row beginning in 2014.

“So many of our students are reliant on free federal aid that we don’t want to make it a gamble,” Chiang said.

But under the federal Higher Education Opportunity Act, colleges where only a small percentage of students borrow with federal loans can successfully appeal these sanctions. Most community colleges have low borrowing rates and would successfully escape the sanctions, according to an April 2011 report [PDF] by the Institute for College Access and Success.

“That organization says, 'You offer so few loans, you won’t be sanctioned,' and our response is: Why would we risk it?” Chiang said.


Student hi-jinks at Oxbridge too

Rather refreshing in the frantically "correct" atmosphere of Britain

For 800 years Oxford and Cambridge have been bywords for academic excellence. Now a dossier of student misdemeanours obtained by The Daily Telegraph suggests their undergraduates take an equally vigorous approach to high jinks.

It charts hundreds of incidents of drunken bad behaviour in the past two years, including dozens of episodes where police and paramedics were called to usually cerebral colleges.

In one instance, a college boat club was banned from drinking at future dinners after parading their newly elected captain naked around a city centre supermarket. Others were giving tickings off for throwing curry and beer in a restaurant, urinating and vomiting "copiously".

The incidents are disclosed in dozens of discipline reports since 2010 released by 15 of the universities’ colleges under Freedom of Information legislation.

They form a colourful account of life at the elite institutions that have moulded 41 prime ministers, including David Cameron.

Students were fined more than £14,000 and made to complete hundreds of hours of community service for the transgressions. College authorities also issued more creative punishments such as banning students from the rugby team and preventing them wearing society insignia.

Cambridge’s Sidney Sussex appeared to have the most outlandish students, or at least the most assiduous record keepers.

Their records charted 44 instances of indiscipline over the period, including students setting off fireworks at 4am and “pennying”, a game played in gowns at a formal dinner that requires undergraduates to down their drink when a coin is thrown into the glass.

The 500-year-old college, which has schooled Oliver Cromwell, Lord Owen and former Countdown presenter Carol Vorderman, also investigated complaints a student had drunkenly assaulted and been “aggressively rude” to a member of staff.

The college’s boat club was a recurrent scourge of the authorities. Last year students were reported to the dean after “general drunken behaviour” at the society’s dinner led to a member collapsing into his own vomit.

The next year the society was asked to draw up a code of conduct after “parading” their captain naked around a branch of Sainsbury’s, ignoring complaints from the college porter and a security guard.

The college’s rugby team also behaved “inexcusably”, after a dozen members stood on tables in a city restaurant, chanting abuse and hurling curry and naan at other customers, “it being a rugby outing”.

They also threw drink at the walls and ceiling before making a hurried exit when they felt “our time in the restaurant was up”.

The party ran back to college where they were questioned by police officers. The college later investigated accusations they threw a bottle of cider at a waiter.

“It apparently never occurred to students that there was something fundamentally wrong with their behaviour,” the report noted.

In other incidents, police were called after two students broke a table in a fight in the college bar, while students were asked to write a letter of apology after being accused of urinating in another college master’s garden.

And an unfortunate student was sent to hospital after impaling his foot on a spike trying to clamber back into the college at 1am in his first week at the university.

At St John’s, Cambridge, 14 students were drunk “to incapacity” in a single year, with three dealt with by paramedics. One was found urinating on the wall outside while police were called at 4.15am when another abused ambulance staff after “vomiting copiously”.

Oxford’s Merton College also suffered “alcohol-induced bad behaviour” including an incident involving the Myrmidons, a notorious dining society founded in 1865, that led officials to ban their summer garden party.

An Oxford University spokeswoman said: “Oxford and Cambridge between them account for tens of thousands of young people, so it is not entirely surprising that incidents of stupid and inappropriate behaviour do come up. When they go too far, they face the consequences.”


Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Teacher caught 'bullying 13-year-old student' in horrifying video allowed to return to the classroom after just 10 DAYS

This shocking video shows the moment a Washington middle school teacher allegedly joined bullies in beating a 13-year-old boy to the ground and physically abusing him.

Shot by a fellow student, the disturbing footage begins with the boy being dragged across a classroom floor by his arms and legs, a sock stuffed in his mouth.

One of the bullies can be heard giggling and yelling 'pull his pants down' to a chorus of laughter from the others.

Students sit around watching, some visibly entertained, not one of them stepping in to help as the boy cowers on the floor.

But what's more shocking to the boys devastated mother, Karla Kinney, is that the teacher, John Rosi, stands idly by and is even seen getting stuck in himself.

Rosi, an 18-year classroom veteran was suspended from his post for 10 days in an agreement that allowed him to avoid losing his job.

Students can be seen at times writing on his feet, putting a pillow over his face and covering him with chairs.

And Rosi, wearing a fluorescent yellow shirt, is captured sitting on a chair with his feet outstretched in front of him, looking relaxed amid the chaos around him.

He reaches out his arms and students lift the boy onto his lap where he lies, helpless, for a few moments before scrambling to the ground.

The abuse continues for around 15 minutes.

'When I drop my kids off I'm dropping them off as a parent handing my kids to a school that is going to take care of them,' Kinney told ABC News.

She said her son was being blamed by other students for their 'popular' teacher being punished, which had led to him saying he 'wanted to kill himself'.

In a letter to investigators Rosi said he did not consider the incident to be bullying.  'I can honestly say that at the time I did not believe that any of the children were at risk of harm during their interactions.  'Nor did I view the incident as anything more than harmless childhood horseplay,' he wrote.

The school concluded that 'pretty significant disciplinary action' was taken against the teacher and he has since been allowed to return to the classroom, much to Kinney's horror.

'I think that somebody who can allow this to happen and participate has no business being in a classroom,' she said.

She added that her son was so traumatised by his ordeal that he is currently in therapy.


British education boss confirms GCSEs (Left-inspired junior High shool exams) will be replaced by more rigorous O-Level (old) style qualifications

Pupils who sat GCSEs this summer were all treated 'unfairly' and the examination will be replaced with a more rigorous qualification similar to O-Levels, Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has confirmed.

The new exam, which could come into force as soon as 2014, would be sat by pupils of all abilities, unlike O-Levels which were taken by only the most academically able while other pupils were awarded CSEs.

The use of modular assessments, where pupils' work is graded throughout the school year rather than in a written examination in June, could be phased out for English GCSE by the summer.

Mr Gove said that all those who took GCSEs were treated unjustly, and not just those who narrowly missed out on a passing C grade due to tougher marking.

But he refused to intervene to order Ofqual, the exam regulator, to re-mark the papers of those who felt that they had received an incorrect grade. And he denied ordering tougher marking for this summer's examinations, saying that it would be inappropriate for ministers to interfere.

Labour accused the Education Secretary of abandoning this year's GCSE pupils, and called for the exam papers to be reviewed. Mr Gove said that it had been impossible to prevent GCSEs from going ahead this summer, despite doubts over the rigour of the examination because plans had already been made for pupils to sit them before the current government came to power.

He announced that a consultation into the new exam would be ordered this autumn, with legislation following soon afterwards.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, he said: “I have an enormous amount of sympathy for young people who sat GCSEs in English this year – I feel they were let down. And they were let down because the examination that they sat was designed in a way which I don’t think was entirely fair to them.”

On Radio 4's Today Programme, he added: "It reinforces the case for reform in GCSEs. My heart goes out to those who sat their exams this summer because I don't think the examination was designed in the most appropriate way. There were inherent problems with the system.

"In fact, what we need to do is replace GCSEs with new exams. I think everyone who sat the exam was treated in a way that wasn't fair.

"It is absolutely right that everyone should be treated fairly ... but it would be absolutely wrong for me to give instructions to Oqual."

Asked on BBC Breakfast if he ordered this summer's tests to be judged more harshly than those who sat the same exam in January, he said: "I made it clear that no pressure was put by central Government, by me or any other minister, on any exam board.

"How each exam paper is marked and how the marks are allocated is ultimately a decision for the exam boards. I cannot interfere in that process."

Stephen Twigg, the shadow education secretary, accused Mr Gove of abandoning candidates who had missed out on a passing grade in English this summer, when they may have received a higher mark had they sat the exam in January.

Calling for the papers to be re-marked, he said: "He is responsible as Secretary of State to bang heads together. Clearly there has been a failure here by the system.  "I simply do not think it is good enough to link this to the need for reforms but that doesn't address the concerns of students."

Mr Gove said that the new examination would be designed to be taken by the "full ability range" with top grades awarded to only the most outstanding candidates.

"The aim is to ensure that we have an examination which recognises the genuinely academically gifted by recognising that someone who gets an A is clearly a high flier.  "It is important that there is a discrimination between the top grades and the pass grades.

"It is vital that we move away from exams that, so far as we have seen in the course of the last few weeks, haven't worked and haven't served pupils well."

Mr Gove also suggested for the first time that less able pupils could delay sitting the new examination until they reach the age of 17 or 18, rather than during the summer of the academic year in which they turn 16 as the vast majority of GCSE candidates do, and those taking O-Levels and CSEs did.


I will boost school rankings - Australian PM

Empty promises.  Ever if she were to survive the next election, pouring money in is a tried and failed strategy.  Better discipline is what is needed

THE Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, will pledge today to elevate the international standing of Australian schools so they rank among the top five systems in the world by 2025. The plan is part of the new school funding system her government intends to make law before the next election.

In the government's response to the Gonski review of school funding, Ms Gillard will announce a plan for an ''Australian Education Act'' to enshrine the new funding model, meaning an incoming Coalition government would have to repeal the law if it wanted to return to the present model, its preferred system.

''By 2025, Australia should be ranked as a top-five country in the world for the performance of our students in reading, science and mathematics and for providing our children with a high-quality and high-equity education system,'' Ms Gillard is expected to say in a speech setting up school funding as a key platform for the next election.

Ms Gillard will outline what she says are the three main deficiencies: that although four of the top five schooling systems in the world are in our region, Australia is not among them; that poor Australian children have disproportionately low educational performances; and that as a country we are ''failing'' indigenous students.

The review called for $5 billion in extra funding but the government has so far refused to detail how much money it will tip into the new system. It and the Coalition have promised that no school will lose money.

But the government, unlike the Coalition, is committed to the funding principle the Gonski report recommends, where a base amount for each student is topped up if the student is disadvantaged or disabled.

While Ms Gillard will argue today that the new model ''strips away all the old debates about private versus public'', in essence it means public schools will receive more funding because they educate more disadvantaged children than private schools do.

The present funding model, under which each school gets money based on the socio-economic background of its students, will expire next year. The new model will begin in 2014. At present, funding is indexed at about 6 per cent a year.

The transition to the new system will not be complete until 2020 and will depend on the co-operation of the states. The government has not said what indexation the funding will attract.

The NSW Minister for Education, Adrian Piccoli, said yesterday the states had a limited ability to raise revenue and would not support a new system unless the Commonwealth provided most of the extra cash.

''Any significant increase in schools funding has to be largely funded by the Commonwealth,'' Mr Piccoli said. ''That discussion hasn't begun. We are in a pretty tight situation as it is.''

The Commonwealth now provides 30 per cent of schools funding and states give the rest.


Monday, September 03, 2012

Gallup: Americans Rate Public Schools the Worst Place to Educate Children

A new Gallup poll released today indicates that Americans rate public schools the worst place to educate children.

In the national survey conducted Aug. 9-12, private independent schools, parochial and church-related schools, charter schools and home-schooling all rated higher than public schools.

Gallup interviewers asked respondents: "I'm going to read a list of ways in which children are educated in the U.S. today. As I read each one, please indicate--based on what you know or have read and heard--how good an education each provides children--excellent, good, only fair, or poor. How about: public schools, parochial or church-related schools, independent private schools, charter schools, or home-schooling?"

Only 5 percent said they believe public schools give children an excellent eduction.

Another 32 percent said they believe public schools give children a good education. But this combined 37 percent who said public schools give children an excellent or good education was the lowest among the different types of schools Gallup included in its survey.

Americans ranked independent private schools highest, with 31 percent saying they provide an excellent education and 47 percent saying they provide a good education--for a combined 78 percent who say they provide an excellent or good education.

Parochial and church-related schools ranked second, with 21 percent saying they provide an excellent education and 48 percent saying they provide a good education--for a combined 69 percent who say they provide an excellent or good education.


The coming qualifications revolution

Comment from Britain

A new generation of qualifications has recently emerged in the global IT sector, which operate very differently from our traditional GCSE’s and A Levels.  For example, Microsoft Learning is now a global leader in IT qualifications and they offer a wide range of Microsoft Certifications which provide individuals with technical expertise and prove their ability to design and build innovative solutions across multiple technologies.  Due to the rapid rate of change in this sector, new Microsoft qualifications are continuously being introduced and existing qualifications revised.  Some certifications are retired when Microsoft ends its support for the related technology and others must be updated every three years by taking a refresh exam.  This generates additional income for the company, enables students to keep up to date on the latest developments in the field and ensures that potential employers have confidence that someone who holds a Microsoft Certification is current and engaged with Microsoft technologies.  In short the value and the relevance of the qualification are maintained over time.

The branding of these new qualifications is also significant because the quality and reputation of the qualification is now inextricably linked with the quality and reputation of the parent company.  Therefore any criticism of the Microsoft Certification will have a negative impact on the corporate image of Microsoft itself, which places pressure on the company to continuously maintain and improve the quality of its qualifications by investing in research and development and experimenting with new and better ways of delivery.  Further pressure comes from existing and any future competitors from around the world which may introduce a superior alternative at any time.  Again, all of these pressures help to maintain the value and the relevance of the qualification.

Because the government uses examination results as a key measure of a schools performance, schools respond by teaching to the test and by choosing the exam board which has the highest pass rate, i.e the easiest exams.  You therefore end up with a race to the bottom with each private exam company competing to provide the easiest exams. Children continue to get better exam results, schools continue to climb the league table and the government can boast of helping to improve standards across the board.  And when people begin to highlight the blatantly obvious, that despite increasing grades, children appear to be less educated than half a century ago, the private companies which provide the curriculum and the exams can simply hide behind the cover of the government and its generic GCSE qualification, which now attract most of the criticism.  As a result the branding of the company remains intact, while the value of the GCSE continues to decline, until it becomes worthless.

Thankfully, a new generation of specialist qualifications may soon begin to appear in more traditional subjects across the curriculum, as a variety of world class companies and organisations begin to offer their own branded certificates, in the subject areas in which they specialise.   For example, Pfizer could provide qualifications in the sciences, Khan Academy on maths, Pearson on English, Adobe on web design, Virgin on entrepreneurship, Google on utilising the internet, National Geographic on geography, the British Museum on history, the Economist on economics, Fitness First on sport, Jamie Oliver on home economics, Office Angels on how to get a job, Marks and Spencer on customer service and Greenpeace on the environment.  The list is endless.

This unbundling of the school into different subject areas helps to redefine the school as a mechanism that provides students with an assortment of services instead of delivering an indivisible package of education.  We can then start to disentangle the components of that package and customise them to fit specific student needs and abilities.  Choice, variety and specialisation will therefore begin to increase within each school, and each school will now be in a position to offer their students a variety of different courses and qualifications.  With the use of online technology this increasing variety and customisation of children’s education is now much more affordable and this will also encourage a new blended style of learning that combines the classroom with an online experience.

This unbundling of the school will certainly appeal to those parents who live in areas where there is a lack of alternative schools to choose from or who may not want to disrupt their children’s education by transferring them to a different school.  Instead, if they are not satisfied with their child’s progress in a particular subject then they will now have the opportunity to choose between a variety of different educational programmes and qualifications within the same school.  Therefore the goal for customised, unbundled school reform is not to develop a new model of what a good school should look like but to create a flexible system that enables schools and a variety of specialist content providers to meet a variety of needs in increasingly effective and targeted ways.

The end result is that children would not simply graduate after 11 years of schooling with a single certificate which lists the subjects studied and the corresponding A-F grade.  Instead they would graduate with a portfolio of branded qualifications which have real meaning in the outside world and which provide useful information concerning the knowledge and skills acquired by each student.   However, unlike traditional qualifications these branded qualifications will not hold their value for ever but will expire after a certain period of time unless a refresh exam is taken.  This is the only way to guarantee that the qualification holds its value and remains relevant over time, thereby protecting the brand image of both the qualification and the parent company.


Bad teachers 'blight children’s futures',  warns British education boss

Under-performing teachers are to be weeded out under new powers given to inspectors to scrutinise them and heads to have them sacked.

The powers, which come into force this week were described as “zero tolerance” by Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, and now put teachers under an unprecedented level of scrutiny.

Under new rules which come into force from tomorrow (MONDAY), Ofsted, the school inspectors, will toughen up its regime significantly.

Head teachers will get less than 24 hours notice of an Ofsted visit, while inspection teams will observe more classes, listen to pupils read, monitor behaviour and check payrolls to ensure the salaries of weak teachers reflects their performance.

There is concern that performance bonuses are being given to undeserving teachers.

At the same time as the new Ofsted regime comes into force, Government rules designed to tackle substandard teachers take effect.

Heads and governors will be able to sack the worst-performing staff in just a term – rather than a year - under new “capability” procedures.

Teachers have far greater rights to keep their jobs than most other workers, and unions have zealously defended procedures which mean just a handful have ever been sacked for incompetence.

A three hour a year limit on the amount of time head teachers could spend observing a teacher’s lessons has also been scrapped, allowing them to go in to classrooms as often as they like to root out low quality teaching.

Mr Gove promised “zero tolerance” of poor teachers.

“We’ve got a great generation of young teachers but every hour a child spends with a bad teacher blights their future,” he said.

“No parent would willingly tolerate bad teaching for their child and this government believes in zero tolerance for classroom failure. That is why we are changing the rules to give heads the power to ensure every child gets a fair chance.”

Out of the 5,000 schools inspected last year, 36 per cent of primary schools and 34 per cent of secondaries were deemed “satisfactory” or below. The quality of teaching was not good enough in 38 per cent and poor in 3 per cent.

In one of the biggest changes to the Ofsted regime, children of all ages in primary school will read to inspectors.

The measure is an attempt to stop pupils arriving at secondary school unable to learn because their reading is not good enough.

It follows concerns from parents that primary teachers are failing to listen to their children read one-to-one and instead depend on teaching assistants and group reading.

Guidance for inspectors in synthetic phonics, the method to teach reading favoured by the Government which breaks down words in to their constituent sounds, reveals that they will even assess how well teachers “articulate and mouth” the sounds of letters.

Teachers will be marked down if children answer questions by a general “hands up”, rather than being picked out for an individual response, or if phonics lessons are too slow.

Schools with mediocre teaching, previously rated “satisfactory”, will no longer be able to coast. Any schools judged to be below a good standard will be told to improve and reinspected within two years.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector of schools, said: “From this week, school inspections will further challenge schools to ensure a good education is provided for all our children.

"I make no apology for introducing an inspection framework that raises expectations and focuses on the importance of teaching. The new short-notice inspections allow inspectors to see schools as they really are.

“I believe all children, regardless of where they live or what their parents can afford for them, have the right to a good education and that belief is at the heart of our work at Ofsted.”

Teachers pay arrangements will also be checked. Inspectors will look for a “strong link” between a teacher’s appraisal and where they are on the salary scale, suggesting that poorly rated teachers should be paid less than their stronger colleagues.

Earlier this year, Sir Michael said heads needed to be tough enough to warn teachers whose performance was not up to scratch that they would be subjected to a pay freeze.

“There is nothing more infuriating than a really good teacher who goes the extra mile seeing somebody else getting the same pay rise as him for no effort,” he told a conference.

Teachers have accused Mr Gove and Sir Michael of creating a climate of fear in schools. They have also criticised the competence of inspectors.

Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “No other profession would accept this level of scrutiny and mistrust.

“As professionals, teachers should obviously be accountable but new proposals on appraisal and capability procedures alongside new rules on teacher observation have little to do with raising standards.

"They will simply de-motivate teachers and risk them leaving the profession.”


Sunday, September 02, 2012

Sweden to cut dropout rate by shortening school for dummies
Sweden has a center-Right government at the moment

The government's new plan to shorten high school by introducing a short vocational programme for those ”lacking the prerequisites” to finish a full three-year programme, has met with staunch critique from opposition politicians.

”Björklund is playing Russian Roulette with the kids,” said Jabar Amin, spokesperson on education for the Green Party, to news agency TT.

The government has only recently launched the new Swedish high school (gymnasium) curriculum but is already planning new changes.

At the ministry of education a proposal is being prepared for a shorter high school programme for those that are tired of studying.  The idea behind the scheme is for the students to plan their own courses and opt out of theoretical studies altogether, according to daily Svenska Dagbladet (SvD).

Minister for education, Jan Björklund, is hoping that the reform will decrease the high school dropout rate in Sweden. ”This is a method we should try . More than 10,000 young kids drop out of high school every year and several thousands do so by the first year. They often step straight into unemployment. It is better if a student graduates from a shorter programme than if they drop out and become unemployed,” said Björklund to SvD.

But not everyone agrees with the minister's new scheme to shorten high school for those who ”lack the prerequisites” to finish a three year high school programme.

”It is scandalous for the government and the Liberal party to not uphold their responsibility to educate the children; to say that tens of thousands of Swedish kids lack what it takes to finish high school. It is shifting the focus from the government's own failure,” he said.

Björklund claims that the graduates from the shorter programme would be a sought after group on the labour market. ”There are professions in Sweden where you would be qualified to work, if you have gained a vocational qualification,” Björklund told SvD.

However, Amin thinks that Björklund is playing a dangerous game with the teenagers education.  ”He doesn't know that, he thinks that. What guarantees does he have that they will be employed,” he asked TT.

Rossana Dinamarca of the Left Party is also critical of Björklund's reasoning.

”The government has already undermined the vocational programmes by removing essential parts of Swedish, English, social sciences and maths. Now they are taking another step toward not helping these kids,” Dinamarca told TT.

She thinks that what is needed is more support both in primary and secondary school.

”The goal should be that everyone will get there, not lowering standards and tricking the kids to leave. What kind of a labour market is there for those that graduate with too little knowledge?” Dinamara said to TT.


Ariz. Governor Signs Bill to Allow Bible Classes in Public Schools

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has signed into law a bill that allows the establishing of elective classes that focus on the Bible and its influence on western civilization.

Sponsored by State Representative Terri Proud, House Bill 2563 was passed by a 21 to 9 vote in the state Senate last Thursday and signed by Brewer on Tuesday.

According to HB 2563, "A school district or charter school may offer an elective course pertaining to how the Bible has influenced western culture for pupils in grades nine through twelve."

"A teacher who instructs a course offered under this section in its appropriate historical context and in good faith shall be immune from civil liability and disciplinary action," reads the bill.

The Bible class elective would teach students, among other things, "the contents of the Old Testament and the New Testament," "the history recorded by the Old Testament and the New Testament," and the "influence of the Old Testament and the New Testament on laws, history, government, literature, art, music, customs, morals, values and culture."

HB 2563 was not without its critics, as church-state groups like Americans United for the Separation of Church and State openly opposed the bill's passage. Joe Conn, spokesman for Americans United, told The Christian Post that he was "disappointed" by the signing of the bill.

"This bill is not about improving academic achievement; it's about introducing religious indoctrination into the schools and currying favor with conservative religious voters," said Conn.

"I think most public schools will decide not to offer Bible courses. They are already strapped for funds, so I doubt if they'll want to use scarce resources to intervene in such a controversial topic."

While Conn believes that the "Bible obviously played an important role in history," he also felt that having a social studies class about it would be difficult given the many Bible translations and interpretations.

"Many…denominations use different versions of the Bible and come to dramatically different theological understandings about what it means," said Conn.

"It is very difficult for a public school to teach about the Bible without wandering into constitutional and religious difficulties."

Rep. Proud, the chief sponsor of the bill, told CP in an earlier interview that she "worked with various attorneys and other individuals to ensure this bill is constitutionally sound."

"Many professors from various universities like Harvard, Yale etc. have stated that biblical knowledge is a key factor to a successful education," said Proud.

"As the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly said: '[It] might well be said that one's education is not complete without a study of comparative religion, or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization.'"

With the bill now officially a law, Arizona becomes the sixth state to allow school districts to create elective classes studying the Bible. The other states are Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and South Carolina.


Senior Tory attacks 'perverse' rules on grammar (selective) schools

Coalition education reforms that block the opening of wholly new grammar schools in England are “perverse”, a leading Tory backbencher warned today.

Graham Brady, chairman of the influential 1922 Committee, said he strongly endorsed plans to devolve power over state education away from civil servants towards local communities.

As many as 50 new “free schools” are due to open next month as state funded institutions run by parents’ groups and charities independent of local council control.

But he criticised existing rules that block new-style schools from staging admissions tests, despite powerful parental support for academic selection.

Mr Brady, the MP for Altrincham and Sale West, also claimed that attitudes towards grammar schools were stuck “in a time warp” and failed to appreciate the modern realities of a selective system.

The few grammar schools remaining in England are now seen as elitist and “ultra-selective” simply because so many parents are scrambling to secure places for their children, he added.

The comments, in an interview for the New Statesman magazine, come amid ongoing debate over academic selection in the state education system.

Currently, just 164 grammars remain in England after the majority of schools were converted into mixed-ability comprehensives in the 60s and 70s.

Labour introduced legislation in 1998 banning the opening of any more selective schools. In a controversial move, the change was endorsed by the Conservative front bench a decade later, prompting Mr Brady’s resignation as the then shadow Europe minister.

In recent months, some councils have attempted to use loopholes in the schools admissions code to expand the number of grammar places – building “annexes” of existing schools in new towns several miles away.

But Mr Brady said this failed to go far enough as it still blocked any expansion in areas that failed to contain existing grammar schools.  “You can select for a ballet school, or for a music college, but if you say, ‘We’d like a school that specialises in the more academic end of the scale,’ then that’s forbidden except in those places where it already exists,” he said.

He added: “The logic of what the government is doing with education – and I very strongly endorse it – is actually to transfer the power and the choice away from the government and give it far more genuinely to communities and parents to choose the kind of schools they want.  “It’s in that context that it is more perverse than ever that the government then prohibits [one of the choices].”

In further comments, Mr Brady admitted that some of the few remaining grammar schools had been forced to become “ultra-selective” because of sheer competition for places among parents.

In parts of London, some grammar schools receive as many as 10 applications for every place.

“When there’s just the one grammar school with a population of 200,000 or half a million people seeking places at schools, [grammars] become ultra-selective,” he said.

He added: "The more I’ve been involved in the debate about the selective system, the more it becomes clear to me that, for a great many people discussing this issue, [they] are doing so in a time warp – they are debating the selective system as it was 40 years ago."