Friday, October 12, 2012

Richmond Public Schools and  Massive Hotel Costs

As a part of EAGnews’ continuing school spending series, we revealed that the Richmond, Virginia school district spent a whopping $448,997 on hotels and $135,761 on a California-based travel agency in 2010-11.

The title of the series is “Where Your School Dollars Go…” and the educrats running the show in Richmond can’t seem to come up with a straight answer for that question. Maybe that’s why government schools never seem to have enough money.

CBS 6 reporter Sandra Jones broke the exclusive story Friday. At that time, district spokesperson Felicia Cosby told CBS 6:

“The information reported by EAG is not accurate. The organization requested a check registry which lists payments to vendors including pass-thru activities from state-operated and other programs…for which we are the fiscal agent, including the Math, Science and Innovation Center and the Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School. Therefore, the list does not correlate to the district’s spending activity.”

But five days later, Richmond Times-Dispatch reported:

“Cosby said school system finance officials were working to match payments to accounts but that the process ‘would be time consuming.’ She did not have a timeframe for when that process would be complete.”

She also said our report lacked “context.” In what context is it appropriate for a school district – or any public entity, for that matter - to spend over $600,000 on expensive hotels and resorts?

After paying $198 dollars to obtain the initial spending information, we sought answers on our own for the questionable spending. But the school district wanted to charge us another $62 for explanations regarding the spending we uncovered. So we let the dollar figures speak for themselves and left school officials to deal with the local media.

School board member Kim B. Gray raised an excellent point when she was asked about the spending and said she was amazed it would take any time at all for officials to track the reasons for the expenditures.

"In the computer and information age, it should already be there. Congress has a search engine for every travel expense. If Congress can do it, with billions of dollars at stake, the school division certainly can," she told the Times-Dispatch.

We have allowed government schools to operate like this for years. They jet staff off to four- and five-star resorts because “a grant” is paying for it, but in the next breath lay off teachers and cut student programming. It is a culture of out-of-control spending with little accountability that has created this situation.

This developing story should put other districts on notice: we’re watching, we’re digging and we’re going to expose the spending problem plaguing government schools.


Philadelphia Teacher Turned Citizen Mission into a Joke

The mission statement of Philadelphia's Charles Carroll High School, displayed prominently on its website, offers a hopeful vision of an educational institution:

“Providing all students with the academic, technological & social skills needed to be productive & contributing citizens in our society.”

This week, the specific mention of “social skills” and citizenship likely sounds like mockery to Charles Carroll sophomore Samantha Pawlucy and her family.

In an episode that has prompted national attention, Samantha was the victim of intimidation by her geometry teacher, Lynette Gaymon, who claims to have been “joking” when she ridiculed the girl for wearing a Romney/Ryan T-shirt during the school's Sept. 28 dress-down day.

Suffice to say this isn’t the sort of interaction with a teacher that encourages students toward more competent social skills and productive citizenship.

The incident is unfolding as you might expect, given the divisiveness of our political climate — and given that it’s Philadelphia. After keeping their daughter home to allow her time to recover from the embarrassing encounter, her parents met with Ms. Gaymon and school administrators.

The teacher issued an apology, but Richard Pawlucy, Samantha’s father, said Ms. Gaymon’s apology didn’t ring sincere.

She maintained that she was only making a joke and said she was sorry that Samantha didn’t pick up on it. She wasn’t serious, she claimed, when she told the student to change into another shirt, or when she asked the girl whether her parents were Republicans, or when she declared that the school was “Democratic.”

Of course, she was just yukking it up when she told Samantha — in front of the entire class — that wearing a Romney/Ryan T-shirt was akin to wearing a Ku Klux Klan T-shirt.

The punch line to this teacher’s stand-up comedy routine? “Get out of the classroom.”  Head smack! Now I get it.

In a world of racial “dog whistles” that telegraph accusations of racism to those with sensitive ears, the KKK comment was more like a Jumbo-tron flashing the charge, “Your T-shirt tells me you’re a racist.” It was a powerfully intimidating comment from a black teacher to a white student.

Samantha returned to class Tuesday with the support of a Republican rally in front of Charles Carroll before the school day began. She read aloud the First Amendment to the Constitution and led the flag-waving crowd in a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. While fellow students have rallied around her teacher, Samantha is standing up for her right to free speech.

What is unconscionable is that it is even necessary that she take such a stand in an American public school, where the free exchange of ideas and opinions could, and should, feed young peoples’ interest in our political system.

Sadly, the Lynette Gaymons are increasingly the rule that proves the exception. Although college professors long have been guilty of using the power of the classroom to strong-arm their students into intellectual submission, a growing number of high school teachers — especially those teaching in urban classrooms — serve as foot soldiers in the army of the left.

It’s no wonder, really. Progressives have controlled our schools for some 80 years. Upon graduating and becoming certified to teach, the first thing an educator must do to get a job in a public school is to join a teachers union, whose mission isn’t to improve American education but rather to advance its leftist political agenda.

The system is set up to feed people with Ms. Gaymon’s biased worldview directly into our nation’s classrooms, where indoctrination is the order of the day. “Subtlety of messaging” obviously is not among the lessons Ms. Gaymon learned in her methods classes.

In my experience, a teenager who is politically engaged enough to choose a presidential candidate, wear a T-shirt and fight for her right to free speech generally is more informed than most adults who are eligible to vote.

Samantha clearly is an example of the sort of student who exemplifies her school’s mission, despite a teacher who proves it sometimes fails dismally


Thousands more British graduates forced to accept menial jobs as bosses demand degrees for low-skilled work

Tens of thousands of graduates are accepting menial jobs as rising numbers of bosses demand degrees for low-skilled work, a report has found.

The expansion of higher education has led to employers requiring degrees for jobs that would once have been snapped up by those with few qualifications, according to the Higher Education Careers Services Unit.

Researchers tracked graduates who left university last summer and analysed how many were in graduate and non-graduate roles six months on.

They found a six per cent increase in the numbers taking non-graduate jobs, from 57,910 last year to 61,395. Roles included classroom assistants and junior clerical workers.

However the numbers finding graduate jobs - which range from senior management to graphic designers - only rose 4.2 per cent, from 100,265 to 104,455.

The report said the increase in graduates in lower-skilled roles was partly down to the gradual rise in the overall numbers being churned out by universities.

This was leading to 'credentialism', where employers over-emphasise the importance of degrees.

However the report said it was still better to be a graduate than not.  'Graduates earn more over time than non-graduates, and are less likely to be unemployed the longer they have been out of education,' said the report, titled What Graduates Do.

'Although graduates may begin in non-graduate level employment six months after graduation, they move up the ladder relatively quickly, often within months.'

The report found that the overall employment rate for recent graduates dipped slightly compared with last year, with 61.8 per cent in work agains 62.2 per cent of the class of 2010.  The unemployment rate rose slightly, from 8.5 per cent to 8.6 per cent, while most of the rest were in further study.

More graduates were classed as being self-employed.

Salaries remained consistent, with the average salary for graduates employed full-time recorded as £19,935.

The figures show a revival in the engineering and IT job markets but the continuing impact of public sector cuts.

Fewer graduates went into admin jobs in health and education and there are also fewer front-line jobs such as occupational therapists, physiotherapists, medical radiographers, secondary and primary school teachers, probation officers and social workers.

Charlie Ball, deputy research director at HECSU, said: 'When graduates from 2011 left university, the labour market was difficult, as the UK economy struggled with negative growth and a dip back into recession.

'In spite of this and the trouble in the Eurozone, over 166,000 of last year’s graduates were known to be working in the UK six months after leaving university - nearly 8,000 more than the previous year.

'Many of the jobs created during the recession have been with smaller firms and therefore, when looking for vacancies, graduates should not just focus on large organisations but widen their search, taking advantage of local information, careers services and informal contacts.

'The figures show that even in difficult times, graduates can and do get jobs. Students need to prepare for a difficult jobs market, but there are opportunities out there, so don’t give up hope.'


Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Exhaustion of the American Teacher

With the 2012-2013 American school year still in its infancy, it’s worthwhile to note that the people doing the actual educating are down in the dumps. Many feel more beaten down this year than last. Some are walking into their classrooms unsure if this is still the job for them. Their hearts ache with a quiet anguish that’s peculiarly theirs. They’ve accumulated invisible scars from years of trying to educate the increasingly hobbled American child effectively enough that his international test scores will rival those of children flourishing in wealthy, socially-advanced Scandinavian nations and even wealthier Asian city-states where tiger moms value education like American parents value fast food and reality TV.

The American child has changed, and not necessarily for the better. Many shrill voices argue that teachers must change, too, by simply working harder. The favored lever for achieving this prescribed augmentation of the American schoolteacher’s work ethic is fear, driven by a progressively more precarious employment situation.

But teachers by and large aren’t afraid; they’re just tired.

Meanwhile, no one is demanding American non-teachers change anything. Michelle Rhee wastes none of her vast supply of indignation on American public policies that leave a quarter of our children in poverty while, not coincidentally, the profits of Rhee’s corporate backers reach new heights. And no one but Paul Tough dares to hint at the obvious-but-politically-incorrect reality that a swelling army of kid-whipped or addiction-addled American parents have totally abdicated the job of parenting and have raised the white flag when it comes to disciplining their children or teaching them virtues like honesty, hard work, and self-respect. Americans have explicitly handed off character education to schoolteachers. Such a practice says a great deal about our nation’s expectations of its parents.

The problem with the American student of 2012 isn’t as cartoonishly simple as evil unions protecting bad teachers. Nor is it as abstract and intractable as poverty. The problem is as complex, concrete, and confront-able as the squalor and neglect and abuse and addiction that envelope too many American children from the time they step outside the schoolhouse door at 3:30pm until the moment they return for their free breakfast the next morning. Meanwhile, the campaign to understate the impact of devastating home and neighborhood factors on the education of our children has done little more than curtail any urgency to address those factors. “No excuses” hampers the development of a holistic wraparound approach that would foster education by addressing real needs rather than ideological wants, because it holds that such needs are mere pretexts and not actual challenges worthy of confronting.

Like many educators, I’ve smelled on my students the secondhand drugs that fill too many of their homes with bitterness and want. There is sometimes a literal pungency to low academic performance that remedial classes won’t scrub from our kids. But it isn’t kosher to declare that any parent is failing. And it isn’t okay to note that some families are disasters. So out of courtesy, the liberal says the problem is poverty and the conservative says it’s unions.

Truth is, the problem with the American student is the American adult. Deadbeat dads, pushover moms, vulgar celebrities, self-interested politicians, depraved ministers, tax-sheltering CEOs, steroid-injecting athletes, benefit-collecting retirees who vote down school taxes, and yes, incompetent teachers—all take their turns conspiring to neglect the needs of the young in favor of the wants of the old. The line of malefactors stretches out before our children; they take turns dealing them drugs, unhealthy foods, skewed values messages, consumerist pap, emotional and physical and sexual traumas, racist messages of aspersion for their cultures, and countless other strains of vicious disregard. Nevertheless, many pundits and politicians are happy to train their rhetorical fire uniquely on the teachers, and the damnable hive-feast on the souls of our young continues unabated. We’re told not to worry because good teachers will simply overcome this American psychic cannibalism and drag our hurting children across the finish line ahead of the Finnish lions.

Yeah, right.

Today, teachers across the land dutifully cast their seeds on ever-rockier ground. We were all told that a mind is a terrible thing to waste, and we all became adamant about education; but no one told us not to waste kids’ hearts or weaken their spines or soften their guts, and we long ago abandoned our traditional cultural expectations for children’s formation. I’m not calling for picket fences and Leave it to Beaver; I’m calling for childhoods that aren’t dripping with pain and disenchantment and a huge chasm where there should have been character-building experiences from the age of zero to five. That aren’t marked by an empty space where there should have been a disciplinarian. And a gap where there should have been a rocking chair and a soft lap waiting when the child was hurting. I am referring to missing ingredients that I now recognize as the absolute essentials, things I took for granted when I was too young to realize I had won the parent lottery.

Adults—not merely teachers—have caused these little ones to stumble, but journalists and nonprofits and interloping government experts offer not a hand to the young but rather a cat-of-nine-tails across the backs of their teachers. Injustice for teachers is confused with justice for kids.


TX: Crooked educators in El Paso

The El Paso Independent School District could risk additional sanctions if it does not discipline employees who cheated students out of a proper education, the state's top education official said Tuesday.

Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams, in his first interview about the cheating scandal at the district since being appointed to lead the agency last month, said he is outraged by the actions taken by former Superintendent Lorenzo García and his accomplices to rig the testing system that determines if schools are up to par. He said that interim Superintendent Vern Butler and the school board must make "hard decisions that relate to the people who were involved in this controversy" or the state agency will take action.

"The superintendent and the school board are going to be given some period of time to make the right decisions with regard to the people who were or could have been involved in this controversy," Williams said.

"At the end of that period of time -- I'm not going to tell you when it is -- but at the end of that period of time, I will make a decision if they have not."

Williams did not specify which decisions the district needed to make, but EPISD Trustee David Dodge said that the state agency last month provided the district with a list of names of employees who should be fired as a result of the cheating scandal. Dodge declined to name the employee at the state agency who provided the list of names or to say which employees were on that list.

"They wanted these people fired within one or two weeks," Dodge said. He added that the district has been disputing the measures because officials did not believe they had enough evidence to take such action.

Williams will speak about the cheating scandal in El Paso and about other education issues at a town-hall meeting today that is being hosted by state Rep. Dee Margo, R-El Paso. The event will be at 10 a.m. today at El Paso Community College's Administrative Services Center, 9050 Viscount.

García, the district's former superintendent, was sentenced last week to three and half years in federal prison after he pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, including scheming with six unnamed people to rig the federal accountability system. The scheme targeted students at low-performing campuses to boost graduation rates and sophomore scores on the test by kicking some out of school, preventing others from enrolling and holding foreign students in the ninth grade for a year no matter how many credits they had earned.

Investigating wrongdoing

District officials have repeatedly said they do not plan to conduct their own investigation into the cheating and do not expect to take action against any employees who might have participated in the scheme until the FBI and the U.S. Department of Education release the findings of their investigations.

Dodge blamed the FBI for the district's past decisions not to pursue its own investigation. He said the EPISD had been kept from conducting an investigation by the FBI but he said the federal agency gave the district the go-ahead about two to three weeks ago after the Texas Education Agency called on the district to fire several employees.

"We went back to the FBI and we said we're between a rock and a hard place now, what do you want us to do, and they said, 'Well, we think that our case is solid enough. We've got enough evidence. We don't think you're going to screw this up by bumbling around, so you can do the things that you want to do.' "

Dodge said the district is now beginning its own investigation, which will require interviews, record-gathering and building a case against some employees who "may or may not be of interest to the FBI but are of great interest to us in ensuring that we have educators that are following the ethics of their profession."

"We're getting started, but you've got to realize that we're a school district," Dodge said. "We're investigating, we're interviewing, but this isn't our only job like the FBI."

FBI officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

Debbie Ratcliffe, spokeswoman for TEA, said she is not aware of any directive from the state agency to the school district to fire specific employees. She said the agency has asked the district to investigate those employees who have publicly confessed to wrongdoing and decide what to do about them, but "as far as I have been able to determine, we haven't said here is a list of people to fire."

Butler, the district's third interim superintendent since García's arrest in August 2011, said he had not received a directive from TEA to fire employees.

Butler on Tuesday also seemed to contradict Dodge's comments about the school district beginning its own investigation into wrongdoing. He said he had received no authorization to conduct an investigation to identify employees who participated in the cheating, and he said he was still waiting on federal authorities to release findings before taking action. "I certainly don't want to go in and step into something when I don't have basically the authority at that level," Butler said.


How to encourage students' misbehaviour:  British Teacher who grabbed a pupil, 16, after he threw a banana milkshake over him was correctly fired, tribunal rules

A teacher who manhandled a student after the teenager hurled a banana milkshake at him along with a torrent of abuse has lost his claim for unfair dismissal.

Robert Cox, 59, was sacked by governors at Bemrose School in Derby after he was caught on CCTV aggressively pinning the 16-year-old's arms to his sides in March 2011.

Mr Cox claimed he'd been unfairly dismissed, but a Nottingham employment tribunal upheld the school's decision, claiming the teacher's reaction to the milkshake-throwing was over-the-top.

'The witness statements from Mr Cox's colleagues indicated that his behaviour had been inappropriate and excessive,' the tribunal chairman said.  He added that it was 'reasonable' for governors to believe he had 'escalated the situation'.

Headteacher Jo Ward said the school was thrilled the tribunal agreed Mr Cox's actions amounted to gross misconduct.  'We had no option but to dismiss him,' she said.

'Two different ruling panels of governors at Bemrose School, whose members included parents and trade union members, were unanimous in their belief that Mr Cox's actions went far beyond restraining the pupil.

'Mr Cox was observed on CCTV pushing the pupil down into the chair repeatedly with excessive force - enough force to move a large dining room table and chairs several feet.'

But the IT teacher, who claimed he tried to commit suicide after losing his job, said he wanted the decision reviewed and was considering a further appeal.  He said: 'It was impossible to walk away from a situation where someone was threatening to throw a chair and it would have been negligent to ignore it.

'There were plenty of witnesses to what happened and for some reason they weren’t called but I want to speak to them. 'I think this judgment sends out a message to pupils that they can do what they want to get a teacher sacked and this leaves staff in a very vulnerable position.

'The school has completely ignored the Government's guidelines, which start with the premise that a teacher should be supported in these circumstances.'

During the unfair dismissal case, the teacher told the tribunal that he had feared the boy was going to throw a chair at him.  After he let the teenager go, the pupil did pick up a chair and threw it, although not at Mr Cox.

Neither the boy or his parents complained to the school, but the governors decided the man had to go.

At a tribunal hearing in Nottingham last month, Mr Cox said he had now been left 'unemployable' and has twice attempted suicide. He also said he feared youngsters' behaviour was getting 'out of control'.

Married Mr Cox's 13-year teaching career has been ended by the episode.  He said during the hearing: 'It has had a huge impact on me. I can't get another job now and our financial situation is dire, to say the least.

'In all other public buildings you see posters saying abusive language and behaviour will not be tolerated. That is not the case at Bemrose. Senior management at Bemrose don't support staff in general at all.'

Today, Mrs Ward said every teacher employed at her school was trained in techniques aimed at defusing situations of conflict.  She said: 'Mr Cox had every right to feel aggrieved by having milkshake thrown at him but, instead of putting this training into action, defusing the situation and reporting the incident, CCTV footage shows he adopted a confrontational approach prior to the incident and allowed his anger to govern his actions.

'We are determined to uphold the highest standards of behaviour and in no way condone the pupil's behaviour towards teaching staff.  'The pupil involved was excluded for four days and a clear message was sent to other children at the school that this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated.'

The commotion occurred last March in the school canteen when some boys were 'acting up' in front of another teacher.  Mr Cox told one of them, a year 11 pupil, to sit down, at which point the teenager launched into a tirade of verbal abuse and then threw his banana milkshake over him.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

School Lets Dems Register Students to Vote, But Not GOP

Florida Republicans are outraged after a school district allowed a pro-Obama organization to conduct student voter registration drives and deliver speeches to classes - but denied the Romney campaign similar opportunities.

Pasco County Schools confirmed to Fox News that volunteers from Organizing For America were given access to as many as a half dozen high school and middle school campuses.  "They did register students to vote," spokesman John Mann told Fox News. "We don't know how many children were registered - (but) we have an ongoing investigation."

According to email correspondence obtained by Fox News, volunteers tried to infiltrate at least three other school campuses - but on-campus officials rebuffed those efforts.

In addition to voter registration, a former teacher was allowed to deliver Obama speeches to a number of senior high school students.   "She got into six classrooms and gave pro-Obama speeches - like way off to the left," said James Mathieu, general counsel for the Pasco County Republican Party. "That got out to parents and parents complained."

Matthieu told Fox News he has filed a complained with the Florida Division of Elections and also contacted the Florida Attorney General's office.  "We have a liberal culture in our school system and we know that," he told Fox News. "The problem is someone has used false credentials, false pretenses and there is a security issue."

Mathieu said that some of the Organizing for America volunteers identified themselves to school officials as being with the local elections office.  "These people have used false pretense to get into the high schools and all they're giving us is whitewash and lip service," he said.

But Mann told Fox News that to his knowledge none of the volunteers misrepresented themselves.  "They identified themselves as being with Organizing For America," he said.

However, according to an email obtained by Fox News - school officials acknowledged there may have been some deceit.  "In at least one case, those individuals said they were from the Pasco Supervisor of Elections Office," wrote staff member Paula Lesko. "Unfortunately the SOE said that is not the case."

So why did school officials allow a partisan organization to mingle with students?


High school students suspended for possession of energy mints‏

A group of high school students in Pekin, Ill., were suspended last week after school officials suspected the mints they were eating were actually illegal drugs.

Jason McMichael, the father of one of the students, told the Journal Star that his 17-year-old son Eric was suspended for two days from Pekin Community High School and not allowed to attend the school's homecoming festivities after staffers found four students eating energy mint tablets that are marketed like caffeine energy drinks.

McMichael said he received a phone call from the dean's office informing him of his son's suspension and that the teen was being monitored by the school nurse for an elevated heart rate—though McMichael doesn't believe it was due to the energy mints.

"He's never been in trouble," McMichael said. "He was probably just nervous."

Eric McMichael said he and three others were eating Revive tablets—touted as "nature's energy mints"—in the school cafeteria when they were disciplined.

"People bring energy drinks to school every day," the teen told Central Illinois' WMBD-TV. "I see this every day and we get in trouble for energy mints?"

According to, each mint contains 101 milligrams of caffeine along with guarana, green tea, ginseng, acai, mangosteen and goji. The Revive brand is endorsed by several MMA fighters and fitness pageant contestants.

McMichael's father said school officials later admitted they did not know if the chewable, unmarked mints were, in fact, illegal drugs but upheld the suspensions anyway, saying the teens displayed "gross misconduct for taking an unknown product."

"Now they know nothing illegal happened," McMichael said on Friday, "but they're still pursuing the suspension."

Superintendent Paula Davis told the paper that while she was not able to discuss the incident, school officials would have been within their rights to discipline the students if they were seen "ingesting things that look like unmarked pills."


British education boss attacks 'bigotry' of teaching unions

Teachers should “go the extra mile” by running after-school clubs and working on Saturdays to raise standards, Michael Gove said today as he launched an extraordinary attack on trade union "bigotry".

The Education Secretary suggested that all schools should replicate tactics adopted by the best performers, which expect staff to stay behind in the evenings and at weekends to provide catch-up classes.

Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference, he also said that top schools achieved success by creating an “atmosphere of strict discipline” – ensuring unruly pupils cannot get in the way of other children’s education.

Schools will fail to close the gap between rich and poor pupils without making high expectations of every child and adopting a “no excuses” culture, he said.

But Mr Gove warned that too many children were being held back by the “soft bigotry and low expectations” of teaching unions.

In an outspoken attack, he singled out the National Union of Teachers and the NASUWT, which recently launched work-to-rule action as part of a long-running dispute over cuts to pay and pensions.

The unions – collectively representing around nine-in-10 teachers in England and Wales – have told members to refuse to supervise pupils over lunchtime, cover for absent colleagues, invigilate in exams, attend unscheduled after-school meetings or provide more than one formal report for parents each year.

Addressing Tory activists in Birmingham, Mr Gove said that teaching was the "noblest profession, the highest calling".

But he added: "At the moment the general secretaries of some of their unions are making it very difficult. The general secretaries are ordering - ordering - their members not to cover classes where another teacher might be ill or away at a relative's funeral."

He said: "I have a simple message to those union general secretaries: don't let your ideology hold back our children."

Mr Gove quoted statistics showing that just one child in 80 who was eligible for free school meals currently went on to a selective university.

The Education Secretary called for more pupils to be given the chance to strive for higher education, insisting the best schools placed “no artificial cap on aspiration”.

He said top schools were staffed by “noble, inspirational people who will go the extra mile; who will stay after the conventional school day ends in order to provide homework or after-school clubs to stretch the mind and also, in some cases, stretch the body; who will also ensure that, for those children who need it, they will be there on a Saturday for catch-up classes”.

Some of the Government’s flagship academies and free schools have already taken advantage of powers to shake up the academic year by axing traditional holidays and staging booster lessons outside the normal timetable.

One school in Norwich is open for six days a week – 51 weeks of the year.

Mr Gove said he had named leading schools in the past while addressing teaching conferences only to be told by union leaders: “Please don’t single out these very successful schools – it makes the others feel uncomfortable.”

“How can we succeed as a country when every time we find success and celebrate it there are those who say 'no, someone might feel uncomfortable'?” he said.

"What I feel uncomfortable about is the soft bigotry of low expectations that lead so many to believe that so many schools can't be as good as the best schools and I am determined to fight that bigotry wherever I encounter it."

The comments provoked fury among union leaders.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: "Michael Gove appears to want to return schools to a past where teachers spent their days standing at photocopiers or undertaking bureaucratic form filling, rather than concentrating on teaching and learning.”

Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, said: “The teaching profession has never come under such sustained criticism and attack.”

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: “Mr Gove continually displays his ignorance about education which derives from his unwillingness to listen to professional advice from both within and outside his department.”

*Less than one in four teachers are in favour of the Government's plans to scrap GCSEs and replace them with a new English Baccalaureate Certificate, a poll suggests.

The YouGov Teacher Track survey, based on a sample of almost 1,000 UK teachers, found that only 23 per cent backed the reforms. However, it emerged that 76 per cent were in favour of other proposals to scrap competition between exam boards.


Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Supreme Court to take up UT admission case

In the fall of 2008, the University of Texas enrolled 10,335 minority students, not including Asian-Americans. As far as Abigail Fisher was concerned, that was one too many.

Fisher had made good grades in high school - a 3.59 average on a 4.0 scale - posted a score of 1180 on the SAT test and finished as number 82 in a graduating class of 674 at Stephen F. Austin High School in Sugar Land. She figured that was good enough. Then came those dreadful words: "We regret to inform you ..."

Fisher was heartbroken. Her dad went to Texas, and her sister. She bled burnt orange. "I had dreamt of going to UT since the second grade," she said.

This week Fisher may get a little payback. On Wednesday the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the lawsuit she brought against the school that challenges an admissions policy that openly allows for the use of racial preferences. If she's successful - and legal pundits are saying there is a good chance - colleges and universities could henceforth be banned from even considering the racial or ethnic backgrounds of applicants.

"I was taught from the time I was a little girl that any kind of discrimination was wrong," Fisher said in a videotaped interview posted on YouTube by her lawyers, who have asked her to do no press interviews. "For an institution of higher learning to act this way makes no sense to me. What kind of example does this set for others?"

Fisher's collegiate career worked out fine. She went to Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and received her finance degree earlier this year. She has a job as a financial analyst and a promising future.

But the UT rejection still bothers her. She said she knew of classmates who had a less polished résumé than hers but were Austin-bound anyway, and she had an idea why.  "The only difference between us was the color of our skin," Fisher said.

Current law, established by a Supreme Court ruling in 2003, allows schools to consider race in narrow circumstances to achieve a "critical mass" of minority students. But the high court said the practice cannot continue indefinitely and called on them to work toward a colorblind admission process.

Not colorblind yet

UT says that time has not yet arrived.  "Certainly all aspire for a colorblind society in which race does not matter - and need not be considered to ensure a diverse proving ground for the Nation's future leaders," its brief to the court states. "But in Texas, as in America, our highest aspirations are yet unfulfilled. In the end, (Fisher) really is just asking this Court to move the goal posts on higher education in America."

Reverse discrimination, as some call it, has been a public flash point for two generations. Civil rights advocates argue that simply striking down racial barriers would hardly undo the harm inflicted by two centuries as an apartheid state. Conservatives argue that two wrongs don't make a right, that giving a job or school applicant preference because of skin color is at odds with the Constitution, creates ill will and casts a shadow over those who get preferred.

They see a favorable ruling as a potential steppingstone to the elimination of all racial preferences. Fisher's concern was somewhat narrower. She simply felt she was shafted.

"I took a ton of AP classes, I studied hard and did my homework - and I made the honor roll," she said. "I was in extracurricular activities. I played the cello and was in the math club, and I volunteered. I put in the work I thought was necessary to get into UT."

The one thing Fisher did not do, which would have ensured her admission, was graduate in the top 10 percent of her class. By state law, those students are accepted automatically.

The school argued that Fisher was not even close to being admitted, given the stiff competition for a small number of spots. She was so low she was not even considered for the provisional "summer program," which allowed students to take summer courses at UT and then be admitted if they did well. (The provisional admission no longer exists.)

UT also pointed out that 168 minority students who ranked higher in the overall admissions scoring also were denied entry to the summer program. Fisher, according to the school, simply did not measure up; her so-called Academic Index number was too low. The index is made of GPA, SAT score and the strength of her school's curriculum and how she did in certain courses.

But UT did not stop there. In its brief to the Supreme Court, the school said that even if Fisher had ranked as high as she could have on other personal factors - implying that even if race had worked in her favor - she would not have been admitted: The competition was simply too great for her to stand out.

Looking beyond Fisher

However the high court rules, it will be too late to have an effect on Fisher. But that was never the point of the lawsuit. The idea is to stop racial preferences, period.

"UT has a successful race-neutral way of achieving a diverse student body," said Edward Blum, head of Project for Fair Representation, a Washington, D.C.-based group opposed to affirmative action. "That race-neutral method created more diversity than race-based affirmative action had before it. The addition of race-based affirmative action to the top 10 has not brought significant numbers of black and Hispanic students to UT."

UT disagrees, saying that of the 2008 freshman class Fisher sought to join, 20 percent of African-American students and 15 percent of Hispanic students were added via the holistic review process of which race is a factor.

Blum does not dispute the value of a diverse student body, but says many schools accomplish the same thing simply through a detailed consideration of individual factors.


British graduate starting salaries down 13pc over year

Huge competition for graduate jobs has pushed starting salaries down 13pc on average over the past year, bringing further misery to this year’s degree cohort, new research reveals.

Graduates who started new jobs this summer received an average salary of £22,800 - a “marked” 13.2pc less than last year, an analysis of graduate salaries at more than 60 recruiters found.

Ann Swain, chief executive of the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCO), which commissioned the study, said: “The slowdown in the professional-recruitment market, combined with the huge number of graduates competing for jobs means that starting salaries have edged downwards markedly this year.”

The survey also shows that permanent job hires fell by 15pc over the past year, as employers increasingly opted to recruit temporary staff as a flexible means of securing labour.

Placements of temporary staff in the UK white-collar jobs market rose by 15pc in the year to September, the survey showed,

APSCO said many UK businesses are turning to temporary workers to kick-start projects that were put on hold during the summer, as many companies scaled back activity due to staff taking time off for holidays and the Olympics.

The banking sector continues to “stutter”, putting permanent hires on hold as management teams scrutinise headcount, the staffing body said.

Elsewhere, a survey by KPMG and the Recruitment and Employment Confederation painted a more rosy picture. Permanent placements were beginning to “stabilise” across industries, while temporary hires rose for the second month running, the data showed.

But pay growth remains muted as the number of candidates looking for roles increases, with the economy remaining “fragile”, KPMG said.

Bernard Brown, partner at KPMG, said: “The jobs market cannot be viewed in isolation as any sustainable improvement in employment remains dependent on the growth of the economy as a whole.

“While some parts of the country may be showing signs of recovery, others are lagging behind and until an upward trajectory is seen across the whole of the UK, the jobs market will remain fragile with warnings to ‘handle with care’.”

Meanwhile, a survey of over 1,000 engineers in the UK reveals over half have lost confidence in government policy towards the industry, with a similar number sceptical that companies will continue to invest locally.

The findings, from recruiter Matchtech, reveal three-quarters think not enough is being done to encourage innovation in the UK and two thirds do not feel confident the UK will be a world-leader in engineering in future.


Finnish education isn't all it's cracked up to be

Comment from Australia

THE topic for the Festival of Dangerous Ideas forum last Saturday at the Sydney Opera House was Abolish Private Schools and Pasi Sahlberg from Finland was one of the keynote speakers.

Having a speaker from Finland shouldn't surprise. Within cultural-left circles the Finnish education system is the flavour of the month and regularly praised by non-government school critics such as the Australian Education Union and Richard Teese from the University of Melbourne.

Critics argue that Australia should follow the Finnish example as it has top ranking in the OECD's Program for International Student Assessment maths and science tests, and forsake high-risk tests such as Australia's National Assessment Program -- Literacy and Numeracy.

If only it were that simple. While it's true that Finland was at the top of the PISA table in the 2006 tests, ranking first in maths, science and reading, since that time the country's results have gone backwards.

In the 2009 PISA test Finland dropped to sixth in maths, second in science and third in reading. In the 2009 test not only did Shanghai rank No 1 in the three areas but most of the other top performing education systems also were in the East Asian region.

It also needs to be noted that in the other more academically based and credible international test, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, the last time the two countries met Australia outperformed Finland.

In Year 8 maths and Year 8 science Australia was ranked 13th and seventh, while Finland was placed 14th and 10th.

While those opposed to high-risk tests point to Finland to argue there is no value or benefit in high-risk tests and failing students, what is conveniently ignored is that the more successful East Asian countries have education systems that are highly competitive, where students are pressured to succeed and often streamed in terms of ability.

Cultural-left academics and professional associations also like to use the example of Finland to argue Australia's non-government system should not be funded. Unlike Australia, where about 36 per cent of students attend Catholic and independent schools, the supposedly world's best Finnish system is government funded and there are no private schools.

Best illustrated by comments made by Sahlberg on Channel 7's Weekend Sunrise, the argument is that countries can achieve outstanding results without the presence of non-government schools. Abolishing non-government schools is also beneficial, according to Sahlberg, as such schools do well only because they enrol privileged students and they are guilty of reinforcing inequality.

Once again, such arguments lack credibility. As proven by research carried out by Melbourne-based academic Gary Marks, non-government schools outperform government schools even after adjusting for students' socioeconomic status.

OECD commissioned research noted the impact of SES on student and school performance is calculated at between 20 per cent and 35 per cent.

Equally, if not more important, are factors such as teacher quality, having a rigorous curriculum, school culture and the ability and motivation of students.

While critics argue that Australia's education system is riven with inequity and injustice it's also the case, based on the most recent OECD publication, Education at a Glance 2012, that Australia has a high degree of social mobility.

In relation to gaining tertiary entry the statement is made: "Young people from low educational backgrounds have the greatest chances of upward educational mobility in the countries clustered in the upper right quadrant of the chart.

"The chances of completing a tertiary education exceeds 25 per cent in Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, The Netherlands and Sweden, and is greater than 30 per cent in Australia and Ireland."

Research commissioned by the National Catholic Education Commission, published in its submission to the Gonski review of school funding, provides evidence that Australia's non-government school sector is worthy when it concludes that Catholic schools are "high quality-high equity" based on the PISA tests.

Given Julia Gillard's boast that Australian students will be in the top five countries of the PISA test by 2025, and ongoing debates about school funding in the context of the Gonski report, it's understandable why many look overseas for ideas.

The danger in the belief that the best way to strengthen schools and raise standards is to copy supposedly stronger performing systems such as Finland's is that it is simplistic and unrealistic. It's also ironic that as many are looking overseas for answers, the success of Australia's non-government schools is ignored.


Monday, October 08, 2012

Obama’s Education Plan Means $17 Million in New Union Dues Revenue

Education turned into a key issue in Wednesday’s first presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney.  Their visions could not have been more divergent and stark.

Romney called for putting federal education dollars into the “backpack” of the student, empowering parents to pick the educational option that best meets the needs of their child.

Obama called for hiring 100,000 new teachers, a familiar refrain during his first term in office. A champion of government school bailouts, Obama emphasizes more teachers, as opposed to insisting on more effective teachers, and refuses to endorse the idea of freeing students to choose their own schools.

While Romney would challenge the failing public education establishment through competition between schools, Obama wants to feed the establishment even more tax dollars. Obama’s call for more teachers is on its surface laudable, but it accomplishes a sinister, political goal: producing more dues revenue for teachers unions, which are close political allies of the president.

How much more revenue? According to calculations, the National Education Association would stand to reap $12.4 million in new dues every year while the American Federation of Teachers would gain about $4.6 million.

And the circle would remain unbroken. The new dues revenue would produce significantly more money to pay for union political efforts, mostly on behalf of Obama and other Democrats.

And let’s not forget the $10 “Obama tax” the NEA is already charging its members to spend on political ad campaigns, including some for the president. With the extra dues, the tax would produce $750,000 in free money overnight, courtesy of school employees compelled to support the union and its political agenda.

While Obama proudly explained his plan to hire 100,000 new teachers, Romney responded by saying the amount ($90 billion) that Obama’s administration has spend to bolster failed “green energy” development could have paid for 2 million new teachers.

We were surprised and pleased that education played such a large role in the presidential debate. It has been largely absent from the conversation until how.

The candidates’ visions for the government education system could not be more contrasting and consequential. Voters interested in improving public education will have a very clear choice in November


British sports college bans parents from watching competitive matches because of ‘child protection rules’

Parents wanting to watch their children play sport at a specialist sports college have been banned from attending home matches

Teachers at the 1,280-pupil Lea Valley High School in Enfield, north London, wrote to parents at the start of term, telling them the decision had been made because of ‘child protection rules’.

The school, which became a specialist sports college in 2002, has links with top football, rugby and hockey clubs, with several ex-pupils on the books of Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United.
School bosses at Lea Valley High School are defending the policy of banning parents from watching their children play in home games, saying it was not a case of 'health and safety gone mad'

School bosses at Lea Valley High School are defending the policy of banning parents from watching their children play in home games, saying it was not a case of 'health and safety gone mad'

In a letter to parents from Laura Hunt, the director of physical education at the comprehensive school, she said that parents and carers were banned from the school grounds during home matches against other schools.

She said: “We appreciate that parents/carers may wish to come along and watch and support their children.

'However, as a school staff, we have a duty of care to our students and have to ensure that appropriate safeguarding and children protection policies are adopted, implemented and monitored.

'As such, for our students’ safekeeping, we must state that we cannot permit parents/carers or other adults on site at these times, and hope that you will understand and support us in this decision.'

One father, who asked not to be named, said 'I have never heard anything so stupid.

Parents have slammed the touchline ban, saying that a school which specialises in sport should ‘back parents to the hilt’ in supporting their children.

'A school which specialises in teaching children sport should back parents to the hilt if they want to come and watch their children play football, rugby, hockey or whatever it may be.

'After the success of the Olympics you would have thought teachers would be supporting sporting success, not putting a dampener on it.”

Another parent, a mother-of-two, said she was ‘furious’ after reading the letter.

She said: 'I’ve always supported my son playing football and used to cheer him on from the touchline, but now I’ve been told that I can’t because of child protection issues.

'I simply cannot see what they are talking about - everyone knows everyone else and if some weirdo turned up we’d all know about it and confront them.'

She added: 'Having a crowd cheering you on is an important part of sport and this decision is devastating to both children and parents.”

Another father said: 'It’s a hysterical reaction - why is everybody treated as if they are a criminal?'

Among the former pupils now playing professionally include former Arsenal player Paul Rodgers, now with Northampton Town, Ahmed Abdulla, of West Ham but currently on loan to Swindon Town, and Josh Scowen, of Wycombe Wanderers. It also produced sisters Rosie and Mollie Kmita, who play for Tottenham Hotspur Ladies FC.

School bosses, however, defending the policy this week, saying it was not a case of ‘health and safety gone mad’.

Head Janet Cullen said:'The safety of young people is paramount.

Unfortunately, we do not have the capacity to supervise groups of parents and friends who wish to spectate.

'Matches are held through the goodwill of our staff, which we obviously wish to promote - particularly with the national focus on encouraging young people to participate in competitive sport post the Olympics.'

According to the school website ‘PE is at the centre of the curriculum’, stating: 'We have strong partnerships with many organisations including Tottenham Hotspur Football Club and their foundation project and Saracens Rugby Club through our use of the RFU community sports scheme.

'Lea Valley High School has outstanding facilities which include a sports hall, gymnasium, dance studio, astroturf, hard courts, playing fields and a state of the art fitness suite.

'These are used extensively in our extra-curricular provision and by our local community to develop performance.'


Debunking climate propaganda earns you a 'fail’ in British exam

Two weeks ago I described one of this year’s A-level General Studies papers which asked candidates to discuss various “source materials” on climate change. Drawn from propaganda documents wholly biased in favour of climate alarmism, these contained a plethora of scientific errors. I suggested that, if any clued-up students tore these “sources” apart as they deserved, they might have been given a “fail”.

Sure enough, an email from the mother of just such a student confirmed my fears. Her son is “an excellent scientist” who got “straight As” on his other science papers, but he is also “very knowledgeable about climate change and very sceptical about man-made global warming”. His questioning of the sources earned an “E”, the lowest possible score. His mother then paid £60 for his paper to be re-marked. It was judged to be “articulate, well-structured” and clearly well-informed, but again he was marked down with “E” for fail.

This young man’s experience speaks volumes about the way the official global-warming religion has so corrupted our education system that it has parted company with proper scientific principles. In his efforts to reform our dysfunctional exam system, Michael Gove should ask for this bizarre episode to be investigated.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Teenage girl heckled at British Labour Party conference for saying she enjoys going to a deregulated (charter) school

Britain's "comprehensive" (taxpayer-supported) schools became so bad that  even the last Labour party government set up a deregulated alternative to them  -- the "academy".  But any departure from "all men are equal" still enrages some on the Left

A girl of 15 had to cope with a screaming heckler at the Labour Party conference yesterday after she spoke in praise of her academy school.

Resurrecting Old Labour’s views on education, the heckler sought to shout down Joan al-Assam, a Year 11 pupil from Paddington Academy in West London – even though the school  was a flagship creation of the last Labour government.

Joan, a star pupil at the academy which opened in 2006, sought asylum in Britain at the age of six from Iraq with just the clothes on her back.

But when she made an emotional speech about how the school has helped her, she faced yobbish abuse from a woman believed to be a member of one of the teaching unions.

The heckler shouted support for comprehensive schools as Joan told the conference how she and her fellow pupils benefited from an arts education. The teenager, an A-grade student who was recently chosen to conduct an interview with Cherie Blair when she visited the school, continued unfazed.

Education Secretary Michael Gove last night condemned the ‘disgraceful’ incident and demanded that the heckler be kicked out of the Labour Party.

The intervention was an embarrassment for Ed Miliband and a reminder of the  left-wingers who oppose even the last Labour government’s education reforms.

When the Paddington Academy was set up in September 2006 to replace a failing school, just one in four pupils achieved five GCSEs including English and Maths graded A* to C, the main benchmark for success at age 16.

Last year that figure had soared to 69 per cent, even though three out of four pupils do not speak English as a first language. In 2011 the school also sent its first pupil to Cambridge University.

Teachers turned round the school with a focus on solid academic subjects such as maths, with every pupil measured against personal targets every six weeks, with the results published to encourage competitive improvement.

It also enforces a strict uniform policy and a code that ‘the street stops at the gate’.

The mood turned ugly  yesterday when Joan talked about arts programmes at the school.

‘Some of us explore our creativity through thousands of hours of brushstrokes and hundreds of hours of art. To many of you this may seem extraordinary that an inner city school offers so much, but to us at Paddington this is nothing but normal.’

At this point, the furious heckler yelled: ‘They do that at comprehensives too you know.’  There was a murmur of support from some seated with the heckler, but others booed the interruption and a woman shouted: ‘Leave her alone.’

The reaction to her coming under fire was instant on Twitter, where one viewer, Richard Angell said: ‘Appalled that a #Lab12 delegate heckled a pupil who came to UK as a political asylum seeker 4 championing the Paddington Academy she attends.’ Another called Lefty Lisa said: ‘Bad form. Delegate actually just heckled a year 11 student.’

The first three academies – state-funded schools independent of town hall control – were opened by Labour in 2002. A further 200 had opened by the time the party left office in 2010, mainly replacing under-performing comprehensives. The Coalition expanded the programme and allowed existing schools to gain the status as well. There are now more than 2,300.

Ministers attribute their good  results to greater freedoms enjoyed by heads, including over staff pay, the curriculum and the school calendar.

A Labour spokesman said: ‘No one should be heckled at a party conference, least of all a teenage girl making her first speech.’


'British universities face collapse into global mediocrity': Warning over future of higher education as just 10 UK institutions make it into top 100 list

UK universities face a 'perfect storm' as dropping investment, hostile visa conditions and a 'vacuum' of postgraduate study are contributing to their slump in international rankings.

The higher education institutions have dropped in an international league table, putting the nation’s reputation for higher education at risk, it has been suggested.

While the UK currently still has the second best university system in the world behind the United States, a number of leading institutions have tumbled down the rankings this year.

Top spot was retained for the second time by the California Institute of Technology which excels in science and engineering.
Oxford University is number two in the ranks, producing some of the best graduates in the world

Oxford University is number two in the ranks, producing some of the best graduates in the world. But the UK institutions face competition from Asia, who have been heavily investing in education

In total, just ten UK universities are in the top 100 of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings for 2012/13, compared with 12 last year and 14 in 2010/11.

The table’s authors warned that, beyond the very best institutions, UK universities face 'a collapse in their global position within a generation'.

In the 2012-13 table, the US continues to dominate, but institutions in China, Singapore, the Republic of Korea and Taiwan have begun to rise up through the ranks, the Times Higher Education supplement reported.

Alan Ruby, senior fellow in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, said: Asia's universities 'are rising on a tide of public investment'.

In contrast, many Anglo-American universities in the top 200 have lost their places, but still continue to dominate in terms of numbers.

Meanwhile, the West faces cuts and is struggling to compete for the most talented staff and students, and cannot provide the most advanced facilities.

The latest table shows that the UK has three universities in the top 10, with Oxford taking second place, up from fourth last year.

Cambridge was in seventh place, down one from sixth last year, while Imperial College London took eighth place, the same as in 2011.

The UK has seven universities in total in the top 50, and 31 in the top 200, down one from 32 last year.

The rankings show that leading Russell Group UK universities have slipped down in position compared with last year.

Bristol University, which was 66th in the table last year, is 74th in this year’s table, while Sheffield University has fallen nine places to joint 110th.

Leeds has dropped from 133rd to joint 142nd, Birmingham has fallen 10 places to joint 158th and Newcastle is down to joint 180th from 146th place.

The University of Sussex fell from 99th place in the 2011/12 table to joint 110th place in this year's ranks, while the University of St Andrew's slipped from 85th to 108th.

Cambridge University still attracts the cream of the crop

Cambridge University still attracts the cream of the crop with its ranking of number seven, but experts warn that the UK's institutions are in danger of slipping into 'mediocrity'

But among the risers is York, which has jumped from 121st place last year to 103rd, Nottingham, which has gone from 140th to 120th place, and Warwick, which is joint 124th compared with 157th last year.

Of the UK's 32 representatives in the top 200 in 2011-12 ranks, 20 have fallen.

Several well-known name have suffered, including the University of Bristol which slipped from 66th to 74th and the University of Glasgow which plummeted from 102nd to 139th.

Topping the table again this year was the California Institute of Technology.

Rankings editor Phil Baty said: 'Outside the golden triangle of London, Oxford and Cambridge, England’s world-class universities face a collapse into global mediocrity.

'Huge investment in top research universities across Asia is starting to pay off.

'And while the sun rises in the East, England faces a perfect storm: falling public investment in teaching and research; hostile visa conditions discouraging the world’s top academics and students from coming here; and serious uncertainty about where our next generation of scholars will come from, with a policy vacuum surrounding postgraduate study.'

But David Willetts, the UK's universities and science minister, insists that the results are something to be celebrated.

He said: 'The league table shows that our university sector has maintained its world-class standards.
California Institute of Technology

The California Institute of Technology is leading the pack - but those who compiled the table say the West will be edged out of the ranks by Asia unless they can invest more

'Only the US has more institutions in the global top 10, top 50 and top 200. Our closest European rivals, such as Germany, are a long way behind.'

He defended the hike in students fees, saying it helped increase the money available to teach students, said the government had protected research funding.

He also said in the education magazine that the Coalition had invested millions of pound into encouraging UK universities to develop international relationships.

Mr Willetts said the government had to be aware of the treat Asia showed in eclipsing UK institutions because of their rapid advancements and investments.

Thirteen different areas of university work, grouped into five areas, were studied to create the overall rankings.

Experts examined teaching and the learning environment, which is worth 30 per cent of the overall ranking score.

They take into account research, looking at the volume, income and reputation of the institution, which is also worth 30 per cent of the final mark.

They look at citations, worth another 30 per cent, industry income which counts for 2.5 per cent of the mark and international outlook, studying staff, students and research, which makes 7.5 per cent of the mark.


Australian universities do well in world rankings again

Doing much better than Britain on a per head basis.  Australia has only a third the population of Britain

SIX Australian universities have been ranked in the world's top 100 as the power balance in global higher education shifts to the Asia-Pacific region.

Melbourne is the highest ranked Australian university, according to The Times Higher Education 2012-13 World University Rankings, to be released today.

Australia posted the third-biggest improvement in the world, with its eight top 200 institutions rising an average of 15 places. Six Australian universities are now in the top 100, two more than last year.

Melbourne University (ranked 28th) made the top 30 for the first time, widening its lead on the Australian National University, which moved from 38th in 2011-12 to 37. Sydney (62, down from 58), Queensland (65), New South Wales (85), and Monash (99) also made the top 100.

Adelaide University debuted in the top 200 at 176 and Western Australia University rose one spot to 190.

University performance was judged on 13 indicators, including research, teaching, knowledge transfer, and international activity.

Rankings editor Phil Baty said Australia had improved significantly.

"It has great advantages being close to the exciting innovation and research hotspots in Asia," he said. "If it can fully exploit the geographical advantage it has over Europe and North America, there's every reason to believe it can be part of a higher education revolution in Asia-Pacific."

Mr Baty said Australian improvements were based on better scores for research, in scholarly papers per staff and citation impact.

Universities Australia chief executive Belinda Robinson said the results showed the importance of public investment in universities. "This result shows once again that our universities are not only world-class, but world-leading," she said.