Saturday, October 20, 2012

School Union Apologists Vow to Stop ‘Privet’ Education

As EAGnews continues to gain prominence, our efforts are becoming more noticed by left-wing radicals and other wierdos who despise what we stand for.

And those fine folks have not been shy about sharing their views of our organization and work, particularly on our Facebook page.

“Yeah UNIONS are armed again and we will fight you greedy pigs till the end. Save Wisconsin teachers stop privet education,” Kirk Nutt wrote, apparently making reference to a union-driven lawsuit that has temporarily sidelined Act 10, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s sweeping education reform package.

And he wants to stop “privet” education? Perhaps that type of education could have improved his spelling skills. His Facebook page states he went to a government school.

Sandy Lang wrote, “What a waste of energy…..this page.” Who is making her read it?

Others resorted to insulting America’s K-12 students.

“How much should a person be paid to stand unarmed in a room with 50 juvenile delinquents, half of whom are gang members? Whatever they're getting, it's not enough,” Mike Summitt wrote.

John Egelkrout, a teacher for South St. Paul Schools, wrote, “Why don't you just say you hate teachers that have a brain and a backbone, and that you think teachers should make the same as Walmart greeters?”

At least Wal-Mart greeters can be fired if they do a bad job. We can’t say the same about a lot of tenured K-12 teachers, can we?


Yikes. She makes a compelling case for protecting “privet” education.

Our favorite: Christopher L. O’Connor wrote, “[W]ithout unions, you got Government telling you what to do!”

Um, the teachers unions work hand-in-hand with government to trap children in far too many failing government schools. The unions have long been proponents of big, expensive and intrusive government, not the other way around.

In any case, we appreciate the dialog our work generates and we encourage those who disagree with us to share their opinions. Unlike many on the left, we believe in absolute free speech for everyone, even those with obvious spelling and grammatical challenges.


University of CA spends $80k on socialism project

The University of California -- Merced (UCM) spent $80,000 in a self-described attempt to advance ideas of “economic justice.”

According to the school’s official website, UCM aims to create a “society in which the distribution of resources is equitable” and promote “cultural awareness.”

To bring these goals to term, the university created a special “Social Justice” department which hosts annual events such as the “National Coming Out Awareness” week and a “Multicultural Odyssey in San Francisco.”

Despite the political nature of the programs, Dr. Charles Nies, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, fervently defended the events, telling Campus Reform that the university is not using public resources to advance political ideas.

“We wouldn’t use student fees to advance any political views,” said Nies. “Social justice initiatives are the one point of view we are promoting with the social justice initiatives. It is basically the U.S. Constitution which starts off with the preamble around justice.”

Nies also stressed that UCM is not “taking a position on gay marriage” through the sponsorship of pride week.

“That [pride week] is promoting human dignity, right?” asked Nies. “It’s not like there aren’t gay Republicans. The idea of supporting human dignity... I didn’t realize there was a political division on whether or not we are supporting human dignity.”

UCM spokeswoman Brenda Ortiz also told Campus Reform that funding to the Social Justice Department will “increase as our programmatic needs grow, in part to student growth.”

Tuition at the University of California (UC) has risen dramatically over the past two decades. According to the UC’s Budget for Current Operations, tuition and fees were just $1,624 in 1990-91 compared to $12,192 in the 2011-12 school year.


British High School results 2012: private schools 'dominate top grades'

Privately-educated teenagers were three times more likely to score straight As at A-level this summer than teenagers from state schools, figures show.

Almost a third of pupils from the independent sector gained at least three As in this summer’s exams compared with just over one-in-10 attending Government-funded schools and colleges.

The results are likely to tighten private school pupils’ grip in places at leading universities, which demand a string of top grades as a basic entry requirement.

It comes after Alan Milburn, the Government’s lead advisor on social mobility, admitted that poor performance at school and college remained the biggest barrier to higher education for thousands of teenagers from poor backgrounds.

In a controversial report published today, he called on institutions to make lower grade offers to “less-advantaged pupils”.

But the comments sparked anger among head teachers’ leaders who warned that it risked lowering standards.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Saying to disadvantaged students that we have lower expectations about what they can achieve, and their grades for university entry, can send the wrong message.

“The aim should be to encourage all students to succeed, whether that be in an apprenticeship, higher education or other routes.”

According to data published by the Department for Education, some 12.5 per cent of pupils gained three A or A*s at A-level this summer, down from 13.1 per cent a year earlier.

The average point score in A-levels – and equivalent vocational qualifications – also dropped in 2012. The average exam was awarded 211.8 points – roughly equivalent to a C – compared with 216.2 a year earlier.

The move follows a toughening up of A-levels in recent years, with pupils being expected to completed fewer modules in more depth and answer longer essay-style questions.

It emerged that pupils from private schools were significantly more likely to score straight As. Figures show that 30.6 per cent hit the target, compared with just 10.7 per cent among pupils from state schools.

Independently-educated schoolchildren also achieved higher average points in each A-level. They scored an average of 242.3 points – close to a B grade – compared with 211.4 in state schools.

In a further disclosure it emerged that boys were also more likely to achieve straight As than girls – 12.7 per cent compared with 12.2 per cent.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Virginia Teacher Charged With Assault: Girl’s Hand Cut in Forced ‘Islamic Hand Sign’ Drill‏

An elementary school teacher in Chesapeake, Va. has been charged with simple assault after a parent claimed her daughter’s hand was cut open as a result of the teacher yanking her arm aggressively while trying to teach students an “Islamic hand sign.”

Officer Leo Kosinski, a spokesman for the Chesapeake Police Department, told TheBlaze that Tara Harris was criminally charged with a misdemeanor on Oct. 11 and released on a summons. The case is currently under investigation.

“It’s still a criminal charge. It happened at the school and it involved a student,” Kosinski said. The police department could not release any additional information.

Stephanie Bennett, the mother of the 10-year-old girl who was allegedly assaulted at Butts Road Intermediate School, told TheBlaze in an emotional phone interview that Harris has a disturbing trend of “indoctrinating” students with Islamic teachings. She also said the teacher openly campaigns for President Barack Obama in the classroom.

The incident of alleged assault occurred on October 2, according to Bennett.

“The teacher was going over Islamic hand signs with the children — she stayed on this issue for two days straight during their reading and math class,” she said.

Bennett’s daughter suffers from a processing disorder, making it difficult for her to quickly grasp things like hand signs. “Not that she’s uneducated or anything. It’s just a processing problem,” the mother said.
Click here to find out more!

When Bennett’s daughter was unable to do the Islamic hand sign correctly after two days of instruction, Harris became frustrated and attempted to twist the girl’s fingers to make the Islamic gesture meaning “power and strength.” The way Bennett described it, it sounds like an upside A-OK hand gesture. It is unclear exactly which “Islamic hand sign” was being promoted as the source information comes from children.

“When she didn’t get it right, [Harris] went over and yanked her hand out of her desk and my daughter’s hand got hung up on the metal wire on her file folder and the skin got caught on it,” the mother explained, her voice cracking with emotion. “The other children saw my daughter’s hand dripping with blood after the teacher had gotten so mad that she went to twist my daughter’s hand into an Islamic sign.”

After her child came home with the cut on her hand and she learned what had happened, Bennett immediately filed a police report. She claims to have pictures of her daughter’s injuries. She has agreed to share the pictures with TheBlaze, however, they were unable to be sent digitally late Wednesday night.

She says the day after the incident school officials informed her that Harris had been placed on administrative leave. On Tuesday, she was then informed that the teacher had been terminated from the Chesapeake Public School system all together. Her termination can not be independently confirmed as the messages left with multiple officials with the school system have not been returned. Attempts to contact Harris were also unsuccessful.

The mother said her daughter told her that Harris “prays to Allah in Arabic” around five times a day in front of students and teaches them about Islam and how it is superior to other religions. Bennett claims other parents have confirmed her suspicions after talking with their kids.

One of those parents, Nita Redditt, told TheBlaze that her young son confirmed Bennett’s story. The boy said he was “scared” to go back to school the next day after she found out, she added.

“I think he was intimidated,” Redditt said. “I couldn’t believe what was going on in the classroom in regards to this teacher praying to Allah and having them pray with her.”

Bennett said she wants the Chesapeake Police Department to conduct a full investigation into Harris’s actions. She also wants to know why she wasn’t notified immediately when another parent complained to Butts Road Intermediate School officials about Harris campaigning for Obama in the classroom and bashing Republican GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

Bennett said a school resource officer intially told her that “speaking in Arabic wasn’t against school policy.”

“Kids can’t stand up and fight for themselves. Someone’s got to fight for them,” Bennett said. “Why didn’t someone call me? Why weren’t any of the parents notified?”

What is strange is that no local news outlets appear to be reporting on the incident — not even the fact that a public school teacher was charged with assault.

Chesapeake Public Schools is still reeling from fresh allegations of criminal activity against one of its teachers. WAVY-TV reports that Bryan Carter, an assistant principal at Indian River High School, was arrested earlier this month and charged with abduction, burglary, attempted robbery and assault and battery., which serves the Chesapeake area, also reported on Wednesday that a Virginia Beach piano teacher had been charged with sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy.

So why are local media not covering the story involving Harris, who has been with the school since September, allegedly assaulting a 10-year-old student and forcing her class to learn Islamic hand signs? What makes this story different?


President of France Wants to Ban Homework Because It's "Not Fair" to Disadvantaged

I wish I was making this up, and it certainly sounds like it's something straight out of The Onion, yet here it is, on a Washington Post headline: French president pushing homework ban as part of ed reforms.

Reason for the homework ban?

Francois Hollande doesn’t think it is fair that some kids get homework help from their parents while children who come from disadvantaged families don’t.

Instead, Hollande wants to hire more teachers without saying where the money will come from (but you know the answer is tax hikes).

He also wants to increase the length of the school week from four days to four-and-a-half days. Note that school days in France start at 8:30 a.m. and end at 4:30 p.m.

Socialist Nutcase

If you were looking for further proof that Hollande was a socialist nutcase you have it.

Rather than focusing on the problem (parents not spending enough time with their kids), Hollande wants government to address the system, which in the mind of any socialist means more government intervention and spending to make sure nothing is "unfair".

Other Unfair Things

Here are some other things that are as least as "unfair" for the exact same reason that Hollande used in his proposal to ban homework.

Hiring tutors
Music lessons
Educational games like Scrabble

Why stop there? All kinds of things in life might be considered "unfair". Do the poor eat T-bone steaks? Go to movies as often? Should we ban those too?

Does everyone have an air conditioner who arguably needs one? If not, is the solution to ban them?

Nah. Hollande just wants to raise taxes so that everyone has the exact same stuff, same teachers, same cars, same food, same clothes, same movies.

That is the socialist definition of "fair".

Government spending is already 54% of French GDP. Clearly that is not too much in the eyes of Hollande. For comparison purposes, please see US Government Spending as Percentage of GDP.

Expect more nonsensical socialist solutions from Hollande, because they are coming.


A chain reaction that would fix Britain's failing schools

The pace of reform must be stepped up to tackle mediocrity in our education system.  David Cameron could not have put it more clearly in his conference speech last week: Britain has reached its hour of reckoning, when we either do or decline. He promised to slay the three modern “giants” holding this country back – the debt strangling our economy, welfare dependency, and the educational mediocrity that prevents so many young people from flourishing. Of these challenges, none is more important to the fulfilment of our common potential than sorting out the chronic weakness that affects England’s schools.

Consider these facts: in 40 per cent of schools teaching is no better than satisfactory, and 6,000 schools provide only a satisfactory level of education. Earlier this year Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector of schools and an outstanding headteacher in his day, confirmed what everyone knew – that “satisfactory” in education is anything but. It is now clear that the problems run much deeper than we thought. So what can this Government do about it?

The first piece of good news is that the academy programme is working. According to both the National Audit Office and the London School of Economics, failing schools that have been turned into academies under new sponsors are performing better than those that did not. So the expansion of the academies programme will help raise standards, as will the influence of innovative new free schools. But ultimately this policy was designed to turn round a few hundred schools, not for helping the thousands of schools that now need to improve.

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, needs more ways to raise standards, so he should take advantage of an even more effective form of educational organisation that has emerged over the past 10 years – federations or chains of academies. Chains are charitable groups of schools with a single educational vision, bound together legally, financially and operationally. They work by spreading the benefits of a successful approach to schooling: a “no excuses” culture, strong leadership, high expectations and robust discipline.

The emerging evidence suggests that, on average, their standards are even higher than single academies because they provide exactly the kind of opportunities for collaboration, within a competitive marketplace, that schools need to flourish. Chains show that a proper market in state schooling is at last starting to develop.

Academy chains have many different roots. Some of the original academy sponsors like the United Learning Trust have come from the independent sector and are now running several academies. I am currently working with Wellington College to create a chain, and academy chains based around successful state schools or colleges can now be found across the country: the Kemnal Academies Trust on the South Coast, the Harris Federation in London, and the Barnfield Federation in Luton. Others, such as ARK Schools, were started by philanthropists.

We need to harness the power of these academy chains to deal with what the Prime Minister has called the “hidden crisis” of coasting schools. That means encouraging the creation and growth of chains – by part-funding their expansion and giving the best chains more influence by making them centres of teacher training – as well as giving them opportunities to innovate, such as by paying their governing bodies. It means explicitly using them to sort out failure. If turning a weak school into a stand-alone academy fails to improve results, then that school should be handed over to a successful chain. We also need to create a network of local school commissioners who, under the direction of central government, will intervene in the thousands of underperforming schools and turn them over to an academy sponsor or successful chain.

These changes can take us a long way, but the scale of the challenge is so big that even dramatically increasing the number and size of academy chains may not be enough. This is where the private sector should be asked to contribute. If turning a school into an academy and then handing it on to a chain haven’t been enough to break the cycle of underachievement, the governing body should be obliged to appoint an external provider to run it. The school and its assets would stay in the charitable sector, but they would be able to access the expertise of private providers who would be paid by results. Any objections to the private sector trying where the state and voluntary sectors have failed should be dismissed for what they are – ideological prejudice. There are countless examples of the private sector delivering excellent services to citizens across the public sector, from the NHS to special educational needs provision. Mainstream schooling should be no different.

The consequences I am proposing for underperforming schools are robust; they will not be universally popular. But as Sir Michael Wilshaw has said: “We have tolerated mediocrity for too long… Without radical change now, we will see more social and economic division in this country.” There is no time to waste. Creating a world-class education system means calling on the best chains, independent schools and private providers to raise standards in the weakest schools. It is time to sink or swim.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Schools Crack Down on Cheetos‏

What about a crackdown on illiteracy and bullying instead?  Is that too hard?  -- JR

Teachers across several states are patrolling hallways searching for students in possession of snack food contraband but there’s one hot & spicy treat that is Enemy Number One – Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.

“We don’t allow candy, and we don’t allow Hot Cheetos,” Rita Exposito, principal of Jackson Elementary School in Pasadena, Calif., told the Chicago Tribune. “We don’t encourage other chips, but if we see Hot Cheetos, we confiscate them – sometimes after the child has already eaten most of them.”

Yes, you read that correctly. Teachers at Jackson Elementary school confiscate contraband bags of Cheetos.

A spokesman for the Pasadena School system told Fox News that the ban was part of a district-wide wellness policy – and that most of the guidelines come from the federal government.

The spokesman said during school hours they are responsible for the students – and that includes their health.

There are reports of similar Cheetos crackdowns in Illinois and New Mexico.

In Albuquerque, a seventh grade health teacher sent a letter to parents calling for a ban on the Frito-Lay product.

The teacher at Lyndon B. Johnson M idle School warned parents that Hot Cheetos are not only unhealthy but can also spread germs – because the students share their Cheetos. The teacher also complained to parents that the snack food is too messy.

“They have that red dye in them and the kids get that all over their hands and track it all over everything and the custodians have to clean it up,” Albuquerque Schools spokesman John Miller told Fox News. “They’re not big fans of that.”

For the record, Miller said there’s not a district-wide ban on Cheetos.  “She wanted to explain to them how they really aren’t very good for you,” he said, defending the teachers’ letter. “She broke down the fat content and calories. She wanted to share the information with the parents.”

Parents were also required to sign the letter and return it to the school.

“Cheetos are not banned,” he said. “The teacher encouraged the parents to watch the amount of snacks that go to school with kids – either in lunches or worse yet – as lunches.”

The Chicago Tribune reported that several charter schools – and the entire Rockford School District – have banned the snack food by name – because of nutritional concerns.

Frito-Lay released the following statement to Fox News:

“Frito-Lay is committed to responsible and ethical marketing practices, which includes not marketing our products to children ages 12 and under. We also do not decide which snacks are available on school campuses and do not sell snack products directly to schools.”


The Higher-Education Version of the Government-Screws-Up-Everything Chronicles

I’ve previously shared an amazing chart that shows how more government spending on public schools has yielded zero positive results.  Well, it seems that government spending on colleges and universities also leaves a lot to be desired.

Three academics investigated the relationship between higher-education spending and economic performance and it turns out that this perverse form of redistribution from poor to rich is counterproductive. Here’s the key sentence from the abstract.

"Results from a series of fixed-effects regressions using a 1992-2002 panel of state-level data indicate that increased spending on higher education generally exhibits a relatively large negative effect on private sector employment or gross state product growth when the increase in education spending is financed through own-source revenue."

Yet Obama and most of the other politicians in Washington want to increase the subsidies for colleges and universities – even though the macroeconomic effects are dismal.

But I guess that doesn’t matter since politicians seem more concerned about creating more comfortable lives for unproductive professors and bloated school bureaucracies.

By the way, let’s not forget that students also suffer. As the federal government has squandered more money on higher education, colleges and universities have responded by jacking up tuition and fees, leaving more and more students deeply in debt.


Voluntary work to form part of British High school qualifications

Teenagers face completing dissertation-style essays and voluntary work as part of a major overhaul of A-levels, it has emerged.
Voluntary work to form part of A-levels

Pupils could be required to undertake large-scale projects – on top of conventional subjects – under radical new plans being introduced to ensure students are properly prepared for the demands of university, it was revealed.

The move is being considered as part of a proposal to create a new “Advanced Baccalaureate” for sixth-formers.

Last night, Government sources insisted the reforms would not lead to the abolition of A-levels but admitted the so-called “ABacc” could be added to official league tables. It may also be awarded to pupils as a new college leaving certificate.

It follows the introduction of a similar system at GCSE, where pupils can gain the "English Baccalaureate" for scoring good grades in the key academic subjects of English, maths, science, languages and history or geography.

The move comes amid concerns that too many teenagers start university lacking the key skills needed to succeed on degree courses.

A study published earlier this year showed that many universities were being forced to provide booster lessons in the three Rs for first-year undergraduates because school leavers are so badly prepared for the demands of higher education.

It was revealed that many teenagers struggled to structure an essay, use correct spelling, punctuation and grammar and carry out independent research after being “spoon-fed” through A-levels.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “A-levels will not be replaced under any circumstances. There are public consultations about reforming A-levels.

“There are also numerous suggestions about new ABacc league table measures but no decisions have been made."

The Government has already outlined a planned overhaul of A-levels.

Under proposals, existing bite-sized modules will be scrapped in favour of traditional end-of-year exams. More open-ended questions will also be introduced to stretch pupils further

It is believed that AS-levels – sat at the end of the first year of the two-year A-level – will be retained but as a separate, standalone qualification.

In addition, it is believed that Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, wants to add more depth to the qualification by encouraging teenagers to undertake independent study, voluntary work and other subjects.

It is understood that the ABacc would require A-level students to include a “contrasting” subject within their course choices, to counter claims that the current system leads to a narrowing of options at 16.

Pupils who chose A-levels in maths, further maths and physics would be expected to pick a humanities subject, such as history or geography as a fourth subject, the Times reported.

Teenagers who opted for humanities A-levels such as English, history or geography would be required to take a maths course at AS level during the first year of the sixth-form, it emerged.

Students will also be expected to complete a 5,000 word dissertation and undertake voluntary work.

The Government insisted the plans were under consideration and no final decision had been made.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Father spends his leave from Afghanistan protesting outside school after son, 13, is suspended for standing up to school bully

Reading between the lines here, the kid was suspended because he was white and that meant he must be at fault in the matter.  Publicity had its usual disinfectant effect, however

A former policeman working in Afghanistan has spent his annual leave protesting against his son's school after the boy was suspended for standing up to a bully who has picked on him for years.

Randy Duke, who now trains police officers, spent two hours each day picketing Cade Middle School in Victoria, Texas wearing a sandwich board reading: 'BULLYING VICTIMS ARE PUNISHED HERE.'

His father, who returns to Afghanistan in two weeks, said a bully had stomped on a paper airplane his 13-year-old son, Max, had given to a classmate with special needs - the latest in a string of incidents.

Unable to take the treatment anymore, Max said, 'Why would you do that?' and the boy pushed him, Duke told ABC News. Max then shoved him back, and a scrap ensued.

'Max has been working hard to stay away from him, since he had been confronted by him and other kids before,' he said. 'They would use racial slurs – saying, "we don't like you because you're white".'

The fight was broken up and the school administration suspended Max for two days and sent him to an alternative school for 30 days. He was also removed from the school's marching band.

'[They] gave what I believe was a harsh punishment,' Duke said. 'They looked at this as a fight - which it was not. Had it been, in-school suspension would be an appropriate punishment.'

But for Max, the worst punishment was that he is no longer allowed to play with the marching band. His father said he had been picked as one of eight students to play.

The opportunity had given him some much-needed confidence, and he was making friends and seeing his grades improve, his father said.

When Duke felt as if his conversations with the school were falling on deaf ears, he decided to start the protest, and received a great deal of support from parents passing by.

'I got lots of thumbs ups, and cars honking at me,' he said. 'I talked with other parents who said their child was bullied and it was improperly handled.'

One father told KHOU: 'Here you've got a child that retaliated for being picked on for three years and he's being punished. It should have been stopped three years ago.'

Duke, who has 20 years of policing experience, added that the school sent over police patrol cars to keep an eye on him - but he knew all the officers inside the vehicles.

But, just when Duke thought he was not going to get anywhere with his protest, his wife, Wendy, picked up the phone to the school and eventually reached an agreement.

The Dukes agreed to remove a formal complaint they had posted against the school, and the school agreed to re-enroll Max, who was able to perform with the marching band.

Duke, who will be returning to Afghanistan for another year before he returns, said he was finally able to watch his son perform.

Before he leaves, Duke is organising discussions between parents whose children are affected by bullying, and Cade Middle School staff will sit in on the meetings, ABC reported.

'Instead of us against them, my purpose is to mend our community,' he said. 'I'm hoping to plant the seed in the community. And I hope community leaders will step up and roll with it.'

Diane Boyett, a spokesperson for the school district, said in a statement that parents must make a report with the school if they think their child is being bullied. Duke said he had done so.


North Carolina university votes to ban Chick-fil-A from campus‏

Odd to see this happen at a school in a state that voted to ban gay marriage.  It shows what little Soviets universities have become

A North Carolina university’s student government has voted to ban a Chick-fil-a restaurant on campus because the fast-food chain’s president is against gay marriage.

Elon University’s Student Government Association voted 35-11 to ask its food vendor to find another restaurant to take its place, the Daily Advance reports.

Now, the decision goes to the Student Government Association’s executive president, Darien Flowers, who can accept the vote or veto it.

Flowers said he wants to talk to students and other people before making a decision, according to the paper.

The ultimate decision on whether Chick-fil-A stays will be made by senior administrators at the private college and Elon's president, school spokesman Dan Anderson told the paper.

In July, Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy told the Baptist Press that the company was "guilty as charged" for backing "the biblical definition of a family."

“We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that." Cathy told the Baptist Press, the news agency of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The Atlanta-based chain opened its first location in a Georgia mall in 1967 and grown to more than 1,615 restaurants in 39 states and Washington, D.C., with annual sales of more than $4.1 billion, according to its website.


The benefits of a classical music education at what was once a British sink school

But would it work with less dedicated and enthusiastic teachers?  Almost anything works if the teachers believe in it

Daniel Olorunfemi didn’t even know what a tuba was until three years ago, when he started at Highbury Grove School in Islington, north London. In the past 12 months, though, thanks to this inner-city comprehensive’s ground-breaking classical music programme, he has been on stage at the Royal Albert Hall playing the lowest-pitched of all brass instruments in front of 5,000 people.

Quite an achievement? “I was a bit too nervous to take it all in,” the 13-year-old confesses. “But it was amazing, wasn’t it,” chips in his more confident classmate and fellow orchestra member, Melissa Bolat. She, too, only picked up a double bass for the first time when she arrived at Highbury Grove.

A third member and contemporary, Joe Monk, wasn’t quite such a novice. “I’d played a bit of guitar before I got here,” he says. At Highbury Grove, though, every child is given an instrument to learn, and they offered him the clarinet. He hasn’t looked back. “It is just what everyone does here,” he reports matter-of-factly. “It’s the same as doing English or maths.”

Which may be the case in many independent schools, where parents and governors have the resources to fund one-to-one tuition from peripatetic music teachers and to purchase expensive violins, violas and cellos – but it is rare indeed in the state sector. Music and playing instruments is usually an optional extra, available only to those whose parents can foot at least part of the bill. A modest scheme called Wider Opportunities, launched under the last government to allow all primary schoolchildren a limited window in which to learn an orchestral instrument, is aimed principally at giving them a taster. Ambitions at Highbury Grove School, though, are longer-term. For many of its pupils, drawn from a catchment area with pockets of social deprivation (70 per cent qualify for free school meals), that first introduction to an instrument they might never otherwise have had can be a life-changing moment. Last year’s head girl, whom the school started on the flute at 14, has just begun a music degree at Oxford.

Highbury Grove has had a bit of a topsy-turvy history, admits its director of music, Pierce Brown. When it opened as a brand-new all-boys’ comprehensive in the late 1960s, its head was the bewhiskered Rhodes Boyson, later a high-profile education minister under Margaret Thatcher. He turned the school into a fortress against all progressive teaching methods – defending corporal punishment at a time when everywhere else was phasing it out.

In the 1990s standards fell, and by the turn-of-the-century, thanks to an undercover TV reporter posing as a supply teacher, the school, by now mixed, became a byword for failure. “Ten years ago, it was appalling,” says Brown candidly. “And that wasn’t just what Ofsted said, it was what the local community felt. Parents would do anything rather than allow their children to come here.”

That was when the fightback began. As part of her widely acclaimed efforts to turn this failing school around – which included rehousing it in new premises – the head teacher, Truda White, had an idea. The 1,300 pupils at the school speak 50 different languages as their mother tongue. Music, she felt, could act as a common language to unite them and mould them into one community.

And she took that one stage further. Rather than embracing the musical enthusiasms of the children, she decided upon something more timeless – the classical canon. One inspiration was the Simón Bolívar Orchestra from Venezuela, the internationally renowned face and sound of a nationwide social programme (“El Sistema”) that has run since 1975 in the Latin American country, which recruits, trains and equips classical musicians from among the poorest youngsters.

With the ongoing support of the Charles Wolfson Charitable Trust, which provides the instruments and covers the extra costs that otherwise would be beyond the standard state school educational budget, Highbury Grove has been working away to build up this radical programme for six years. “At first, our performances could be a bit hit or miss, and it still isn’t perfect,” says Brown, an Australian who joined four years ago. “But we now feel confident enough to start talking about it publicly.”

Music is at the heart of the curriculum. Every child in their first three years is given the chance to learn a stringed instrument. And, so that they don’t come to it blind, Highbury Grove now sends its music teachers out into six feeder primary schools locally to start pupils off before secondary transfer. Those who opt for music as their speciality on entering Highbury Grove are given a wider range of instrument choices, and for everyone there are orchestras, ensembles, bands and choirs.

But wouldn’t electric guitars, synthesisers and computer-generated sounds be more familiar, and perhaps more appealing, to the pupils than classical music and the traditional instruments of the orchestra? “It is about opening doors, giving them the chance to develop an interest and their own ability, and then we find the passion comes,” explains Brown. “There is nothing to match the vibrations that come through a raw, acoustic instrument.”

It is not, he stresses, that this is some prissy conservatory from which all contemporary sounds are banished as vulgar. There is too much of a buzz about Highbury Grove to make that possible, even if he wanted it. Some of the pupils, he says, have been working on a version of Pachelbel’s Canon that mixes Baroque 17th-century music with sampling from We Dance On by hip-hop crew N-Dubz (which included X Factor judge Tulisa). “We make classical music cool,” he jokes.

He is very serious, though, about the wider educational benefits that such a concentration on music has brought to the school. Every task in music is approached in the round. “So, as well as studying a piece of music, we will also study how the ear works in Biology, or sound waves in Science, or the history of the period when it was written. It all has a practical basis in the daily life of the school. We’re preparing pieces for Remembrance Sunday right now, and music again provides a way into understanding a commemoration that is very important in our culture, but a bit of a mystery for those of our pupils whose families have arrived in this country very recently.”

If it is all sounding too good to be true, you don’t just have to take Brown’s word – or those of the pupils – for the bigger benefits that music has brought to the school. Ofsted has visited, awarded Highbury Grove an “outstanding” rating and praised in particular the music programme for the sense of community it engendered with everyone working and learning together. Examination results are improving rapidly and the school is now heavily oversubscribed, with five candidates for every place. It is even beginning to attract applications from sections of the local community that previously would have given it the widest of berths. “It all goes to show,” Brown reflects, “that the skills involved in classical music are very transferable across the curriculum”.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Segregation is back

Florida Passes Plan For Racially-Based Academic Goals

The Florida State Board of Education passed a plan that sets goals for students in math and reading based upon their race.

On Tuesday, the board passed a revised strategic plan that says that by 2018, it wants 90 percent of Asian students, 88 percent of white students, 81 percent of Hispanics and 74 percent of black students to be reading at or above grade level. For math, the goals are 92 percent of Asian kids to be proficient, whites at 86 percent, Hispanics at 80 percent and blacks at 74 percent. It also measures by other groupings, such as poverty and disabilities, reported the Palm Beach Post.

The plan has infuriated many community activists in Palm Beach County and across the state.

“To expect less from one demographic and more from another is just a little off-base,” Juan Lopez, magnet coordinator at John F. Kennedy Middle School in Riviera Beach, told the Palm Beach Post.

JFK Middle has a black student population of about 88 percent.

“Our kids, although they come from different socioeconomic backgrounds, they still have the ability to learn,” Lopez said. “To dumb down the expectations for one group, that seems a little unfair.”

Others in the community agreed with Lopez’s assessment. But the Florida Department of Education said the goals recognize that not every group is starting from the same point and are meant to be ambitious but realistic.

As an example, the percentage of white students scoring at or above grade level (as measured by whether they scored a 3 or higher on the reading FCAT) was 69 percent in 2011-2012, according to the state. For black students, it was 38 percent, and for Hispanics, it was 53 percent.

In addition, State Board of Education Chairwoman Kathleen Shanahan said that setting goals for different subgroups was needed to comply with terms of a waiver that Florida and 32 other states have from some provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. These waivers were used to make the states independent from some federal regulations.

“We have set a very high goal for all students to reach in Florida,” Shanahan said.

But Palm Beach County School Board vice-chairwoman Debra Robinson isn’t buying the rationale.

“I’m somewhere between complete and utter disgust and anger and disappointment with humanity,” Robinson told the Post. She said she has been receiving complaints from upset black and Hispanic parents since the state board took its action this week.

Robinson called the state board’s actions essentially “proclaiming racism” and said she wants Palm Beach County to continue to educate every child with the same expectations, regardless of race.


Pupils to learn about 200 key British figures from Anglo-Saxons to Winston Churchill as 'politically correct' national curriculum in history is scrapped

History lessons will be rewritten to include 200 key figures, such as Winston Churchill, and events which shaped Britain under a new national curriculum drawn up by education secretary Michael Gove.

The current syllabus, previously attacked for being too politically correct, will be scrapped with the intention of giving children a deeper understanding of history.

Under new plans school children will learn a narrative about British history and key international developments, including the fall of the Roman Empire, the union that created Britain and the decline of its power.

Winston Churchill and Anglo-Saxon monarchs Alfred and Athelstan will also be put on the list of leaders that children will study.

Gove’s blueprint rejects learning by rote, but emphasises that acquiring a detailed knowledge of history will enable children to understand the reasons behind human failures and achievements, The Sunday Times reported.

Secondary school children aged between 11 and 14 will move on to 50 wider topics about the modern world, including Soviet-U.S. relations and how they shaped the world, as well as the influence of immigration on British society.

The national curriculum review was launched in January 2011 but only drafts in primary school maths, English and science have been released.

Headmistress of North London Collegiate school Bernice McCabe, co-director of the Prince’s Teaching Institute and member of the committee advising on the curriculum review, told The Sunday Times: ‘It is not a backward-looking curriculum but very forward-looking.

‘Teachers from the Prince’s Institute have said over the years that there has been a move too much towards skills without sufficient emphasis on the knowledge that you need to use them.

‘In history, for example, we do not see how you can have a good foundation of knowledge without understanding the chronology of events.’

The current version of citizenship, which includes topics such as identities and diversity and how to negotiate, plan and take action has been cut back from 29 pages to one for 11 to 14-year-olds.

The new syllabus will focus on the British monarchy and parliamentary democracy as well as theories on liberty and rights.

In geography, primary children will study physical features, the nature of rocks, rivers and mountains, the names of countries and the characteristics of countries as well as how glaciers shape landscapes.

Later on in secondary school the topics will become more specific, including aspects of human geography, like the industrial expansion of Asia.

Alan Kinder, chief executive of the Geographical Association, advising on the review, told The Sunday Times: ‘ There is concern that pupils…don’t seem to be acquiring the world knowledge that we would expect them to have and most people in the geography subject community feel there needs to be something of a rebalancing.’

It follows criticisms of the current curriculum for failing to ensure children learn about human and physical processed which shape geography.

The PE curriculum is now expected to emphasise the need for physical exertion, amid concerns the current programme requires too little fitness.

The education department refused to comment on the drafts but said they will be made public 'in due course'.


Australia:  Leftist haters want to abolish private schools

Since 40% of Australian teens to private, this hasn't got a snowflake's in real-world politics

Jennifer Buckingham

A few weeks ago I was a panellist at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas. The title of the session was ‘Abolish Private Schools.’ It became apparent within the first few minutes that a large number of people in attendance at the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall that day held that sentiment as their personal motto. As a defender of non-government education, I was not just the devil’s advocate, I was the devil incarnate.

Pasi Sahlberg, the English-speaking world’s oracle on Finnish education, gave the introductory address. He argued that Finland’s high average and high equity in scores in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is due to universal comprehensive public education and the status and calibre of school teachers. With Sahlberg as the protagonist, the premise of the session was this: Finland has very few private schools, and they are not publicly funded. So, if Australia had no private schools, couldn’t we too achieve these things?

The first question posed to the panel was what would Australia’s education system be like without private schools and school choice? My response was that it would be pretty boring. I like the variety in Australia’s schools, and highly value the freedom parents have to be able to choose their child’s school. It’s fair to say I wasn’t a crowd-pleaser.

Most of Australia’s students in both public and non-governments schools do well by international standards. What we have, unfortunately, is a group of students whose performance is well below that of their peers. These students are typically from low socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds and attend schools with similarly disadvantaged students. These struggling students need and deserve better, but abolishing private schools would do nothing to further this cause.

The different levels of socioeconomic inequity in Australian and Finnish schools reflect the different socioeconomic inequities in our societies. If all non-government schools became public schools overnight, there would be very little transfer of high-SES students into low SES schools. And, here’s the clincher – the public school system would become even more cash strapped. Instead of subsidising students to attend non-government schools at an average of $6,500 per student, each of those students would be entitled to the full public education rate – more than $11,000 per student at last count. Voluntary private investment in education would be replaced with scarce public money.

If you were trying to increase the impost on taxpayers with absolutely no educational benefit, it’s hard to think of a better way than this. A dangerous idea, indeed.

At least I can cross ‘be heckled at the Sydney Opera House’ off my to-do list.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Harvard to Host "Incest Fest" Hook Up Party

May they all get Herpes

Well, this is disturbing. "Incest Fest" will be held at the Kirkland Hall this year at Harvard University. What's incest fest? Exactly what it sounds like.

Incest-Fest is, essentially, a campus party where making out and hooking up with as many people as possible is the goal. It gets the “incest” name because the event is open only to residents of Kirkland house–one of Harvard’s undergraduate residences. Thus, students who are living together (as if they were members of the same family, get it?? Incest? So funny, right?) are having sex with one another.

Oliver Darcy over at Campus Reform says at least one student is highly uncomfortable with the event:

 At least one student at Harvard University is expressing outrage over the name of “Incest-Fest,” a hook-up dance to be held at the university’s famous Kirkland House dormitory this winter.

 Harvard’s official student newspaper, The Crimson, also mentions the event in it campus life guide.

“You’ll spend all of Secret Santa week watching underclad men gyrating in the dining hall and figuring out who you’ll hook up with at Incest Fest,” it reads. “[H]ouse life is incredibly close-knit, bordering on downright incestuous.

“But there’s more to Kirkland than raunchy dining hall skits and regrettable hook-ups,” the paper continues.

Junior Samantha Berstler, who is a resident in the Kirkland House however, argued in an op-ed in the The Crimson, that the party’s name is “offensive and insensitive”  because incest is no joking matter.
The event, described in the Kirkland House Wikipedia entry, is an annual  “debaucherous dance open only to [male and female] members of the house."

And of course:

A spokesperson for Harvard University did not provide comment to Campus Reform, despite multiple inquiries via phone and e-mail.

When I was in college, my dorm sponsored a "Diva Drag Queen Show," preventing students from going to their dorm rooms for hours.


College education can be cheap if you are "diverse"

There is BIG money in Obamacare for all things relating to “diversity,” which is crudely defined as “individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds.”  For example, section 5402–titled “Health Care Professionals Training for Diversity”– appropriates hundreds of millions of dollars to provide and expand scholarships and pay back student loans. Specifically, 5402 provides:

(1) An additional $25 million for paying back the student loans of “disadvantaged background” students– up to $30,000 per year– if they become faculty at a health profession school (nursing; medical schools; PA schools, etc.). The Secretary of HHS may also make grants/enter into contracts with such health profession schools to help subsidize the salaries of hiring such “disadvantaged background” students as faculty.

(2) About $250 million for scholarships to “disadvantaged background” students attending health profession schools ($51 million for fiscal year 2010 and “such sums as may be necessary” for the next 4 years).

(3) About $300 million for scholarships to “disadvantaged background” students who attend health profession schools and then agree to provide service in an “unserved or underserved population” area after graduation  ($60 million for fiscal year 2010 and “such sums as may be necessary” for the next 4 years).

The grand total for these 3 items alone = $ 575 million over a 5 year period.  Breathtaking boondoggle.


Australia: Schools go man hunting as male teacher numbers sink to all-time low

SALARIES of up to $99,000, 12 weeks holiday and the chance to shape the next generation: they're the selling points that will be put to WA students to boost the number of men taking up teaching.

In the wake of new lows in male teacher numbers, Education Minister Peter Collier met the heads of the Catholic and public primary school principal bodies this week to map out a plan to stem the exodus.

Mr Collier said the state's brightest teachers would be sent into schools to sell the profession to high school students.

He said the teachers would correct misconceptions about the profession, including that it was low paid. Graduate starting salaries would be $60,545 from December.

"My view is we have to market (teaching) and I just don't mean an advertising campaign," he said. "I mean getting out there and marketing it within our school environments and that's what we've come up with.

"It's the best job on Earth. There are so many positive attributes to a teaching career. Our teachers are now the highest paid in the nation, the conditions are really good and there are a raft of different opportunities.

"And the rewards (are) every day you're dealing with a group of children who have got energy. You can make a seismic difference in terms of the direction those kids take," he said.

The latest statistics show men make up 12.21 per cent of teachers in public primary schools and 36.5 per cent in secondary schools. The figures do not include deputy principals and principals.

Men represent 19.72 per cent of the teaching workforce in all public schools, compared with 21.44 per cent five years ago.

WA Primary Principals Association president Steve Breen will meet Education Department and Catholic and independent schools representatives this week to discuss the plan.

Mr Breen said it was the first step in turning around "scary" statistics.

"It's one little cog," he said. "Once people start retiring, I think the percentages will be worse. The next issue will be how do we target the people in other professions who want to come in as career-changers."

Senior teachers earn up to $91,567, but that will increase to $99,201 by the final year of their pay agreement.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Good parenting is more important than good schooling in determining your child's academic results, says new research

Unscholarly mush.  Most likely the effects reported were all just an IQ artifact --  but IQ is not mentioned  -- which makes the study a load of bollocks.  Its conclusions are probably correct  -- but are mediated by IQ.  The attentive parents were probably smarter and passed on their smarts genetically.  The authors were all sociologists however so would probably die rather than mention IQ

Good parenting is more important than a good school to a child’s academic success, according to a study.  Youngsters do best when their parents help them with homework, emphasise the importance of education and attend school events, researchers found.

Children with supportive parents – even if they attend poor quality schools – tend to outperform pupils at good schools whose parents take little interest in their education.

The findings prompted the researchers to warn that improving social mobility cannot be achieved only by ‘fixing’ the school system.  Initiatives were also needed which aimed to enhance parents’ involvement.

Researchers examined information on 10,585 teenagers drawn from 1,000 randomly selected secondary schools in the US. The study considered their academic performance and the quality of parental involvement in their lives – so-called ‘family social capital’ – as well as the quality of their schools – ‘school social capital’.

Parents were considered to be passing on high levels of social capital if they regularly checked homework, talked about school with their children and attended parents’ evenings and other events.  These are thought to be ways parents pass on knowledge and values to their children.

Meanwhile, schools with high social capital ensured the classroom environment was conducive to learning and kept truancy and disruptive behaviour to a minimum.  They also offered plenty of extra-curricular activities and made regular contact with parents.   Teachers at these schools reported high morale.

The researchers, from North Carolina State University, found that while good schools did help to raise achievement, the influence of families was stronger.

Teenagers with high levels of family capital but low school capital tended to do better in exams than pupils with high school capital but low family capital, according to the study, published in the journal Research and Social Stratification and Mobility.

Dr Toby Parcel, who led the study, said: ‘While both school and family involvement are important, the role of family involvement is stronger when it comes to academic success.’

She said the findings emphasised the crucial role parents play in children’s education.  ‘Our study shows that parents need to be aware of how important they are, and invest time in their children – checking homework, attending school events and letting kids know school is important.  That’s where the payoff is.’

Dr Parcel said attempts to ‘fix’ schools ignored decades of research highlighting the importance of families.

‘Our findings ... suggest that efforts to increase social capital at school, such as initiatives to reduce class size or attempts to create parent-school programmes and ties, would probably have a beneficial effect on students,’ she said.

‘However we also find that family social capital has a stronger influence on child achievement than does school social capital.’

Parents heavily involved in their children’s education are often called ‘helicopter parents’, because they hover around, or ‘tiger mothers’, because they push them to achieve high academic standards.

The research suggests the approaches are, at least in part, vindicated.

Does Capital at Home Matter More than Capital at School?: Social Capital Effects on Academic Achievement

By Mikaela J. Dufura et al.


A relatively neglected problem is how individuals derive social capital from more than one context and the extent to which they benefit from the capital in each. We examine whether social capital created at home and at school has differing effects on child academic achievement. We hypothesize that children derive social capital from both their families and their schools and that capital from each context promotes achievement. Using data from the National Longitudinal Education Study and structural equation modeling, we show that capital from each context is helpful, with social capital in the family more influential than social capital at school. We discuss the implications of these findings for research on child achievement and for studies of inequality generally.


Texan students treated like cattle

San Antonio schools have become very enthusiastic about RFID tagging students. One student reportedly claims to have been told "No tag. No vote for homecoming king and queen."

The lovely thing about technology is that it helps you control children.

They need to be controlled. Otherwise, they will run amok and do all sorts of dreadful things, like go to the restroom, smoke cigarettes, or kiss each other.

Hanging IDs with RFID chips around students' necks isn't exactly new. Some Texas schools have been enjoying it for some time.

However, recently, the Northside Independent Schools District in San Antonio encountered a little consternation when it announced its foray into the idea -- one that is reportedly being instituted to combat truancy (and therefore make the schools more money).

Now that the IDs are in force, a counter-force has emerged: civil disobedience.

I would like to identify as suggesting that most kids happily accept the new tags, as their path through school (if they show up) is made simpler and quicker. For example, in the lunch queue.

However, it does report that one parent, Steven Hernandez, object to his daughter wearing any type of badge on religious grounds. Her school, John Jay High School, reportedly offered to take the RFID chip out, but Hernandez still believes that the words of the Book of Revelation don't allow for such a blasphemous thing.

Specifically -- an objection that was also raised by a Louisiana parent to school palm scanners -- it's the "mark of the beast" aspect that concerns him.

What some might find truly beastly, though, is that his daughter, Andrea, claims that she was told by a teacher that without the ID badge, she couldn't vote for homecoming king and queen. At least that's what Catholic Online reports.

Some might find it odd that Hernandez also reportedly claimed that the school only wanted to co-operate with his feelings if he stopped publicly criticizing the tagging.

His daughter told The Alex Jones Channel that the tags don't make her feel safer.

"I feel completely unsafe knowing that this can be hacked by pedophiles and dangerous offenders," she said.  She added: "I walk home. Dangerous offenders can pick up on my signal."

Perhaps this is a mere skirmish. Perhaps, like so many who now expose most of themselves through one form of technology or another, everyone will just get used to it.

Until something really bad happens, that is.


School Bus Driver Fired After Reportedly Telling Student He Should Have Been Aborted Over Family’s Romney Sign‏

The hate never stops with Leftists

A Wisconsin school bus driver has been fired after reportedly telling a 12-year-old boy he should have been aborted because his family had a Mitt Romney yard sign.

Bus company Durham School Services said in a statement that the driver in New Berlin, Wis. “engaged in a political debate with students” on Monday and “made an inappropriate remark to a child.”

“Durham immediately removed the driver from service pending an investigation, which resulted in the termination of the driver,” the statement said.

WISN 1130 cited blog Freedom Eden, which said the 78-year-old female driver had “been harassing the boy, making rude comments to him related to politics.” When the boy responded that President Barack Obama supports abortion, the driver allegedly replied, “Maybe your mom should have chosen abortion for you.”

Durham spokesman Blaine Krage told TheBlaze he could not confirm the exact comment the driver made, saying only it was during a “debate about politics.”

“There was a political debate and then the driver did make that inappropriate remark and then we took appropriate action,” Krage said.

He said the boy’s mother complained after the incident took place.

Krage added that the driver had been with the company for more than 20 years and had never received any complaints before.

Full statement from Durham School Services:

    “Durham School Services was notified by a parent on Tuesday, Oct. 9, that a bus driver in New Berlin, Wisconsin, engaged in a political debate with students the previous day and made an inappropriate remark to a child. Durham immediately removed the driver from service pending an investigation, which resulted in the termination of the driver. Prior to this incident, the driver had an incident free record while serving the community as a Durham school bus driver for more than 20 years. Notwithstanding, the driver’s remark was insensitive and inappropriate. Durham has apologized to the family. We remain strongly committed to the safe transportation of students in the community.”