Friday, January 25, 2013

Rotten to the Core: Obama's War on Academic Standards

Michelle Malkin
America's downfall doesn't begin with the "low-information voter." It starts with the no-knowledge student.

For decades, collectivist agitators in our schools have chipped away at academic excellence in the name of fairness, diversity and social justice. "Progressive" reformers denounced Western civilization requirements, the Founding Fathers and the Great Books as racist. They attacked traditional grammar classes as irrelevant in modern life. They deemed ability grouping of students (tracking) bad for self-esteem. They replaced time-tested rote techniques and standard algorithms with fuzzy math, inventive spelling and multicultural claptrap.

Under President Obama, these top-down mal-formers -- empowered by Washington education bureaucrats and backed by misguided liberal philanthropists led by billionaire Bill Gates -- are now presiding over a radical makeover of your children's school curriculum. It's being done in the name of federal "Common Core" standards that do anything but raise achievement standards.

Common Core was enabled by Obama's federal stimulus law and his Department of Education's "Race to the Top" gimmickry. The administration bribed cash-starved states into adopting unseen instructional standards as a condition of winning billions of dollars in grants. Even states that lost their bids for Race to the Top money were required to commit to a dumbed-down and amorphous curricular "alignment."

In practice, Common Core's dubious "college- and career"-ready standards undermine local control of education, usurp state autonomy over curricular materials, and foist untested, mediocre and incoherent pedagogical theories on America's schoolchildren.

Over the next several weeks and months, I'll use this column space to expose who's behind this disastrous scheme in D.C. backrooms. I'll tell you who's fighting it in grassroots tea party and parental revolts across the country from Massachusetts to Indiana, Texas, Georgia and Utah. And most importantly, I'll explain how this unprecedented federal meddling is corrupting our children's classrooms and textbooks.

There's no better illustration of Common Core's duplicitous talk of higher standards than to start with its math "reforms." While Common Core promoters assert their standards are "internationally benchmarked," independent members of the expert panel in charge of validating the standards refute the claim. Panel member Dr. Sandra Stotsky of the University of Arkansas reported, "No material was ever provided to the Validation Committee or to the public on the specific college readiness expectations of other leading nations in mathematics" or other subjects.

In fact, Stanford University professor James Milgram, the only mathematician on the validation panel, concluded that the Common Core math scheme would place American students two years behind their peers in other high-achieving countries. In protest, Milgram refused to sign off on the standards. He's not alone.

Professor Jonathan Goodman of New York University found that the Common Core math standards imposed "significantly lower expectations with respect to algebra and geometry than the published standards of other countries."

Under Common Core, as the American Principles Project and Pioneer Institute point out, algebra I instruction is pushed to 9th grade, instead of 8th grade, as commonly taught. Division is postponed from 5th to 6th grade. Prime factorization, common denominators, conversions of fractions and decimals, and algebraic manipulation are de-emphasized or eschewed. Traditional Euclidean geometry is replaced with an experimental approach that had not been previously pilot-tested in the U.S.

Ze'ev Wurman, a prominent software architect, electrical engineer and longtime math advisory expert in California and Washington, D.C., points out that Common Core delays proficiency with addition and subtraction until 4th grade and proficiency with basic multiplication until 5th grade, and skimps on logarithms, mathematical induction, parametric equations and trigonometry at the high school level.

I cannot sum up the stakes any more clearly than Wurman did in his critique of this mess and the vested interests behind it:

"I believe the Common Core marks the cessation of educational standards improvement in the United States. No state has any reason left to aspire for first-rate standards, as all states will be judged by the same mediocre national benchmark enforced by the federal government. Moreover, there are organizations that have reasons to work for lower and less-demanding standards, specifically teachers unions and professional teacher organizations. While they may not admit it, they have a vested interest in lowering the accountability bar for their members. ...This will be done in the name of 'critical thinking' and '21st-century' skills, and in faraway Washington, D.C., well beyond the reach of parents and most states and employers."

This is all in keeping with my own experience as a parent of elementary- and middle-school age kids who were exposed to "Everyday Math" nonsense. This and other fads abandon "drill and kill" memorization techniques for fuzzy "critical thinking" methods that put the cart of "why" in front of the horse of "how." In other words: Instead of doing the grunt work of hammering times tables and basic functions into kids' heads first, the faddists have turned to wacky, wordy non-math alternatives to encourage "conceptual" understanding -- without any mastery of the fundamentals of math.

Common Core is rotten to the core. The corruption of math education is just the beginning.


Third of British graduate jobs are left vacant because students are not learning the right workplace skills

Nearly one in three leading employers are forced to leave graduate jobs open because they are unable to find suitable candidates to fill them, a report found today.

They are being left with vacant posts despite the recession because of a shortage of applicants with the right workplace skills and degree disciplines.

Bosses also complain that choosy graduates are sitting on job offers while waiting for a better opportunity to arise and then leaving their other choices in the lurch.

The report, from the Association of Graduate Recruiters, also found that employers are increasingly targeting recruitment at school-leavers - partly due to the increase in tuition fees.

Some are even cutting back on graduate recruitment in favour of hiring school-leavers, amid fears that talented youngsters will be put off higher education by rising costs, although the majority are maintaining graduate numbers.

One employer said: ‘The shift in political landscape is going to cause a lot of individuals to decide not to go to university and will impact where the talent goes in the marketplace. Most big employers are waking up to this and have developed their own apprenticeship programmes.’

Even though the number of graduates being turned out by universities is currently continuing to rise, nearly a third of 197 employers surveyed - 30.7 per cent - reported missing recruitment targets last year.

The key reason for shortfalls - up to a quarter of graduate posts - was a tendency for candidates to apply to a large number of employers and hang on for the best offers.

One employer said: ‘In previous years, they would be open and honest about where they were applying but now they wait for other offers before making a decision.’

Other leading reasons were ‘not enough applicants with the right skills’ and a ‘shortage of applicants in specific geographical areas’.

In some cases, candidates had poor perceptions of the industry sector.

Overall, the survey found the number of vacancies offered dropped eight per cent last year amid employer uncertainty over the financial climate. However it is expected to bounce back this year, rising nine per cent.

Meanwhile, graduate starting salaries are expected to rise to £26,500.

Graduates joining the public sector - organisations such as the civil service, Teach First, police forces, local government and the prison service - are set to enjoy the highest rise of any industry group, at 7.5 per cent, despite the Government’s austerity drive.

However, average starting salaries were second from bottom last year, at £23,250.

Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the AGR, said: ‘The results indicate a renewed level of optimism among organisations for the year ahead.

‘With the graduate job market inextricably linked to business confidence, it is reassuring to see that employers are committed to investing in graduate talent despite the backdrop of continuing global economic uncertainty.’


Australia:  Most teaching graduates fail to secure jobs

Some of these unfortunates may find themselves readily employed in the USA and UK  -- trying to teach mainly African classes.  They will need a lot of luck

SEVEN out of eight teaching graduates have failed to secure a permanent job with Queensland's Education Department.

As teachers get ready to go back to school, their union warns this year will be one of the worst to attain a job in state schools.

Almost 16,000 teaching applicants are seeking employment with the Department of Education, Training and Employment - the state's largest teaching employer - including more than 1000 new university graduates.

DETE assistant director-general Duncan McKellar said as of January 16, 1608 graduates had applied for a job to teach in state schools in 2013. Only 197 of those had secured permanent jobs. Another 348 have been given temporary employment, leaving 1063 - about two-thirds - looking for jobs elsewhere.

The Queensland Teachers' Union says this will be one of the toughest years for graduate teachers to secure a job after DETE acknowledged there would be about half a classroom teacher less at each state primary school - assuming enrolments remain the same as last year - as a result of a staffing formula change. But QTU vice-president Julie Brown said there were likely to be even fewer teachers hired throughout 2013 because of the staffing change. "The sad news is that some of those graduates will go interstate or overseas," she said.

John Phelan, communication manager of Queensland's largest Catholic school employer, Brisbane Catholic Education, said they had put on extra teaching graduates this year through their centralised primary process - up from 65 last year to 89.

Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek said teaching graduates had the right to expect a job and he was working with universities and the Federal Government to address the over-supply issue.

He said there was still a demand for teacher applicants in rural and remote areas, for specialist secondary subjects, including mathematics, science, industrial design and technology and for teaching students with disabilities.


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