Thursday, July 11, 2013

Black Education Tragedy   

By: Walter Williams   

As if more evidence were needed about the tragedy of black education, Rachel Jeantel, a witness for the prosecution in the George Zimmerman murder trial, put a face on it for the nation to see. Some of that evidence unfolded when Zimmerman’s defense attorney asked 19-year-old Jeantel to read a letter that she allegedly had written to Trayvon Martin’s mother. She responded that she doesn’t read cursive, and that’s in addition to her poor grammar, syntax and communication skills.

Jeantel is a senior at Miami Norland Senior High School. How in the world did she manage to become a 12th-grader without being able to read cursive writing? That’s a skill one would expect from a fourth-grader. Jeantel is by no means an exception at her school. Here are a few achievement scores from her school: Thirty-nine percent of the students score basic for reading, and 38 percent score below basic. In math, 37 percent score basic, and 50 percent score below basic. Below basic is the score when a student is unable to demonstrate even partial mastery of knowledge and skills fundamental for proficient work at his grade level. Basic indicates only partial mastery.

Few Americans, particularly black Americans, have any idea of the true magnitude of the black education tragedy. The education establishment might claim that it’s not their fault. They’re not responsible for the devastation caused by female-headed families, drugs, violence and the culture of dependency. But they are totally responsible for committing gross educational fraud. It’s educators who graduated Jeantel from elementary and middle school and continued to pass her along in high school. It’s educators who will, in June 2014, confer upon her a high-school diploma.

It’s not just Florida’s schools. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, nationally most black 12th-graders test either basic or below basic in reading, writing, math and science. Drs. Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom wrote in their 2004 book, “No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning,” “Blacks nearing the end of their high school education perform a little worse than white eighth-graders in both reading and U.S. history, and a lot worse in math and geography.” Little has changed since the book’s publication.

Drexel University history and political science professor George Ciccariello-Maher disapprovingly says that the reaction to Jeantel’s court performance “has been in terms of aesthetics, of disregarding a witness on the basis of how she talks, how good she is at reading and writing.” Harking back to Jim Crow days, he adds: “These are subtle things that echo literacy testing at the polls, echo the question of whether black Americans can testify against white people, of being always suspect in their testimony. It’s the same old dynamics emerging in a very different guise.”

Then there’s Morgan Polikoff, assistant professor of education at the University of Southern California, who says: “Cursive should be allowed to die. In fact, it’s already dying, despite having been taught for decades.” That’s the kind of educational philosophy that accounts for much of our nation’s educational decline.

The educational system and black family structure and culture have combined to make increasing numbers of young black people virtually useless in the increasingly high-tech world of the 21st century. Too many people believe that pouring more money into schools will help. That’s whistlin’ “Dixie.” Whether a student is black or white, poor or rich, there are some minimum requirements that must be met in order to do well in school. Someone must make the student do his homework, see to it that he gets a good night’s sleep, fix a breakfast, make sure he gets to school on time and make sure he respects and obeys his teachers. Here are my questions: Which one of those requirements can be achieved through a higher school budget? Which can be achieved by politicians? If those minimal requirements aren’t met, whatever else is done is mostly for naught.

I hope Rachel Jeantel’s court performance is a wake-up call for black Americans about the devastation wrought by our educational system.


British Labour gets a history lesson: There were more unqualified teachers when party's education spokesman was in government   

The bitter row over allowing unqualified teachers today after it emerged the number of untrained staff in classrooms was higher under Labour.

Education Secretary Michael Gove is allowing academy schools to employ people with no formal teacher training but his Labour opponent Stephen Twigg has warned it risks damaging the quality of lessons.

But new figures released in parliament show there were more unqualified teachers in England and Wales when Mr Twigg was schools minister under Tony Blair.

The two parties have been locked in an increasingly angry dispute over whether good teachers need to pass exams before being allowed into schools.

Last year Mr Gove announced academies could employ staff without formal teaching qualifications, in line with freedoms enjoyed by free schools and the independent sector.

The Department for Education said the flexibility would more schools to hire ‘great linguists, computer scientists, engineers and other specialists who have not worked in state schools before’.

Labour opposes the plan, even though Mr Twigg and his colleague Tristram Hunt have boasted of ‘teaching’ in schools in their constituencies.

However, official figures show that the number of unqualified teachers in schools in England has fallen dramatically since the coalition was formed.

Embarrassingly, the data was requested by Labour frontbencher Kevin Brennan.

In 2005 there were 18,800 unqualified teachers in publicly-funded schools, accounting for 4.5 per cent of all teaching staff.

Mr Twigg was schools minister in Mr Blair’s government until he lost his seat at the May 2005 general election.

By 2010 there were 17,800 unqualified teachers, falling in 2012 to 14,800.

Mr Gove now believes 'Labour's education policy is a joke’ after attacking free schools but backing parent and teacher led academies and regularly teaching in schools.

A source close to the Education Secretary added: ‘Now it is revealed that when Labour was in Government and Stephen Twigg was education minister there were thousands more teachers without the certificate than there are now.

‘Every policy announcement from Stephen Twigg blows up in his face. It is madness to want to fire great teachers just because they don't have a union approved certificate or to stop brilliant teachers from private schools switching to state schools.'

However, Labour said the total number of teachers rose under Labour from almost 400,000 in 1997 to 448,000 in 2010, and has fallen by 6,000 since then.

Unqualified teachers were not allowed to be employed permanently in state-funded schools under Labour.

Mr Twigg said: ‘‘When Labour was in government, all teachers in state funded school had to become qualified. Michael Gove scrapped this rule.

‘Michael Gove is damaging school standards by allowing unqualified teachers to teach on a permanent basis in academies and Free Schools.

‘This means that there are now more than 5,300 unqualified teachers- an increase of more than 3,000 since November 2010- in academies and Free Schools. At the next General Election, Labour will offer a guarantee that all teachers in all state funded schools will in future have to have or work towards qualified status’.


Hebrew in UK Jewish schools given last-minute reprieve

British Jewry successfully fights part of the national curriculum overhaul which put in danger primary schools’ Hebrew programs

The British Jewish leadership has expressed relief after the government backtracked on a plan that would have made it difficult for Jewish schools to continue teaching Hebrew, Monday.

Vivian Wineman, president of the Board of Deputies, Anglo-Jewry’s representative organization, said he was “delighted” that the government took the community’s objections into account.

“The consequence of [the] decision is that it will be much easier to teach Ivrit within our schools,” he said.

In November 2012, the government launched a consultation on a suggestion to require primary schools to teach either French, German, Italian, Mandarin, Spanish, Latin or Ancient Greek. Because Hebrew was not on the list, Jewish schools were concerned they would not have enough time to teach Ivrit properly as well, and that they could even be forced to drop it from the curriculum.

The department of education received 601 responses to the consultation, of whom a majority “were not in favour of the proposal for a set list of languages,” according to a February report. There were calls to include a range of languages in the list, including Japanese, Sanskrit, Arabic and Urdu, but by far the largest group – 226 respondents – specified “it was essential that Jewish schools had the option of choosing Hebrew as their foreign language.”

The Board of Deputies and the National Association of Jewish Orthodox Schools also made representations to the government.

On Monday, Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove said that he was dropping the proposal.

“We have noted the concerns expressed by organizations such as the Board of Deputies that it could narrow the scope of language teaching in primary schools,” he wrote in a letter to Wineman. “I have decided, therefore, not to proceed with making the proposed list a statutory requirement.”

Primary schools are now obligated to teach a foreign language between the ages of seven and 14, but are free to choose which one. The announcement was made as part of a wide overhaul of the national curriculum, which governs the material taught in state schools.


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