Wednesday, September 25, 2013

How the best school may HARM your child: Youngsters could do better at worse school with less competition

Parents who have agonised over getting their children into the best school may have been wasting their time and effort.  Surrounding a child with brighter peers could actually damage his or her education, researchers warn.

They said constantly being outshone in the classroom by brainboxes could shatter their confidence so much that they end up doing worse academically.

So weaker students – both boys and girls – might be better off at a less competitive school as they have the psychological advantage of being a ‘bigger fish in a smaller pond’.

Being a competent pupil in such a setting can help ‘motivate’ children and lead to ‘confidence, resilience and perseverance’, according to the findings.

Bright children, however, tend to thrive as they move through their school careers because they are already filled with self-confidence.

This positive side of the phenomenon affects both sexes although it is far more pronounced in boys, according to the paper from the London School of Economics.

The gain was said to be similar to a child who is the best in their street at football and ‘becomes more confident and spends more time playing and so further improves’.

Dr Felix Weinhardt, a post-doctoral research fellow in economics, said: ‘Our findings go against the common assumption that having better peers is always the best for children. Previously we thought there were no negative effects.  ‘But just making it into a better school and being at the bottom end of the ranks can have a negative effect.’

The research looked at almost 2.3million English pupils taking National Curriculum tests in maths, English and science.

Assessments for those aged 11 (Key Stage 2) were used as a benchmark of ability while those for  14-year-olds (Key Stage 3) were used to rate how well they did at secondary school.

The project also used a survey on confidence taken by 15,000 pupils.

The data revealed those near the top of their class in primary school continued to improve while those who struggled often did worse.

The upward trend was stronger for boys but the same for both genders in pupils from deprived backgrounds. The ratings for both boys and girls in the bottom quarter of performance at primary dropped at secondary level.

Dr Weinhardt said parents could follow up the conclusions by flagging up a struggling pupil’s strong areas eg that they were ahead of others in the area or were doing well according to national ratings


Obama’s College Affordability Scheme Gets an ‘F’

President Obama unveiled his latest college affordability plan in time for the start of the new school year. Yet his proposal for a government-issued “College Scorecard” shows he needs more homework about why college is so expensive.

Under the president’s plan, starting in 2015, colleges would be rated according to their “value,” measured by tuition prices, the proportion of low-income students enrolled, graduation rates, debt loads carried by graduates, the advanced degrees they attain, and graduates’ earnings. By 2018, federal aid would be dispersed to institutions based on their ratings.

The president has suggested that giving people more information is a surefire way to drive college costs down. But bad incentives, not bad information, are to blame.

Colleges have raised tuition prices and let costs run amok for decades — all the while directing more of their own institutional aid to students from wealthier families. Still the federal aid just kept coming.

Nearly a decade ago, less than one quarter of the institutional aid colleges awarded went to undergraduates from families earning $100,000 or more. Today, it’s jumped to 38 percent.

If colleges had instead used financial aid to improve affordability, a college degree would cost about $3,500 less, according to the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.

Instead, colleges seem to be pouring more money into administrative bloat. In fact, administrative staff grew at twice the pace of instructional staff over the past 15 years, according to research by the University of Arkansas’ Jay P. Greene.

This situation will likely worsen if new mandates are enacted under Obama’s college rating system, since additional federal financial aid compliance officers will be required to track students long after they’ve graduated.

Americans should learn from our experience with No Child Left Behind, which added nearly 8 million additional administrative hours at a cost of more than $235 million annually to K-12 education. Colleges will face similar additional red tape under Obama’s College Scorecard scheme.

Obama’s rating system will also open a Pandora’s box of unintended consequences because his measures of college “value” are based on economically faulty assumptions that are also highly susceptible to politicization.

Just wait until Washington politicians and their special interest friends start dictating what makes a college education valuable. Programs offering low-earning liberal arts and social work degrees could face the chopping block, along with higher earning but less esteemed programs among Washington elites such as manufacturing and trades.

There are better ways to tackle college affordability. First, this is largely a problem of the federal government’s own making. For decades, federal aid has flowed to institutions, which in turn raised prices with immunity — making college less, not more, affordable.

The solution is to phase out federal aid, return the associated overhead and administrative funds to taxpayers, allow students and their families set aside tax-free funds to pay for college, and encourage private sector work-study contracts so students can earn degrees without the debt or job uncertainty current graduates face.

Now that’s a plan that would earn high marks for innovation and effectiveness, but Americans should also consider a more fundamental re-evaluation of the college conversation.

Obama insists that a college degree is “an economic imperative.” In reality, just one out of four jobs in the fastest growing fields over the next decade will require a college degree or higher.

All students should have an equal opportunity to pursue the education they believe will best prepare them to succeed personally and professionally. That freedom is what fuels our economy, not the “four-year college for all” agenda, which too often leaves students in debt for a meaningless degree.


Australia:  New measures restore principals' right to crack down on unruly students

In the State of Queensland

PRINCIPALS say tough new school discipline measures will help restore a respect for authority in students.

A Parliamentary committee yesterday held hearings into legislation introduced by Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek which will allow principals to crack down on unruly students.

Changes include longer periods of suspension and detention as well as the ability for a principal to compel a student to perform community service or suspend them if they are facing charges.

Queensland Secondary Principals' Association spokesman Jeff Major told the committee he hoped the changes would restore respect for authority.

"Respect for authority and for the principalship over time has diminished," he said.

"We believe that the Bill and some of the work that's done in promoting this Bill will help to reinstate the principal's position in the community and their authority.

"Over time we hope that will lead to better discipline and better behaviour in our schools."

Mr Major said principals did not set out with a desire to issue suspensions or exclusions.

"Unfortunately this has become part of our role in dealing with some of the pointy end behaviours that occur in our schools so we can set high expectations and set good tones in our schools so that all students can benefit from good learning," he said.

"Principals do strive to have very positive cultures in their school to ensure students are engaged."

Several submitters raised concerns with some of the more controversial aspects of the changes including Queensland Law Society children's law committee deputy chair Damien Bartholomew.

He told the committee the society had concerns with the decision to allow principals to suspend students who have been charged with an offence before they have found guilty.

"This appears to be inconsistent with the presumption of innocence," Mr Bartholomew said.

"These changes would also empower the principal to make a decision based on behaviour that occurs beyond the school grounds and may be entirely unrelated to conduct affecting the school."

Mr Bartholomew said the society was concerned those students affected would become further isolated as a result.

"One of the primary concerns of the society in making a representation in relation to this Bill is that we know that young people who are disengaged from school are far more likely to be engaging in the youth justice system," he said.

Mr Major said people who had not had the benefit of schooling were more likely to end up in the criminal justice system.

He said the decision to suspend a student who is facing charges would also undermine bail conditions which usually include that a juvenile continue to attend school.

The parliamentary Education and Innovation Committee also heard from other groups including the University of Queensland school of Education, the Queensland Teachers' Union, the Brisbane Youth Education and Training Centre Parents and Citizens Association and teacher Jack Dacey during almost three hours of hearings yesterday.

It is due to report back to State Parliament on the Education (Strengthening Discipline in State Schools) Amendment Bill 2013 by October 9.


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