Thursday, October 10, 2013


The sissification of America continues: a middle school in Long Island, New York in Nassau County has banned footballs, baseballs, soccer balls, playing tag or doing cartwheels without a coach during recess because the school is concerned middle-schoolers will get hurt.

CBS 2 reported  that at Weber Middle School in Port Washington, all of the above traditional games are out- and Nerf balls are in. Port Washington schools Supt. Kathleen Maloney said there have been students injured, and claimed, “Some of these injuries can unintentionally become very serious, so we want to make sure our children have fun, but are also protected.”

One student, voicing a time-honored opinion, said, “I think we need the soccer balls, the footballs and everything, so we can have some fun.” Another echoed, “Cartwheels and tag — I think it’s ridiculous they are banning that.” A third chimed in, “You go for recess — that’s your free time to go let loose and recharge,” while a fourth concluded, “That’s all we want to do. We’re in school all day sitting behind the desk learning.”

Long Island Jewish Medical Center emergency room director Dr. Salvatore Pardo said he has been getting middle-schoolers with “head injuries, bumps, scrapes; worried about concussions.”

But Port Washington parent Ellen Cohen disagreed, saying, “Children’s safety is paramount, but at the same time, you have to let them live life.”

Other districts have been in contact with Nassau County educators to gather information about the new safety-first measures.


DoJ Alleges Segregation in Louisiana Schools

In August, Attorney General Eric Holder's Justice Department initiated a lawsuit against Louisiana, taking issue with the state's school voucher program. Proponents of the system insist that vouchers have helped desegregate schools while bolstering the broader goal of expanding school choice. The DoJ argues the opposite: They claim Louisiana has “impeded the desegregation process,” referring specifically to 34 of the state's school systems. However, a new study from the University of Arkansas' School Choice Demonstration Project isn't likely to help Holder's case.

While the study is not an apples-to-apples comparison, “[T]heir finding actually does a much better job than the DOJ did at assessing whether the program is a good thing for desegregation efforts overall,” explains National Review's Patrick Brennan. “It tries to measure the net impact of the program on integration and segregation, while the DOJ merely identified 34 schools where they say the problem got worse and sued on those grounds, without measuring whether vouchers improved the situation in other places with desegregation orders.”

In short, researchers “find that the vast majority (83 percent) of students transferred reduced the level of segregation at the schools they leave, and the impact on the schools they arrive at is, overall, negligible.” Indeed, this study is similar to other findings that reveal overall positive attributes from districts that take advantage of school vouchers. Children, not agendas, come first when parents' school choice options expand. But don't expect this evidence to give Eric Holder second thoughts.


English schools go backwards: Pupils are worse at maths and literacy than their grandparents

England is the only developed country producing school leavers who are worse at maths and reading than their grandparents, according to a damning report.

The study found 16 to 24-year-olds are among the least literate and numerate in the world, lagging behind those in countries including Estonia, Poland and the Slovak Republic.

England came 22nd out of 24 countries for the reading skills of its young people and 21st for maths, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The figures showed many Japanese school leavers are more advanced than English university graduates.

The OECD said England was the only country where the oldest age group  studied (55-65) had a higher proficiency in  literacy and numeracy than the youngest (16-24) after other factors such as sex, socio-economic background and type of occupation were taken into account.

The organisation warned England would struggle with competitors in global markets unless urgent action was taken.

The Tories said the report exposed the failings of Labour during its 13 years in power. ‘These are Labour’s children, educated under a Labour government and force-fed a diet of dumbing down and low expectations,’ said skills and enterprise minister Matthew Hancock.

Labour came to power in 1997 after Tony Blair pledged his priority would be ‘education, education, education’.

Spending in the sector soared by 78 per cent from £50billion to £89billion by the time the party lost the election in 2010.

During this period, GCSE and A-level grades rose every year, which critics claimed was evidence of dumbing down.

Andreas Schleicher, of the OECD, said young adults had more qualifications than those nearing retirement, but not greater abilities.

This indicated that there had been grade inflation and that qualifications did not necessarily mean better skills.

The finding ‘doesn’t look good for the UK’, Mr Schleicher said.

The 466-page study was the first carried out by the OECD into the work skills of 16  to 65-year-olds, establishing their abilities in literacy, numeracy and problem solving.

A total of 166,000 were interviewed in 24 countries, including 9,000 in England and Northern Ireland. Scotland and Wales were not covered.

The study found a quarter of adults in England (8.5million) have the maths skills of a ten-year-old, with a large minority only able to perform sums with whole numbers.

Literacy levels are also below average, with 16.4 per cent of adults (5.8million) reading at the level of a child in the penultimate year of primary school.

Just 42.4 per cent of young adults were proficient in problem solving. This was around 8 percentage points less than the average of 50.7 per cent, and 21 behind the best-performing country, South Korea.

England produced 8 per cent of the world’s most highly skilled workers in the late 1960s and 70s. This has dropped to 4 per cent and the trend is expected to continue.

The report said the ‘talent pool of highly skilled adults in England... is likely to shrink relative to that of other countries’ in the next few decades.

The slide could be reversed only if ‘significant action is taken to improve skills proficiency among young people’.

England also lags behind other nations in the proportion of people continuing with education into adulthood. One positive note was that the country has been successful in making good use of its pool of skilled talent, resulting in high productivity and wages.

The Coalition has taken steps to improve education, demanding an end to grade inflation and making courses and exams tougher. The number of top GCSE and A-level grades has now decreased for the past two years.

John Allan, of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: ‘The OECD report highlights what our members tell us – that young people don’t have the literacy and numeracy skills to do the job properly. We need action to improve these crucial basic skills from an early age.’

The shadow education secretary, Tristram Hunt, defended Labour’s record, saying it ‘drove up standards in maths and English across our schools, evident in the huge improvements we saw in GCSE results between 1997 and 2010’.

Mike Harris, of the Institute of Directors, said the report ‘underlines the credibility gap between the picture painted by decades of rises in exam pass rates and employers’ real-world experience of interviewing and employing people’.

Former Labour education and employment secretary David Blunkett questioned the OECD’s methodology and said the report ‘warranted united action, not party political point scoring’.

Education has undergone massive change since Labour began replacing grammar schools with the comprehensive system in 1965.

In 1988 GCSEs replaced O-levels and the National Curriculum was introduced, and in 1997 Labour abolished the Assisted Places Scheme awarding free places at fee-paying schools to gifted children from low or middle-income families.

The academy schools programme began in 2000, with schools funded by the state and made independent of local government control.

In 2010 the Coalition launched free schools, which are similar to academies  but can be set up by groups including parents, teachers, charities.


No comments: