Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Illinois House Passes Three-Year Ban on Online Charter Schools

The Illinois House has passed a three-year ban on virtual charter schools, shortly after an existing one-year ban expired.

“It’s an amazing story about what they want to do here in Illinois. We are going absolutely backward in terms of education reform and education innovation,” said Ted Dabrowski, vice president of policy at the Illinois Policy Institute.

Twenty-seven states have online schools, and five require students to take a class online before graduating high school, according to the International Association for K-12 Online Learning.

Much of the political pressure for the ban came from teachers unions, Dabrowski said.

“The school districts in Illinois have massive power. We have 868 school districts, the most in the nation, and they have massive power to keep out charter schools. They want to keep out competition, and so the unions and a couple of the legislators … have worked very hard to block reforms,” Dabrowski said. “There’s a lot of politics as usual.”


Obama Administration Going After 55 Colleges in Sex Assault Investigation

 Some of the 55 colleges and universities facing federal investigation for their handling of sexual abuse allegations say they're cooperating with the U.S. Education Department, though few are offering details about what information the agency is seeking.

The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor is one of only a handful of schools named by federal officials Thursday to publicly reveal anything about why the department is investigating. The probe involves the school's handling of a reported 2009 violation of its sexual misconduct policy by then-football placekicker Brendan Gibbons, who was expelled this past December.

Michigan is "fully cooperating" with the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights, school spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said.

"They were on campus a week or so ago doing some interviews with faculty, staff and students," Fitzgerald said. "We've had information related to the investigation posted on our website since they informed us about the investigation toward the end of February. This is well-known on campus."

A student government group that examined the school's student sexual misconduct policy said last month that it planned to share with investigators its determination that the university failed to explain the delay between the alleged incident and Gibbons' expulsion.

The Obama administration is seeking more openness about the issue of sexual violence on and around the nation's campuses. On Thursday, the Education Department revealed its list of schools facing investigations that were started after complaints were filed with its Office for Civil Rights (OCR) or as part of a review to see whether the schools were complying with Title IX, which prohibits gender discrimination at institutions receiving federal funds.

It is the same law that guarantees girls and women equal access to sports, but it also regulates institutions' handling of sexual violence and increasingly is being used by victims who say their schools failed to protect them.

The schools range from public universities, including Ohio State, the University of California, Berkeley and Arizona State, to private schools including Knox College in Illinois, Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania and Catholic University of America in the District of Columbia. Some Ivy League schools also are on the list.

The department did not provide details, but information about some of the investigations has come out.

The investigation at Vanderbilt University follows complaints filed in November by students and former students who alleged the school responded inadequately to reports of sexual assault. It also comes amid a criminal case in Nashville of allegations that four former Vanderbilt football players took part in a gang rape of a student in a school dorm last June.

Vanderbilt spokeswoman Beth Fortune said in an email that the school was cooperating in the investigation.

At Boston University, spokesman Colin Riley said a single complaint was filed against the university last October.

"While we believe the University provided the student with a prompt and equitable resolution of the complaint in full accordance with the requirements of Title IX, we are cooperating fully with OCR in its investigation and are always open to improving the manner in which we respond to any incident of sexual misconduct reported to us," Riley said.

Many schools sought to emphasize that there were no complaints against them.

Ohio State spokesman Gary Lewis said his school was on the list as part of a "proactive review" of procedures for combating student sexual violence and harassment.

"OCR has consistently told us that Ohio State has impressive protocols and resources for combating sexual harassment, that no major concerns or findings have been identified and that our protocols could serve as a model for other schools around the country," Lewis said.

The government emphasized the list was about investigations of complaints, not judgments. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said there was "absolutely zero presumption" of guilt.

The Education Department can withhold federal funding from a school that doesn't comply with Title IX, but it so far has not used that power and instead has negotiated voluntary resolutions for violators.

The White House has said that as many as 1 in 5 female college students is assaulted. President Barack Obama has appointed a task force of Cabinet members to review the issue after hearing complaints about poor treatment of campus rape victims and the hidden nature of such crimes.

The task force's report, also released this week, announced the creation of a website — notalone.gov — offering resources for victims and information about past enforcement actions on campuses. The task force also made a wide range of recommendations to schools, such as identifying confidential victims' advocates and conducting surveys to better gauge the frequency of sexual assault on campuses.

The department publicized guidance on Title IX's sexual assault provisions in 2011, and complaints by students have since increased. Complaints, however, don't always lead to an investigation.

Harvard College students filed formal complaints in late March to the Education Department saying the college did not respond promptly to reports of sexual violence, that students were subjected to a sexually hostile environment, and that in some cases assault victims were forced to live in the same residence buildings as their alleged assailants.

"Harvard has taken a number of steps to foster prevention efforts and to support students who have experienced sexual misconduct," spokesman Jeff Neal said. They include appointing a Title IX officer to review policies and procedures.


UK: Now schools in Bradford are fighting Trojan Horse-style plot after two headteachers have left their jobs and PM vows to clear the classrooms of 'Islamism'

Schools in Bradford are fighting alleged Trojan Horse style plots after two teachers left their jobs while a third fears being 'driven' out as David Cameron vows to clear the classrooms of 'Islamism'.

The plot involves ousting moderate headteachers from schools, and is also feared to have taken place in Birmingham, Manchester and parts of east London.

Faisal Khan, a former member of George Galloway's Respect party was accused of being behind the alleged plot in Bradford, where one of the heads described herself as the victim of an 'attempted coup'.

At another secondary school in Bradford the local council dismissed every governor as it tried to tackle the issue.

News of events in Bradford comes after the National Association of Head Teachers said it had ‘serious concerns’ about attempts to ‘alter the character’ of at least six schools in Birmingham, and warned efforts to infiltrate classrooms were likely to be affecting other major towns and cities.

According to the Sunday Telegraph Mr Khan, who was formerly a councillor with Respect but who now sits independently, was seen in a video clip revealing how he and his colleagues have been working to change headteacher at Bradford schools.

'We have to do that for every single school… we have to be there, on governing bodies, because that’s what it’s all about… It’s time we took these schools back,' he reportedly said.

However, Mr Khan has maintained that his desire to remove head teachers was to improve standards, and said he was not seeking to 'Islamise' schools.

His group, the Bradford Muslim Education Forum (BMEF) has links to alleged plotters who have sought to bring in more conservative Islamic practices at Birmingham schools.

The group has run events in Bradford involving alleged Birmingham plotter Tahir Alam, who heads the governing body at the city's Park View school, where it is claimed pupils freely praise terrorism, are segregated by gender, and are taught women must obey their husbands.

Park View has denied the allegations, and said the idea it supports terrorism is ‘abhorrent’.

Mr Alam's contact details were reportedly distributed at a BMEF meeting against teaching sex education in schools, and another meeting was run in conjunction with the al-Hijrah Training Academy - which he also runs.

Speakers at BMEF meetings have also included Razwan Faraz, the deputy head of Nansen Primary School in Birmingham, which has been visited by Ofsted inspectors investigating the alleged plots, Nansen's chairman of governors Shahid Akmal, and Achmad da Costa - the chairman of governors at Oldknow Academy - where a successful non-Muslim head was allegedly driven from her post.

BMEF head Mr Khan is chairman of governors at Carlton Bolling College in Bradford, a secular school where many pupils are Muslim. He had been on the governing body at Laisterdyke Business and Enterprise College until every member was sacked by Bradford council following fears over poor performance and a 'dysfunctional' relationships between the governors and management.

Staff at both schools claimed Mr Khan was behind attacks aimed at driving out headteachers.

Last January former Carlton Bolling head Chris Robinson left the role in the middle of the school year, despite having recently been announced as runner-up in the secondary head teacher of the year category in the Pearson National Teaching Awards.

Ms Robinson has not commented on the Trojan Horse claims but after moving to another school in Rotherham gave a presentation about her tenure at Carlton Bolling, saying in the talk on February 21 last year that people had been working against her.

She went on to say how important it was to remain 'absolutely focused, even when dementors attempt a coup,' referencing evil characters from the Harry Potter books.

Mr Khan has insisted he had not driven out Ms Robinson, and said she had taken another job.

He added that he had clashed with her over a contract for the school's human resources services, and said she had not got three quotes for the work, as laid out in Department for Education rules.

Mr Khan reportedly admitted being involved in removing Jackie Nellis, who was head before Ms Robinson and was head when the school received an 'outstanding' Ofsted rating.  He said she had not delivered good enough GCSE results at the school.

Mr Khan was also accused of attempting to undermine current Laisterdyke head teacher Jen McIntosh, with one source at the school saying tactics used were similar to those used in Trojan Horse plots as governors were questioning decisions and results.

Mr Khan denied any 'Islamist' takeover but said he had argued with Ms McIntosh as she had not hired enough permanent staff.

He said the governors had been removed for holding the head to account.

'This is the head teacher removing the governing body, not the other way round. It’s more like a Trojan donkey than a Trojan horse,' he said.

Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to erase extremism from schools, saying his is concerned about the alleged plots.  'I don't want to see Islamist entryism into our schools. That is a very worrying development,' he told the Sunday Times.  'We will not have extremism, entryism, Islamism in our schools.'

Russell Hobby, NAHT general secretary, said some teachers were being appointed because of their Muslim faith rather than their skills.

There was also evidence of ‘pressure’ being brought to bear on heads to adopt ‘certain philosophies and approaches’.

Speaking ahead of the union’s annual conference in Birmingham, he said: ‘We ourselves have concerns about what has been going on in and around half a dozen of those schools.  ‘There have been things going on inside our schools which would make some of us feel uncomfortable.’

Meanwhile, it has been claimed that dozens of teachers pushed out of schools by an alleged Islamist takeover plot are too afraid to speak out because of gagging orders.

Birmingham MP Khalid Mahmood said at least ten teachers told him they were made to sign agreements offering cash in return for their silence.

Mr Mahmood said: ‘A lot of people are still not speaking, even in private, because they are frightened of what may happen. They think if they come forward they will lose their pay-off or pensions and are worried they will then not be able to teach.’

Noshaba Hussain, a moderate Muslim former headmistress of Springfield Primary, was forced out of her job by a ‘well-organised and sinister’ group of extremists more than 20 years ago.

The 69-year-old told the Mail she was made to sign a confidentiality agreement, or ‘gag’, that threatened to withdraw her pay-off of a few months’ salary if she spoke to the press.

She claimed false rumours were spread about her by the Muslim governing body until she was sacked by Birmingham education chiefs for what was described as a ‘loss of faith and trust in the head by the governing body’.

‘It was all done through my union,’ she said. ‘I was told if I spoke to the press about what happened to me I would have to return the money.’

A source from one of the schools affected said: ‘A lot of teachers who leave are being bullied and harassed. The threat of taking away a reference can be worse than a monetary threat as they are worried their career will be affected.’


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