Monday, September 01, 2014

CA: Pols pass “affirmative consent” law in name of stopping rape

Californian lawmakers passed a law on Thursday requiring universities to adopt "affirmative consent" language in their definitions of consensual sex, part of a nationwide drive to curb sexual assault on U.S. campuses.

The measure, passed unanimously by the California State Senate, has been called the "yes-means-yes" bill. It defines sexual consent between people as "an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity".

The bill states that silence and a lack of resistance do not signify consent and that drugs or alcohol do not excuse unwanted sexual activity.

Governor Jerry Brown must sign the bill into law by the end of September. If he does, it would mark the first time a U.S. state requires such language to be a central tenet of school sexual assault policies, said Claire Conlon, a spokeswoman for State Senator Kevin De Leon, who championed the legislation.

Opponents of the bill say it is politically over-reaching and could push universities into little charted legal waters.

The bill comes amid mounting pressure nationwide by lawmakers, activists and students on universities and colleges to curb sexual assaults on campuses and to reform investigations after allegations are made.

The White House has declared sex crimes to be "epidemic" on U.S. college campuses, with one in five students falling victim to sex assault during their college years.

Universities in California and beyond have already taken steps, including seeking to delineate whether consent has been given beyond 'no means no'.

Harvard University said last month it had created an office to investigate all claims of sexual harassment or sex assault, and that it would lower its evidentiary standard of proof in weighing the cases.

Under California's bill, state-funded colleges and universities must adopt strict policies regarding sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking, among other actions in order to receive financial aid money.

No college or university voiced opposition to the bill, Conlon said.

The U.S. Department of Education in May released a list of 55 colleges -- including three in California -- under investigation to determine whether their handling of sex assaults and harassment violated federal laws put in place to ensure equal treatment in higher education.

The Californian institutions on the list are University of California, Berkeley, Occidental College and the University of Southern California.


A Common-Sense Approach to Common Core, Part II: Third-Grade Fractions

This article is the second in a series that provides alternate and common-sense interpretations of the Common Core math standards.

In the first article,  I said Common Core (CC) lends itself to interpretations along reform math ideology, an ineffective method of teaching math that focuses on long, drawn-out ways to solve problems. In the wake of that first article, I have been asked, “How so, when the standards are touted as being neutral and not dictating pedagogy”? It is so because publishers, test makers, and schools take neutrality as a signal that techniques that caused many of our nation’s current math problems in the first place—and which many thought CC would fix—are to continue. On top of so-called neutrality, throw in Common Core’s Standards for Mathematical Practice, which require students to “explain” and “understand,” and the perfect storm exists to institutionalize the problems. In exchange, we get some expectations of  “procedural fluency” that will not be defined until we see the actual tests.

People have also asked: “If reform math techniques are being followed (and enforced) and the test-makers are essentially testing to the teach (my phrase, not the readers’) why then would anyone want to follow the alternative approaches you have been writing about here?”

It’s a valid question. Here is my answer. I’m not saying to abandon the standards. I’m showing how the standards can be taught in ways that make sense, and in ways that have for many years been taught with success. I advise that teachers rearrange the order of some CC standards to impart standard algorithms earlier, rather than later. The practices we are seeing written about on the Internet that require students to draw endless pictures for every problem are not dictated by Common Core, and even a lead writer of the standards (William McCallum) has said so.

I also point out that the approach I write about is not the only alternative—it is offered as a suggestion that may lead teachers to other equally sensible approaches. I welcome hearing other approaches. But we’re still left with the question: Where does this all leave us with respect to standardized tests, which may require reform math approaches to problems, as well as “explanations” and demonstrations of “understanding”? Of interest here is that PISA, the international exam that is given every several years, is essentially constructed along the same reform math principles; it tests for students’ ability to apply prior knowledge in new situations. Interestingly, the nations that teach math in the traditional fashion seem to do quite well. Basic foundational skills enable more thinking than a conglomeration of “rote understandings.”


Ofsted will mark down schools that refuse to teach all pupils five 'core' GCSEs, Tories pledge

All children should study a “core” of five traditional subjects until the age of 16 under plans to be set out in the Conservative election manifesto.

State schools will be urged to enrol all pupils for GCSEs in English, maths, science, a language and history or geography.

Head teachers who ignore the system will be penalised by Ofsted. The education watchdog will be banned from awarding its higher ratings of “good” and “outstanding” to any school that refuses to comply with the drive to boost traditional academic subjects.

The pledge is likely to be controversial among teachers who have enrolled pupils in less academic subjects, which experts say are easier to pass, to maximise their school’s position in league tables.

Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, told The Telegraph that the “presumption” that all children should study the core subjects would help address inequalities in the education system. While most children in wealthier areas already study academic subjects, many in poorer areas do not, limiting the children’s career choices.

“We want students to be able to keep their options open for as long as possible in terms of what they are going to do after school or college,” Mrs Morgan said.

“In selective schools or schools with a low proportion of free school meals, that is what they are already doing. But that is not always happening in less advantaged areas.” Under the Tory proposals, Ofsted could give a “good” or “outstanding” rating only to a school that enrols all its pupils in the core GCSE subjects, which together form the new “English Baccalaureate”.

“These core academic subjects offer children great opportunities,” Mrs Morgan said. “They are what universities are looking for.”

Mrs Morgan said she was keen to promote maths.

“I want to make it clear to pupils how important maths is, in terms of earnings and keeping career options open.”

Mrs Morgan said parents had a responsibility to encourage their children to take traditional academic subjects.

The minister, who replaced Michael Gove in the recent reshuffle, promised to allow popular schools to expand.

She said: “I want to work with schools and authorities to look at the provision of places. We want good schools to expand and Free Schools are very much a part of that.”


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