Monday, September 29, 2014

University Forcing its Fraternities to Admit Women to Ensure Equality

Both genders must be “equally represented” in leadership positions.

Wesleyan University in Connecticut has decided to force all of its fraternities to become coed within three years because all-male fraternities are both dangerous and unfair to women.

The new rules will require all Greek organizations to have both male and female members and have both genders be “well represented” in leadership positions in order to qualify for campus housing and meeting spaces.

University President Michael Roth and trustees Chairman Joshua Boger announced the decision in a letter on Monday.

“Although this change does not affect nonresidential organizations, we are hopeful that groups across the University will continue to work together to create a more inclusive, equitable and safer campus,” the letter stated.

But Peter Smithhisler, the chief executive of the North-American Interfraternity Conference, said the policy violates freedom of association and freedom of speech.

“It is essential that fraternities be allowed to decide for themselves if they wish to offer co-ed membership,” said Smithhisler, whose group represents 74 male fraternities.

A month ago, Wesleyan shut down the Beta Theta Pi fraternity after a freshman girl was seriously hurt after falling from a window at one of its parties.

Another Connecticut school, Trinity College, started making its fraternities coeducational in 2012.


Pupils are losing an hour a day's teaching because of rowdy behaviour: Headteachers under fire for allowing disruption to go unchecked, damaging pupils' exam chances

Children are losing up to 38 days of teaching each year because heads and teachers are failing to tackle widespread disruptive behaviour, a devastating Ofsted inquiry reveals today.

A major investigation into standards of discipline in English classrooms has found that pupils in the most disorderly schools are missing out on an hour of learning every day – or nearly eight weeks across an academic year.

Head teachers who fail to assert their authority and are too friendly with pupils were blamed for allowing classroom disruption to go unchecked, damaging the exam and job prospects of millions.

Many teachers also accept unruliness as a normal part of their jobs and fail to challenge disruptive pupils, including those who casually use ‘foul language’ and wander in and out of lessons.

Some staff let pupils call them by their first names and fail to dress in suitably professional clothes, the study found.

Inspectors said that while chaos in classrooms was largely a thing of the past, low-level disruption – such as pupils making silly comments to get attention, swinging on chairs, and using mobile phones – remained ‘very common’ in schools.

Some 72 per cent of secondary teachers and 62 per cent of primary believed it was a serious problem and had either a medium or high impact on learning.

The ‘deeply worrying’ findings showed that benefiting from calm and orderly classrooms was a lottery for many pupils, Ofsted’s report said.

Unveiling the results of the investigation, Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector of schools, demanded a crackdown on the ‘casual acceptance’ of low-level disruption.

In the last year alone, schools serving almost 450,000 pupils had been assessed as having poor behaviour standards, he said.

‘That is far too many,’ he added. ‘While the days of chaos in the classroom are thankfully largely behind us, low-level disruption in class is preventing too many teachers from doing their jobs and depriving too many young people of the education they deserve.

‘I see too many schools where head teachers are blurring the lines between friendliness and familiarity – and losing respect along the way. Children need to know the rules and teachers need to know they will be supported in enforcing them.’

Sir Michael ordered the investigation after becoming concerned at the extent of low-level disruption.

It drew on evidence from nearly 3,000 inspections of primary and secondary schools this year – including 28 unannounced visits to schools where poor behaviour was a concern – as well as YouGov surveys of parents and teachers.

The report lifts the lid on the disruptive behaviour many teachers face every day, including pupils passing notes, throwing paper planes, wandering round classrooms, tapping pens, humming and general ‘horseplay’.

Testimonies from secondary teachers show that pupils using phones during lessons and putting on make-up or doing their hair were also a problem.

In the worst schools, there was evidence of youngsters throwing food, barging each other and even breaking windows.

Teachers ‘often ignore students’ casual use of foul language’, the report said. However, teachers complained that some pupils lacked manners and were unaware that interrupting others was rude.

The survey of parents showed that many wanted a ‘more formal and structured environment that would give their children clear boundaries for their behaviour’.

The report concluded that too many schools struggle to enforce behaviour codes. This is partly because some heads ‘do not understand what behaviour is really like in the classroom’.

They also fail to insist on courtesy and respect for others.

Ofsted has already overhauled inspections to ensure behaviour is more sharply scrutinised. But heads accused Ofsted of making claims not backed up by its own evidence.

‘This is not just about schools. Where there are issues, parents need to take equal responsibility for making sure that children understand what is appropriate behaviour and what is disruptive,’ said Brian Lightman, of secondary heads’ union ASCL.


The Evidence Behind Common Core Is Really Weak

The Common Core education standards are a massive effort intended to raise educational standards across the country. Untold hours and dollars have already been spent on their implementation, which is still proceeding in more than 40 states even as a few have dropped out. But what is the evidence that the new standards will improve learning?

As I noted a year ago, simple correlations of test scores with standards across states or nations are not definitive, given all of the intervening variables involved in those comparisons.

Now the Center for Education Policy at George Washington University has put together a compendium summarizing over 60 research papers related to Common Core design and implementation. If there is empirical evidence on the importance of strong standards, this is probably the place to find it. Unfortunately, only two papers in the entire compendium are devoted to measuring the impact of Common Core on test scores. Both papers employ the dubious correlation-across-states methodology, and both give mixed results at best.

The first paper, by two Michigan State professors, examines the relationship between states’ math scores in 2009 and the similarity of their math standards (pre–Common Core) to the Common Core math standards. The authors initially find no correlation in the 50-state universe. They are able to detect a positive relationship only with an ex post division of states into two separate groups, with the smaller group consisting of 13 states with low scores despite strong standards. The authors acknowledge that “these analyses should be viewed only as exploratory in nature, merely suggesting the possibility of a relationship.”

The second paper, published by Brookings, follows up on the Michigan State analysis. It finds that states’ test score gains between 2009 and 2012 show no relationship to the similarity of their standards to Common Core. There was no positive correlation even when using the favorable groupings from the Michigan State paper. The one encouraging finding in the Brookings paper is that states with stronger implementation of Common Core seem to show greater gains. But the author warns that, even if the correlation is genuine, the effect size is tiny.

And that’s it.

Much like the push for government preschool, the Common Core movement is suffused with much hope but little evidence. That’s clear from how the standards were developed in the first place. As an important article from last November’s American Journal of Education points out, most of the research evidence behind Common Core focuses on identifying problems — America’s poor international ranking, achievement gaps, high school graduates without basic skills, etc. But when it came to writing standards to address those problems, the Common Core developers had little to go on except the standards of high-performing nations and the “professional judgment” of various stakeholders.

So although the rise of national standards is one of the most significant education policy changes in a generation, and despite the passion of proponents, the data can tell us very little about Common Core’s future impact.

Of course, this isn’t usually the rationale articulated against Common Core — parents’ groups and anti-ed-reform groups have put forth more specific criticisms of the standards and the related testing regimes. But Common Core definitely is ailing: A new poll commissioned by Education Next finds that support for the standards has been slipping nationwide.


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