Monday, October 13, 2014

British Grammar (selective) schools have rediscovered IQ testing

They don't seem to know they have but that is what the innovations below seem to amount to

Rising numbers of grammar schools are using restyled 11-plus exams to prevent wealthy families getting an unfair advantage from expensive private tutors.

They are introducing tests designed to assess a wider range of abilities learnt at primary schools rather than just the skills that can be drilled through costly private tuition.

Children in areas including Buckinghamshire, Kent, Gloucestershire, Warwickshire and Shropshire are now sitting so-called ‘tutor-proof’ assessments.

This September, more than 13,000 children in Kent took a new form of the 11-plus exam, which education chiefs hope will create a more level playing field.

The 11-plus consisted of two multiple choice tests provided by GL Assessment – one assessing reasoning ability and a second concentrating on literary and numeracy.

There was also a writing test which will be used by head teacher panels in borderline cases.

Councillor Roger Gough (Cons), Cabinet member for education and health reform at Kent county council, said the format of the test had been changed to ‘lighten the burden’ on schools and pupils.

He said: ‘We are also sharpening the focus on the school curriculum by introducing an English paper alongside the maths and reasoning tests, so assessing each child’s ability in the context of what they will be learning at school, as well as their thinking skills.

‘One of the criticisms of the previous testing arrangements was that experience of the format and type of question had made it easier to coach to the test.

‘By refreshing the format and limiting information about the new Kent Test, KCC aims to make it less coachable and fairer on all pupils.’

More than 500 children sat new-style entrance tests for Stroud High School and Marling School in Stroud, Gloucestershire, this month.

The seven grammar schools in Gloucestershire have switched to CEM 11-plus exams, provided by the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring at Durham University. No practice papers are available.

Announcing the overhaul last year, Jonathan Standen, head teacher of Gloucester’s Crypt School, said: ‘We felt there has been an awful lot of tutoring. 

‘The preparation you need for the new test is to do well at your primary school work, to read widely and do well at maths.  ‘We felt there are students out there whose mums and dads can’t afford to pay for coaching, who might be put off from taking the test in the past.’

Buckinghamshire began using the CEM test papers for the first time last year.

Other regions using the CEM 11-plus exams include Birmingham, Warwickshire, Shropshire, Walsall, Wolverhampton and parts of North London and Essex.

Professor Robert Coe, director of the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring at Durham University, said the tests include areas that are either harder to tutor to or where the extra impact of tutoring is smaller.

He said: ‘With things like reading comprehension, schools teach that. It’s in Key Stage tests and in the curriculum – the ability to read a piece of text and understand the meaning and make inferences and so on.

‘You can have a tutor helping you to do that but given schools have been teaching you to do that for six years, the extra impact of paying for a tutor is going to make less difference.

‘With vocabulary, going to school means you learn a bigger vocabulary but a tutor can’t sit down and teach you words.

‘The kind of child who’s likely to get into a grammar school probably knows 20,000 words already. How many extra words can you teach them? It’s not something you can really teach to.’

He added: ‘We are also a bit secretive about what’s in the tests and the kinds of questions.  ‘We don’t reveal, we don’t give practice papers and we don’t give a lot of detail about exactly what’s in there. They can’t endlessly practice.’

Meanwhile in May, it emerged that more than half of grammar schools are overhauling their admissions to admit more poor pupils who are eligible for Free School Meals.

A month later, former Education Secretary, Michael Gove, insisted that grammar schools have a ‘moral purpose’ to open their doors to the country’s poorest pupils.


NY Teachers Union Files Lawsuit Over Common Core ‘Gag Order’

A New York teachers union is suing the State Education Department (NYSED) over what it calls a "gag order" on educators who score or administer Common Core-based tests.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Albany Wednesday by the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) union on behalf of five tenured teachers.

It claims that the state-mandated confidentiality agreements they were required to sign are unconstitutional due to the threat of dismissal, revocation of their teaching license or criminal prosecution if they reveal test questions.

A spokesman for the NYSED, who declined to comment on the lawsuit, said that "obviously, items to be used on future tests must be kept secure," adding that the state's testing system is "among the most transparent in the country."

However, in August the department publicly released about 25 percent of the test questions under pressure from parents and state legislators.

The teacher plaintiffs agreed to "not use or discuss the content of secure test materials, including test questions and answers, in any classroom or other activities."

But the union believes that the provision violates teachers’ First Amendment right to free speech as well as the 14th Amendment's “equal protection under the law” by restricting them from talking about their concerns about specific questions on the standardized tests.

According to the lawsuit, middle school English teacher Robert Allen “became concerned about several facets of the exam” while scoring it, “including but not limited to: the length of each exam made it difficult to nearly impossible for most students to complete each of the exams within the 90 minutes allotted; some of the passages were poorly written; the tasks were well-beyond grade level; and there were inconsistencies in the scoring rubrics.”

But under the confidentiality agreement, Allen is prohibited from voicing his concerns even to colleagues, friends and family members.

The other teachers similarly claimed that the Common Core tests put lower-achieving students at “a severe disadvantage” and that their content does not align with state curriculum standards.

"If teachers believe test questions are unfair or inappropriate, they should be able to say so without fear of dismissal or losing their teaching license," union president Karen Magee said in a statement.

“Teachers must be free to protect their students and speak out when they have concerns about state tests…  Instead, they are under a 'gag order' to be silent — and that is hurting children," she said.

In 2013, New York started withholding English, math and science test questions from the public for 3rd-8th grade students after the exams were already graded, claiming it was related to costs. But it also allowed the state to reuse the same questions on future tests.

The lawsuit comes in wake of demonstrations against Common Core in August, including one where teachers picketed and occupied the steps of the state Education Department building in Albany and another protest in Brooklyn.

A petition against the Common Core regulations circulated in June in Spencerport, a suburb of Rochester where four of the five plaintiffs teach, garnered over 5,000 signatures.


Harvard Students Parade Their Academic Poison

I wouldn't be nearly so troubled by Harvard University students identifying America as a bigger threat to world peace than the Islamic State if it weren't representative of the thinking of so many students throughout the nation. But it is.

The college blog Campus Reform posted a video of short interviews it conducted of Harvard students on campus last week. The question was simple and straightforward: "What is a greater threat to world peace, ISIS or America?"

One student answered: "I think American imperialism and our protection of oil interests in the Middle East are destabilizing the region and allowing groups like ISIS to gain power. ... We are, at some level, the cause of it."

Really? After we defeated Iraq in the Gulf War, we could have taken control of Iraq's oil interests. Did we? No. How about upon our victory in the Iraq War? Did we? No. America is not imperialistic. It is the most benevolent world power that has ever existed, and these Harvard students and their professors would understand that if they had any interest in viewing history and current events objectively instead of through their hate-America lenses.

What have allowed ISIS to gain power are President Obama's unilateral cessation of our own war on terror and his abandonment of Iraq after we had spilled so much blood and spent so many resources to stabilize the region. He knows better than to blame our failure to achieve a status of forces agreement on anyone but himself. He even bragged about this in his debate with Mitt Romney, so his current deceit and obfuscation on the matter are disgraceful. It is Obama and his ilk — people with the same worldview as these Harvard students — who are the main culprits here.

Another student confidently asserted: "As a Western civilization, we're to blame for a lot of the problems that we're facing now. I don't think anyone would argue that we didn't create the problem of ISIS ourselves. ... (Middle Easterners) have a skewed view of us, just as a lot of Americans have a skewed view of them, of ISIS."

He doesn't think anyone would argue with his claim? Well, someone like me may not be "anyone" to this erudite student, but I know we didn't create the problem of ISIS, other than to the extent Obama's policies created the vacuum I just described. But I don't think that's what the student was referring to. He was implying, as so many academically indoctrinated leftists dutifully do, that our policies have caused radical Islamism itself.

These are familiar tropes of the left — that America's unfair hoarding of a disproportionate share of the world's resources and its "imperialistic" policies have caused discontentment in the Muslim world and triggered a radical reaction in some of Islam's adherents.

This is patently absurd. Radical and violent Islam is based on a religion or ideology that teaches that infidels must either submit or be brought into submission forcefully — or killed. This ideology began more than 1,000 years before our Declaration of Independence, and it is thriving today. That these students don't understand that America is not causing this phenomenon — that it's more a spiritual and ideological matter than it is political — reveals that their minds are being poisoned and closed at this august university rather than opened and trained to think independently.

How about the suggestion that we Americans have a skewed view of ISIS? I assume he is implying that if we would just understand these people better, we could pacify them, as President Obama has been preaching for the past six or seven years. If anyone's view of ISIS is skewed, it's the left's. Members of ISIS tell us who they are. They behead people who don't submit to their extremism. It's pretty simple, and it's pretty hard to skew, though the left has done a masterful job of confusing itself.

A third student cheerfully proclaimed: "The amount of spending that America has on causes of potential destruction in the world is really outlandish. We've been learning about this recently, how much America spends on defense mechanisms alone, and it's really quite astounding compared to any other country in the world, really."

I hate to intrude into this student's bubble, but she should understand that America's unparalleled defense forces are what have ensured our protection and liberty and empowered this nation to be the greatest force for good in the past century and more. It is the left's gutting of our defenses that is leading to greater instability in the world and endangering our security.

This video should be a wake-up call to American parents — at least the ones whose views aren't so anti-American as those of these students. We are looking at the next generation, which includes millions of Obamaites, who will be leading this nation into the future. It is time that responsible parents got off their clueless, apathetic duffs and started doing a better job of educating their kids and inoculating them against the infernal indoctrination that academia and our culture are serving to them in mentally lethal doses.


Horrible Leftist treachers picking on a little kid again

An Alabama mom is furious that her five-year-old daughter was forced to sign a contract saying she will not hurt herself or anyone at school after she pointed a crayon at a classmate.

The incident occurred at E.R. Dickson Elementary School in Mobile.

The mom, only identified as Rebecca, said the school asked her toddler, Elizabeth, whether she was depressed, which the little girl did not understand.

'They told me she drew something that resembled a gun,' Rebecca told WPMI-TV.  'According to them she pointed a crayon at another student and said, ''pew pew''.'

The angry mother said the school then had her daughter sign a Mobile County Public Safety Contract without her consent.

'While I was in the lobby waiting they had my 5-year-old sign a contract about suicide and homicide,' Rebecca said.  'Most of these words on here, she's never heard in her life. 'This isn't right. She's 5-years-old.'

State law in Alabama outlines that minors cannot sign a contract.

The school also recommended Elizabeth see a psychiatrist.

Rebecca is now fighting to have the incident removed from her child's record, but is also dealing with the aftermath at home.  'My child interrupted us and said, ''What is suicide mommy? Daddy what is suicide?'' Rebecca told WPMI-TV.

'As a parent that's not right.  'I'm the one should be able to talk to my child and not have someone else mention words like this in front of her at all.'


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