Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Back to Redistributing Teachers

When the Obama administration began writing its own laws under the guise of No Child Left Behind waivers in 2011, it snuck into the thousands of pages of bureaucratese a requirement for “teacher equity.” Now, the administration has reminded states it wasn’t joking.

On Monday, the U.S. Department of Education wrote states a letter demanding they submit “teacher equity plans” to the feds by next June.

The problem: Research shows poor and minority children are typically taught by less-experienced and lower-quality teachers. This is in large part one outgrowth of allowing unions to dictate teacher hiring policies. Union contracts give teachers who have remained in a particular school district longer the ability to “bump” new teachers out of preferred teaching spots (of course, teaching in tough schools is not as attractive as the alternatives). Union contracts also bar school districts from paying teachers different salaries for taking on harder work--such as teaching math or science, or working in worse environments.

Don’t expect states to propose right-to-work laws or ending teacher tenure as solutions to the problem of poor kids getting worse teachers. Do expect them to conduct a sort of endless tax- laundering scheme, whereby taxpayers send the federal government money, it sends the money to state departments of education along with mandates such as “teacher equity plans,” and state departments shuffle paperwork back to the feds after paying the salaries of people who are apparently happy to spend their lives writing impotent, thousand-page sketches of La-La Land.

If this were all an exercise in bureaucracy, taxpayers would be a bit poorer but otherwise none the worse. If and when state plans for redistributing teachers include coercion and manipulation, as government schemes tend to be, however, expect the unintended consequences of monopoly education to intensify. Watch for plans where state officials, rather than local school districts, assign teachers to schools; where teachers aim for mediocrity instead of excellence because excellence gets them reassigned to schools where they don’t want to teach; and where poor children are treated like hot potatoes.

This is what happens when central planners keep tightening their ratchets to impede and distort even more personal choices rather than allowing individuals to freely align their choices with others’ within a free-enterprise system. In that environment, teachers who choose harder work would be rewarded, which would draw excellent teachers who love a challenge right where they’re needed without any need for filtering tax dollars through bureaucrats’ hands or pushing teachers around. What a concept.


English junior school teaching 'disastrous': Education system leaves some areas of England without a single teenager passing key exams

The education system has left some areas of England without a single teenager passing key GCSEs, shock new figures show.

Some of the worst pockets of low achievement – where no pupil has managed to achieve grade Cs in maths, English and three other subjects – are in the seaside towns of Deal in Kent and Bideford, Devon. Others are close to the academic centres of Oxford and Cambridge.

The achievement of five grade Cs including English and maths is considered a key indicator of educational performance.

The findings came from the Department for Education, which studied small geographical areas each consisting of just a handful of streets, and about 1,500 people.

The data revealed there were 24 underachieving neighbourhoods, including Burley in Leeds; Wallsend in Tyneside; Salford, Greater Manchester; Banbury, Oxfordshire; and Waterbeach, near Cambridge.

Chris McGovern, of the Campaign for Real Education, said: ‘Our education system is failing children who are most in need. This is inexcusable and disastrous.’

Physical education in the state sector is ‘a joke’, with children getting just nine minutes of proper exercise in a typical 45-minute lesson, according to a new study.

Researchers fitted motion sensors to 100 13-year-old girls and found that they were only active enough to work up a sweat for one minute in every five during gym classes.

Dr Richard Weiler, a consultant in sports and exercise medicine, said: ‘PE provision in state schools is generally awful.  ‘Policymakers haven’t got a clue what is going on – PE is not high on their list. It’s just a joke.’


UK: Minister tells schools to copy China - and ditch trendy teaching for 'chalk and talk'

Schools are being urged to go back to ‘chalk and talk’ teaching that was once widespread in Britain – in order to reproduce the success the traditional methods now have in China.

Education Minister Nick Gibb said having a teacher speak to the class as a whole from the front was much more effective than children working on their own – the method which has become dominant in schools over the past 40 years.

Mr Gibb’s intervention, which will infuriate many in the educational establishment, follows a Government scheme in which more than 70 maths teachers from British primaries went to Shanghai to study the teaching styles of their Chinese counterparts.

Researchers have found that children in China achieve marks in maths up to 30 per cent higher than English pupils of the same age.

In ‘whole class’ teaching, which was common in this country until the 1950s, the teacher instructs all the pupils together by using a blackboard, or its equivalent, while testing the children with questions.

But progressive educationalists argued this was too authoritarian, and instead promoted the ‘child-centred’ approach that has been prevalent in primary schools since then. Under this system, pupils are encouraged to ‘discover’ knowledge by themselves, working at their own speed or in small groups, with the teacher offering them support.

Mr Gibb told The Mail on Sunday: ‘I would like to see schools across the country adopt whole class teaching methods, particularly in maths and science. Research shows it is significantly more effective than other methods that concentrate more on personalised learning.’

He said Shanghai schools topped international league tables, with 15-year-olds there three years ahead of their English counterparts in maths.

Mr Gibb added: ‘In Shanghai primary schools, whole class teaching with all pupils taking part in question and answer sessions is key to their success. All their pupils are taught the same curriculum and all are expected to reach the same high standard.’

Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, said: ‘English education was overtaken with progressive ideas in recent decades, which held it was better for children to learn by themselves and at their own pace.  ‘This was clearly madness, and it has taken 40 years to realise this.

‘The trouble with the trendy methods is that the children are left to their own devices, including chatting to their friends, while the teacher is elsewhere. It is a very inefficient use of time and resources.’

Mr Gibb’s comments have been backed by recent research, which concluded that the success of pupils in the Far East is largely down to teaching methods.

Maths tests taken by 562 nine and ten-year-olds in classrooms in Southampton and Nanjing in China found that the Chinese pupils scored between 20 and 30 per cent higher than the English youngsters.

Researchers also used video to analyse what was going on in lessons and found that in the Chinese classrooms – where pupils sit in rows of desks facing the front – ‘whole class interaction’ was being used 72 per cent of the time, compared with only 24 per cent in England.

By contrast, the classes in England, where pupils are often grouped in clusters of desks, spent nearly half – 47 per cent – of their time in ‘individual or group work’, compared with 28 per cent in China.

The research, by Zhenzhen Miao and Professor David Reynolds of the University of Southampton, concluded: ‘Effective teachers spent longer time on interacting with the whole class rather than with individuals/groups or leaving pupils to independent seatwork.’

Prof Reynolds said he was disappointed that more schools were not increasing their use of the ‘whole class’ approach as it would improve results in most subjects.


Ohio Moves Closer to Common Core Repeal

Ohio is on its way to becoming the latest state to ditch Common Core education standards. A bill that would block the state from implementing the standards, along with any aligned curriculum, was approved by the Rules and Reference Committee in the State House earlier this month and is ready to be brought to a vote.

So far, six states have either partially or completely withdrawn from Common Core standards or the accompanying testing requirements. Ohio would be the seventh, and a decisive blow for education freedom.

H.B. 597 calls for a rejection of any federal control of education, and the implementation of state standards by a state education committee. These standards will then have to be reviewed and approved by lawmakers, ensuring that no unelected bureaucrat gets to unilaterally control local education choices. This means that education in Ohio will be more locally controlled, with greater input from parents, teachers, local school boards, and communities who can let their representatives know what they want out of the school system. This would be a vast improvement over a central bureaucracy that sets school standards from the remote Department of Education n Washington, D.C. 400 miles away.

While Ohio’s governor, John Kasich, supports Common Core, he said he would be open to listening to alternative ideas, so long as school quality is not compromised.

“I just want to have high standards,” the governor said, “and I want to make sure we maintain local control so local school boards and local parents are the ones that design the curriculum to meet the standards. We need high standards. We don’t need interference from Columbus or Washington to get this done. It should be done locally.”

Such talk is encouraging, because Common Core is fundamentally not local, imposing same standards all across the country regardless of the individual needs of different states or school districts. If Governor Kasich is sincere in his words, then there should be no reason for him not to sign the bill when it makes it to his desk.

Any Ohioan concerned about their children’s schooling, and the future of education in their state, should contact their representative and demand that H.R. 597 be brought to a vote in the State House as soon as possible.


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