Friday, November 21, 2014

UK: School marked down for being 'too white'

The delightful pupils concerned

Ofsted was accused of “political correctness” today after downgrading a top rural primary school for effectively being too English.

The education watchdog faced a backlash from MPs and parents following the decision to penalise Middle Rasen primary in Lincolnshire for not having enough back or Asian pupils.

In a report, inspectors said the school was “not yet outstanding” because pupils’ cultural development was limited by a “lack of first-hand experience of the diverse make up of modern British society”.

The move followed a shake-up of Ofsted inspections introduced in the wake of the “Trojan Horse” plot in Birmingham to impose hard-line Muslim values in state schools.

Schools are now told to place fundamental British values at the heart of the timetable including mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.

But the reforms have already been criticised for having a knock-on effect on faith schools and those dominated by pupils of a particular ethnic group.

Last month, it was claimed that a small Christian school in the Home Counties had been penalised after failing to other invite faith leaders, such as imams, in to lead assemblies.

Commenting on the latest case, Sir Edward Leigh, the Conservative MP for Gainsborough, said he had written to Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, “objecting strenuously to the new so-called 'equality' regulations she is implementing in schools”.

He added: “This is political correctness gone mad. Middle Rasen primary school is an outstanding school by any standards…

“Multiculturalism is an irrelevance in Lincolnshire with its low number of ethnic minorities, who are already welcomed and well-integrated into our local communities, as they should be."

The community primary school, which is based in the picturesque rural town of Market Rasen, has just 104 pupils aged four to 11.  It was handed a “satisfactory” rating during its last inspection in December 2012.

The latest report upgraded the school to “good” – the second highest mark – for making significant improvements, with staff creating an “environment in which learning flourishes".

But the primary missed out on the outstanding grade for occasionally failing to set difficult work and giving staff few opportunities to improve their skills. In a key move, it was also downgraded for limiting pupils’ “first-hand experience” of modern society.

The report said: "The large majority of pupils are white British. Very few are from other ethnic groups, and currently no pupils speak English as an additional language.

"The school needs to extend pupils' understanding of the cultural diversity of modern British Society by creating opportunities for them to have first-hand interaction with their counterparts from different backgrounds beyond the immediate vicinity.”

The school is now attempting to strike up a partnership with an inner city school to address the concerns.

Melonie Brunton, the head teacher, said school trips usually involved visits to the countryside, taking in farms and zoos, but it had recently focused on outings to a mosque and factory.

Ofsted’s comments were criticised by parents.  Jodie Miller, 35, whose six-year-old daughter attends the school, said: "We are a small rural community in Lincolnshire, there just aren't many children here from different backgrounds.

"The staff can't just wander the streets forcing people to come and attend.”

Benjamin Bannan, 33, a father-of-two, added: "It’s outrageous that a British school can be punished for being too British. It just doesn't make sense at all.  "We would welcome people from different cultures with open arms I'm sure - but there just aren't any ethnic minorities around here."

Reverend Charles Patrick, who was head of the governors at the time of the report, said: "This is a rural area, like 80 per cent of the country, we don't have many non-white residents.  "Perhaps it would be a different matter if we were in the middle of London or Manchester or something."

Ofsted denied that it was downgraded for one reason.  “The report highlights a small number of areas where the school should look to improve,” a spokesman said. “It was not denied an outstanding judgement solely because of pupils’ cultural development.

“All schools must teach pupils about fundamental British values including mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs. That way they will be prepared for the future wherever they go.”


Obama’s Undisciplined School Discipline Reforms

Keeping kids safe at school should go hand in hand with ensuring high-quality academics. The U.S. Department of Education’s record on both fronts has been poor at best.

During the No Child Left Behind era of George W. Bush, parents were supposed to have an Unsafe School Choice Option. Partisan politics and perverse incentives combined to ensure that fewer than 50 schools nationwide ever met Byzantine definitions of an unsafe school each year—so kids most at risk stayed stuck.

Flash forward to the Obama Administration, and things aren’t much better. Under the recently announced Now Is the Time plan, the U.S. Department of Education is throwing some $70 million at schools nationwide, in the coming year alone, for stricter background checks for gun purchases, banning military-style assault weapons, and adding more counselors and resource officers, as well as mental health officials to intervene with troubled youth sooner. Essentially, more government social workers and fewer guns in the hands of law-abiding private citizens are supposed to help keep kids safe at school.

But the politics don’t stop there. In 2010, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced his plans to investigate school districts’ discipline policies through the lens of disparate impact theory. In a nutshell, because students from some minority backgrounds are, overall, disciplined at higher rates than non-minority students, schools or districts must be discriminating against students—regardless of the individual students’ actual behavior. (For a great review, see the Federalist Society’s analysis and background resources here.) As explained in a 2011 briefing report prepared by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights:

The Department’s that statistically disparate results create a presumption of discrimination that must be rebutted by the school or district with evidence that the school or district has a legitimate educational justification and that there are no equally effective alternative policies that would achieve the school’s educational goals. (p. 1)

What this disparate impact policy shift means is that once the U.S. Department of Education identifies disparate discipline rates based on Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), the burden of proof shifts to the school district or school to justify its disciplinary actions.

To be sure, government-run schools are not the beacons of equality they purport to be. In fact, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) reported that it handled a record-breaking number of complaints from 2009 through 2012 compared to any previous four-year period, nearly 29,000 (pp. 6-7). More than half of those complaints (54 percent) concerned students with disabilities. Research has long shown that minority and non-native speaking students are disproportionately identified as learning disabled. The OCR also reports that it handled a significant number of complaints in which minority students denied equal access to high-quality educational opportunities (pp. 26-28).

So it should come as no surprise that minority students—African-Americans in particular—are disciplined differently. According to the OCR:

African-American students represent 18 percent of students in the 2009–10 CRDC sample but 35 percent of students suspended once, 46 percent of those suspended more than once, 39 percent of students expelled, and 36 percent of the students arrested on public-school grounds. Hispanic students are one-and-a-half times more likely to be expelled than their white counterparts. Additionally, in districts that showed at least one expulsion under zero-tolerance policies, African-Americans represent 19 percent of enrollment but 33 percent of the students expelled. ...

In fiscal years 2009 through 2012, OCR launched 20 proactive investigations in schools with significant racial disparities in discipline based on data from the most recent CRDC. Additionally, during the last four years, OCR received more than 1,250 complaints brought by parents, students or other concerned individuals about possible civil rights violations involving school discipline systems. (pp. 28-29)

But the “solutions” proposed by federal education bureaucrats simply perpetuate racial discrimination. As Investor’s Business Daily reports:

Minneapolis Public Schools have adopted racial quotas in discipline to settle an investigation by Obama’s diversity cops for alleged discrimination. So much for equal protection under the Constitution.

Ending a two-year probe by Education Department’s office for civil rights, Minneapolis has agreed to stop suspending black students for infractions that would still get whites suspended.

Every suspension of an African American must now be reviewed by the superintendent, according to the federal agreement.

Instead of being punished, unruly black kids will be put into “restorative talking circles,” where teachers will examine their own “cultural misunderstandings.”

White kids who act up won’t get off so easy. ...

“I and all of my staff will start to review all nonviolent suspensions of students of color—especially black boys—to understand why they’re being suspended so we can help intervene with teachers,” explained MPS Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson, who is running the new “equity policy” through something called the Office of Black Male Student Achievement.

If you think that sounds a bit racist, you’re not alone. ...

But the Obama regime, which sees racism behind every corner, blames biased teachers and administrators for the disparity—even though Johnson is black.

Minneapolis is just the latest target of the regime’s war on school discipline. The Education Department has aggressively investigated several other major school districts across the country for what it thinks are too many suspensions of black students.

They too have “reformed” their discipline codes to get the race-baiting educrats off their backs and safeguard their federal funding.

Closer to home, several California school districts are already in the throes of the Obama Administration’s discipline “reforms” and are having to contend with the ensuing chaos. As IBD continues:

Take San Diego. Just weeks after adopting similar racial discipline quotas, San Diego public schools have witnessed an explosion of violent assaults.

At its premier charter school, Lincoln High, students report daily fights now, mostly involving black kids. In the past month, there have been several arrests, including one involving a butcher knife, according to local reports. Victims have been hauled off by ambulance.

This result mirrors spikes in student crime in Los Angeles after the school superintendent followed federal orders to reduce suspensions of African-Americans.

“Last week I was terrified and bullied by a fourth-grade student,” a teacher at an urban Los Angeles Unified School District school said. “The black student told me to ‘back off, bitch.’ I told him to go to the office and he said, ‘No, bitch, and you and no one can make me.’”

Complained another LAUSD teacher: “We now have a ‘restorative justice’ counselor, but we still have the same problems. Kids aren’t even suspended for fights or drugs.”

Violence is still a problem in Oakland, Calif., schools after officials substituted counseling for suspensions on similar orders from the Obama regime.

If you think Obama is a lame duck and that his executive actions are meaningless, think again. His policies have dangerous consequences.

Rather than pursue yet another failed federal “solution,” parents should be empowered to enroll their children in any school they wish. Parental choice—far more than any government mandate—would introduce powerful incentives to ensure all students are disciplined fairly. If not, parents would be free to take their children—and their associated education funding—to schools that did.

Having to compete for students and funding would also make schools prioritize order and discipline instead of the feds’ latest fad-for-cash scheme.

Expanding parental choice, not federal overreach, is a far more effective approach to combat racially motivated discipline practices, and it wouldn’t compound existing racism with yet more racism.


The Federal Student Loan Racket

Since 2008, roughly $1 out of every $10 new dollars borrowed by the U.S. government through the end of its 2014 fiscal year has gone to fund the Federal Direct Student Loan program, which lends the money borrowed by Uncle Sam to college students at over double the interest rate that the U.S. government is charged by its lenders.

Federal borrowing for the sake of making student loans accounts for over $700 billion of the more than $7 trillion increase in the total public debt outstanding over that time. How much money do you think that the U.S. federal government is making from running that racket?

Earlier this year, the General Accounting Office (GAO) looked at the income that the U.S. Treasury was raking in as a result of its Direct Loans program for students for the federal government’s 2007 through 2012 fiscal years, when it originated a reported $454 billion in student loans. The GAO found that the U.S. federal government netted a profit of $66 billion.

We should note that well over 95% of this activity occurred after 2008, corresponding to President Obama’s tenure in office and the federal government’s effective takeover of the student loan industry from the private sector during that time.

Personal finance guru Suze Orman has some thoughts about the federal government’s profiteering:

If one were to ask me what I think is the most dangerous threat to our economy, the answer is very simple: student loans.

As I write this, we have more than $1.2 trillion of student loan debt. About 10 million federal students loans are taken out annually, and then there are the insanely dangerous private student loans on top of that staggering number.

And while 6.7 million borrowers in repayment mode are delinquent, the sad fact is that many lenders aren’t exactly incentivized to work with borrowers. Unlike all other forms of debt, student loans can’t be discharged in bankruptcy. Moreover, lenders can garnish wages and even Social Security benefits to get repaid. A new report by the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau details just how bad the situation is for private loan borrowers. (From Oct. 1, 2013, through Sept. 30, the agency handled about 5,300 private student loan complaints, an increase of nearly 38 percent from the previous year.)

And private student loans aren’t the only problem. Do you know that from 2007 to 2012, the government made $66 billion in profit on federal student loans? We can all debate how our government should generate revenue to support federal spending programs, but doing it on the backs of young adults who need an education to compete in the increasingly competitive global workforce is just appalling.

Orman doesn’t make the connection that borrowers who owe money to the federal government for student loans are even more disadvantaged than those who took out loans with private lenders, because the federal government is even less responsive. And because there is no limit on how long a debt owed to the federal government can be collected, it has even less incentive to work with borrowers.

Perhaps the most effective way to resolve this issue would be simply to make all student loans fully dischargeable in bankruptcy proceedings once more, whether originated by private lenders or by the federal government. That way, the people who need real and permanent relief from their student debts, regardless of who their lender might be, could get it.

Faced with the risk of losing massive amounts of money because of the bad decisions it made in getting into the business of making direct student loans in the first place, the federal government might then have an adequate incentive to adopt a more fiscally sound approach to its direct lending racket by getting out of it.

And that would go a very long way toward eliminating the federal government’s hidden budget deficit.


UK: Get textbooks back in class, schools are told: Minister says teachers must end reliance on worksheets and the internet during lessons

Ministers will today urge schools to bring back traditional textbooks to end a growing reliance on worksheets and the internet.

They will say that an ‘anti-textbook ethos’ has contributed to England’s slide in international rankings of pupils’ performance in key academic subjects.

In a speech to the Publishers Association, School Reform Minister Nick Gibb will call on all schools – both primary and secondary – to reintroduce good quality textbooks in most subjects.

He will complain that teachers too often neglect textbooks in favour of producing worksheets or ‘endlessly trawling the internet’ for suitable material for their lessons.

Mr Gibb will also highlight new research from exams body Cambridge Assessment which shows that teachers in top-performing countries are significantly more likely to use textbooks than in England.

The research ‘should rightly send shockwaves through the education system and the publishing industry,’ Mr Gibb will say.

In Finland, 95 per cent of maths teachers use a textbook as a basis for lessons and in Singapore, the figure is 70 per cent.  In contrast, only 10 per cent of maths teachers in England use a textbook for their core teaching – and only four per cent in science.

‘In the controversial search for the reasons why a range of key nations have improved their systems so dramatically and so quickly, the role of high quality textbooks has been seriously neglected,’ Mr Gibb will say.

‘Well-focused, forensic study of these nations highlights the extent to which good teaching and high academic standards are strongly associated with adequate provision and widespread use of high quality textbooks.’ And he will say: ‘Once again England has fallen behind.’

Mr Gibb will suggest that teacher trainers and researchers, rather than teachers themselves, are responsible for the marginalisation of textbooks.

He will also lay down a challenge to educational publishers to drive up the quality of textbooks in England. ‘All the evidence shows that high quality textbooks are good for teachers, students and parents,’ he will say.

‘For teachers, well-structured textbooks reduce workload and the perpetual ritual of producing worksheets; for students, knowledge-rich textbooks mean they can read beyond the confines of the exam syllabus and using textbooks helps to develop those all-important scholarship skills; and for parents, textbooks are a guide to what their children are being taught in school.

‘I would like to see all schools, both primary and secondary, using high quality textbooks in most academic subjects, bringing us closer to the norm in high performing countries.’


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