Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Presidential Hopefuls Eye School Choice Expansions

Immediately after a rousing re-election that made him a hot candidate for president in 2016, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker announced his policy priorities for his second term: Repealing Common Core and expanding school choice.

Not to be outdone, this week Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who also has been exploring a presidential run and would find Walker a tough cookie to munch, announced his priorities for the legislative session that opens this January. They include expanding Indiana’s statewide voucher program, which has grown into the nation’s largest in just three years, and growing the state’s tax credit scholarship program.

Although Wisconsin has the nation’s oldest school voucher program, Indiana’s is better. It reaches more students and, while it has many highly prescriptive curriculum and testing mandates, it regulates less than Wisconsin’s program (which isn’t surprising, given that an anti-choice state superintendent controls Wisconsin’s program). Walker’s version of “choice” includes adding even higher regulatory burdens for private schools and increasing choice almost painfully slowly – at least, according to his spokeswoman.

“[Walker] wants to ensure there is capacity for expansion, so it may be a limited expansion,” she told USA Today. “In addition, he wants any expansion to include an accountability bill for all schools receiving state funds.” Historically, what Walker means by “accountability” is “requiring private schools to judge students and teachers exactly the same way as public schools do by enrolling all into the same centrally managed data and grading system.”

Pence’s default setting is also to trust bureaucracy, rather than parents, to judge schools. His proposal depends partly on the state’s A–F school grading system for public and private voucher schools, which, like Wisconsin’s, judges schools against centrally managed curriculum, testing, and teacher evaluation mandates. Given the row over former state superintendent Tony Bennett’s intervention to artificially increase the grades of schools he preferred, Pence should recognize grading systems that depend on bureaucrats can never be as effective as market-based mechanisms that depend on the free choices of individuals.

Still, of the two vague proposals that as yet have no bills attached, Pence’s is better. It builds upon a better system set in motion by his predecessor, Mitch Daniels, and it is appropriately assertive with an education reform that research has proven effective. It’s also a gutsier move for a man who doesn’t have a triumphal story to tell about a hard-won policy of his own making for low- and middle-income families.

Often, a focus on the next election makes it less likely present concerns will be addressed effectively. But when politicians, like education systems, must compete, they do improve.


Ivy League Professor Praises White People Who Are ‘Ready To Commit Race Suicide’ After Ferguson

Russell Rickford, an assistant history professor at Cornell University, urged white students to commit “race suicide” on Wednesday night in response to the death of Michael Brown and the recent riots in Ferguson, Mo.

The event at which Rickford spoke was called “Ferguson: The Next Steps,” according to Campus Reform.

A staffer for The Cornell Review, the Ivy League school’s conservative student rag, recorded the event.

The Ivy League professor suggested that “treason to whiteness” is a necessary step to salvage humanity.

“There’s still a slender minority of white folks, a very slender, but a slender minority of white folks, that are ready to commit race suicide,” Rickford told the audience, near the end of his remarks. “Which is to say, they are ready to reject corrupt skin privileges. They’re ready to perform treason to whiteness, as an expression of their loyalty to humanity.”

Rickford, who grew up in Palo Alto, Calif., also suggested that the police are “mercenaries for the corporations and the rich” and go out of their way to kill black people.

“We attempt to negotiate with a system that has demonstrated time and time again its utter disdain for the sanctity of black lives,” he pontificates at the 8:32 mark of the video below. “Not only its disdain, but its deep commitment to the slaughtering of black and brown people.”

He alleges that black Americans are suffering from “genocide” and many black Americans are complicit in the act.

“The petite bourgeoisie, including black and brown folks stands [sic] on the sidelines mumbling, asking white supremacy to please crack fewer hits,” he bloviates.

“The statement ‘fuck the police’ is one of the most astute, honest and meaningful responses to the events in Ferguson,” Rickford tells the audience at the 12:11 mark. “Fuck authoritarianism and white supremacy. This is uncompromising politics, the politics of resistance.”

He calls “poor black and brown people” “the primary victims of American capitalism.”

Rickford earned a graduate degree from Columbia University, a school with an endowment of $9.2 billion (which is roughly equal to the nominal gross domestic product of the country of Laos).

He has written a laudatory biography of Betty Shabazz, who was married to Malcolm X.

Casey Breznick, the editor in chief of the Cornell Review, discussed Rickford’s remarks with Campus Reform after the event.

Rickford and people who believe what he believes “are operating within a totally different paradigm of thought,” Breznick wrote in an email. “They view the world in terms of race and class.” “[I]ndividual rights are nonexistent to them,” Breznick added.

Rickford has a history of incendiary statements.  Back in January, at Dartmouth, the professor called Martin Luther King, Jr. Day “a tool of the far-right imperialists to appease people"


UK: More than 750 primary schools failing to give pupils a good grounding in reading, writing and arithmetic

More than 750 schools are failing to give pupils a good grounding in the Three Rs - reading, writing and arithmetic.

A child's chance of getting a good primary education still varies markedly depending on where they live, official statistics showed today.

Ministers insisted it was the result of tougher targets to improve the quality of lessons in England, and stressed that the gap between poorer pupils and their classmates is narrowing.

In some areas of England, the vast majority of youngsters gain a Level 4 - the standard expected of 11-year-olds in the Three Rs. But in other areas, up to three in 10 fail to reach this target.

Overall, the proportion of primaries failing to ensure pupils reach a good standard in three Rs has remained static this year, despite schools facing tougher Government targets.

More than 700 schools in England are considered below the floor standard, the same proportion as last year, according to a Government analysis of data used to create primary school league tables.

Schools minister David Laws said the findings show schools have 'raised their game', but warned there are still too many areas with 'simply unacceptable' levels of attainment for poorer pupils.

Schools that fail to meet the benchmark - based on national curriculum test results at age 11 and pupil progress - are considered under-performing and at risk of being turned into an academy, or taken over by a different sponsor or trust if they already have academy status.

The Department for Education's analysis shows wide variations across the country, with no schools under-performing in some areas while in others, significant proportions are below the Government's target. In one area, more than a quarter of primaries are considered to be under the threshold.

Under the Government's tougher standards, schools must ensure at least 65 per cent of 11-year-olds reach Level 4 - the standard expected of the age group - in reading, writing and maths, and meet national averages in pupil progress.

Children working at Level 4 are considered able to spell, use joined-up handwriting, are beginning to use complex sentences, can calculate simple fractions and percentages and can multiply and divide whole numbers by 10 and 100.

Overall, 768 schools failed to meet the floor standard this year, compared with 767 last year, the DfE said.

The new rankings are based on the performance of around 16,000 primaries in national curriculum tests - known as Sats - in reading and maths, as well as teacher assessments of pupils' writing skills.

The results also show the top primary school again this year, based on average points score, was Fox Primary School in Kensington and Chelsea, west London.

Overall, 79 per cent of 11-year-olds achieved the expected standard in all three areas this year, up three percentage points


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